The secret of why you have clutter and how to sort it

Clutter bug. Clutter magnet. Bit of a hoarder. Not great descriptions are they. Maybe that’s how you’ve described yourself. Or someone you know. You may be directly affected by someone else’s clutter habit. Like a partner, a child or even your boss. Mess, clutter, piles of stuff can tire us out, bog us down and stop us moving forward in life. So why is it so common? Why doesn’t everyone with an overflowing desk and piles of paperwork on the kitchen table just have a good tidy up?

Clutter comes from a good place…

Because it’s not always that simple. First of all, if it’s YOUR life that had more clutter than clear space, don’t beat yourself up about it. It comes from a good place. We hold onto stuff because we hate to throw it away, hate the idea of waste.  It’s just that instead of making us feel virtuous, it can quickly become overwhelming and lead to us feeling anxious that it’s out of control. Anxious that we’ll never be able to use it all. That there’s nowhere to put it. That we won’t be able to find anything. So we get stuck.

It’s often a sign of anxiety…

People are usually more cluttered when they’re anxious because their minds are full and they prefer to keep sight of where everything is because if they put it away, they’re scared they may never be able to find it. When you’re anxious you often don’t trust your instincts and methodologies any more. You’re not functioning normally so you keep everything out, you can’t put it away because you don’t know what you’re doing with it. You’re not feeling in control and keeping everything in sight is your way of feeling less overwhelmed.

Perfectionism can lead to more mess…

It’s true. Anxiety and clutter are all about perfectionism. People who can’t reorganise their workspace, create systems to run their home life more efficiently, fill in a form to kick start their divorce and so on are usually perfectionists. They want to do it all in one go, to make sure it’s the best thing they’ve ever done/organised/written in their life.

Perfectionism, anxiety and clutter all go together…

But remember this – done is perfect. So said Sarah Cottman, founder of the Institute of Professional Organisers. What did she mean? She meant don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Don’t get strung up on doing the whole thing, making it amazing, doing the best job ever – just start it and see how you go. Do it.

So how do we start on the clutter?

For a start, don’t do this: *surveys the bedroom and thinks…* ‘My wardrobe’s out of control. I need to try on every single thing and get rid of half of it and make back all the money I’ve wasted on unworn impulse buys by selling it on eBay. Then I’ll paint the wardrobe, oh and I could switch the cupboard handles for those nice vintage ones I’ve had sitting in the garage for 5 years if I can ever find them in the mess there, it’ll look gorgeous…’ Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Not today. That’s one big job.

But. If you’d said: ‘I’m going to fill one Tesco bag for the charity shop and clear the bank statements out of the fruit bowl’, then it will happen, as that’s a much easier goal that you can pull off in 10 minutes if you crack on.

So when it comes to clutter don’t think big. 

Break it up. Think small. Chip away. Baby steps. That way you’ll break through the clutter curse, get started on those piles and begin to move forward.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers and an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers

A Declutterer’s Secret to successful downsizing – this eco clearance company

It’s the decisions that make downsizing – and decluttering in general – so difficult. When do I start? How do I tackle it? Which things should I keep? And crucially, what do I do with the stuff I’ve decided to get rid of? Most of my job is helping people make decisions about their belongings, so I get it.

You start out with good intentions. This is good stuff I’m getting rid of, you think. I won’t take it to the nearest tip. I’ll do my bit for the environment. Take clothes to the charity shop.

Sell unwanted family heirlooms on eBay. Research which homeless charities take furniture. But life is busy and after a few weeks of driving around with a boot full of donations, posting stuff on eBay and wondering what on earth to do with meters of old kitchen cabinet offcuts, you’re less keen. Then you get a parking ticket when you dash into your local charity shop and… enough. Life’s too short to spend weeks depositing your collections of stuff around town.

But what if there was someone you could call? Someone who would come and take everything you didn’t want. With the promise that they’d recycle 100% of it, however obscure. And recycle as in recycle here in the UK, rather than ‘recycle’ in some far off unknown destination. Sounds too good to be true but amazingly, they do exist. They’re called Just Clear, I’ve worked with them on many a job and they’re pros.

