Kirsty McLuckie: Declutter for a fresh start to 2024

This time of year is the season of new beginnings and, in a week where we should have taken down our festive decorations and put away the detritus of Christmas and Hogmanay, it is as good a time as any to start thinking about getting our homes back to shipshape order.

Decluttering can be a complicated process, particularly if you are dealing with a lot of stuff which may still have some use, an inherent value, or fond memories attached.

Therefore, large-scale divesting can be physically, emotionally and organisationally taxing.

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There is lots of advice on how to do it but this year property portal Compare My Move has helpfully come up with a flowchart designed to get us to ask the right questions when selling our homes or staying put.

Image: Adobe StockImage: Adobe Stock
Image: Adobe Stock

Its Ultimate Guide to Decluttering 2024 leads you gently to consider each item, ask if it is useful now or in the future, of sentimental value, easy to replace, and if you have space for it.

I may well print out their flowchart and put on the fridge as a handy reminder.

In the meantime, I have considered my own flowchart for dealing with household items, and I suspect that in homes across the country, it is much more realistic.

My first question would be, is it hideous? Looking around the place, I have a surprising number of items to which the answer is yes, leading to further queries.

Does it serve a purpose? If so, keep it, although note that this does not need to be the purpose for which it was designed. Others keeping a door propped open with a heavy metal pasta maker will know exactly what I mean.

Was it a gift? If so you may have to retain it, if only to produce it if the giver visits. In my house, I have a cruet set in the shape of two hens, a teapot fashioned to look like a Victorian lady in a crinoline, and a large silver pineapple ice bucket. All are gifts from the same elderly relative who – I’m beginning to suspect – does not like us very much.

Is it an item of outdoor clothing which doesn’t belong to you but has been left on your coat rack? If yes, the established practice is to take an arch picture of yourself – or the dog – wearing it to send to likely owners. If no-one claims it, and it fits, it’s yours.

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For small things which might have a future use, if only you could discover what it is, every home should include a designated messy drawer. Think stray keys, half bottles of medicine for mystery ailments, and foreign coins from places you’ve never been.

Is it a single item which normally would come in pairs, the twin of which seems to have been lost in the mists of time? If so, it should be put in the box under the stairs with other mismatched sundries to be ignored for eternity, unless a desperate need arises due to laundry inefficiency.

Is it broken? If so, how badly? Can it be fixed with masking tape or a cable tie? Job done.

If it works in the main, can it limp on a few more years? After all, a wobbly lamp will still light your way.

Or, could you mend it properly if you just had the time? Here the correct procedure is to let it wait for you to get round to it, which you never will.

And finally, is it an item bought in a burst of enthusiasm for a shortlived hobby? I’m thinking of the sushi mats, set of bongos, knitting needles, or a brew-your-own-beer kit taking up space in my various cupboards.

These should be donated, or thrown out. No-one needs the reminder of their own failings at the start of a bright, shiny New Year.

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman