Clutter is one of those things that drives me absolutely mental, and I know I’m not alone. Not to say that I live in a show home. I more live in a state of bearable chaos until I snap and have the urge to make everything as pretty as possible.

But one thing I’ve learnt is that making things pretty is so much harder with clutter around. It doesn’t matter if I know I’ve just mopped and dusted and attained hospital-grade cleanliness, if it all ends up with stuff of top of it I’ll have a special type of freak-out. And having had such a freak-out recently while giving my apartment a spring cleaning-style overhaul, I thought I’d share the tips that I learnt the hard way. 

One thing at a time, sweet Jesus 
A quote from my Nan that would’ve saved me a whole heap of stress had I listened. When decluttering it’s tempting to get excited at the prospect of having a show home and attacking every draw, cupboard and hiding place with a furore – which is how I began. After one night at Ikea the boyfriend and I decided to get cracking and as I started stripping out the laundry, he attacked the living room. Next thing I know it’s 10.30pm on a Wednesday night, we’re both knackered and seemingly everything we own has ended up on the floor. This was a stressful situation: there was no space, we had to do acrobatics to get into the kitchen and my dreams of a perfect home were trampled beneath piles of books, DVDs, linen and everything else.

So start small – pick a room, or a cupboard. Empty it, clean it and get rid of what you don’t need, while putting the survivors back in an organised fashion. It’s amazing what a relief such small changes can bring.

Get a system
There’s a phrase to keep in mind when decluttering: ‘If it’s not useful, beautiful or extremely sentimental, don’t keep it’. This is a super handy rule of thumb when you’re staring down at a draw of old nail polish, broken trinkets and random bits of faff that so easily accumulate, I’m convinced they’re breeding.

The same goes with clearing out your wardrobe – if you haven’t worn it in a year, odds are you won’t.

Ditch the guilt
One thing that can often be an obstacle when doing a clear-up is the sense of guilt that you’re wasting money or being reckless. So rather than just filling a wheelie bin with all stuff that’s no longer useful to you, donate it someone who could really benefit from it. Places like Good Sammy’s and the Salvos take everything from books to cookware, bedding and clothes. This way, you’re giving new life to something that may have just sat neglected otherwise. Women’s shelters and charity shops often do drives to support people in need in your community, so by doing a clear-out, you could really help others.

Or if there are a few of you having a clear-up and your bestie would murder you for getting rid of that dress she’s coveted for years, grab some bubbly and have a swap night with friends – odds are you’ll find some steals, so you’ll be updating your wardrobe while cleaning it out – ultimate win-win.

Decluttering and spring cleaning (even in summer, or autumn…you get it) also has benefits far beyond leaving you with a pretty pad. Studies have shown that getting organised in your home can give you increased motivation, a clearer mind and additional energy, all while reducing the stress and anxiety that can come from clutter. So for a happy home, and head, get your gloves on.

Kate Jones blogs about writing and pop culture at Calvicle Capitalism.

Are you a clean freak? A happy hoarder? Or a spring cleaner, like Kate? Tell us in the comments!