Where the hell is it all going to go?

So, Christmas is all done – the money is spent, Santa has been, the presents are unwrapped, the kids are happily playing with all their new gifts and whilst you are loving the idyllic Christmas moment, deep down you are wondering where on earth all those toys are going to go. The cupboards are already full to bursting and at some point you are going to want to get your house back to normal.

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I’m not going to lie, as a Mum and as a Clutter Fairy, toys create a challenge in the decluttering world. It’s tough to keep them under control. Even if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated playroom, toys are big, bulky, fiddly with loads and loads of little bits just waiting to get separated from their friends! Your lovely friends, aunties, grandparents, godparents have all bought your little ones the latest toy and now you are faced with the challenge of creating some order.

Now I love decluttering, absolutely love it, but play rooms are my absolute least favourite job in the home. Why? Because you spend hours and hours creating order, creating a system, matching dolls up with their shoes and sorting out your Primo from your Duplo and no sooner are the kids back from school filled with glee at their new organised playroom when the boxes get tipped out and you’re (almost) back at square one.

I’m not saying playrooms are a lost cause but you need to manage expectations. Kids like to play, kids like to make mess, kids move quickly from one toy to another but kids are only kids for a very short amount of time so (as a Mum of teenagers) savour every moment and (as a declutterer) take a deep breath and try to do some small things to help.

  • Use the same organisational model as they use at playgroups and schools. Jigsaws together, craft together, lego together etc.
  • Have a large clear plastic box for crafts so you can see what’s in there and keep them contained.
  • Think about storage carefully. You need storage for toys and probably more than you have already. Most of my clients need very little additional storage in their homes once they have decluttered but if they do, it’s invariably for toys.
  • Can you declutter without your kids being there? Absolutely, but only you know your child and what you can let go without World War 3 breaking out so be sensible and mindful of their favourites.
  • Once they are old enough they should be fully involved in the tidy up process. It’s never too early to instil good behaviour.
  • Make tidying up fun and part of your regular routine. Taking time to turn the lounge back into an adult living space after a day as a playroom is important to the whole family. Introduce a 10 minute race against time to put things away.
  • Involve your children in recycling and donating. It’s a great way for them to understand the value of items and what belongings mean to them and all of us.

But most of all, enjoy the moment and psyche yourself up for a big New Years cull!

 

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The loft that time forgot…

If you, like many people up and down the land, have just made your annual trip up to the loft to pull down your Christmas decorations, you will know what I’m talking about. Your heart sinks as you see random items that are shoved up there out of the house and out of your way, out of sight and out of mind. Why not take the opportunity while you are up there anyway to have a good look around and take stock? You might even decide to take the bull by the horns and embark on a declutter.

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The loft is a voyage of discovery. Whatever your reason for going up there: loft insulation, bending rafters, making sense of the space: you are bound to find things that were forgotten. Lofts and garages are often a halfway house and can be easy to declutter. You’ve already decided the items don’t belong in your living space so they have a temporary home in your loft until you can make the decision to get rid of them. So maybe now is that time.

  • Make sure you have a decent ladder. If it is fixed, make sure it is secure as you are going up and down several times.
  • It is essential to have someone with you for the project to help with carrying and making the ladder steady. A loft declutter can be overwhelming so you need a helping hand.
  • Invest in some robust clear boxes to replace the cardboard ones that may have deteriorated, and to improve the look, and stacking capability. Loose things should be in boxes where possible.
  • It is also worth having with you some large labels and a black marker pen to clearly label up your sorted boxes so you can see without moving them what the contents are.
  • Have a wide sweep of the things you can see that you know you do not need and bring those down immediately.
  • Lofts often house collections and it is worth checking they are still of worth to you personally and stored adequately.
  • When you have finished, zone your loft and map out the layout of what is where.
  • Lofts could be zoned into household items, toys and clothes that are going to be useful for younger children, memorabilia, suitcases and travel,seasonal decorations, archival paperwork, photos (if the space is dry).

A loft conversion can add 20% to the value of your home and in some cases means you do not need to move house for extra space. Height, pitch and footprint will determine what you decide to do with your loft. But before you can do a loft conversion, you need to do a serious declutter. Go on, you know you want to!!

