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Can You Go Through a Year of Not Buying Anything New?

Decluttering and organising your home is not only about what’s currently in your house. It also starts with limiting the things you buy and bring into your home. 

Nathalie Ricaud of Get Organised & Beyond went on a “diet of no new clothes and accessories” in efforts to make the home more organised and contained. Here’s our interview with her to help you with your spring cleaning

Nathalie Ricaud of Get Organised & Beyond

Nathalie Ricaud


How do you approach a potentially overwhelming decluttering or organising project? What are the first steps? 

1. Envision how your space or your life could look like once you’ll get it organised. It’s very powerful because it’ll help you make decision during the decluttering process about what belongs in your space or your life and what doesn’t. And because it’ll keep you motivated when the going gets tough. 

2. Take stock of your current space: understand what’s working well, what’s not working well and what might be the cause of the problems. There’re plenty of learnings to get from this step, not only appreciating the problems to be fixed but also the things that work well and that can be transferred to other areas. 

3. Break down your project into manageable steps based on your concentration threshold and availability.  If you want to declutter your home, start with one category of items or one room.  If it’s your clothes, begin with your T-shirts.  If it’s the kitchen, begin with the fridge etc.

4. Book the time in your diary and treat this appointment with yourself as you would for any of your meetings or appointments.

Do you have any tips for cleaning the house for Chinese New Year? Do you do it — why or why not? Any superstitions you follow?

Do a quick & dirty decluttering exercise where you focus on items that are a no-brainer for you to part with: the broken toys, the faded/stained/torn clothes, the old magazines and newspapers, the expired food and cosmetics, the stuff that you don’t use, the stuff that you don’t like, the stuff that doesn’t belong to you etc.  

1. Gather a large garbage bag for stuff to thrash and a large container, box or basket for stuff to donate to charities, give away to family or friends and sell

2. Tackle one room at a time. Don’t move onto another room until you are finished with the first one. Progressively move throughout your home. 

3. Don’t decide on others’ behalf to get rid of their stuff. Failing to do so almost unavoidably leads to anger, resentment and frustration and will probably stop you all together in your tracks.

4. When the purge is over, get the items out of your home as soon as possible.  You don’t want to start a pile of clutter elsewhere or start rummaging in your castaways pile and putting them back in your closets.

This approach won’t fix the cause of the problems but you’ll be surprised by how much you can get rid of in small pockets of time of say 15 or 30 minutes over a 10-day period.  

I don’t clean my house for Chinese New Year. I have systems and processes in place in my home so that it’s very easy to maintain its organised state. For example, I won’t put back in my cabinets/closets something I know I won’t be using again, that I don’t love anymore, that doesn’t make me feel good etc. I throw right away what is not in a good condition and have a box or bag in a closet for things I want to give away or sell.  When the box or bag is full, I get rid of it. 

I don’t follow superstitions

What was the biggest lesson you learned about closet organising, based on your buy-no-clothes experiment? 

My buy-no-clothes experiment hasn’t really taught me more than I knew in terms of closet organising. But two points I’d like to make:

1. We use 80% of the time 20% of the clothes we own, the rest just takes up space and space is expensive. So lesson Number One: keep only what you use and love and get rid of the rest!

2. We only use what we can see, as such it’s really easy to forget what’s above eye level. So lesson Number Two: make sure all the items are visible and consider “vertical” storage/filing instead of piling stuff.

For example, here is my son’s soccer uniforms drawer. He can easily see and find what he wants and doesn’t knock down the pile when picking up an item of clothing.

The buy-no-clothes experiment changed my relationship to my clothes. Indeed I had a tendency to save some clothes for special occasions as such limiting the contents of my day-to-day wardrobe. Now I enjoy all the clothes I have because I know I won’t be bringing new ones in. 

Anything else you want to add? 

I’ve observed that people often underestimate the emotional impact that being disorganised or cluttered has on their lives. Getting organised is truly a journey of self-discovery that will help you regain control not only over your space and time but also and most importantly over your sanity. It’ll bring enjoyment and happiness because you’ll be surrounded only by those meaningful things in your life. It’ll improve your relationships with your family. It’ll improve your self-image. And it’ll allow you to live your life to the fullest because you’ll have more time for things that matter being family, work, exercise etc. instead of spending your time looking for things. 

By Sara Lyle Bow, February 2016

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