Decluttering – a New Year’s reality check!

It’s that time of year when the world and his wife are talking about decluttering. Newspapers, magazines and blogs are all trying to motivate us to live 2012 clutter free. Now, motivation is key to a successful declutter, of course, but alongside that you need education on how to tackle the job and a big dose of realism.

As a professional declutterer one of the key skills I need is honesty. I am honest with my clients and I will be honest with you.

So here’s the reality – if you have quite a lot of clutter in your home, it probably didn’t build up overnight; it took months, maybe even years, to get to such an unmanageable level so it shouldn’t be surprising that it will probably take more than just an hour or two to sort through and get your space back to the way you want it to be. There, I’ve said it – it’s not a “Ten minutes a Day for a Clutter Free home”, it’s not a trip out to buy a gorgeous storage unit from Ikea, it’s not about a labelling machine or post it notes. If you have a lot of clutter, it’s going to take time to sort it.

And time is not all you need. More than anything you need focus, determination, motivation and a huge amount of energy. Clearing clutter is emotionally and physically draining if there’s a lot of it.

The ideal scenario is of course to get a professional organiser to help you. What they will try to achieve is a balance between your vision and the amount of stuff you are willing to get rid of. If you have said you want a minimalist home with clear surfaces more akin to an edition of Ideal Home and you only have one carrier bag ready for the charity shop then it’s time for some questions to be asked. A professional will keep you focused, motivated and above all entertained throughout what can be a mind-numbingly tedious job at times.

If a professional is not an option for you try to bear in mind the following.

Having well meaning family to help can be, in my experience, a disaster waiting to happen. A daughter, a mother in law, even a husband is not impartial. If someone has been living with the fallout of your clutter they are likely to harbour a small amount of resentment and perhaps may struggle to understand the  psychology behind your attachment to your things.

If you are going to go it alone you need to be realistic about time. For me an averagely cluttered room takes between four and six hours to declutter, reorganise and the final vitally important part – discarding the stuff to charity, an eBay seller or the tip. And that is based on me working with a client at a reasonable pace.

Be prepared with bin bags, transport to take the stuff away and plan to avoid any distractions (kids, phones, facebook, loose women etc)

Remember it will get worse before it gets better. All that stuff in those drawers and cupboards is going to have to come out to get sorted before it can go back in.

Stay focused on your goal. Don’t move from room to room. If something belongs in the kitchen, for example, put it in a box labelled kitchen and move it later with other things that you find along the way.

I could go on and on but after what might appear to be a very negative blog, I want to end on a positive note. All that is standing between you and a home that you want to be in, where you can find what you need and above all can be proud of, is time, energy and focus. And we’ve all got a bit of that stored somewhere!

Good luck and if you have any questions, let me know.

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Hands up if you would struggle to throw away Jo Malone packaging?

Well it’s Valentine’s Day, 23 years since I first got together with my lovely husband (not an adjective you will hear me use often when referring to my other half but hey love is in the air) and to celebrate the event he gave me a gorgeous box of Jo Malone perfume and a candle. Perfect choice – well and truly spoiled – and a very happy wife.

Rather than try to describe the excitement with which I accepted my gift, I will let the brilliant marketeers at Jo Malone do it themselves. “Love is a Gift. The Art of Gift Giving. Define a moment to remember. The distinctive cream bag. The pristine box. The black, grosgrain ribbon. The tissue paper misted with fragrance. Before you even lift the lid, the Jo Malone experience is special.” Yes, it is, thankyou, Steve and thankyou, Jo Malone.

So I’m sold, my husband has his brownie points, I smell gorgeous, my candle has pride of place and it’s back to reality. Time to tidy up – I do my normal groundhog day stuff. Yes, even for the Clutter Fairy who gets a kick out of tidiness, that morning routine is dull, dull, dull (but good when it’s done!). I make the beds, open the blinds, hang clothes up, pick up undies, put stuff in the laundry basket, toothbrushes back on their container etc etc etc and then I find my empty Jo Malone packaging. What’s a girl to do?

It is just so gorgeous, you really don’t want to get rid of it so you try to come up with reasons to keep it.

You could reuse the bag for someone else’s gift – well, yes but then they would think they were getting Jo Malone and understandably might be a tad disappointed if they open the box to find a Shower Gel from Tesco. And if you actually bought them some Jo Malone you would get the full gift experience as described above and have no need for a bag.

You could use the bag for day to day shopping. You could but might look a bit daft cramming baked beans into a gift bag or a bit posh sending your son’s packed lunch in in a Jo Malone bag.

