The puzzling thing about space...

Space creating expert Rachel Paworth shares her top decluttering secrets


One of my clients - let's call her Katie - recently summed it up beautifully:

"Do you know those sliding tile puzzles? The ones where you've just got one space and you have to move tiles around to get them in the right order? Well, the trouble is I haven't even got the one space!"

Katie was on my ten-week decluttering programme and struggling to even find a space in which to declutter.

I train people in a simple decluttering process which starts with you choosing a manageable area to declutter in a session - a drawer for example. You take everything out of this drawer and put it all somewhere you can comfortably sort through it. I call this place your 'decluttering station'.

Well Katie didn't have anywhere she could use as a decluttering station and she was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

What she needed was a space where she could temporarily store some of her stuff.

Storage isn't a long-term solution to clutter. It's easy to think "If I just had some more space, I wouldn't be cluttered" but my experience is that, unless you change your habits and attitudes around acquiring and keeping stuff, more space will only solve the problem in the short-term. Before you know it, you'll acquire more stuff to clutter up the space you created.

But it can help in the short to medium term. If you've got so much stuff that you haven't got room to declutter, boxing some of it up and storing it out of your home can create the space you need to sort through the rest. Then, when you've got rid of some of it, you can get your things back out of storage and sort through them too.

If you're considering putting stuff into temporary storage, use these five tips to ensure you make the most of it.

1. Watch your weight

Pack heavy items, like books, into smaller boxes, and lighter items, like soft toys, into larger ones. It's sooo annoying to finish packing a box only to find you can't lift it! And remember you may need to get your boxes up a ladder and into someone's loft.

2. Some labels are more helpful than others

I coach my clients to give up labelling themselves. If you struggle with clutter, you may have come to think of yourself as, for example, 'disorganised', 'cluttered' or 'a clutterholic'. Thinking of yourself this way puts you in a box! If you a clutterholic, what chance have you got of successfully decluttering?

Instead, try dealing only with what's incontrovertibly true: you've got a certain amount of stuff, arranged in a certain way...and you can change that if you want.

On the other hand, labels on real (rather than metaphorical) boxes are very useful indeed! Label the outside of each of the boxes you're putting into storage so you won't forget what's in them.

3. Create a 'not sure' box

As you're packing, you might come across stuff that you're happy to let go. Fantastic. Go for it!

You'll probably also come across stuff you're sure you want to keep. Which is great too.

And you'll almost certainly come across stuff you're not sure about. No problem. Don't try to decide now. Just pack all that stuff into the same box and write the date and 'not sure' on the front.

When you get it back out of storage, notice how long you've been without that stuff. Have you missed it? If not, do you now feel ready to let it go? (By the way, it's OK if you don't!)

4. Look after your stuff

Wrap fragile things carefully. You could use bubble wrap, which is readily available to buy or can often be sourced through local Freegle groups. Or, to maximise the stuff you get in the storage space you're renting, use fabrics like clothes and linen to protect breakables.

5. Keep creating space

Once you've created space to declutter, keep up the good work. Get yourself into a habit of regular decluttering so that you stay in control of your stuff. You never know, you might end up with so much space that you become a Storemates storage provider yourself!

Rachel Papworth runs Green and Tidy. She helps people all over the world declutter and create homes they love – homes that support them to live the lives of their dreams. A trained coach with a Psychology degree, and a self-confessed decluttering and organising geek, Rachel loves the way decluttering your stuff declutters your mind, and the contribution decluttering and organising makes to living a low impact life. For a free masterclass ‘How to declutter and stay decluttered FOREVER’, join the Green and Tidy community at You can also follow her on Twitter @greenandtidy, Like and see the Pinterest boards she's creating at