I recently met (virtually in these days of COVID) a lovely lady who’s a professional Declutterer. While not a hoarder by any means, I know I have stuff which is surplus to requirements. I’ve admitted to myself that there’s stuff which remains, not because I’m unable to let go of the items themselves, but because I’m not ready to say a final goodbye to the lifestyle they came with. Nevertheless, she’s inspired me to take a look at quite how much else in my life would benefit from a decluttering eye.

Camera Roll

There was a lot of junk in my camera roll. As I have a camera, I rarely use my phone to take photographs, but there’s meter readings, information to hold on my phone (like how to attach battery jump start leads), loads of individual slides at presentations which have allowed me to take notes of the additional verbal-only information, a quick snap of information to use or follow-up later, as well as prompts/ideas for blog posts. The only problem is that I rarely remember to delete them afterwards, sometimes even forgetting to organise them into a usable format.

One huge bonus of decluttering this area was I found some snaps my granddaughter took of me during a pre-COVID visit – one of which I absolutely love and is a keeper.


Am I the only person who has a bathroom full of toiletries that I’ve tried, only to find disappointing, before moving on to purchasing another option? Are you all really disciplined about finishing up what you’ve bought before buying a replacement? I’m preparing to be shamed 🙂 I do use it all up (eventually) but I mix and match so that the less good stuff doesn’t do as much perceived damage as it could to my hair/face/body…

I’m also going through a bit of a crisis with my face. It seems to be determined to behave like a teenager as it missed out on its rebellion phase back then. So, I’ve a vast selection of moisturisers which don’t work. These are items which guilt-inducingly gaze at me for not being used, but who wants constant break outs? If there was somewhere I could donate opened and used once toiletries, I’d do it in a heartbeat.


I had a serious magazine addiction for years. It wasn’t just the buying of them – I also kept them all in neat magazine files “for reference” and “in case I need them again”. I broke that habit about 10 years ago, and now only buy magazines at Christmas – which get passed on or recycled immediately. Then I fell for a subscription to the New Scientist. It was serious you see, not frivolous – so I felt justified. But I never had the time to read them regularly (what with them being weekly), so they built up into a huge pile in the corner of my office. This was my first decluttering task. It only took a few hours snatched here & there of going through them, and instead of the nasty pile, I now have the articles of interest in labelled folders. I’ve also cancelled the subscription.


I’m a stationery addict. There, I’ve said it. I have piles of notebooks of every size and colour. Loads of pens – some ballpoint, lots of ink pens with bottles of coloured ink, multi-coloured pencils and highlighters, as well as post-it-notes in a rainbow array. The notebooks get used, for I’m an inveterate note taker. I intend – when I have the time – to go through them and harvest those which are of use before discarding the rest. I transcribe the useful information into online files which are easier to sort & search, and while I’ve done a few so far, there’s still loads more to do. Of course, the pens get used, as do the pencils, for I really enjoy the process of writing onto paper because it forces me to slow down my thoughts. The highlighters & post-it-notes are all extremely useful for study purposes and note taking – and as I’m a bit of a study junkie, they’ll get used.

But I also seem to be hoarding plastic folders. Most are left over from my day job which, although largely online, continued to operate the old fashioned way with plastic folders in different colours for different purposes. A handful is always useful, but I have oddles… Like the packets of different coloured xerox paper I don’t use, I’ve emailed local play schools to see if they’d find them useful, for I surely do.not.need.them.


I use Gmail and keep a lot of information in the folders, finding it a useful online filing system for quick look-up and retrieval. But… I also receive so many newsletters and notifications that my in box can feel overwhelming, especially when I’ve been busy or unable to get to my desk. I’ve recently been chipping away at it, a few hundred at a time (yes, there were that many in there!)

Having reviewed all coaching/psychology related items to re-direct them to my professional address, I unsubscribed from the majority. I also quickly unsubscribed from businesses where I shop with some degree of regularity, so I don’t need their exhortations to buy! Next it was the informational (rather than marketing messages) I receive after I’ve taken a training programmes. These tend to remain in my in box “until I have time to read them”, which means they hang around like a bad smell, until I force myself to make the time to read one or two in order to decide whether they really are useful. I’ve nearly finished this particular task.

