De-cluttering

mumblings life

There’s not much that’s as satisfying as a good old clear-out is there? I don’t mean the kind of organised, mindful, zen-like exercise (like the KonMari Method, which has recently become flavour of the month), but the bin-bags-at-the-ready, frenzied-whirlwind of a clear out. The kind where you accumulate a small mountain in your ‘recycle/take to the tip’ pile, and can be occasionally heard to cry out in anguish, “Why did we ever think we needed TWENTY-SEVEN London Tube maps? Do they breed if left unsupervised?” That kind. I had one of those last weekend, and I am now enjoying the space and ordered efficiency of our spare room, before it inevitably succumbs to entropy, and those tube maps start breeding again.

Our ‘spare room’ is a multi-functional space. It functions as a guest bedroom, a home office for me (I often work from home once or twice a week), and now also a sewing room. Given that it isn’t a very large room, this is quite a logistical challenge. Fabric was beginning to overflow from the plastic boxes bought to contain it, books were covering many surfaces, and the kind of random detritus that mysteriously starts to accumulate when a room gets untidy was beginning to infest the place.

In addition, we had a sub-optimal bed arrangement. We have two double beds in our house, both of them futon sofa beds, one newer than the other. A few years ago — for good reasons at the time — we switched beds between the spare room and our bedroom, putting the bed which is easiest to unfold in the spare room. Unfortunately, this bed is by far the most comfortable one, which meant that our occasional guests were happy, but we were frequently waking up with sore shoulders or aching backs. Our own bed also has metal projections from the base at the foot end, which are perfectly engineered to catch you right on the ankle bone, which is about as agonising as stepping on an upturned UK 3-pin power plug with bare feet. It was time to switch again, but this time, we decided to ditch the metal base of the older sofa bed, and just use the mattress in the spare room. This takes up less space, and is much easier to unfold. Since we had already decided that when guests come, we will sleep in the more awkward space of the guest room and give our bedroom over to the guests, we could live with this arrangement.

Actually switching the beds around was quite a performance, since we don’t have a great deal of spare space in which to ‘park’ items temporarily while moving things around. It was a bit like playing life-size Tetris1, but eventually we managed to move the beds around and relocate all the stuff stored under each of them. That was step one, but it was amazing how much larger the spare room looked without the larger sofa bed base in it. We are also really enjoying the better mattress and sprung base of the newer sofabed.

The second step was for me to clear out the shelves of the giant Ikea Expedit unit that covers most of one wall of the spare room. My goal was to free up a couple of shelves so that I could put my larger pieces of fabric on the shelves as mini-fabric bolts, allowing me to see what fabric I’ve got more easily (and thus make it into something), and keep it less rumpled at the same time. I haven’t had a serious clear out of those shelves for quite a while, and it was amazing how many manuals for long-defunct equipment, old catalogues, magazines, and yes — tube maps — we had accumulated. After filling a big bag with paper and books to go to be recycled, and re-organising some stuff to make better use of the shelves, I had two free shelves for fabric. I made mini-fabric bolts by wrapping the fabric around cardboard sheets intended for storing comic books2. This works very well, and means that my usable pieces of fabric are easily accessible and neatly stored. I bagged up smaller scraps with similar materials together, and I’m keeping those in the box I previously kept all the fabric. It will all get used eventually, one way or another — small pieces are handy for trims or lining pockets and so on.

It seems incredible how much space is in the room now. I can actually move around without knocking things over, and there’s enough space for all the many activities the room has to accommodate.


  1. Although sadly nothing disappeared magically when a space was filled.
  2. A great tip I picked up from a sewing blog, but I can’t remember where.
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