How to sort your stuff and clear your space

A quiet weekend is the perfect day to tackle your home. And one task that is often overlooked (and dreaded!) but can bring so many benefits, is reviewing and sorting your belongings, and clearing your space.

To help you pluck up the courage to get started, and to approach your clear out with the right attitude and technique, professional organiser and decluttered Jasmine Sleigh shares her top five tips.

It’s not always about the ‘stuff’

I am a professional organiser. This means that I climb up into lofts and delve into the far recesses with people who are moving home and daunted by the idea of clearing it out. I actively listen while clients sort through the wardrobe of a loved one who has passed, and enter homes where no one else has been for five years, and you can barely make it into the hallway.

And in all that work I have learnt a major lesson – it is rarely just about the ‘stuff’. Instead, sorting through belongings and clearing a space is likely to be an emotional journey through your identity, history, relationships and self-esteem.

The benefits of reviewing your belongings

I firmly believe that it’s healthy and positive to review your belonging regularly. The benefits can include:

  • Financial – the average home has about £600 of unused items residing in cupboards and lofts.
  • More space – it’s estimated that we would gain 30% more room from conducting a review.
  • More efficiency – 80% of what we file away we never refer to again.
  • More time – we spend 20 minutes a day trying to find important items that are hiding!
  • Clarity – the average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but plays with just 12 daily.

But knowing how good a clear out is for us may still not be enough to motivate us to commit the time to the process. That’s because the main barrier to a sort out is not logic, but instead often emotional. Most of my clients divulge confidences and share poignant memories, simply because they have come across a picture or an item that carries weight for their life.

Five tips to sort your stuff and clear your space

So how can you overcome this to find the right mindset and energy to give the belongings you have accumulated over the years a proper review and clear out? Here are my five tips.

1) Think accessibility not volume

The power of memories comes from accessing them regularly, and not the volume. This can be a key way to navigate through inherited items, children’s pictures, and family photographs.

Think of a format by which you can be in touch with that memory. I have created a scrapbook of photographs of a ball gown collection with the stories associated with them for a client. This brought great joy to her and the three wardrobes of clothing were able to be re-homed.

2) Look forward to rediscovering ‘lost’ items

You will find something you thought was lost – this will definitely happen. It is usually in the first hour of a sort session, but we always take time to celebrate this find.

So be pleased with yourself when you do. 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.

3) Set structure and parameters

Have structure and parameters to your sort. This can be that you are tackling this one cupboard for one hour and you have your recycling and donations bag at the ready. It will call you back to task when emotions can start to cloud what you are doing.

4) Plan a first sift

Be content with a first sift. Rather than agonising over whether to keep items that may have sentimental poignancy, satisfy yourself to go through the area making easy decisions first. Where is the excess cardboard? Where are the clothes you can donate easily?

Leave tougher decisions to a second sift when you have made progress on clearing a space first.

5) Create a memory box

There has been much written about whether an item sparks joy, and the psychology of making decisions, but I never presume what people want to keep and what they wish to let go.

Instead, I find it helps considerably to create a memory box where items are to be kept well. 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.

Get sorting and create more space and time!

So what are you waiting for? If your home is weighed down by a stuffed loft, if your spare room is inaccessible or you can never find anything in your wardrobe or office, make the time to start tackling it today. And look forward to finding what you need easily and quickly in future.

Read more about getting organised

Want more tips on how to be more organised in your home and work? You’ll find plenty of great advice in these articles:

Jasmine Sleigh is a professional organiser and declutterer. Email her at for your free Getting Organised resource.