Ask Apartment Apothecary – how to declutter

For the first Ask Apartment Apothecary of 2015 it seems appropriate to focus on decluttering, which I always feel is a priority at this time of year, especially if you have had your house full of house guests and lots of decorations over the festive period. January is all about stream-lining and refreshing my home, ready for a new year and new beginnings, and I’m also desperate at this time of year to let more light in, which inevitably means getting rid of ‘stuff’. So,when Mary emailed me asking for tips, I decided to try to put a post together.

Coincidentally, as I wrote this post last week before I had seen it, this topic very much ties in with Heather’s and Sarah-Lou’s new project #TheEverydaySpruce. Pop over to Growing Spaces and Lapin Blu to read more and look out for the hashtag on Instagram – I can’t wait to see more, they are both women after my own heart so I’m super excited about it.

On a separate note, and another coincidence, I was inspired by the lovely Florence who blogs over at Flossie Teacakes to begin a decluttering spree just before Christmas. She posted a picture on Instagram (pop over and have a look at the pictures of her dog – Nell is Otto’s twin!) of her newly decluttered kitchen cupboards and so I went on a day-long decluttering mission myself, knowing that we would be away all over Christmas and New Year and how lovely it would be to return to lovely organised cupboards. The coincidence is that I had linked to her in this post when I wrote it last week and then I saw that she had linked to me on her blog last week and said so many nice things that I was blushing all day. So, thank you for the wonderful mention, Florence, and thank you for inspiring me to declutter!

Anyhoo, back to today’s tips…

1. Tidy the room you are decluttering

This is the absolute key to successful decluttering. You must have a clear space otherwise the stuff you are trying to get rid of will just get mixed up in the mess and you will end up in one big mess. This is when people lose the will to continue and you can end up in more cluttered space than you started with. You need a clear floorspace and clear surfaces so you can declutter in an organised, neat way and having a tidy room will make you more aware of not making a mess. If you only follow one of these tips, you should follow this one.

2. Be focused on what you need to declutter

Don’t just wander around your home aimlessly, plan exactly which cupboard, which wardrobe, which shelf you want to declutter. I usually hone in on those areas that aren’t functioning well (you know, the cupboards that you are scared to open because you know the contents fall on your head every time you do).

3. Store similar items together

If you are clear about what type of items should be in  any particular cupboard , drawer or shelf then you can more easily clear out the dissimilar items that need to find a new home.

Tips for de-cluttering | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Image: Tempur

4. Give yourself time

Lots of people suggest doing tiny areas at a time, but I find that giving myself a whole morning, afternoon or even a day is much more effective, as otherwise I can’t focus on what I am doing; I am more concerned about where I need to be or what I need to do next.

5. New homes

Line up four boxes next to the area you are decluttering: rubbish, charity/giving away, recycling, selling. As soon as you remove one item from the shelf or cupboard decide where it’s new home should be and put it in the appropriate box. This way you will not create one huge mess, which is very daunting and stressful. Remove the boxes that you fill from your home immediately!! If not, they may hang around forever creating more clutter and after a while you won’t even notice that every time you need to go to the bathroom you have to step over the ‘Charity’ box.

6. Declutter in daylight

Use the light to help you feel motivated and it just makes seeing what you are doing that much easier.

Decluttering tips |Ask Apartment Apothecary

Storage in my home office.

7. Know when you have decluttered enough

If you want spaces in your home to function well then it is crucial to know when you have decluttered enough. Lots of people make the common mistake of thinking that as long as they can use evry last inch of a cupboard, drawer or shelf then they have done a really good job of decluttering. This is not the case. You need to get rid of enough stuff so that there is room to manoeuvre, which makes a space truly useable.

7. Declutter one space before you move to the next

Do not flit between declutttering lots of different spaces or cupboards in your home. Focus on one particular area, get that done, fill your four boxes and then move to the next space. if you don’t finish the first space, you probably never will and you create more problems for yourself.

8. One in, one out

When deciding what to get rid of start with the rule that if you have new items then you should replace the old and get rid of them. For example, I was given new wine glasses for Christmas so I gave away the old set to my neighbour. Don’t hold on to things for the sake of it or because one day you might need 24 wine glasses because if you don’t have enough space to store them, you home can not function properly so it is not worth keeping them. One in, one out!

9. Don’t get others involved

I know this is controversial and you may not be as brash as me, but often I will declutter without telling Jules anything about it. I won’t ask his opinion or his permission to get rid of certain things, even if they are his belongings! Harsh, I know, but some people, like Jules, can’t say goodbye to totally pointless items even if they have totally forgotten they own said items. I can be safe in the knowledge that with some things I can get rid of them and Jules will never even know because he hasn’t touched them for years. I hope he doesn’t read this!

10. Don’t get stuck down memory lane

If you schedule in seasonal declutttering sessions, which is what I do, clutter doesn’t build up too much but more importantly you don’t get stuck down memory lane every time you try to declutter. If you have been through those old photos or rifled through the knick knacks just a few months ago, you won’t be utterly overwhelmed by nostalgia. Get into a routine with each change of season to get rid of the surface build up and then you won’t have to delve too deeply, which is the danger zone.

Tips for de-cluttering | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Image: Ikea

Any plans for a declutter this month? Start small, be realistic and be organised about it and then the decluttering joy will begin!

Katy x

P.S. If you would like to ask me a design or interiors related question, drop me a note at katy@ or post on my Facebook wall.




