Why does my clutter keep coming back?

So you’ve been brave, taken the plunge and started decluttering, well done! But you want to know why the clutter seems to steadily (or rapidly) reappear over time?

Removing unwanted items is an integral part of decluttering (of course) but the bit that often gets forgotten about is the reorganisation that is needed to establish “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Without this, tidying is a struggle and the clutter will start to build again.

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These three factors are vital to a clutter free home.

  1. Gone means gone – When you go through your items and decide what you no longer want, need or love, get rid of them THAT DAY. Donate them to charity, recycle them or give them to someone you know would enjoy them. Whatever it takes, just make sure you remove them from your home ASAP, never to return. An integral part of a Clutter Fairy decluttering session is planning where the unwanted stuff is all going to go and transporting it at the end of each session.
  1. Organise – Give all your treasured items that made the cut a home and think about how you use things –
  • Store items close to where you are likely to use them.
  • Where possible keep like with like.
  • Make the regularly used items more accessible and use ‘out-of-the-way’ storage for seasonal/infrequently used items.
  • When looking at storage, simple is best. There’s tons of inspiration on Pinterest and follow our Facebook and Twitter for regular tips.
  • Make sure the storage spots you decide on work and are easy to use, even the most organised person is not motivated to put something away in an awkward to reach area.
  1. Be mindful– Take a moment to think about all of the things you’ve just let go, why did you have them in the first place? When you next go to purchase something, stop and think about your reasons. Are these new items likely to end up the same way? Then don’t buy them! Put the money away in a box somewhere, give it a few months and see just how much you’ve saved on your impulse buys. And if you need some inspiration read one of our blogs on how to curb your spending habits – Ten-months-down-two-to-go

If you enjoyed this blog please come and follow us on Facebook and Twitter – have a clutter free week everyone!

Images from @Flickr

When you’ve lost someone, the decluttering process is tough

I was pretty much born to be a Clutter Fairy, ask anyone I know, it’s not really work for me, it is second nature to be organised and I genuinely enjoy helping people declutter their homes.

Today I was reminded of something though – just how emotionally difficult decluttering can be. You see, I’ve been doing some decluttering of my own at our family home. I lost my Mum a few years ago to cancer. One minute it was Christmas and she wasn’t feeling too well, by Spring she’d been diagnosed and before the start of the Summer she was gone. She was 56, far too young to being saying goodbye.mourning-214439_1280

We thought about decluttering often, but it never felt quite the right time. But after 4 years had passed we were ready as a family and it was time to start clearing some of her belongings out. Everyone had their chance to take what they wanted and a little more time to get used to the idea. Not that it made it any easier for us. I declutter for a living, but I still found it very hard. I found myself apologising repeatedly to Mum for letting things go, there were the occasional tears and sometimes I just had to take a few minutes for a sit down, cup of tea and a quiet moment to myself.

But I understand that’s all part of the process and whether it’s a separation, bereavement, illness, breakdown of a relationship, redundancy, or whatever horrible stressful situation has been thrown at you, the outcome can often be that things get on top of you. It took my family a few years to come to terms with the fact that we would have to let go of Mum’s possessions, and honestly, there are a few things we just couldn’t bear to part with even a few years down the line.

But I know Mum would be proud, everything that left the house went to her favourite charity and all of her possessions were treated with the love and respect that they deserve.

  • Remember that to preserve memories you need to edit the highlights. If, for example, there is a dinner service that reminds you of happy family times, but it isn’t ever going to be used, keep one place setting rather than the whole service.
  • Decluttering the belongings of a loved one is often done in stages. Time is a great healer. Declutter what feels right now and then tackle it again in another year or so.
  • Only keep things that remind you of happy times.
  • Involve the whole family – everyone has their own memories of their loved ones and should be allowed to keep their own mementos.

