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16th Jan 2016

How to Get Organised and De-clutter Without Losing Your Head

Annmarie O'Connor

Are you ready to create wardrobe wellness? Steady there, missus. Any successful closet detox requires planning and preparation.

Keep these hacks to hand. You’ll need them when overwhelm stops by unannounced. Trust me on that one…

Fight brain drain: Keep snacks, water and juice to hand and refuel at regular two-hour intervals. Be sure to stop for a decent lunch break too. The trick to sustaining and completing a task as emotionally-charged as weeding one’s wardrobe boils down to something quite simple – blood sugar. Without regularly replenishing glucose levels, willpower will dry up like a pre-packaged boyband after three songs. Suddenly, deciding whether to bin that shirt with the cigarette burns is a cognitive feat too far. Decision fatigue sets in and the whole process grinds to an unceremonious halt. And to think, all you needed was a biscuit.


Take a break: Starting to flag? Take two minutes to stretch your legs, throw water on your face, cry – whatever you need to do. Just give yourself a timeframe and get back to business. Although distractions can be detrimental, small breaks are known to improve decision-making and performance. They also work with brain’s natural inclinations (pleasure over pain). Studies show that the unconscious mind continues to actively work out problems even while the conscious mind is engaged in a different activity (those ah-ha moments generally come when the mind and body are taking five).

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Ditch distractions: Clear your diary. Feed and water all dependants then deposit them with whomever or whatever will look after them for the course of a day – child minder, pet sitter, football match. Turn off the TV, radio, laptop and your smartphone. Better yet, give your phone to a friend, partner or sibling who’ll do PA duties for the day. You will only wind up playing Candy Crush Saga in a moment of weakness.

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Bring in the recruits: This is not a job to be tackled alone. Grab an objective third party to help make executive decisions, fill those black plastic bags and top up that mug of tea. Treat it like a pair of training wheels on a bike: the support helps you stop from wobbling and falling off but once you achieve a certain rhythm and confidence, you’ll be able to steer your course alone.

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Break it down: Have more than three wardrobes? Stuff stashed in the attic? What about the garden shed? Calculate your estimated closet inventory by the amount of time needed to clear it. e.g. 4 hours per closet x 3 closets = 12 hours plus breaks. That’s an entire weekend or one closet per night for three allocated nights of the week. I advocate the latter, see below.

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Face the bogeyman: Hoarding is often linked to a sense of vulnerability and, to a certain degree, self-blame. So you haven’t done a proper clearout since 1998. And what if you spent a small mortgage on shoes that still have the swing tags intact? Will the world come to an end because of it? Nah. What’s behind those closet doors often isn’t as scary as you think. Face your fears; don’t feed them.

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Put it in reverse: Suffering from closet overwhelm? ‘The Reverse Deadline’ is a super tip in The Now Habit which puts the focus on the present moment thus easing the anxiety of completing a large and looming task. By working backwards in increments from a planned deadline, the brain’s attention is placed mindfully on the immediate task. As more focused energy leads to better results, the process is more enjoyable and less stressful.

Annmarie O’Connor is a fashion journalist, stylist and de-cluttering coach over at, with a newly launched book, The Happy Closet.