 

Gift recycling – are you a fan?

gift-1008894_1920.jpgHow fast did November go by? Can’t believe it’s December already and the seasons’ festivities are almost upon us. December is a busy time for us declutterers as it starts to dawn on people what needs to be done to prepare for that ‘perfect’ day.

It would be so nice if our homes were visitor ready year round but invariably they’re not and we always have a flurry of new clients wanting to declutter so they can feel proud of their homes when family and friends come to visit. Whilst I’m a big fan of November being the best time of the year to declutter, decluttering in December presents options to think a bit differently.

As a declutterer I have close encounters with people’s bad shopping decisions time after time. For me, if you’ve bought it, not used it and often can’t remember even buying it, it’s a no brainer to let it go to someone else who can enjoy it. For most of the year the options of where to offload your stuff are fairly standard:

  • family/friends (but please make sure they actually want your stuff so you’re not just involved in the great clutter pass the parcel game)
  • Ebay/Gumtree/Facebook selling sites
  • charity shops
  • Freecycle

But in December there are lots of brilliant ways to pass on your stuff and feel your impulsive purchase was not wasted. It’s called gift recycling. To be fair, it’s something that many people are uncomfortable with but as we all work towards a society with less waste it’s worth thinking about. December is a time for reflection on the year past, thanking those who’ve helped us and for thinking about those less fortunate. There are infinite opportunities to give gifts and extend kindness

  • teachers, TAs, lunchtime assistants, lollipop people (I’m pretty sure they’re not called lollipop people anymore so if someone wants to enlighten me I’d be grateful!)
  • toy appeals
  • food banks
  • secret santa gifts
  • school fairs
  • bottle tombolas

There are lots of possibilities. This list only scratches the surface. All you need to do is a good search around your home, look in drawers, wardrobes, in your food cupboards, in the loft, spare room. Gather your unwanted things together, make sure they are in date/not too dusty/still in fashion and gift away. Let the guilt go – despite your worst fears Auntie Beryl isn’t going to pop round and demand to know why you’re not wearing your Britney Spears slippers but someone somewhere is going to be delighted with them! And you are one step closer to that clutter free home. It’s a Win Win situation.

Ten months down, two to go…

I shared with you at the beginning of 2014 that my two best friends decided to go without buying any clothes, shoes or accessories for a whole year. I knew it would be tough for them. I never had any doubt they would do it but I thought they would be chomping at the bit to be out there shopping on New Years Day but it seems as if it has been more profound than that. Here’s a Q and A with Mary:

What have you learnt most from your ten months of abstinence?

I’m now a firm believer in “Less is more”. It’s so much easier having less. It takes less time to get ready to go out. I don’t spend hours agonising about what to wear as I have limited choice. I have got rid of loads of stuff that I don’t need. It makes things so much simpler.

You used to love to treat yourself to something new for special occasions. Has that been the hardest part?

Dressing well will always be something that is important to me but I previously mistook that for wearing something new. This is a real eye opener for me. Last year, I would always buy a new outfit for a special event. Now I am getting so much more value out of the clothes I have and allowing myself to enjoy them more.

You used to spend a lot of leisure time shopping. Has the shopping ban made you change behaviour?

I embarked on this challenge at at time when there were some big changes to my family life. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fill my newly found spare time shopping. I wanted to do other things, more rewarding things. This process has helped me so much. I have joined a gym, started singing, got my chickens at last and have been much more focused in running my business. I don’t need the boost I felt from retail therapy any more. I have learnt to address my feelings instead of covering them up going shopping. I am focusing on my needs now too as well as the rest of the family’s and that’s made me a more confident person. I am in a much better place emotionally than last year because I have faced change head on instead of hiding behind a clothes splurge.

Have you saved money?

I’ve not really kept count but I’m sure I have. But for me, it wasn’t just about that – it was a personal challenge and has become a journey.

Would you recommend this to anyone for 2015?

I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone brave enough to do it. In fact a couple of friends are giving it a go on a month by month basis. Good luck to anyone who wants to challenge themselves.

Curtailing the clutter in your kitchen

Increasingly, the kitchen is the hub of the family home, so it needs to function like a well oiled machine. But what’s the secret ingredient?

