Tag: decluttering

Swedish death clearing and other adventures

Swedish death clearing and other adventures

Marie Kondo is so hot right now. Everyone has an opinion on her approach to clearing out stuff. I’ve been following the Minimalist and Decluttering movements for a number of years now. And I think a lot of the time there’s a big ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ scenario going on. It’s the difference between focusing on the what (getting rid of excess stuff) and the why (making life simpler). I think at this point in time many, many people are overwhelmed – but not just by their physical stuff. There’s an awful lot of mental clutter created by our constant exposure to social media, the expectation that we fill out endless quality surveys, the millions of passwords we need to have, the endless mailing lists we have to sign up to if we want access to anything… Life has become really complicated. It can become incredibly easy to lose sight of what’s important.

Clearing out: a growing impulse

I’m not sure if it’s because of the recent spate of books, or programs like Marie Kondo’s, but decluttering has hit the mainstream. My family and I spent the beginning of the year with relatives who are doing Swedish death clearing. This involves clearing out your home before you die so your family don’t have to do it afterwards. I cleaned out my hoarding relative’s home years ago – a process that took three months, two giant skips and a fortune in cleaning products. So I’m all for the Swedish approach. It requires good communication though, because the relative doing the clearing may want to pass things on. If you’ve cleared out your house it can require some negotiation to avoid bringing home a raft of new things.

Back to the forest

See how easy it is to get focused on trees? I mean stuff? What I really wanted to write about in this post was what I consider the most important thing – the ‘why’ of clearing. You see, I think it works best if the process is about discovering what you want in your life, not just removing what you don’t want. If you touchstone for making decisions about what to keep is ‘is this important to me?’ then it becomes a much easier process. And as a writer the steady hum at the back of my life has always been the need to try to clear space for writing.

In the last twelve months that hum has become louder. I’ve developed a tremor in my hands which makes fine motor control more difficult. I’m not sure how related it is, but my energy levels have been very depleted. What this brings into focus is the need to clear out things that aren’t important or relevant to my life any more, but take up time and energy, to make space for the things that matter. (What I’ve really done here is sneak in a ‘new year’ post. Because what I’m talking about is my focus for 2019.) And not everything that takes up time and energy is physical.


I recently joked that doing my PhD I developed outstanding skills in procrastination. Any excuse not to do research and write the thesis. So one of the things I have to clear out this year is procrastination. Not an easy task. But I discovered when my kids were little

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash.

that realising your time is limited is a great incentive not to procrastinate. So now, discovering that there are days when my energy levels are non-existent means that on the days when I have energy, I grab it and use it. It doesn’t always stop me procrastinating, if what I have to do is something I really don’t enjoy, but a lot of times it does. The other thing I do to beat procrastination is to focus on the stories that are waiting to be written. This may sound crazy, but sometimes I wake in a cold sweat thinking about all the stories I may never get to write. But during the day, thinking of those stories can turn my panic into proactive action.

Keeping focused

Of course, procrastination isn’t the only problem. But it’s a start. As I said, life is always complicated. This year I’ll be working two jobs, parenting a family, trying to write and market my books and trying to work out how to deal with my health issues if I want to function at all. The end of the year is always a great time to take stock and think about the year ahead, before you end up mired in everything again. But the chaos quickly creeps up. That’s why I think having a really clear ‘why’ of clearing out is important. For me that ‘why’ is finding time to write. So I’ll be giving more thought to what else to declutter apart from procrastination. Hopefully if I’m successful the stories will stop waking me up in the night wanting to be told. Wish me luck!





Decluttering for Writers

Decluttering for Writers

So, have you been following the decluttering craze? I have, and it took me a while, but I realised why it calls to me so strongly. It was after I read a few articles about famous male writers like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway that I realised why I have thrown so much energy into decluttering (and, let’s be honest, reading decluttering blogs and drooling over ‘after’ photos on Pinterest). These highly lauded, canonised writers had households full of women to tidy up after them. I don’t. In fact, the reverse is true – I have a family that tend to leave bits and pieces everywhere. Now, I’ll say upfront my family are wonderful at doing allocated jobs – putting away the dishes from the dishwasher, feeding our crazy pets, the daily tedium of letting the chickens out and putting them back to bed… But somehow, that surface clutter always keeps trying to creep in there. Computers on the kitchen table. Clothes draped over chairs. Notepads dropped on every flat space.

I love that my family are creative and always onto the next thing. But once that accumulation of clutter starts, it can be hard to stop, and then you (I!) get to the point where it is driving me nuts. Where I realise I can’t get on with my writing because there’s nowhere to put my laptop, or too much dust for the asthmatic family members. Where the call of clutter on my brainspace is too strong. Now, that takes a while because I’m not keen on housework. But it does reach a point where a mighty clean needs to happen. And I don’t want to be spending my time cleaning – I want to be spending my time writing.

Decluttering is Better than Tidying

One of the key ideas in decluttering is that everything has its place, and should be put back there when not in use. Great idea, doesn’t always works. If there’s too much stuff for the available space things tend to get shoved in, then spill out, or they’re just left lying around. So it makes a lot of sense to me to get rid of the stuff that’s just taking up space, getting shifted around, requiring cleaning or mending or dusting but not really loved or used. This may seem ridiculously domestic of me, but it’s actually the opposite. The less stuff I have, and those around me have, the less time we need to spend organising it, and therefore the more time we have for what really matters – like writing (or *insert whatever your passion is here*).  Now it is possible to write in a chaotic space, but I’m not that person. It is impossible to ignore the piles around you, but I am not that person. (Inspirational Lord of the Rings speech reference – tick!).

So, getting rid of stuff helps. Then you can teach people to put their stuff away… An accompanying issue with this is teaching everyone in the family how to cook, so you don’t have to stop writing that incredible scene to put nachos together, but perhaps that’s another blog for another day.