  1. 12th January 2015 / 10:52 am

    Aw, thanks for sharing lovely! I don’t ask David either ;0) Great tips x

    • katy
      12th January 2015 / 11:05 am

      Yay! Can not WAIT to be inspired by you two lovelies xx

  2. Louise
    12th January 2015 / 1:00 pm

    Love your tips! I read a few years ago about the concept of different levels of storage – so you had everyday stuff, stuff you use once a week, once a month, once a year, and you nominate different things to go in different places. So “deep storage” would be the things you use once in a blue moon (such as the Christmas decorations) and these should go in inaccessible places such as lofts, garages, etc. (or under the bed when I lived in a flat). I still find this useful, even in terms of organising a single cupboard and how I order things in it. It’s logical and simple, but not always obvious until you think about it.

    • katy
      12th January 2015 / 4:44 pm

      Yes, Louise! I follow these principles, which makes organising your stuff a lot easier. Maybe I can do a post about organisation as well xx

  3. Farah
    12th January 2015 / 1:48 pm

    I have been inspired to de-clutter. Now just need to get myself 4 boxes!

    • katy
      12th January 2015 / 4:45 pm

      Or bin bags, anything to separate and contain all the stuff! x

      • katy
        12th January 2015 / 4:46 pm

        Or local shops or supermarkets always have a million boxes they are usually happy to giveaway x

  4. 12th January 2015 / 6:02 pm

    I’ve definitely started a one in one out policy, my whole body feels lighter when I’ve de cluttered, I’ve got a few cupboards to do this year…..and a shed, boy that’s shed breeds clutter! 🙂 xxx

    • katy
      13th January 2015 / 8:32 am

      I so know what you mean about the body feeling lighter as a result of decluttering! Amazing really when you think about it how much we are physically weighed down by our belongings x

  5. Olivia
    12th January 2015 / 8:22 pm

    l o v e this post, thank you for sharing it, i intend to use your tips… there are lots in there that will help me be less flustered & more efficient. does this sound geeky i am fascinated by the thought of goods-in & goods-out in a home… whether it’s food, flowers, clothing, paper, treasures or toys for my elves. on a monthly basis we are carrying new items into our homes. trying to get an equilibrium & peace from enough going out the door in is one of my resolutions – even if it’s the paper recycling!! XX

    • katy
      13th January 2015 / 8:33 am

      Such a good intention for 2015! I’m also trying just not to bring as much in to my home. That saves money and the need to declutter 😉 So glad some of these tips are helpful, Olivia xx

  6. 13th January 2015 / 12:34 pm

    Thanks for the mention! I’m a big fan of January decluttering so these tips are great – I’m slowly working my way around and sort of hoping work doesn’t get too busy so that I can keep up the momentum…

    • katy
      16th January 2015 / 11:02 am

      Im really excited about the new project, Heather. Your first post was awesome xx

  7. 15th January 2015 / 9:46 am

    Great tips, and very good timing too. As a family of three we’ve officially outgrow our one-bed apartment, but there are no moves on the horizon for a while. And so I decided to declutter! It’s hard – I never realised quite what an art it is – and so these tips are very welcome.
    I’m with you on not involving anyone else, by the way. My husband isn’t the type to hang on to stuff, but he simply overlooks mess and clutter and is therefor not much of a help. Though he does like it when everything’s all usable again (funny that)!

    • katy
      16th January 2015 / 11:04 am

      Ha ha! Your parter sounds very much like mine! Good luck with the declutter – it alwasy surprises me how little space we actually need as long as we don’t have too mnay belongings. I lived in a studio flat for three years and LOVED every minute despite only have 33 sq metres – as long as you organised you can make any space work for you x

  8. Alison
    15th January 2015 / 8:27 pm

    Hi Katy,

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and always find something inspiring. I read your post on de-cluttering and wanted to say no. 9 really struck a chord with me. When I first read your comments about getting rid of stuff that belongs to others, I took a sharp intake of breath and thought, how awful. But actually, that is exactly what I have been doing the last few years myself, especially with stuff belonging to my two sons. The oldest one would hang onto every tiny thing, but we have a garage full of stuff from years ago that I know he has forgotten about ( “precious” Pokémon cards, old school work/essays, old dried up pens, bits of games, old scratched discs etc etc etc). So out it goes I’m afraid and so far not a mention of anything I’ve, ahem, “lost”!

    • katy
      16th January 2015 / 11:08 am

      Ha! I’m sure Jules took a sharp intake of breath when he read it too! But you are so right – there are a million and one things that I could throw out and he would never be any the wiser because they never get used and have been completely forgotten. I have boxes of childhood stuff in my mum’s garage and I can not name a single item so she is threatening to throw them out – I kind of think that’s fine. There’s just not enough physical and mental space for so much STUFF! x

  9. 15th January 2015 / 9:44 pm

    Some great tips there, I especially agree with 4. I’d rather block off a chunk of my day to do tidying or cleaning rather than commit to just doing one thing or area and then running out of time.

    • katy
      16th January 2015 / 11:08 am

      Me too. I need time otherwise I get too easily distracted and worry about not being able to finish so I don’t do a proper job of it x

  10. 9th February 2015 / 10:53 am

    I’ve sat down this morning with half an hour spare for some blog reading and yours was the first blog I went to – thank you so much for your lovely mention of me, Nell and my blog! I’m so pleased to have been some decluttering inspiration!

    And other matters, yes, I do have a question and I’m so delighted you’ve invited people to ask them! I’ll email you. x

    • katy
      9th February 2015 / 1:23 pm

      Oh good! Look forward to your questions (also very flattered that you came to my blog first) x

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