Just Clear operates across the UK and is all about eco-friendly junk removal. Because waste, and getting rid of it, is a massive issue. We throw out around 1,600,000 tons of bulky waste (large items too large to fit into a standard dustbin) according to the RSA – and more than half of this could be reused.

When I work with Just Clear on a job it makes the process much easier. It’s a big comfort to the client if they know their belongings are being disposed of in a thoughtful, ethical way. Rather than just seeing it all slung in a skip and sent to landfill.

Just Clear founder Brendan O’Shea (who started out in commercial banking) agrees. “It’s a hard job for people to get rid of stuff”, he says. “But when people know we’re getting rid of everything ethically it makes the process easier for them. And it’s even easier when we’re working with a declutterer like Sarah. Even though our crews are very professional, it can still leave clients with an emotional scar when we remove their stuff. But Sarah will work with them before, during and after the removal process. We really rely on her to support the client.”

The company has invested solidly and it shows. No corners are cut. O’Shea explains, “Our competitors’ strategy is very short lived. Their target market is more suited to builder’s waste.” Whereas Just Clear has eco-friendly processes and solutions for every single item.

It’s not just big jobs, they’ll do a job for a sofa and a few boxes too. And seeing how they operate, and working with them, I’ve found it’s absolutely worth every (found down the back of the sofa) penny.


If you need help with home productivity and organisation, you can call Sarah on 07792298595 or email or 0203 131 6940

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers


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The biggest Clutter-Magnet mistake we make

Maybe it starts when one painful back episode too many eventually convinces you to take up yoga. Everyone does it. How hard can it be? You find a class, book yourself in, then… wait. What if you can’t do it. What if you can’t get the moves. Everyone else in that place looks so yoga-cool. Maybe you should look more the part. You trade in your saggy old leggings for some bamboo yoga pants. Get yourself a yoga mat. A yoga towel [yes it’s basically just a towel]. Hey, that strappy mat carrying sling thing looks good.  If you get it you won’t have to carry the mat. Well actually you will, but click click get it anyway. Oh and the foam brick thing, get your own cork brick. Namaste brass singing bowl anyone?

Or, perhaps still dizzy from ogling freshly baked cakes and breads on your favourite cookery show, you decide to channel your inner Mary Berry. First stop, buy up half of Lakeland to fill your kitchen with 10 different sizes of loaf tin. Icing bag and accessories. Gelato mixer. A jam funnel, a flan dish and even a nice retro tin of ceramic baking beans. Oh and is that a cupcake corer, that looks fun. Click click.

Not into yoga or baking? Maybe you’re getting a new pup. Everyone else seems to be. Remember when you got a dog when you were a kid? Bowl. Lead. Maybe a bed if it was lucky. Not so today. Before you know it you’ll be in some pet wonder world faced with a wall of paraphernalia you ever knew existed. Personalised collar with inbuilt light sensor. Automatic ball launcher. A dog bandana, what’s that for? Nevermind, it looks cute. Gosh is that a temperature controlled bed, do you need one of those too?

No you don’t. You really don’t. But you’re not alone in trying to buoy up a new hobby or project by buying a whole raft of paraphernalia to help you succeed with it. The trouble is, all the stuff you’ve bought to support you in your new pastime won’t actually make you any more likely to enjoy or stick at it. But it will be a bitter reminder if you don’t end up sticking with it.

Because too often, even though we take up something with real enthusiasm, real life takes over. You miss the yoga because a work meeting runs over. Again. And you’re tired. And the boxset is way more appealing on a cold November night. Or it turns out you don’t want to get down with the cake batter of a busy workday evening or be rolling pastry on a Saturday morning plus you’re trying to stay on the right side of trim before Christmas. Or the dog isn’t interested in any of the toys, he’d far rather chew the chair leg than the swish tug of war toy you got and why lie on the temperature controlled bed when he can sneak onto the sofa?

