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.

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/

A Clutter Fairy – what exactly is that?

As I was looking around at stuff I wrote just after I set up the business 5 years ago, I came across this and I’m happy to say, absolutely nothing has changed (except the age of my kids!)

Hi, I’m Lesley Spellman, wife, daughter, friend and mum to three kids 15, 12 and 8. For a lot of years I spent my time at home raising my lovely family and trying to create a happy place to live and was more than content. Then, I woke up one morning and thought maybe the time had come to do something a bit different. Back to work? Hmmm? No Friday coffee, child care in the school holidays, getting bossed around – maybe not. So I then moved swiftly onto the option of setting up my own business. Advice from friends was always to do something I was passionate about. In the passion stakes my home has always been high on the list – it needs to be welcoming to me as well as others, it needs to be functional and it’s a bonus if it is beautiful. I love being with people, talking to them, finding out about what makes them tick, and hopefully in some cases helping them. Oh and I’ve always been a control freak…

With my passions in mind and my controlling nature in check, I set up my professional organising business, The Clutter Fairy. It’s the perfect name for my business– it encompasses to a tee what I aim to do for people – whilst providing a constant source of amusement to those who know me well. Lesley Spellman and Fairy- not a likely combination!

Most people have clutter in some shape or form – it’s hard to juggle all the demands made on women in twenty-first century life– but wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone wave a magic wand and make it all go away? But what takes people from moaning at the school gate about their clutter to picking up the phone and calling me? It’s all about the extent to which it is getting them down.

Every client has a different need – at one end of the scale I have clients who want to declutter, have a good idea of what needs to go and just want someone to keep them on track and ensure the job is done thoroughly. By booking an appointment, it reaches the top of their to do list and the job gets done. At the other end of the scale, I have clients who are completely overwhelmed, often to a point of depression, have no inkling of how, why, when or where to get started and are desperate to make a change. They have read all the books, watched the TV programmes, bought the storage solutions but are still knee deep in the stuff of life. That’s when they start searching for an alternative and hopefully find The Clutter Fairy.

So what does The Clutter Fairy do? Well, first and foremost it’s all about trust. By inviting a declutterer into your home you are laying your whole life out to bare. I visit the client’s home, we chat about how the clutter came about, we have a look at each room in the house, see if any of them work well, assess which are the main areas of concern and then chat about how the job can be done and how long it is likely to take. By the end of the initial consultation, the trust is established.

Once we get started together, we work methodically through each room until it’s complete. I challenge items I feel may be questionable. If you don’t use it often, need it sometimes or love it all the time, it’s up for question. But ultimately all decisions about what stays and what goes are not mine to make. We sort things into categories for rehoming – different room, charity shop, family or friends, ebay, recycling. Very little ends up in landfill. And the key to decluttering success is getting the stuff out of the house on that day.

Once a room is clutter free, it’s time to start organising things into a system that works with your lifestyle. If you have five school age kids and work full time, your needs are going to be very different to a retired couple or a student. While we are working together we talk a lot about habits, changing them if necessary and chat about some strategies that will make things easier to manage long term.

I love my job. I love the difference that I can make to someone in as little as a few hours. As trite as it may sound, with every bin liner that finds its way out of the front door, I can see a weight being gradually lifted from that person’s shoulders. Decluttering is not rocket science – it’s a straightforward process of change but sometimes you just need a helping hand.