Written by Tracey Blake
She has brought order to Jamie Dornan’s and Robbie Williams’ house, organised Lily Allen on a world tour and sorted out Jonathan Ross’s wardrobe. But what would the A-list’s favourite decluttering queen and author of new book Start With Your Sock Drawer, Vicky Silverthorn, make of our chaotic semi in Buckinghamshire?
I needn’t have worried that she’d be too starry for a ‘normal’ person. Vicky and her assistant Alicia are warm, friendly and instantly efficient. While my sock drawer could definitely do with some improvements, we decide that the girls could have the biggest impact on my dumping ground of a dining room. And before I know it, the sideboard is being emptied.
All of the photoframes are removed from the top, Vicky helps me decide which frames I still like and suggests taking out the now quite old photos and keeping them in a box (she recommends photoboxes from The Holding Company, £9) so I can pop a couple of new pictures that could actually be seen – and easily be dusted and kept clean.
Next up, we tackle the DVDs. Inexplicably we’ve been keeping our suncream collection in front of the DVDs. ‘This is a block,’ explains Vicky. ‘You can’t even reach to get to the films because there’s stuff in front of them blocking your access to them.’
I manage to dispatch a few of the children’s films that they haven’t seen for a while fairly decisively but things are more challenging when faced with The Breakfast Club Rouge and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Sensing my uncertainly, Vicky says, ‘That DVD you are keeping as a just in case, which you haven’t watched in three years, is now taking up a prime location in your home on the off chance that you might watch it. You can do without it. Life is still great without that one thing. We are too attached to possessions that have no sentimental value.’
And with that, they go in the charity pile to ‘bring joy to other people’. We free up two whole shelves, one for my table mats another for the suncream, so it remains close to hand to slap on as we leave the house.
Using logic to declutter
Next Alicia tackles the drawers – she takes everything out and asks, ‘Do you really need four packs of Bluetack?’ Clearly the answer is no, I also have five packs of playing cards – one gets put by the suitcases for our next holiday and one is kept on the sideboard, one roll of Celloptape is sent up to the drawer under the spare bed here the wrapping paper lives – it’s simple logic like this which makes decisions easy. The whole bottom drawer is now free, too.
Vicky’s gaze turns to my cabinet of glassware. The top is crammed with glasses (‘do you really need 15 cosmopolitan glasses?’ Vicky asks patiently, I agree to keep six) the bottom cupboard jammed with mismatched stuff and my dusty glass candlestick collection that goes to charity. Suddenly I have a free cupboard. ‘We could put your shoes in there!’ says Vicky, triumphantly.
‘Look for items that are renting precious storage space in your home, that you actually never ever use – this is where you could be keeping items that you use every day,’ she explains. ‘Shoes are a problem in every single house I go into. Don’t bother with wire racks, the ideal is to get built-in flat shelves but even a basic book case is amazing for shoes. Point them all forward for an ordered look. Only use hall storage for shoes you wear daily – seasonal footwear belongs in bedrooms.’
I am starting to feel lighter and more organised. And this is the whole point, according to Vicky. ‘We are into green juices, healthy eating, yoga, meditation – anything to destress us. You come back relaxed, walk into your house and see the clutter, and it undoes all the hard work you’ve done. Decluttering is the missing link to wellbeing.’
Tips for kid’s toys, pics and art stuff
Don’t be afraid to ask your children, ‘When did you last play with this? Could we give it to another child who would play with it more?’
Once they start putting things in a charity pile you’ll find that they may get really into it and start selecting things by themselves.
I know children bring home lots of wonderful art projects but you cannot keep them all. Have one box for each child and try to constantly whittle this down. If in 20 year’s time you discover just one box of treasures with their name on it, they are going to love looking through it and reliving all the very special memories. They are never going to plough through 20 boxes of stuff. Be tough!
Do you take hundreds of pictures of your children on your iPhone and never print any out? Use the Favourites button to try and select about 10 a month to print. Either put these in frames – so you’re displaying your latest faves, or store them in the Holding Company photoboxes I suggest (photoboxes from The Holding Company, £9).
Got a mountain of paperwork? Get a Ten drawer Bisley filing cabinet and have a drawer each for bills; car; mortgage; health/medical; school; accounts/tax; insurance; bank. Open your post and file these documents away immediately.
With any cupboard or wardrobe where possible put long items hanging to the side – long coats on one side and long dresses to one side – that way you make most of the space underneath. Keep thinking if you don’t see it you won’t use it.
Got drawers full of old lap tops and phones? Help The Aged wipes and recycles them. I have clients who hold onto laptops because they need to wipe them but to do that involves finding the old charger, the old wires and that’s a huge bock – so three years later you’ve still got it.
Keep the items out that you want to use – swap them for the ones you rarely use
If the thought of decluttering overwhelms you start small and chip away at your home. Little areas and often.
Precious ornaments and belongings stand out more if they aren’t surrounded by clutter – less is more (not to mention cluttered surfaces are harder to clean!)
Simplify systems – any kind of system in your home from paperwork to tidying. The more complicated a system is the less likely we are to implement it properly
Sometimes the less we have the more we see!
Our dumping ground of a dining room
The sea of shoes under our cluttered sideboard
After Vicky has worked her magic
A far more orderly sideboard, once Vicky has whipped it into shape