APDO Back to School

Getting organised for back to school: 10 top tips

It’s almost back to school time!  September means a return to routine… so here are some tips from APDO member Mel Carruthers from More Organised to kick off the new school year as your most organised yet!

Declutter bedrooms / toys

Sofa forts, indoor camps and LEGO cities stretching through multiple rooms were all fun at the time, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t want them to become permanent features of your home’s interior design now that the holidays are drawing to an end.

After all the play and creativity of the holidays, now is a great time to encourage your children to review and declutter their toys. Work with them to decide what toys have been played with and enjoyed the most, and which could be donated for other children to have. Lead the way by choosing a category of your own belongings to declutter and make it a fun process by setting a timer, a target or a reward together!  

Sort out artwork and school papers

A new school year will bring new artwork, new crafts and new schoolwork home; make sure you have a system in place to deal with it all. You can’t keep everything, so set some criteria for what you will keep ahead of time and work out a storage method that works for your family.

Children's painting aprons hung up in a row

A hanging file box with a file for each school year is a simple solution – simply pop the papers into the correct file and you’re done!  A scrapbook for favourites (or photos of favourites) can work well if you are feeling more creative and can keep on top of it. You could even scan the work and email it to a special email account if you want to keep the memories without the clutter. But always remember… your love for your children is not measured by the amount of school papers that you keep! 

Family command centre and calendar

It’s not only homework that comes home in school bags… with all the letters, invitations, slips for signing, dates for the diary and requests for money, you’ll need a way to keep yourself organised as well as the children. Designate a tray, box or file for everyone to empty their papers into, add a family calendar and a hook for your keys, and you’ll instantly feel on top of things.

Get into the habit of dealing with the school papers and checking school social media at the same time each day, and you’ll never miss a dress-up day or bake sale again. I like to grab us all a drink and a snack as soon as we get in from school each afternoon, which is the perfect time for us all to review homework, deal with papers and prepare the school bags for the next morning whilst catching up on the news from our day.

Homework area

Whether the children are working on homework, their own projects or catching up on reading, an organised space will help them to focus… and tidy up after themselves more easily. Dedicate a cupboard, shelf or cart to keep supplies tidy and close to hand. Encourage children to unpack their homework as soon as they get home from school and help them to get into a routine (which will help set positive habits for their future work life, as well as keeping them in the teachers’ good books!).

Little girl doing her homework at a table

After-school activities

A new school term means new after-school activities, so don’t forget to book these as early as possible and mark them on your family calendar as your new schedule takes shape.  Check with local Facebook groups for pre-loved supplies and uniforms, especially if it is a new activity that may not last. You can always upgrade equipment and uniform once you know that your child will stick with their new hobby.

The earlier you book the activities, the more time you have to co-ordinate with other parents and work out shared schedules (i.e. could you look after their child for a play-date and tea before Brownies each week, in return for their help on swimming nights when you already have to take your other child to karate at the same time?)

Check uniform and supplies

Just because it’s a new school year, don’t feel under pressure to buy everything new again, despite what the campaigns in the high street stores are telling you.  Before setting out for the shops, check what you already have and what still fits. If your school has a pre-loved uniform scheme, you could pick up what you need for a fraction of the cost, and then pass it back around when you have finished with it too.

Wash and iron everything ready for your first week and make sure it’s labelled. My More Organised top tip for labelling clothing is to use hair straighteners with “iron on” name labels (you can read more of my Back to School hacks here!)

Time for bed!

Routines will probably have been a little less rigid over the summer holidays, so early school starts may come as a bit of a shock unless you prepare.  Use the last week before the new term to transition bedtimes and wake-up times back to the term time routine. Starting the bedtime routine 15 minutes early each night will help your family edge gently towards their new bedtimes.  Start waking up earlier too, in preparation for those early morning starts.


