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Clutter control: how to downsize your worldly possessions for a happier life

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Aug 13, 2015


According to a new generation of decluttering experts, successfully organising our homes comes from first understanding what makes us happy.

In her new book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Japan’s ‘queen of clean’ Marie Kondo advocates that unless we find joy in all our belongings, they must go. While experientialist James Wallman presents a life-changing take on clutter and chaos in Stuffocation: Living More With Less.

‘Instead of feeling enriched by the things we own’, James says ‘we are feeling stifled and suffocated by them’.  Lily Allen’s former PA turned personal organiser, Vicky Silverthorn of You Need A Vicky, puts it into perspective, ‘You can be eating the right food and exercising frequently, but when you live in a cluttered house life is complicated, and your mind can’t be truly free.’

Turns out, clutter is actually bad for our mental health. While researching his book, James discovered a conclusive scientific experiment that found people who described their homes as chaotic, messy, disorganised, unfinished and full of junk were found to be suffering from low cortisol levels, which is an indication they are not managing stress very well. Yep, tidy house, tidy mind.

To avoid the anxiety of a clear-out, try making decluttering decisions using James’ experientialist approach which is based on a simple ‘less but better’ criteria, and a view shared by Marie. Keep or buy only what you love and you are far ‘less likely to feel regretful, anxious, or guilty, indicating you have made the right choice.’

If sentimental attachment is holding you back, Jasmin Spiers of Change Your Space suggests creating a memory box. ‘When you know you have a few things kept safe that remind you of key chapters, you do not feel as if you have to keep everything.’

But before you call in an army of organisers, try out our experts’ ground rules for curating a house full of happy experiences and joyful possessions. And say goodbye to an excess of meaningless stuff.

HOW MUCH STUFF? James Wallman, author of Stuffocation, advises

Rather than hold onto everything, just in case, ask yourself: How often do I use my possessions? How much stuff do I really need? Do my things give me experiences and make me happy, or are they bringing hassle, debt, stress and depression?’

One good way of finding out what you really need is to put everything you are unsure about in a bin bag. Take out anything as and when you need it. By the end of the month you will know what you don’t use because it will still be in the bag.


Shop the Darcey Collection, by Steuart Padwick.

JOY TO THE WORLD: Marie Kondo, of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, advises…

Choose what you want to keep, not what we want to get rid of. Pick items up as if you were identifying items you loved from a showcase in your favorite store. Ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

Declutter by category not by room. Store all items of the same type in the same place and do not scatter storage space.

Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own.

Shop Dressing Tables on MADE.COM.

LEAVE EMOTION ‘TIL LAST: Vicky Silverthorn, founder of, advises…

‘When it comes to photographs, leave them until the end of a day spent room clearing. Get them out at the start, and it will slow your progress down as you reminisce. Open a bottle of wine in the evening and take a look as reward for a hard day’s work.’ Or if you need some motivation to donate, say, a beloved wardrobe of clothes from your heyday, ‘Picture that 18 year-old student who has limited spend, giving them a whole new life for another 10 years.’ Declutter and make someone else happy.


Shop the Austin Wall Lamp, and the full Art Collection on MADE.COM.

LOST AND FOUND FUN: Jasmin Sleigh, founder of, advises…

‘You will find something you thought was lost. This will definitely happen. It is usually in the first hour of a sort session, but take time to celebrate this find. Be pleased with yourself. When a birthday present was rediscovered we had a little celebration there in the loft. So many of our belongings are about joyous times. Take time to reconnect with that.’


See more of Callum's home on MADE Unboxed.

One thought on “Clutter control: how to downsize your worldly possessions for a happier life”

  • Craig said:

    August 17, 2015

    Hey guys, just a quick bit of feedback.

    I really love reading the blogs/articles on your site for inspiration and tips but the font size you have here (13px) combined with a very thin serif font, very wide line spacing and the ghost of the brick pattern beneath the white box make it quite difficult to read.

    I’d suggest upping the opacity of your white box to make the pattern less distinct, making the text 15px and maybe reducing the line height to 23px. It will make all the difference.

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