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DECOR ADVICE: Maximise the minimal

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A best-selling author delighted an online audience with her responses to questions about decluttering and taking control

It has been related by many interior design experts that a decluttered home is a happier living space.

If things are where you can find them and the impedimenta of daily life are neatly stored, out of sight, but with ease of access, it offers peace of mind.

One thing all fundis agree about is to do what needs attention immediately. Putting off that mess in a lounge, those clothes all over the spare bedroom or the piles of books against a wall in a passage is a bad idea.

Best-selling US author Gretchen Rubin has found that keeping an orderly and well-organised home helps us feel more in control of our lives.

Her books include The Happiness Project and Happier at Home as well as her latest, Outer Order Inner Calm.

Rubin, who lives in New York, has enjoyed book sales of 3.5million, a community-sourced app (Better) and a podcast (Happier) that has been downloaded 70million times.

She took part in a successful online chat and outlined what she saw as daily habits to attend to around the home.

Rubin, asked searching questions, answered with alacrity, delighting her audience.

Home brings you some of that chat in the first of two articles:

Q I have trouble doing all that I’m supposed to do around the house. What are some daily habits to help keep things orderly and organised?

A Try these habits:

Follow the “one-minute rule”. Do any chore that takes less than one minute. Throw away all the junk mail. Put the peanut butter back in the cupboard and close the cupboard door. Put your dirty socks in the basket. Hang up your wet towel.

Get rid of broken things. When I went through our apartment, I was astonished by how many things I had kept, even though they didn’t work.

Be cautious about “storing”. That means you don’t intend to use the item much. Other than holiday decorations and seasonal clothing, you should store as little as possible.

Do a weekly “power hour”. Keep a list of all the small tasks you have been postponing and, for one hour once a week, tackle these tasks. Take the shoes to the repair shop and run to the hardware store to buy that strange light bulb.

Q My husband and I have bought our first house and we are absolutely overwhelmed by “stuff “. My parents and aunt died recently and we inherited furniture, clothes and boxes of memorabilia. We are bursting with their belongings. Decorating isn’t even a possibility. How do we decide which items we want in our new home?

A If you can afford to hire a professional, that might be money well spent. You can show respect for others’ possessions even when deciding to dump them.

Remember, mementos more effectively do their work when carefully curated. When my grandfather died, I could have taken so much of his furniture, but I chose only his pocket watch.

Q How do you feel about decluttering books. How do you choose what stays?

A I love books and want them all around me. I get rid of many, but I do often reread or need to consult for projects. The bigger problem in our apartment is having room for everything we want to keep. For each of us, the question is: “Do I need it, use it, love it?” I love, use and need these books.

But for some people books might just be an aspect of a fantasy self, and it would be freeing to create space for other possessions on those shelves, or to get rid of the bookshelf altogether.