I'm still on a high from the massive garage clear-out; a few scary cupboards inside got a healthy de-clutter.
But, while it's all good for the weeks following a big blitz like this, if you’re anything like me (untidy at heart) you’ll soon be wading through mood-dampening mess in no time. I’m in awe of tidy people: what are their secrets?
Above: Future & Found's bright and cheerful stacking crates, which start at £6
“Clutter is only clutter if it doesn't have a home,” says my tidiest friend, Lizzie. “I have a draw of ‘useful things’ – wrapping paper, scissors, ribbons, cards, so rather than shoving them in random piles, they have a place.” She also sorts paperwork weekly “so it’s never daunting”.
But where d’you get that sort of self-discipline? “Fear,” says another tidy friend, Paul plainly. “I visualise how overwhelmed I’ll feel if things get out of control.”
Above: Ottoman from Made A New's Etsy shop, £150. But if you are handy you could rustle one up yourself with not much more than a lucky find, a fabric scrap and a staplegun.
Since that chat, I’ve vowed never to see my bedroom clothes mountain again by focusing on how unpleasant the bedroom feels with it, the time it takes to clear, and how Zen I feel without it. Getting into the habit of actively channelling those emotions whenever poised to hurl things on the bedroom chair heap has proved more effective than I'd have imagined. But if it doesn't last, I'm tempted by the idea of a bedroom ottoman instead, like the one above. Clothes heap: hidden.
Lizzie has another tip: “Have spare hangers in wardrobe. It’s only grim hanging clothes in an over-packed wardrobe: stick out-of-season clothes in cases.” I often think about doing that. One day I might be tidy enough to manage it, and when I do I'll be stuffing them into one of the oversized, rectangular storage bags from Dotcomgiftshop.com, above, just £4.95. I have already, and a little smugly I'll admit, bought the from-the-market launderette version of these and packed away spare duvets and pillows.
Above: small Ferm Living fabric storage basket, £49, Made in Design
Consider, too, your barriers to tidying. My aversion to sorting months of un-dealt-with domestic paperwork was partly down to not having a plan for the stuff I'd sorted out. Lizzie swears by archiving (a plastic bag in the attic will do); then stop talking about buying that shredder and finally get rid of the stuff you really don't need to keep.
Tidy types love a “system”. But it can be forced. When I colour-coordinated all my books there was an unexpected side-effect (along with mild self-hatred for being such an interiors cliche): it looks so untouchable that it’s now immune to excessive random shelf-tat. Matching shelf colour to walls adds to the veneer of neatness.
Above: curtain fabric by Sanderson's Maycott Collection
Don’t fancy my uptight shelves? Hang beautiful fabric on curtain wire to hide all the crap. Use the same technique, plus a clothes rail, in an empty alcove to hide chunky coats, hallway junk, excess shoes, toys…
Cork tile pinboards (so you can shape your own) are a top cheat if you’re prone to hoarding scraps of paper. But to avoid a student kitchen vibe, I love this idea my brother – a picture framer – suggested, and which I'm going to try myself soon: get the corkboard framed with a box frame and paint it the same colour (or choose wood the colour of your cork). It'll create a pleasing sense of containment.
And if all that fails, consider Monica’s chaos cupboard in Friends: “Tidy people aren’t really organised and smug,” says Paul, “it’s a veneer. Just because you can’t see the mess it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’m tidy – but you probably know where to find things.”
This is an edited version of my column on the topic in the Independent on Sunday a while back.