This is EXACTLY the list I need right now. I am forever making ‘I’ll deal with that later’ piles around the house and rarely actually deal with them. But Helen Sanderson’s list has inspired me. Not only is it full of useful tips, she also explains why decluttering is good for our wellbeing too. I’m in!


  • Our homes are living things. I use the metaphor of gardening to help people understand this.

  • My method is based on there being three key stages to unblocking your clutter and unlocking the nurturing power of your home, reflecting those a garden needs in order to flourish: Weeding, Planting and Maintenance.

  • Listen to the stories your home has to tell as you go through this process.
    You may discover what certain things stand for on a symbolic or emotional level.

  • Removing the clutter may also reveal some deeper issues, challenges or even traumas that need to be looked at. So, this work always must be done with deep compassion, insight and care.

  • A cluttered home is like an overgrown garden

  • There are three stages to clearing a cluttered home: weeding, planting and maintaining.

  • Weeding is making all those unmade decisions: keep, let go, action.

  • Planting means creating beauty, harmony and optimally organising what you choose to keep: a place for everything and everything in its place.

  • And maintaining is about building new habits with compassionate self-discipline, so your home supports you in living with greater ease.


  • A cluttered home is like an overgrown garden filled with weeds, vines and brambles. They have taken over and are choking what has been carefully planted, restricting its growth or even killing it.

  • So, on a very practical level, the first stage is about clearing these weeds away, cutting them back and pulling up the roots so they are less likely to grow back.

  • Clutter is decisions that haven’t been made.

  • How many things end up in a pile, container or drawer because that seems easier than deciding where to put them or what to do with them right there and then?

  • ‘I’ll deal with that later,’ you tell yourself, and you probably mean it. But years later, it is still there, buried beneath countless subsequent things that you’ve not processed in just the same way. All those open loops stack up – literally.

  • Go through everything carefully, but quickly, identifying the weeds.
    Take these ‘weeds’ out of the house and choose the ‘plants’ that you want to keep.

  • Clutter is made up of decisions that haven’t been made, so this process of going through everything and deciding what to do with it is key.

  • Divide everything into piles. Choose what to recycle, throw out or give away; what might require a certain action, such as read, repair or return to its rightful home; and those you choose simply to keep.

  • The illustrated decision cards in my Home Declutter Kit provide structure and a clearly identifiable location for each pile of objects, which is vital in what can be a somewhat chaotic part of the project.

  • After the weeding process, what is left are possessions that have been consciously chosen. These may be primarily functional, but they can also be objects that bring meaning and beauty to our lives.

  • Having made all those decisions during the weeding process, the next stage is choosing what to focus on, and what to give space and light to grow.


  • As the weeds are taken out, you’ll begin to see what’s underneath. Green shoots may start to appear. Things that have often been starved of space and light.

  • Through the weeding process of discovery and prioritisation, long-forgotten dreams and aspirations re-emerge. Reconnect to these, and in seeing what you have chosen to keep, begin to recognise how these reflect your deepest values. With these insights, the planting phase can begin

  • On a practical level, the planting is simply about deciding what goes where. Alongside this, design systems that support you in pursuing what matters most to you.

  • Beyond that, most people also crave the sense of calm and peace that comes from having a clear space and a clear mind. So their home lifts their spirits when they walk in through the front door, rather than draining their energy.


  • Creating supportive and empowering homes helps us to care for ourselves.

  • In the absence of a magic wand, this is where discipline comes in. For any dream that has been brought into the light of day, once that initial wave of inspiration has subsided, we need to employ perspiration.

  • Rather than seeing maintaining their home in a tidy, organised state as a chore, consider it a mindful practice.

  • Mindful maintenance can be a way to heal ourselves.
    Just as a cluttered home is a manifestation of choices that have been postponed or avoided, a well-maintained space echoes a commitment to our highest values and to ourselves.

  • It can become a place that continues to remind us of what matters most to us and where we have chosen to focus our energy and attention.

  • Complete, complete, complete

  • If there is one thing that leads to clutter, it is the act of not completing. Instead of leaving things undone and letting them build up, ask yourself ‘What is the next action?’ and then take it.

