A photograph of guest Clare Denny wearing a hat by a river, smiling into camera

Episode 179 – Decluttering with a disability with guest Clare Denny

One of the things that causes difficulty when it comes to decluttering is physical and mental health. How do you maintain momentum on your decluttering journey when your body or your mind is struggling? In today’s podcast I am honoured to be talking to Clare Denny, one of our Declutter Hub members about how almost three years ago she woke up one day to a very different life to the one she had known.

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Clare Denny is a Declutter Hub member who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for a few years. We asked Clare to explain some of the ways she has managed to move forward in her decluttering journey with positivity.

Since my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, I have had to make compromises in my home. The most important of these changes have been regarding acceptance, my access and my safety. I have had to introduce mobility aids or aids to make tasks easier and they all need space. I've also had to reduce clutter so I can move around my home as easily as possible.

Moving forward in my new life, and grieving and accepting that some items are part of my old life, well, has been really important for my mental health. Acceptance has also helped massively with identifying items that I can lump together in groups and say all these items can go. This has saved a lot of small decisions.

Acceptance in the Kitchen

I can no longer make myself a meal from scratch so a lot of my baking items have gone but I can buy homemade items or ask friends/family to make them for me.

There are certain appliances that I can no longer use or items I can no longer lift so out go the things that make me sad or frustrated.

But that makes space for items that can help me massively, and priority space is given to items that really help me, like the air fryer and soup maker.

Accepting my new wardrobe

I had to learn acceptance. Acceptance has meant being honest about which clothes I can now easily dress myself in and feel comfortable in, for example, buttons to me are now a no-go, as are heels and shoulder bags. Rather than have these items in my wardrobe and get sad, I decided to let them go and get used by someone else.

I have also reflected on which type of events I am likely to attend and how many. This has allowed me to rethink how many evening dresses or how much work wear I really need. I also have to think about how they fit in with me using my wheelchair or my stick, for example,  I've looked at skirt and dress length. 

As a pleasant by-product, all items having a home in my wardrobe means washing gets put away more quickly after washing.

The benefits of reducing the amount of stuff

Reducing the number of items I have has reduced the number of obstacles in my home. This has helped with my mobility meaning I trip over fewer things but it requires less concentration so I get less tired mentally.

Less stuff around has also meant that I am not having as much sensory overload so my head is calmer.

Items have been easier to find, and easier to access, since I've started decluttering. This has meant I've avoided getting frustrated at myself, I've saved time, I've avoided buying duplicate items and actually that means I've saved money.

Having a very clear inventory of items in my home means I've spent very little on household and self care products over the last year - and I still have plenty left! But The Declutter Hub has also made me change my mindset and what I will do in the future. I know I don't want that many items in my home when I could go to the local shops and buy those products very easily.

Putting myself first to avoid fatigue

I can preserve my physical energy by thoroughly planning ahead before I physically start or mentally make decisions. I make notes in a notebook, I draw diagrams of my intentions for the room/cupboard layout. This means I do a lot of thinking as part of my preparation.

I also take photos and that helps both with my planning and my motivation. I can reflect on my decisions or make decisions before going into a room by looking at these photos and reviewing my notes. When I'm flagging, I revisit earlier photos so I can see the progress more clearly.

Ask friends, family or carers to move boxes or items you intend to work through near a chair you can comfortably sit in to work through them.

Research your area to see if there are charities or groups that will collect from your home. Use local Facebook groups for collection only items.

For me, one of the best decisions I made was moving some coffee making facilities into the rooms where I'm doing bigger projects (as well as keeping bottle of water and a banana handy).

Organising helps my memory

Labelling items so I can easily identify where things are has really helped me manage in my home because I have my memory issues. When things are labelled, they are easy to find and I don't have to admonish myself for not being able to remember where I've put things.

I have taken photos of areas in my home, for example, cupboards with doors open, and kept a small album on my phone so I can easily locate items.

Letting items go

Getting things out of the house via charity shops, local Facebook groups, friends and family or neighbours has been key.

Mostly, I chose to donate items as it was the easiest way to get the amounts I needed to out. There were three areas where I chose to sell instead: good quality jewellery, designer shoes/bags and a large job lot of jewellery making items. 

Either way, getting items out of my home makes me feel like a weight has been lifted. I've felt free. I have also enjoyed the feeling that my items are having a new life and helping someone else.

What if?

I haven't missed anything that I've decluttered. I firmly believe that this is because I've worked through the stages of The Declutter Hub roadmap. I've taken notes, learnt about how to do things, applied them, developed confidence in my decision making and processed my emotions so I know I making the right choices for present and future me.

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