Dear Clutter Fairy – I’m a handbag hoarder. Help!

Dear Clutter Fairy,

I desperately need your expert help on how to store my handbags! A little handbag obsessed, I went out shopping last weekend and bought yet another Mulberry handbag (for a price I’m even a little embarrassed to disclose). I was about to shove it with the rest of my dust-collecting stash at the bottom of my wardrobe when it suddenly dawned on me just how neglectful and careless I have been with my handbag possessions that are literally worth thousands! I mean, I wouldn’t dream of storing my Swarovski crystal ornaments in this way but unlike my crystal, my handbags don’t have a display cabinet! In fact, they don’t even have a place in my wardrobe – they’re shoved at the bottom with a couple of old pairs of heels. My vintage numbers, favourite patent leather clutches and much-loved Mulberry collection is quite simply getting tarnished, squashed, scuffed and scratched! I’m sure I’m like many others in this handbag storage turmoil – could you please give me some storage direction? My handbags desperately need a wardrobe home…

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Dear Handbag Lover,

First things first, your gorgeous new Mulberry bag needs pride of place, and it needs TLC. You aren’t alone with your handbag collection lurking in the depths of your wardrobe. Modern British homes rarely have the Sarah Jessica Parker walk in wardrobe that we dream of – so we have to be clever and maximise the space we have. Handbags need to be contained so they don’t fall over and plumped so they don’t crease. Most importantly you need to be able to see your collection in its entirety so you don’t fall foul of the 80/20 rule and only use 20% of your bags 80% of the time.

Even though you so want to see your gorgeous bag every time you open your wardrobe the reality is it needs to be covered. Daylight and dust aren’t kind to luxury leather so that dust bag they gave you when you bought the bag needs to be used. Even if not all your bags are designer, most High Street handbags now come with a dust cover or you can easily get hold of them online. If you have so many Mulberry dustbags you are not sure which one holds which bag(lucky you!) use a pretty luggage label with a photograph of your bag and tie it on so it’s visible.

Bubble wrap is great for filling your larger bags so they retain their shape and keep on looking as good as the day you bought them. When you are using the bag just put the bubble wrap in the dustbag so it doesn’t look unsightly.

So how do you best contain your bags? It’s a simple concept and one which contemporary bedroom storage designers are incorporating into their wardrobes. By responding to the modern woman’s needs and tastes, there are some exciting, innovative solutions out there now. You need upright dividers and lots of them. A 50cm wide by 50cm tall section is brilliant for most bag sizes and could even hold 2 or 3 smaller vintage clutches side by side. If you are designing a new wardrobe, take your bag collection into consideration. I see lots of beautifully designed wardrobes on my travels with bags thrown in on high shelves. Don’t let your bags be an afterthought. Make sure the shelves for your bags are at eye level and you have enough to hold your collection. If necessary you can forfeit some of your hanging space for your bags.

I hope I have solved your dilemma – your timeless classic needs to be used and enjoyed for years to come and with the right storage in place that can be a reality. Have fun!

The Clutter Fairy

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.

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.

I just need more hours in the day!

How often do we hear ourselves saying that and constantly feeling the burden of not getting things done.

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Modern life is busy – there are so many more ‘things to do’ nowadays it’s easy to understand why people feel overwhelmed, frustrated with missed deadlines and struggling to complete errands.

But it needn’t be like that. As Napoleon Hill said “You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.”

Here are a few simple rules and helpful tools that help both ourselves and our clients.

  • Be realistic and don’t try to take on too much. Remember there is only one of you and ultimately even with help you have to make sure you leave time in the day for yourself.
  • Prioritise and focus on what really matters, tackle the need-to-haves before the nice-to-haves.
  • Keep track of your progress. Write it down or, if you are good with technology, try a tool like Wunderlist to help keep you on track whilst on the move. If you have lots to do then make different lists for different purposes. Personally, crossing off my to-do list with a purple highlighter makes me very happy.
  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait for things to catch you unawares, be ready for them. Get all your plans/birthdays/to-do’s in a diary or online calendar and get into the habit of checking it daily. Put reminders for the really important things, just in case!
  • Write a weekly meal plan and shop just once a week for everything, mySupermarket will help make sure you don’t spend more than you need and will alert you if something you buy regularly is on offer. Keep an active list somewhere that the family can add to when they spot that you are running short on something, we love the ideas here.
  • Be dedicated – now you know what you want to do and what’s most important to you, get started! Even if you only start by allocating 5-10 minutes each day to creating a more organised life, you will be surprised how much you can achieve. If you really struggle to get started or finish, enlist the help of a friend or family member to make you accountable for your goals.

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If you are enjoying our tips then please do come and follow us on Twitter @Clutterfairyuk or Facebook and join in the conversation.

When does ‘stuff’ become clutter…?

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One man’s clutter is another man’s treasure. Defining what counts as clutter is a personal thing – no general rules need apply here.

For example, we may have a client who collects a certain kind of ornament. To one person that would be considered clutter as it takes up space on the sideboards that could otherwise be clear. But to this client they are treasured possessions that are dearly loved and cherished and they are quite happy to give up the sideboard space for them.

Defining clutter is much more about how the ‘stuff’ in your home makes you feel. Let me ask you a few simple questions:

  • When you walk into your home do you feel instantly relaxed and comfortable?
  • Do you enjoy having people round?
  • Can you always find what you are looking for?
  • Do the possessions in your life bring you joy?
  • When you look around at the things you own, can you honestly say you use, need or love everything you possess?

If the answer is NO to any of the questions then you have some clutter in your life.

If you do not use it regularly, need it sometimes or love it all the time, it is time to question whether it should stay.

Why not try your own attempt at decluttering asking yourself these simple three questions for each item.

Remember – start small and you will be surprised how quickly you will gain momentum!

If you need some help with the decluttering process follow us on Twitter @Clutterfairyuk and Facebook for more helpful tips on how to beat the clutter for good. Better still, if you are in Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire or North Wales, give us a call and we will gladly come around and help!

A decluttering guide for empty nesters

Did you see the blog I wrote for Harveys furniture recently? Just in case you missed  it, here it is!

We can all understand the benefits of simple living – clean, clutter-free spaces which still show individuality.

The problem is that as your kids grow up, they’ll amass what seems a lifetime of junk in just a few years. So when they leave the family home it can be doubly emotional: you feel like you’ve lost your child, but kept all their clutter.

To really fight that empty nest syndrome, you’ll need to be prepared to deal positively with the mess they leave behind – so find out how to declutter with an expert.

http://www.harveysfurniture.co.uk/blog/how-to-declutter-your-home-for-empty-nesters/