So today has reminded me of what an amazing job our clients do and how proud I am of them that they took the plunge and asked for help and started their own decluttering process. It’s not easy, but it is worth it in the long run. So if you are thinking about calling us, please remember, we understand, we’ve been there, we know what you are going through and we are here to help.

Make your New Year’s resolution to declutter a reality

I’m into my 7th year as a Clutter Fairy in 2016 and it’s time for me to reflect as a business owner how things are progressing generally. When I started back in 2009 very few people knew about the possibility of having someone in your home to help with your clutter and so it was a bit of a risk as a business model but now, several years on and over 250 clients later, I’m so delighted that the risk has paid off. I’ve got to be honest, it still feels like fun rather than work, but a business it is and so people spend their hard earned cash on having me and my team help them with their cluttered homes and I’m confident enough to say most feel like it’s some of the best money they’ve ever spent. So what kind of clients do we have?

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Jackie, 35, busy mum of 3, works 9 to 5 (and then some) and likes to spend the precious time she has with her husband and kids, finds time to see her girlfriends and generally has a fulfilled life but she never quite gets round to tackling the dumping ground in her spare room. When her girlfriends come round for wine, she sweeps stuff off floors and surfaces into a carrier bag and hurls it into the spare room where it stays. Every time she opens the door, she feels overwhelmed and out of control and just wishes she could get on top of it.

Jackie is capable of decluttering herself, she has very little emotional attachment to stuff, it’s time she lacks. She calls us, schedules a day in her diary, we come, declutter the room together, find a home for everything, talk strategies, and the job gets done. The key here is that it is a scheduled task that is given priority and is finished.

Eleanor, 55, is a mum and grandma.  Eleanor’s home is immaculate and she knows which cupboard everything is in, but there is a lot of it. She has a big home and has been allowed to spread out especially for the last ten years since her kids left home. She would like to move to somewhere more suitable but is stuck in a rut because of all her stuff. Eleanor was brought up by parents of the make do and mend generation. If something has a use, you keep it. She uses the internet all the time but is still not quite sure what paperwork she should keep so keeps everything.

Eleanor needs a helping hand and reassurance that it’s OK to offload some of her stuff. We go through all her papers explaining fully the pros and cons of what to keep and why but always have her comfort zone in mind. We understand and can visualise smaller homes and how much stuff she will be able to manage and we systematically go through all her belongings to work out what will enhance her life going forwards. The key here is reassurance, working through her stuff with a system that she feels in control of and our ability to visualise a smaller home.

Jean, 60, lost her husband ten years ago and has struggled to get in control of so many things since. Her home has become full of stuff and her family periodically come whiles she’s out and sort rooms out, taking bags and bags of stuff to the tip. That makes her feel vulnerable, she can’t find things she knows she has so she buys it again. She feels guilty, embarrassed and thinks she is not as bad as ‘the ones on the telly’ but feels some sympathy for them.

Jean needs help from someone who is objective, non judgemental, practical and sympathetic. Is she a hoarder? Maybe – there are so many definitions – but we are not going to put a label on Jean. She wants to change, has picked up the phone to ask for our help and we are going to try. It will take a while. The clutter has taken years to build up so it’s not disappearing overnight but, every time we come, we will start to see clarity and progress and Jean will see light at the end of the tunnel. The key here is that we will help anyone who wants to change but we are realistic. We have different clients, just like Jean that we work with regularly and have done over the past 6 years but at some point we will get there.

Our clients are all unique; everyone’s lives, homes and circumstances are different and should be dealt with differently. The one common thing is that they have made a resolution to change and asked The Clutter Fairy to help in that process.  Yes, it’s a strange idea to those people who are fully in control of their homes. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it’s going to take you out of your comfort zone and you’ll go through a huge range of emotions. But you will go through the process with someone that cares, tries to make it fun and will finish the job. It will change your life and it’s going to mean that that resolution you made to tackle your clutter in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 is finally going to be kept and 2016 will be your first year of a clutter free lifestyle.

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!

 

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.

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!