I’d love a good declutter... but I won’t be colour coding the Lego!

Elaine Duggan has been glued to TV show, Sort Your Life Out which has helped families get rid of up to 50% of the items in their homes
I’d love a good declutter... but I won’t be colour coding the Lego!

Sort Your Life Out featuring Stacey Solomon, ran for six weeks on BBC. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Optomen/James Stack.

IMAGINE if you took every single item that you own out of your home and placed it in a warehouse. What would it look like? How much space would all the things you own take up? Would it shock you? Surprise you? Embarrass you?

What if you were told you had to get rid of 50% of the items - and bundle them into piles to recycle, donate or dump. The other 50% goes back into your home.

Not only that, but while you were sorting out all your stuff, professionals went in and deep cleaned your home and added some storage solutions too. They put in place a design which would keep you organised - so you would never go back to the ‘chaos’ again.

Would all this upheaval upset you? Or would you find this task totally liberating? How easily could you leave all the ‘stuff’ go?

This is the theme of a TV show I’ve been watching these past few weeks - Sort Your Life Out, with Stacey Solomon, on BBC. She has been visiting households across the UK doing all the above.

The most shocking element of the programme is when the families whose houses have been emptied are brought to the warehouse where all their items are being stored. When the doors to the warehouse open, the look on their faces says it all. They ask themselves ‘how do we own all this stuff?’

Now, just before you start thinking these people must be serious hoarders, who can’t let items go - they are not really, they are people just like you and I. Their houses are messy, disorganised, stuffed… albeit perhaps a little bit more than your average busy household - but they have just left things slip.

Some had marital break-ups or illnesses to deal with, or simply a very busy family life, juggling kids and work - all while navigating a pandemic. Their houses have fallen into total disorganisation.

Yes there are some startling reveals - in the first episode we met a family of four with 48 mugs, 3,000 toys, 60 obsolete chargers, 225 DVSs, 11 old mobile phones, and 23 pairs of goggles.

In another programme, a kitchen was stuffed with 80 condiments owned by a man who loved his sauces and mayos!

Another family had amassed 111 bottles of nail varnish, 80 packs of out-of-date medicine, and more than 1,000 books.

Meanwhile, at another house there were 387 bits of plastic containers, 1,011 bangles and more than 2,000 toys. Wow!

And as the series went on, there were more shocking statistics - like the family with 100 knitting needles, 81 fondue forks and 204 lipsticks. Funny, but not funny.

Or what about the family with 34 odd kids shoes, 50 new-born baby hats and more than 1,000 toys.

Another programme in a similar vein is Home Rescue, on RTÉ - again they declutter and revamp a few key rooms in the house - all with the goal of freeing people from the stuff they have been clinging onto for years, which serves no real purpose.

I’d love if they did a revisit programme 12 months down the line to see what their houses look like then, have they kept them decluttered? Or have they just filled the clean and tidy space with more new things? Did this really change their lives forever - or does the cycle of over-buying continue again? Did their lives changed dramatically since their homes were transformed into spaces of tranquility, organisation and tidiness?

I imagine that it would have a huge impact on the day-to-day running of a household, but also on someone’s mental health.

What these programmes have shown me over the past few weeks is that we all have too much stuff. We buy too much stuff. We cling onto too much stuff. We gift too much stuff - especially at this time of year. And the reality is then, how much value do we actually put on all these items?

Yes, there are sentimental things that we all really want to hold onto… but do we really need 81 fondue forks?

Over this past 18 months, we have all turned inwards to our homes, as it is where we are spending more time than ever before. Our homes are our refuge - at least that’s what they are meant to be.

One of the joys of having to work from home was being able to spend more time in our house…. but one of the most frustrating things has been, spending more time in the house!

We are just a family of four. The house isn’t bursting at the seams. But there’s never enough storage - or rather, maybe there’s just too much stuff…

Also, there’s the task of keeping on top of tidying. Someone said once to me “Boys wreck your house… girls wreck your head”. With two girls here, I can say that statement is far from true. I feel like I failed miserably when they were younger in being more strict with ‘tidy up’ time. I have a niece that is younger than them who puts them to shame.

So my house doesn’t fit the criteria for a Stacey rescue - but all is not well. Last week it took me several days to find a tin of paint… I had even messaged the neighbours asking if I had passed it to them… nope! It was in my utility room.

My iPad is still on the missing list … It is somewhere… but where?

We’ve recently added storage to the side of the house, it’s already full.

Our attic is bursting at the seams, while my office/ toy room/ craft room is creaking too. There are shelves of games and toys and other kiddie bits, rarely played with any more. I’ve tried to take items out and put them in a box for charity - only to find them taken back out and popped back on a shelf in the room again (and that’s the dad’s fault, not even the kids!).

Our main bedroom is currently like Santa’s grotto - with bags of presents, waiting to give to family and friends. Then there are the pictures waiting to be hung on top of my dresser, for, well, let’s say two or three years?

When the girls were born I started a memory box for each of them - now there are four boxes (they’re only aged 10 and 8 - just another 8 to 10 years more of ‘memories’ to collect).

I’m not sure how many paintings or colourings they will want from when they were just aged two, when they are 22! Or why they might need their baby teeth, or their first curl from their first haircut. I’ve kept cake toppers from their christenings and every birthday card they were given.

The attic is also home to clothing that will never fit me again… but they remind me of those carefree days, pre-children, when we enjoyed travel to far flung destinations or girlie nights on the town - I’ve designer shoes that I splurged on that I’ll also never wear again too. The attic also hosts the very first computer my parents bought us when we started college - so, around more than 25 years ago. One of those big fat iMacs!

I’ve a few boxes of teenage diaries - cringe! Now I definitely wouldn’t want Stacey to see those…

I’ve teddy bears that are 40 years old - when I took them down to show my kids, thinking they might form some attachment, they were horrified. Well, now that I look at them after all these years, they do look a bit demented.

The programme was a real eye- opener - and when I have time (yes, it’s all about time - Stacey and her crew took a week to declutter the houses on her TV programme) I’d love to do a serious clear out.

But more importantly, and something that I am trying, but probably failing miserably to do (especially this Christmas), is to stop the buying!

I know I won’t be renting a warehouse when I do this deep dive. I will, however, use some of the handy tricks Stacey and her team shared. But one thing I certainly won’t be doing is colour coding the Lego!

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