For me it’s accessibility and compromise. (I know that’s two ingredients, but both are essential)

It’s YOUR kitchen so you need a system that works for YOU. If you are a simple cook that relies heavily on convenience, don’t fall into the trap of being aspirational – you just don’t need all the latest gizmos and gadgets. But if your cooking is Michelin star worthy, then you’re going to need more than just a knife and a chopping board to see you through. But keep in mind your kitchen isn’t a tardis – it’s only got so many cupboards so that’s where compromise comes in.

Having the well organised kitchen of your dreams is a fine art but here are just a few ideas to make yours work better for you.

– Have all your heavy pots and pans right where you need them, adjacent to or underneath your cooker.

– Don’t mix food and non food together. Pots in one area, cereals in another. It helps create a more hygienic workspace.

– Whilst lining up cans and bottles in your cupboard may seem OTT, it allows you to see exactly what you have and helps avoid overbuying.

– If you’re not lucky enough to have a carousel or Le Mans unit in those awkward corner cupboards, try to recreate one with two plastic boxes, one in the corner and one in the front. Put seldom used pots and pans in there and it will make accessibility so much easier.

– If you are planning a kitchen from scratch, incorporate plenty of space for recycling so it’s not littering up your kitchen floor.

– If you’re struggling for space, use your walls – storage in between your wall and base units can eradicate the need for a utensils drawer.

– If you’re a cook, those spice racks with space for six spices isn’t going to cut it so make your herbs and spices accessible in a cupboard. If they are at low level use a marker to write on the top of the spice so you can see exactly what they are from above as well as at eye level.

– Shelves often adjust in modern kitchens so choose shelf heights that are suitable for your needs. If you can’t fit that oversize wine glass in the cupboard and it ends up in with the dog food, think about swapping the glass for a smaller one.

– If you don’t have space, don’t bulk buy. If your shelves are not high enough for a 750g of cereal, buy a 500g one instead. Don’t even think about decanting cereals into plastic containers unless you are super organised or live alone. It will just never happen.

– If you’re a cook that likes to have things to hand, bear in mind that a wall cupboard is not TOO far away from the worksurface and can help create a more streamlined space.

Finally, do a good declutter. Very few British kitchens have ample space. If you haven’t used that gravy separator for 5 years, it’s time to say goodbye!

Declutter your bathroom for Christmas!

Somewhere amongst all the Christmas pressies there is going to be something you need to store in your bathroom. If you’ve been really good this year it might be some Jo Malone, if not it might be some bath salts from the pound shop. Either way, it’s the thought that counts and somehow it’s going to need to fit into your bathroom cabinet, baskets or  shelf.

If the contents of your bathroom storage are thrown rather than placed, haven’t seen the light of day for many a year, and there’s rust from the bottom of your deodorant can all over your shelves, it’s time for some action.

Rule number 1 – Be ruthless. Be honest with yourself. If it hasn’t been used in 6 months, chances are it won’t ever be.

Rule number 2 – Don’t feel guilty. By keeping that expensive perfume that you never liked because it’s too strong for you, all you are doing is prolonging your guilt by reminding yourself each time you open the cupboard.

Rule number 3 – Be realistic. If the ambience in your bathroom is more My Little Pony than Molton Brown, having all your expensive potions and lotions on display might not be practical. Your spa sanctuary will come one day!

Rule number 4 – Be hygienic. Make up, perfume, toothbrushes, bath oils. They don’t last forever and can harbour nasties if kept too long. Check the bottles for advice. You’d be surprised how short the recommendations are and how fast 5 years goes by!

Rule number 5 – Be frugal. If you use the item in question but have ten half empty bottles, don’t throw them away. Do a bit of a David Beckham and line them up with the bottles with the smallest amounts at the front or, if you can, decant into one bottle.

Rule number 6 – Be different. Just because you always buy a 48 pack of loo roll every time you go to Costco, ask yourself whether the money saved is worth the hassle of storing it.

Rule number 7 – Enjoy. The bathroom cabinet is one of the first things we see in the morning. make sure your day starts off on a positive note.

Happy decluttering!