And what about the box? Same applies. Lovely box but we need to be managing expectations.

The ribbon? If and only if you are meticulous in keeping all your gift stuff together and are genuinely creative when  wrapping a gift for someone is that ever going to be useful.

The tissue paper, it’s a bit crumpled already but could be recycled for gift wrapping if you fall into the category above.

The leaflets –  everything is online should you need a full resumee of scents and as you’ve just had a whole 100ml bottle, it might be a while.

So ask yourself this – why are you keeping the packaging?

It might come in useful – now here I might have a point. That lovely box is sturdy and could definitely be used to store something in but unless I can think of something immediately it’s going to become clutter.

You feel so guilty -it cost alot to produce and alot to buy- yes it did but the gift is the perfume or candle and not the packaging. If anything, Jo Malone should be cutting down on the amount of packaging but to be fair everything is recyclable so it can be reused if disposed of appropriately.

Is it for show? You’ve got your Jo Malone and you want to make sure people know it.  (Ooh, contentious!)

Is it laziness? – you just don’t ever get around to getting rid of stuff like that.

There are lots of reasons why you might still have that packaging and as the home owner it is absolutely your call whether or not you want to keep it. My job as the Clutter Fairy is to make you ask yourself why. You might think it’s a bit of  a daft thing to blog about,  but this kind of clutter – empty shoe boxes, carrier bags, leaflets, ribbons is prevalent in almost every home I visit and it has a big habit of multiplying until one day it becomes unbearable.

Do yourself a favour and put it in your recycling bin. You will never give it a second thought.

One way to make an impact on your clutter in less than an hour.

Pride of place in lots and lots of lounges up and down the country are shelf upon shelf of videos. Barney,  Bagpuss, Loveboat, Jane Fonda, Ivor the Engine, -there they are in all their glory reminding us of a bygone era. The one thing that isn’t there is something to play them on.  And how many can you get on a shelf ? Ten maybe or fifteen if you’re lucky because they are huge, cumbersome things. They were a brilliant thing to have (in the eighties and nineties) but now in the teenies (?!) they are defunkt having been replaced by their size zero counterparts, DVDs (and they won’t be long for this life either.)

It’s hard, I know, to get rid of  a collection of things that has a) cost alot of money b) brought the family alot of pleasure and c) has sentiment attached to it but nevertheless they should go, they really should – you need to try and overcome the obstacles of cost, usefulness and sentiment. So look at and focus on the positives.  Yes, they did give your family  pleasure and you do look at some of them and go “aah” so you can safely say that in most cases you have had your ten pounds’ worth out of them. If you’re still struggling to get out the black bin liner just think about the space. You will free up lots and lots of space. Most homes also have more than one CD and DVD rack – maybe you will be able to amalgamate them into just one now that you have those free shelves.

A word of warning, charity shops will be unlikely to want your videos. Foreign charities might so go down that avenue. And beware of the blank video cassette. It may just have a wedding, birth or graduation on it so check carefully!

So, if you have a free hour in the next couple of days, do yourself and your home a favour and get rid of some videos. You know you want to!

How to deal with Christmas Clutter – New Year, New You!

You’ve had a lovely relaxed Christmas at home but reality is looming. The Christmas decorations are boring you now and as you look around your house you are wondering where the hell that toy mountain in your living room is going to go, what you are going to do with the novelty pressies you gave your husband that seemed like a laugh at the time and which drawer you can shove the jumper from your auntie that she is going to expect to see you wearing.

Sound familiar? Depressing isn’t it?

In short, you need to find a place for everything and hopefully at certain times of the week have everything in its place.

Not rocket science, I know, but you are going to have to let some of your stuff go to make room for the new stuff. So it’s time for some serious decluttering but you have little or no idea where to start.

You’re not alone, That’s why professional organisers are more and more in demand with each passing year. In the UK we love to shop but are less eager to see perfectly good stuff go to waste. If you want to get organised, check out the tips below and you will be well on your way to a calmer, more inviting home and hopefully a less stressed you!

Have a plan of attack. Choose a room, drawer, wardrobe and stick to it. Don’t get waylaid putting stuff back into other rooms until the end.

Use it, need it, love it? If you don’t use it regularly, need it sometimes or love it all the time, it’s time to question whether it should stay.

Be realistic. It’s taken months or sometimes years for the clutter to build and it will take time and effort to sort it out. About 4 or 5 hours decluttering a day is more than enough.

