Spring Clean

Decluttering tips for spring cleaning with Dr Elizabeth Forrester

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With National Spring Cleaning Week upon us (16th-23rd March), it’s time to don the marigolds and leave your home sparkling!

So we’ve teamed up with Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Forrester, to gather some useful tips for spring cleaning your home. And with a special interest in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Liz has plenty of experience in the world of de-cluttering and hoarding. Let’s see what she has to say:


What is the main cause for hoarding?

The main reason for people developing a clutter problem is lack of time; we’re so consumed by our busy lives that cleaning simply falls to the bottom of the to-do list.


What are the common beliefs that underlie hoarding or clutter problems?

The motivation behind clutter problems and hoarding varies from person to person, but some of the common thought-processes that occur are:

‘If I put this bill away, I might forget to pay it.’

Poor memory can lead to excessive clutter. Leaving a bill on the kitchen table so you’ll remember to pay it at a later date is a sure-fire way to build up clutter. It’s nice to have a few reminders in place, but it becomes a problem when we find ourselves with too many.

‘This might come in handy.’

Keeping items that you have no use for right now but may come in handy in the future is just asking for clutter build-up. Stop picking up surplus napkins and tomato ketchup sachets from restaurants. And that lamp you think will look ‘good as new’ if it was rewired and given a new bulb holder and lampshade will just end up in the shed. Throw it out.

‘I can’t throw away my old school books – I’ve had them for 15 years.’

Heightened sentimentality for your possessions will lead to boxes taking up space in the loft for years to come. It’s interesting how we can happily live our lives without giving certain possessions a second thought, but the moment we stumble across it during a clear-out, we suddenly feel overwhelmed by emotion and find it difficult to let go of them.

‘What if I need it in the future?’

Your microwave has been working perfectly for the past 5 years, so it’s unlikely you’re going to need that crumpled instructions manual that’s lurking in the kitchen drawer. But many people are frightened of making an error of judgement and needing something that they’ve thrown away, and so they keep on to it for their own peace of mind.

‘I need all these scissors because it’s important to have the right pair for the job.’

Quite simply, perfectionism can lead to collecting several variations of the same item.

‘I just can’t keep the house tidy.’

Some people may have difficulties with ordering and organisation as they’ve never acquired the skills to organise their possessions.

Whatever the underlying beliefs might be, a common factor is that you’ve simply never got round to dealing with it – and now it seems too big a task.


So what’s the best way to tackle clutter?

– Have a daily ‘sort out’ time; perhaps for 30 minutes once you’ve come home from work
– Put things away as soon as you’ve finished with them
– Set achievable targets with clear goals. For example, sort out one drawer each evening
– Don’t bring things into your home if you don’t have space for them


And what shouldn’t people do when it comes to clearing out clutter for spring cleaning?

– Don’t ignore it or clean around clutter. It won’t go away by itself
– Don’t get extra storage. This is just a quick-fix idea that avoids the problem
– Don’t keep old, worn out or tired items. You probably won’t use them again


Make sure you follow this advice to make your annual spring clean less of a hassle! And for expert advice, check out Dr Elizabeth Forrester’s book ‘How to Deal with OCD: Stop Fighting, Start Winning and Live the Life You Want’ which is being published by John Murray Learning later this year.