But here’s the thing. It’s not really about the stuff, is it? It’s about our doubts and fears and the lack of confidence we sometimes have when embarking on something new. So how do we deal with this crisis of confidence? We buy stuff. We buy so much stuff because we hope our kit, accessories, garb, will help us nail it. Get it right. Make a good go of it. But it doesn’t really change anything. Take all the shiny stuff away and it’s just us. Whether we succeed or not is really down to our dedication, ability and maybe a little bit of luck.

All of this is why so many of us have sheds, attics and under-stairs cupboards full of redundant kit we used for a month and then no more. It’s why we have ankle weights under our beds, weird pasta making contraptions in the kitchen cupboards and collections of gardening tools sitting unused in the garage. True, the colossal machine that is retail and marketing is also to blame, telling us we can’t shake a stick without having an endless raft of equipment to help us do it. But if nothing else we still have our common sense.

So next time you take up something new try giving it a go without spending a fortune on pretty but unessential products first. See how you like it and if you stick with it, maybe you can go and buy yourself some kit. As a reward. And if you don’t you won’t have wasted your money and filled your house with unwanted clutter. Clutter that only serves to remind you of your failure to stick it.


©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers

How to teach a teenager good decluttering habits

‘I will buy you a whole new range of make-up,’ I told my teenage daughter. ‘But… [of course there was going to be a but] first you need to completely declutter your current make-up supplies.’ We’ll go through all your cosmetics I said, in drawers, make-up bags, in the bathroom and get rid of everything old or that didn’t work out and you’ll never use.bedroom clutter Copyright Rightsize 2017

It was a good way to get my daughter to clear out her makeup. I mean, most of us could do with clearing out our make-up… you may have old compacts with only a thin rim of 5 year old powder round the edge, perfumes someone gave you but aren’t your thing, and creams you don’t recognise and have no idea why you bought them.

But it was also important for me to do this with my daughter because it’s good practice to start a young person off with in life. If they see it as automatic that when they go out and buy new make-up, they first need to have a sort out, a declutter, a cull, they’ll do this whenever they’re thinking about buying new cosmetics in the future. Rather than simply adding to the collection and ignoring the deep dark drawers full of nasty old decaying products. Beautifully packaged ones bought on a whim that they’ll never end up using. Eyeshadow pallets which were the wrong colour but seem too wasteful to throw away. Old hotel freebies. You get the picture.

And what better incentive can there be than the promise of mum taking you out and buying you new make-up that works for you now and that you’re going to use? This principle could be used in other areas, whether it’s wardrobe (if you declutter your wardrobe, make up a bag to give to charity and tidy everything, I’ll take you shopping and buy you some clothes). Or with toys.

Most important of all you’re ingraining in your young people the principle that in life, whenever you buy new things, you should be prepared to let other things go. The one in, one out rule. It should stand them in good stead.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers



Where to Donate the Tricky Stuff


It’s not rocket science. You’ve done a clear out and have a pile of things you don’t need. It isn’t worth your while selling them on eBay and no one you know wants them. So it’s a charity shop run. Or so you thought. But it turns out that while lots of charity shops will take clothes, shoes and an endless stream of retro floral crockery, may don’t take other stuff you’re looking to donate. Like accessories and electrical items. Curtains and blankets. Tools and furniture. But it feels so wrong to chuck this stuff into the tip. It seems such a waste.

And you know what? Often it IS such a waste. Turns out there are charities which will take your less-mainstream second-hand items. You just need to hunt around a bit. Which we have. So here are a few you can try next time you have a clear out. Or better still perhaps this will inspire you to declutter now! Read more

Why every woman needs a home office

It’s a recurring theme. I go to meet a new client for the first time. She walks me through her house. Points out the space she wants me to declutter. Usually her wardrobe. She’s excited I’m here and wants us to get to work. Now. But at this point I pause and ask the killer question. “What is driving you nuts every time you enter your home?”

Read more