  • Put the laundry away after folding, unpack the shopping, finish the tasks on your to-do list and then complete the action by recycling the scrap of paper that it was written on.

  • Keepage. This is a term I ascribe to things that people feel have ‘earned their place’ in your home. They don’t want to let go of them simply because they have had them for so long. Almost like an old relationship that has run its course, but it is hard to leave.

  • Or those items you spent money on that are hard to let go of because of how much they cost. All these things need taking care of and fill the space that might otherwise allow some new delight into your life.

  • Living with clutter is like living with debt.

  • It takes a lot of time and energy to be constantly stressing about or dealing with unfinished business from the past. And, like debt, clutter charges interest: the extra cost of the mental load you carry by keeping stuff beyond its natural lifespan.

  • Once you have cleared the physical and mental clutter, you can instead invest your time and energy in your future, and focus on living in and enjoying the now.

  • The less you have, the less you have to manage

  • Nothing in your home comes ‘rent free’: it all requires effort and attention to maintain.

  • So remember, everything you choose to keep – either consciously or by default through postponing the decision – will cost you time and energy to clean, maintain and repair.

  • Nothing on the floor that doesn’t have feet

  • Yes, the floor is for feet, yours, your kids, your pets and your chairs and sofas.

  • It is tempting to use the floor as a surface to put things that haven’t been put away, but this is a sign that either your cupboards are full or you are not putting things away.

  • Each item needs a place, a container and process. Completion is when they get put away.

  • Your home is your flight deck

  • Have you ever been in the cockpit of a plane and seen all those dials, switches and display panels? Imagine if they were all buried under the pilot’s old bank statements, utility bills and laundry. Would you want to take to the air?

  • Your home is the place from which you manage your life, and that of your family. So get it clear and organised, allowing you to clearly see what’s happening and have easy access to the levers you need to pull to stay in control of your life.

  • Decluttering is about connecting to what you have and what it means to you, as much as it is about letting things go.

  • You may have good reasons for burying what may be difficult or painful, but things of value, things that can enrich and bring joy to your life, inevitably also get buried in the process.

  • As well as considering what you will gain from getting rid of a lot of that clutter, know that you will probably also find lost and long-forgotten treasures that may have great meaning.

  • Treat yourself with compassion and empathy.

  • Whatever you discover in your home and about yourself, remember that when you took the actions that led to where you are now, you were doing your best.

  • You made your choices based on what you knew at that time and with good intentions. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, treat yourself with the same love and empathy you would give to a child learning to make their way in the world.

  • Letting go of things makes room for your future
    Do you want to stay stuck in the past, as represented by the clutter you have accumulated?

  • Or will you instead choose to embrace change, the one constant in the universe?

  • Life and nature abhor a vacuum, so by creating space in your home, you are making room for new experiences and opportunities to enter your life. Extraordinary things happen when energy shifts.


** Helen’s book, The Secret Life of Clutter: Getting clear, letting go and moving on is out now.



–  READ Veronica Dearly’s list You Can Do Hard Things, which is full of words of wisdom about overcoming life’s problems, whether big or small.

–  READ How I Reached Burnout by Flic Taylor, who describes how the mental and physical exhaustion slowly crept up on her until it was too late.

–  READ Depression And Me an incredibly powerful list by Natasha Evans as she details how she kept going at her lowest moments and slowly began to recover.

–  READ Lucy Sheridan’s list Quit the Comparison about why we all need to stop marking ourselves against everybody else.

–  LISTEN to philosopher and founder of The School of Life, Alain de Botton, on Honestly podcast as he speaks about nurturing emotional wellbeing.

–  LISTEN to psychotherapist Anna Mathur’s calming wisdom about Overwhelm on Honestly podcast, and how we can combat it.

–  LISTEN to Will Young on But Why? podcast where he explores the intangible concepts of happiness, contentment and joy.



Find submission guidelines here. All writers and topics are welcome.


** ‘But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ and ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now and also on audiobook.**

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