Storage and order may not be sexy - but it is essential - unless you want to see your space eaten up by clutter, says Gabrielle Fagan
If all your possessions bring unadulterated pleasure, you are not only blessed but unusual. Most of us are apparently struggling with too much stuff, and half of it we don't even like. Every so often, we may have an ineffectual cull, but then gradually become ever more dispirited as a tide of belongings gradually creeps back.
There's a way to revolutionise our spaces, and our lives, though, according to Marie Kondo, a self-styled expert in de-cluttering, whose method is followed by an ever-increasing band of converts worldwide.
"It's very natural to me to say, 'Thank you' to the goods which support us, but if they are no longer bringing joy, I touch them and bid them a fond farewell," says the Japanese author of the best-selling, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.
Part of her success lies in tackling our emotional attachment to belongings. Many of us cling to items even when they're well past their sell-by-date, purely because we attach them to memories and feelings.
"For instance, if things are gifts which you really no longer want or don't suit your taste, don't feel guilty for giving or throwing them away," says Kondo. "Presents are only a means of conveying someone's feelings and the person who gave it wouldn't want you to use it out of obligation or for you to feel guilty every time you see it. Send it on its way, for the sake of the giver too."
If that feels emotionally challenging, you could get savvy with storage instead, a path recommended by interiors expert Rebecca Winward who has tips for streamlining possessions and inspiring ideas for kitting out rooms.
"Ideally organise your storage solutions to keep possessions in a way that suits the way you live," says Winward, author of Everything In Its Place: Storage for Stylish Homes.
"Identify problem areas in your home and tackle those first, to have a more immediate, positive impact on your experience of everyday life. Then, moving on to sort out the storage in the rest of your property will not only seem more achievable, but more rewarding too."
So, stand by your clutter and choose your method: KonMarie, as Kondo dubs her approach, or Winward's EIIP (Everything In Its Place) - you have nothing to lose but a mess.
KonMarie is a swift, decisive approach that aims to transform a home in one major revamp. It also claims to be unusually speedy, because instead of de-cluttering room by room, Kondo advises tackling belongings by subject, starting with what's easiest to part with - so clothes, then books, paperwork, miscellaneous items and then the trickiest category: photos and memorabilia.
"I always tell people, which amazes them, that tidying is a special event - don't do it every day. It should be done once and then your house will be in order. Any attempt to tidy on a daily basis will always be doomed to failure," warns Kondo.
"Once that's achieved, all you need to stick to is returning an item to its designated place after use. You will then have a lifestyle you aspire to and be able to enjoy a clean and uncluttered space of your choosing."
Top Tips: Define your vision before you start - and don't be too general or just aspire to be tidier. Instead, visualise exactly how you'd like rooms to look.
Tidy a space completely to transform the scenery around you - the key is to make the change so sudden, you experience a complete change of heart.
Storage alone will not solve the problem of getting rid of clutter, says Kondo, it will merely conceal it for a time.
"Tidying must start with discarding" she insists, but advises focusing on what you want to keep rather than deciding what to get rid of.
De-clutter Rewards: A wall of units or a beautifully kitted out dressing room could hold or display your honed-down belongings. Barbara Genda Bespoke Furniture starts from £1,000-£1,500 per linear metre.
There's no hiding place in a Transparent Treasure Trunk, £580, The French Bedroom Company. Nordic House's super slim Mirrored Key Cabinet, £105 (available from September 30) would pair well with a colourful Umbra Subway Multi-hook (left), £30, Red Candy.
Place for Everything
If you walk the Winward way, you'll take a more measured approach to the clutter crisis. She says, "Remember you don't need to go from chaos to perfection in one hit. You can take your time to achieve the order you're looking for."
She advises a room-by-room so you can narrow down what should be kept in a particular space. Break the tasks into smaller chunks, and minimise the mayhem by confining the process to one specific area at any one time.
Top Tips: Choose a room that's relatively easy to straighten out - perhaps a bedroom or bathroom. For living rooms, invest in storage that keeps TVs, games consoles, media players and CD collections out of sight. A specialist unit or fitted cupboard might be wise. If your look's contemporary, a wall of storage with doors is a sleek approach.
It's said we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, so Winward advises conducting a clothing audit - remove, store or dispose of those that haven't been worn in a year.
Before choosing storage, work out where you plan to site it and then choose pieces whose dimensions fit the space. "Beware of squeezing a piece in somewhere it only just fits, as the effect will be cramped. Don't be afraid to replace freestanding furniture when you move to a new house, if the layout of your new abode is different to the previous home." Tackle an overload of books in an imaginative way, she suggests, by displaying a selection in a redundant fireplace, or using a block of volumes to support a sheet of Perspex to make an unusual coffee table.
De-clutter Rewards: A chest of drawers is an essential in most homes and Tesco's Portobello Six-Drawer Chest in antique oak effect (left), is a bargain at £299.
Nordic House comes to the rescue again with smart but affordable solutions. A medium cotton covered Storage Box, £24; a set of three Storage Trunks, £125; a white wooden Storage Box, £129.95 (the latter available September 30); and another great supermarket buy from Sainsbury's, a set of two fabric Storage Baskets (below), £22.
Everything in its Place: Storage for Stylish Homes by Rebecca Winward, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, and priced £19.99. Available to readers for the special price of £13.99 (inc p&p) by telephoning Macmillan Direct: 01256 302 699 and quoting reference: GLR DZ9. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo, is published by Vermilion, priced £12.99