Choose your destinations. Know beforehand where you can offload the things you choose to lose. Choose a charity shop you feel passionate about and where it’s easy to park. Know how your local recycling centre works. Make sure your sister, mum or friend needs, will use or love your cast offs. If you plan to sell, find someone to do it for you or ensure you have the tools and the time to do it yourself.

Get started. There’s no easy way. Tackle visible clutter first on surfaces or the floor to give yourself space to work. Then work clockwise around the room until it’s done.

Colour code. Use different coloured bags for different things so you don’t get confused. You can go through a lot of black bin liners in a day. I use blue for Charity, green for recycling, clear for family and friends etc.

Out the door. Plan to offload everything on the day you declutter. That way there’s no chance of it reappearing. I have never had a client with regrets.

Keep a vision. However you envisage your newly decluttered space, keep that firmly in your mind all day long to keep your motivation high.

Save storage till last. Don’t buy storage until you have fully decluttered and are ready to organise. That way you can get exactly what you need.

Organise for your lifestyle. Choose a system that works with your lifestyle. Be realistic and don’t micro-organise. Then sit back and take it all in!

Call in the professionals. If you really can’t see yourself ever getting there alone, call in a professional. We guide you through the process psychologically and practically and keep you focused until the job is done

Hopefully by now you should have some empty drawers, cupboards and shelves to store your Christmas goodies. Oh and don’t let guilt get the better of you. If you are never in a million years going to use or wear that Christmas present, take it back, sell it or regift it. Someone else will love it!

Just one last little Clutter Fairy tip – next year, tackle the decluttering before Christmas – it makes a massive difference!

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!

Is paper clutter getting you down?

Even in the most tidy and organised of homes I visit in my day to day life as The Clutter Fairy there is one thing that always causes problems and that is paper. It flows through the door of our homes via the postman, school bags, newspapers, fliers or in work bags. And where does it find its home? In the hallway, kitchen surfaces, bedroom, living room – in short, lots of places where it is never going to be dealt with and leaves you with lots of clutter, depressing you each time you see it building up and up.

The key to paperwork is dealing with it initially as soon as it comes through the door and then revisiting it on a regular basis.

So, pick that post up from behind the door, get your recycling bin at the ready and get rid of:

•  Adverts and mailings trying to sell you stuff . It’s never hard to find info about things to buy!

•  Envelopes – the reason for keeping them is?

•  Terms and conditions that you are very unlikely to ever read. They send them because they have to not because they think customers will read them.

•  Duplicate bank/credit card statements from a joint account. Better still – opt into paperless billing online.

•   Letters that are for info only. Read the info, put any dates into your diary.

•   Charity requests (unless you know you regularly increase your donations)

•   Take away menus from any take-aways you never have and never will use.

•   Any info that is duplicated online.

I could go on and on but you get the gist by now.

You will have got rid of at least 75% of the paper and everything that is left is needed until actioned or filed.

Put what remains into your intray in your office/study/kitchen. It doesn’t matter where it is as long as it is where you deal with your paperwork.

Try to deal with paperwork once a week.

Go through your intray, action first, shred second, file third.

For most people who cite paper as their worst clutter nightmare, it is more about changing habits than anything else.

Good luck!

Don’t leave it till January. Why November is the best time to declutter.

The New Year is the busiest time of year for Professional organisers and generally when people choose to declutter their homes. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to change the New Years resolutions habits that have existed for centuries. But why not declutter now rather than wait till January? I think it’s the perfect time of year to do it.

But why?

– The festive season with all its celebrations is a time when we are most likely to have guests in our home. What better time than now to have a home you can be proud of?

– For your guests, you will probably need your spare room to stay over. Isn’t that the one where all the clutter finds a resting place? Get it sorted and let your guests be impressed.

– There is a serious influx of ‘stuff’ into the house at Christmas. If you have your sort out before Christmas there’s a chance it will have somewhere to be put away. A place for everything and everything in its place.

– By decluttering in November you will get a chance to find things you didn’t know you had eg. boxed Christmas cards, wrapping paper, gifts you can recycle or give to Christmas appeals. Use up your clutter and save some money.

– If you declutter your wardrobe now  you will probably find a party dress that will be perfect for December without having to go out and buy a new one. We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That party dress falls into the other 20% category.

– When you find all those Christmas presents you were given last year that haven’t seen the light of day, it might make you think about the types of gifts you are giving and whether they will be welcomed.

So, rather than go out and do your Christmas shopping this weekend, have a sort out so you know what you’ve got and what you need. Make your home clutter free, save yourself time, money, make space and have a home you can be proud of.