The biggest number is notifications to blogs I’m subscribed to. When those blogs post weekly or less it doesn’t cause a problem, but those who post daily can very quickly build up into a back log. I tend to end up batch reading in order to catch up, but many older posts can slip by without interaction, as the time has well & truly passed.

Clearly, I need a better system – all suggestions welcome. For those shouting “do it daily!” – I hear you 🙂 While I know you’re probably right, I’m currently subscribing to the eat that frog method of getting things done, and so the email problem only got faced when it was my biggest frog!

Do you have any decluttering tips? If you were to declutter, where would you start? Where might be too big or too emotional a task to undertake solo?

© Debra Carey, 2021

21 thoughts on “Decluttering

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  1. Yes I probably have decluttering tips, but need specific examples really. Email cleaned out daily. Save things to folders if you think you need, but be very selective. The only long term thing I save are receipts for things I’ve ordered. I have a folder for tickets to figure events. If I go to event I delete the ticket. If I read about a restaurant or something to do I jot the website in my planner. Ummmm…I could go on

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  2. When I retired I left a certain amount of ‘stuff’ for my successor including some official books. When I arrived in my new home and unpacked some boxes I found that the removal men had carefully packed the stuff I wanted to leave. I still have reams of coloured paper – and yes, the dreaded plastic folders some new in their wrapping. I donated a large batch of card cut-folders and similar stationery to my local church.

    But the big problem is what do I do with a couple of boxes of blank ohp slides now that nobody uses an ohp. I did wonder if they could be made into facemasks, but alas they are too thin. I know, however, from past experience of other things that two days after I get rid of them I will need some!

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  3. Thanks LA. The suggestions you’ve made on emails are most useful. I tend to use my email as the save all, but it’s not working as I end up with too much stuff to wade through so stuff tends to get buried. I used to use a bullet journal to fix some new habits & routines in place. I used to keep this type of information there, but allowed it to lapse once the habits & routines were ingrained. I’ve been pondering on what type of planner/organiser to move forward with and think I may return to the bullet journal as it did work for me.

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  4. I’ve had the same experience with packers so many times Alan. The only way I’ve been able to avoid that kind of thing happen is to remove the items to my car & re-instate them when the packers have left. However, you probably had a lot of books to leave I suspect 😉

    You’re outdoing me with the OHP slides! I firmly side-stepped them when homes were being found for office stuff. I suspect they’re still in the boss’s garage with much else 😀


  5. You know those big green gardening sacks meant for compost? I filled 70 of those with the shredding of my accumulation of papers and statutory correspondence when I retired. My little shredder collapsed from exhaustion, but fortunately a friend lent me a commercial shredder that his wife acquired when she left her job in a bank.

    That is one downside of working at home.

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  6. Oh shredding has been the bane of my life too Alan, ever since moving to work from home. The last huge batch I did, I hired a commercial shredder in situ, filling my little car up with those vast bags of shredded paper for multiple trips to the recycling. Since then, I’ve tried to keep on top of my shredding in a little-and-often manner, until I had another big clear out during the pandemic… and then couldn’t get to the hired shredder. Bending over my little overheating shredder is probably was one of the things to put my back out – twice – but thank goodness it’s behind me now. Lesson learned – I won’t do a big paperwork clear out again unless I’ve pre-booked access to that commercial shredder.

    It’s a good thing that working from home has so many other positives, isn’t it 🙂


  7. You really have to know your personality and what you’re tracking. Bullet journals don’t work for me because I prefer a template that I don’t need to draw out. What’s working for me now is a calendar on my phone. I like having the ability to link the address to get directions because I’m often hopeless at directions. I have an 8×10 planner that doesn’t leave my desk. It’s the week on two pages. I write down blog schedule and reminders of things that need to be done in certain days. I also carry around a small notebook for to buys items, or to jot dow notes that I might need to add to my planner. If I think it I write it down…but that works for me. Think about your wants and needs, and don’t be afraid to change it up if it doesn’t suit you

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  8. When I used a bullet journal, it never left my desk (like your planner) and I referred to it every morning. I use the calendar on my phone & do likewise with directions, ticket details etc. I used to love my big old filofax (I know I’m aging myself with that comment) but it became too heavy to carry around every day, so that kind of stuff goes on my phone now.

