Clean up, Detox, Declutter…It Must Be January

Clutter exhaustion

Yesterday morning I found a request in my Facebook newsfeed from my niece, a journalist, asking for feedback from anyone who’s read a book on decluttering. Simultaneously, I received blog recommendations, via email, and happened upon advertisements and articles, all on the same theme: espousing the virtues of decluttering and detoxing from the inside out.

We are told that mid-January can be a difficult time of the year. Holidays are over, the resolve to stick to New Year’s resolutions may be fading. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere the days are cold, short and dark and the promise of spring is still far away. This implies that once the Christmas celebrations are over, we are expected to feel miserable.

However, there is a misery antidote: detox, declutter and save time.

Writers from The Book of YOU tell us that ‘it’s the small, everyday things that make a difference and contribute to a happier, more fulfilled life’, and have come up with a list of ‘micro-actions’ that we can ‘easily put into practice’ to help us feel ‘sunnier’ and ‘more contented’.

According to some experts, the benefits of launching into an attack on clutter – recommended by psychologists treating seasonal depression and health and happiness experts – include more health and happiness. Everything from Tech-Free Time, Quality Time, Meditation, Micro-Workouts, Re-arranging Phone Apps, Eating at the Table instead of on the run, to throwing stuff out is re-hashed, re-worded and recycled in a mind-blowing number of books, blogs, on radio interviews with experts and in magazine articles.

On a larger scale, there are publications dealing with advice on how to reduce waste. One in particular was intriguing, so I had a look and found one woman who has  turned her waste management skills into a veritable industry.

The book blurb tells us that Bea Johnson has inspired millions of people worldwide with her stylish, waste-free life. She reduced her household waste to an astonishing one litre per year and now she can help transform the way you live with simple, practical steps that won’t compromise your lifestyle, including: helping you to discover the best way to declutter your home, for good; rethinking everything from your make-up bag to your weekly food shop; and centering your life around experiences rather than things – feel healthier, calmer and save money too. Here Bea shares her key tips for zero-waste living…simple as following this simple guideline, in order:

• Refuse what you do not need.
• Reduce what you do need (and cannot refuse)
• Reuse what you consume (and cannot refuse or reduce)
• Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse
• Rot (compost) the rest’.

Ms Johnson provides 10 tips to get you closer to Zero Waste:

1. Refuse: Fight junk mail. It’s not just a waste of resources, but also of time.
2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another “free” pen?
3. Reduce: Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.
4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.
5. Reuse: Swap disposables for reusables (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.
6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market.
7. Recycle: Know your city’s recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.
8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard.
9. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).
10. Rot: Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable). Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you’ll be to use it freely.

To me it’s common sense. (Note to self: Buy un-plastic-packaged fruit and veg).

Having lived here for over six decades, the earliest segment of my existence with a mother who was a good cook, careful about gastronomic hygiene, but a hoarder and a hopeless housekeeper, and a father who was the epitome of prudence, cleanliness and a stickler for order and having everything in its place, I have observed that these two were a microcosm of the wider world: there are those who can and those who can’t. Simple.

For those who can’t, the books on minimalist living, decluttering, household management and cleaning tips sit on kitchen shelves, on worktops and in cupboards amid the recipes and cookery books, the loose change, the screws that fell out of the chair, the year-old credit card receipts, sim cards, and the handle that broke off the china cup in 1992. Next January, a new swipe will be made at the decluttering. It will take weeks and by mid-March, the clutter will have somehow grown, augmented or replaced by items bought, found, borrowed or rediscovered in the process of decluttering. Next January, they will be  taken to task by a new batch of clean-up experts, as if cleaning up were a brand new phenomenon.

Oh, yes, January is the month when search engines creak under the mound of material aimed at the fervent resolution-minded and booksellers take delivery of truck-loads of diet books and resolution-making tips to add to the guilt of having a filthy house – by having developed a wider girth, of having a half-finished manuscript languishing on a desktop file, of spending more time at a desk than rambling the neighbourhood, as well as ‘not doing’ everything else in between, and in so not doing, we must be living unfulfilled lives.

As a scribbler of well ‘above a certain age’ and anti-resolutionist, I was heartened by a blog by the inimitable wordsmith, Tara Sparling who says:

Writers are ideal for this kind of torture. I could say that nobody doubts themselves more than a writer. However, most Irish people – well, above a certain age, anyway – feel a sense of inadequacy so deep, that the mere hint of pride in themselves will trigger a guilt trip so festooned with potholes that they end up with post-traumatic stress which forever thereafter makes them break out in a rash in their nether regions upon even hearing a compliment in the wind. Fact.

The avalanche of magazine articles with pictures of gleaming, clutter-free kitchens and spacious, tastefully decorated living rooms pile guilt and shame on the my mothers of this world. “Come in, come in, you’ll have to excuse the state of the place”, or “Sit down if you can find somewhere to sit” echo throughout the length and breadth of the land – from Januaries past, in January present – and I guess, in Januaries to come.

It’s still January. Might as well write a few books:

Book 1: If You Live In a Mess and You’re Happy, Have an Even Happier and More Fulfilled Life In The Mess! THE END
Book 2: If You Live In a Mess and You’re Not Happy, Clean It Up and Have a Happier and More Fulfilled Life! THE END

Book 3: If You Live In a Mess and You’re Not Happy, Learn How To Clean It Up and Have a Happier and More Fulfilled Life!

Book 3, Page 1

But…you will probably need someone to come to your home and show you how to clean the place.  Watch. Pay Attention. Do as they do. Show some interest for heaven’s sake!


Now, just have to wait for the royalties to roll in.

Spring is just around the corner.  A whole new swathe of stuff about SPRING CLEANING will flood the literary market, the internet and the radio waves.

Then it will be time to GET INTO SHAPE for summer. Oh, no!

For anyone who wants to stay ahead of the posse:

For a giggle:

‘Tis The Season To Hate Yourself: 10 Anti-Resolutions For Writers


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