A humbling experience makes me think – is clutter really a problem?

Woke up yesterday morning excited to be going on Sally Naden’s Radio Lancashire show. I didn’t really know much about it other than I would be on a panel with Sally and a couple of other guests to talk about decluttering and all things organised. I met another guest, Lisa on the way in and we were slightly worried about the 50 or so ladies and gents who seemed to be waiting around to see something. Soon worked out there was a live audience going to be watching us. No more illusions then about The Clutter Fairy , wands and tutus. I would be right there for all to see. Oh well, let’s see how it goes. Sally , who was such a a lovely presenter, introduced the first guest and that’s when I stopped thinking about myself and my radio nerves and listened intently to 31 year old Helen’s reason for being on the show. Helen has a daughter, Tess, who is 3 years old. A lovely baby, she developed as expected right up until the age of 1 and that’s when Helen and her husband started to notice that Tess wasn’t progressing in line with other children her age. Alarm bells started ringing and after many doctor and hospital appointments Tess was admitted for a brain operation.Despite undergoing such an intense operation and recuperation, there was no change and finally Tess was diagnosed with Alexander Disease. This is a degenerative disease which means that Tess will gradually lose any skills she has and is expected to die sometime between age five and ten.

As a Mum, to listen to such a tragic story about someone else’s child is always hard, but Helen then went onto explain how the family have dealt with the situation, how they live each day to the full, never take anything for granted, never say they are too busy to have a cuddle and enjoy every precious moment that they have with Tess. Helen talked about how other people find it difficult to talk to her about their problems because they feel that they are insignificant compared to hers. What struck me, Sally, Lisa and the audience was not the tragedy of the situation but the positivity, energy and love that would be around this little girl for every day of her life.

To talk about clutter after that somehow seemed trite but that is the nature of the show so we went on to discuss, fundraising, first aid, politics, Over the Rainbow, Digital media and clutter. After I left Blackburn , I couldn’t stop thinking about something a friend who was dying once said to me which has stuck with me all my life. They said that problems come in all different shapes and sizes, from terminal cancer or a dying child to an annoying boss or a toddler tantrum. Every problem deserves a sympathetic ear. I talk to people every day whose clutter problems are affecting them in differing degrees. To have a clutter problem in your life can be overwhelming and to overcome it requires time, determination and a positive approach but the important thing is that it CAN be overcome. It doesn’t need to be a problem for the rest of your life

Tess’s problem can’t be solved unfortunately but her Mum’s attitude is truly humbling. If you want to find out more about Tess go to http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108432782525757

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Canned food past its best before date – what’s the score?

Just spent an afternoon discarding the contents of lots of canned goods ranging from 1998 to March 2010. But what really is the score? Out of date tins and particularly herbs and spices are big offenders in the decluttering world so do we need to get rid of everything even if it is just a month out of date. After a bit of hunting no one seems to be prepared to stick their neck on the line and give a definitive answer. Of course, the retailers and manufacturers want consumers to stick rigidly to the Best Before dates for obvious reasons but consumers are generally not in agreement. Comments and articles I have read range from people adhering strictly to the BB guidelines to others eating Wartime (yes, the one in the 40s) mandarins and enjoying them. Eeww! Not for me but each to their own. The rule of thumb for those happy to go with out of date goods is to use a smell and taste test. Dented and rusty items are a definite no no and need to go straight for recycling. There have been instances of cans with bulges needing a bomb disposal team to open and deal with so be careful!

So how do I avoid out of date goods in my kitchen?

Don’t bulk buy. BOGOFs and the like are a tried and tested method of the supermarkets getting the consumer to buy more than we need. Don’t fall for it. Shop smartly.

Have a week where you don’t shop at all. Use up the contents of your cupboards, freezer etc. The internet makes it easy for us. You can just put in a list of ingredients and up will pop recipes you can try.

Always Rotate. Whenever you shop, pull items forward in the same way they do in the supermarket to make sure you are using the oldest first.

Declutter your cupboards- as you spring clean, pre-Christmas clean or ‘whenever you get around to it clean’, make a habit of checking dates on cans and discarding those that you will never eat.

Finally, if that tin of Borlotti beans has been there for two years, ten years or twenty years and you have not chosen to eat it yet, do you think you ever will?

Hello world!

Oooh, this is exciting. My first blog, now what to say?! Had a lovely day today catching up with old friends. Recently, my old friends start worrying and making excuses when they invite me into their homes about why this is untidy and when they intend to start decluttering. Your home is your home and you should be happy ā€“ only and I mean ONLY if your home is not the place you want it to be is it time to do something!

After spending weeks mastering the art of Twitter and trying to stick to 140 characters, this blogging is a breath of fresh air. Why use 140 characters when you can talk as long as you like. Perfect ā€“ Iā€™m hooked!