    One other thing to mention is my bullet journal was absolutely unadorned. I never did any drawing or colouring, no washi tape, none of that. I simply don’t have the time for it. I just liked the concept of having one place where I kept stuff – ideas for gifts, places to visit, experiences to try someday. I’m wondering why I ever stopped using it now!


  9. Thanks for this LA, I’m going to have a serious think about how to make this change in the most effective manner. I really appreciate your input and knew I could rely on you to come up with some great stuff 🙂


  10. I have no camera rolls. I used to save disappointing toiletries, but space is limited so now I toss them, snarling as I do so. Magazines and catalogues are a plague. I now have a strict system wherein they are moved to the recycling container in the garage on a timely basis. They are not allowed to dawdle inside the house.

    Stationery used to be more of a problem than it is now. We don’t replace anything when it is used up and considering how far ahead we were with buying stuff, we always have something new. Emails I delete with abandon, keeping only the ones that have to do with money or appointments. I don’t follow bloggers via email so I don’t get overloaded that way.

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  11. Ally, oddly I was snarling at my overloaded shampoo & conditioner shelf this very morning. I shall channel you & toss out what I really don’t want to use as life is simply too short for the guilt 🙂 I’ve been brutal with catalogues in the past, but my are they a plague on my mother’s house. Or should I say a plague on those of us who have to tidy it, continually recycle them, and worst of all – return all the ill-advised purchases!

    I initially didn’t follow bloggers via email, but then had a WPress glitch which meant I had to, as people I’d previously followed weren’t showing up in my Reader. I may simply try the Reader again & hope that’s it’s now past its glitches so my in box can recover.

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  12. I have a sister who’s obsessive compulsive about cleanliness. She was more than ready for Covid because she had years of experience of avoiding people, door handles, etc. Her Achilles heel, however, is clutter. She has magazines, books, accumulated mail, etc. galore that piles up everywhere in her home. I’ve never seen a messier home in which you could also eat off the floor. 🙂

    I have way too many Gmail folders. There has come a point when my so-called organization has turned into information anarchy. I seriously need to just delete a few of them and not even bother to go through them. For instance, the one labeled “2013 Taxes” seems like a good candidate. Sigh. – Marty

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  13. Ha ha Marty! I recognise your pain with those Gmail folders 😀 I noticed a couple the other day and thought “why, just why?” before hitting the delete button with glee. That said, I totally get why you’d still have a tax folder. I have hard copies of my tax documentation from the day I started work… and I’m now 64. When I took over my Dad’s annual returns in his final years, and discovered he had too, I felt vindicated. Neither are necessary – but we both got a sense of security from them and, as they only take up a tiny amount of space… I don’t see it as an actual problem. Your sister sounds like my Mum – or like she was before she got older & less able. Now she’s a clutter hound with a (lovely and very tolerant) cleaner who copes with it all.

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  14. Thanks Marty. I’m going to investigate Ally’s recommendation, but Reader remains a firm option as I get so overwhelmed with those emails.

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  15. My biggest problem is paper clutter. It’s not that I feel overly attached to all this loose paper that’s accumulated in my house. I just don’t have the time to sort through it all.

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  16. James, I feel your pain. It took me ages to make the time to sort it out. For me, it was also about avoiding what I’d find there – reminders of a previous relationship, reminders of financial instability following that relationship ending etc etc. While it was tremendously cathartic once I got it done, there is no doubting that it was a massive slog. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the fact that not sorting it out was causing me serious practical issues, I’d probably have kept on ignoring it for it was decades of paperwork. It was 15 years ago now and I still remember the slog!

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  17. That may end up being the reason I finally start sorting through my papers. At some point, it will be less painful to just do it than to leave it. I’m not at that point yet, but maybe I’m getting close.

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  18. That’s one of the things I especially liked about this lovely inspirational decluttering lady I met, she totally understood how big the emotional aspect could be. Good luck when you do it. It’s hard work, but so worth waiting for the right time so you get it finished.


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