Life

Organiser Nicola Lewis on how to declutter your home – and aid your wellbeing

Nicola Lewis says clearing out your clutter can tidy your life and your mind, writes Hannah Stephenson

Decluttering can help to make you feel less anxious

EX-INVESTMENT banker Nicola Lewis has written a guide to cleaning and clearing your home, and in so doing, improve your mental wellbeing.

"Although a clean environment won't necessarily solve all your problems, it can have an enormous impact on your emotional wellbeing and outlook, and make all the difference to your life," she writes.

US research has found that cluttered homes can be stressful to live in. Yet many people avoid reorganising their things and throwing items away.

"Consequently, they sometimes end up living in a chaotic state, surrounded by mess, which can trigger a physiological response, usually in the form of stress and raised cortisol levels."

"Cortisol is the body's main stress hormone and when it increases, it can lead to a variety of health problems, such as anxiety, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, memory lapses, concentration problems and even depression," she writes. "When they declutter, however, even with small steps over a period of time, people can start to feel less anxious and better about themselves."

So, what should you ditch?

:: Clothes: Store clothes in seasonal order. Put out-of-season clothes into mothproof bags, label them and stick them in the loft.

Lewis doesn't place time limits on what to chuck and what not to chuck. But when she takes a bag out of the loft with the change of season, if she recalls that she didn't wear a particular item last year, she will ditch it.

"I do tend to say, if you've had something and not worn it for two years, it needs to go. And if you have clothes in your wardrobe that still have tags on them, you need to question the worth of them. If you bought a dress to lose weight [to get] into, hang it up so you can see it and it acts as a goal. If not, it needs to go."

:: Make-up: Watch for the recommended use-by dates on make-up items including creams and mascaras, which might be 12 months or less from the day of opening. Ditch anything which is out of date. Lipsticks tend to be six to 12 months, mascara might be less. Mark suncreams with a Sharpie as soon as you open them to easily know when they are going to expire.

:: Kitchen equipment: "We've gone through a decade of watching chefs on TV and have been suckered into buying their books, their products and gadgets. We've got food processors and smoothie makers," says Lewis. Consider if you actually use an item and if you could see it, would you use it more often? If the answer is no to both, it can go.

Don't save anything for best – use it all the time. If you have excess glasses and crockery you bring out at Christmas, find a place in a dresser or cupboard in another room to house them.

:: Food: Clear out your food cupboards and throw away anything past its use-by date. Write a list of what you do have and check that before you go shopping, so you don't end up with 12 tins of tomatoes you don't need. Avoid '3 for 2' deals if you really don't have the space.

Have a notepad inside your kitchen cupboard to remind yourself of what you need to buy. Transfer cereal, pasta and other dry goods into clear rectangular storage containers which are easy to stack and much tidier than cardboard boxes. Make a meal planner on a Sunday to work out what you'll be eating in the week ahead, to avoid waste and over-stocking.

:: Mind Over Clutter by Nicola Lewis is published by Harper Thorsons, priced £9.99.

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