The New Year is when I decamp to the Austrian Alps and check in to the Viva Mayr clinic. I have noticed one side benefit of the little food I get, chewed around 40 times per mouthful (it’s the mastication that pulls saliva from the mouth and aids good digestion), is that my taste buds reawaken, finding subtle flavours in the merest morsels, as all distractions have been cleared away. Running around and hiking above Lake Altaussee, where the clinic sits, all your senses get decluttered, the air is clean, it’s still and silent, and the lack of visual pollution means your focus is only larch trees, mountain tops and clear water.

In between appointments with the medical and fitness teams, you get time to read, so during a rush around Daunt Books in Marylebone on the Sunday before I checked in, I grabbed a pile of non-fiction including one impulse buy that seemed timely: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.

Litter queen: I love a great bin, such as Emanuela Frattini Magnusson’s beechwood basket, which can be found at the new Milan store of Bottega Ghianda

A week in, I opened the book and started to read in 20-minute chunks, while taking a course of saline inhalation treatments. I found the book quite hard to read – self-help books are not really my thing and this seemed penned for Japanese housewives with tiny homes. However, I persisted, just like with the chewing. Kondo’s basic premise was survey all that you own, by type of product, edit ruthlessly, then store in a highly organised manner. As you may imagine, Picky Nicky is rather obsessive compulsive when it comes to organising the insides of cupboards and wardrobes. I bonded with Sheila Hicks during one lecture at Design Miami/Basel when she organised the audience by the colours they wore, and I often wish I could pare my clothing down to just navy, heather grey and white as I imagine how great it would look inside the wardrobe (a uniform of navy blue works really well for Mr Armani, and looks equally good in his wardrobe, which I once had a peek inside in St Moritz). I only surround myself with really good stuff, but I do have way more than I need.

The day I flew home I started following Kondo’s advice. I took everything out of my wardrobes and placed them on the floor, then edited, brutally. In the past I had found it hard to ditch things like Jil Sander-era Jil Sander, Raf Simons-era Jil Sander, and 1990s Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, but this time I did, and I even managed to reduce my accumulation of Aspesi padded nylon shirts. There was no pain in the dispatching of the no longer required, and the improvement in the organisation and the extra space gain was a terrific trade-off. Like the 4cm lost on the waistline during my clinic stay, less is definitely better.

Saving grace: an overfilled wallet makes me nauseous. The Receipt Bank app allows you to save and file scanned receipts, ready for export to programmes like Xero

Decluttering directives:

Sort by category, not by location. Start with books and papers, then move onto clothing and shoes, etc.

Put every item of clothing in the house on the floor – this is the only way to get a proper overview of how much you have and what is surplus to requirements.

Discard and dispatch first and store later. You can’t organise things properly until you have done a proper edit.

Be brutal with the edit.

Don’t let your family know as they will very likely make you keep more than you should, or they will keep things themselves, which defeats the point.

Review your folding method. A better technique improves storage and gives a more streamlined appearance.

If you do your decluttering after a stay at the Mayr clinic, you’ll do an even better job.

As originally featured in the January 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*214)

RELATED TOPICS: PICKY NICKY