Clean out your car

If you use the car on the school run, now is a great time to make sure your service history is up to date, that oil and water levels are good, and that you have enough petrol. Clean out the inside and pop a few useful items in there to help you keep the school run organised:

  • The right parking permits or enough change for parking if needed
  • A folder or box to transport precious art and crafts home in one piece
  • Tissues
  • Emergency snacks for hungry children on their way to after-school activities

First day photos

You’ll probably want to take a few “first day back” photos before school on the first day of term, so leave some extra time in your schedule. And don’t forget to charge the camera!


Every new school year is an important milestone, so with all the preparations and organising, don’t forget to celebrate! Start your own tradition and plan a “Back to School” treat to mark the start of a new school year. It could be a family movie, supper at your favourite restaurant, or a simple trip to the park for some back to school photos. Whatever you decide, make it a celebration to look back on all those fun summer memories, and look forward to a successful school year ahead!

Getting the children ready for back to school can feel really overwhelming, but if you stick to these tips you should be ready to take the school year head on. You can get more tips for keeping an organised home when you have small children here.

Article by Mel Carruthers of More Organised.

If this list seems a little too overwhelming, your local organisers from APDO are here to help. Find help in your area on our Find an Organiser page.

Karen Eyre-White

Routines and Habits for a Happy 2020

As the new year gets underway, it’s a great opportunity to set up new routines and habits to get the most out of our time. Productivity coach Karen Eyre White (Go Do) tells us about the power of routine and how you can set yourself up for success in 2020.

Our lives are dominated by routines. Doing the weekly shop, having a shower each morning, getting the kids to school. When something needs to be done regularly, getting into a routine of doing it in a certain way or at a certain time often makes life run more smoothly.

Relieving the Mental Load

Routines and habits ease the mental load of all our commitments: our brains can go in to auto-pilot and we don’t need to think as much about each and every decision. If every day we had to make fresh decisions about which route to take to school, or what time to have dinner, everything would feel a lot more difficult. Routines help and support us to get everything done.

A Change is as Good as a Rest

However, routines can also sometimes get boring and monotonous. Which is why it’s so refreshing to step out of them on occasion. For many of us, the last few weeks have probably been a bit different from the norm. Maybe you’ve been away to visit relatives, or had guests to stay. The kids haven’t been at school. You may have been working less – and running after those kids a lot more!

So here we find ourselves, the first week back to normal life. Getting back in to our routines and daily habits after a break can be difficult. We’ve got out of the practice of it, so it feels a bit like trying to remember your GCSE French. This can be frustrating, but it’s also a great opportunity to look afresh at whether your routines are still working for you.

Step 1 – Identify what you want to do differently

Is there a different way of handling your mornings to get everyone where they need to be on time? Do you want to get in to new bedtime habits to help you sleep more soundly? This is the time to do it. There’s nothing like a fresh start to give you the clean slate you need to make a change.


Step 2 – Get the kids involved

If you have a family, get the kids involved. They’ll have opinions about what should happen when and involving them now will save trouble down the line and make things run more smoothly. If some of their suggestions are impractical, help them to think through a different way that could work.

Step 3 – Bring new routines in

Finally, consider whether there are things in your life which would benefit from being done in a more routine way. Maybe you’re trying to do your household chores in any spare moment and feeling stressed that you never have time for them. Getting a specific slot in the diary each week will help you feel more in control and help you to relax the rest of the time.

Step 4 – Be patient

As you establish your new routines and habits, be patient and kind to yourself and your family. Just like learning to ride a bike, there will be bumps along the way. But if you take the time now to start the right routines and habits, you’ll be flying in no time.

If you feel like you may need some support setting up your organised routine for 2020, have a chat with your local organisers who you can find on our find an organiser page. 


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POC Logo

An Organisers’ Conference in Canada, Eh?

With decluttering becoming more and more popular around the world, have you ever wondered what the organising industry looks like in other countries? As it turns out, there are quite a few that have associations just like APDO, that support organisers and keep industry standards high. The lovely Isabelle Lamy (IDea for your space) had a chance to go to the POC (Professional Organisers in Canada) Conference to give us the scoop from across the pond.

I recently had the immense pleasure of attending the POC conference in Toronto on behalf of APDO. This was my third international conference about the organising industry. In 2017 I had the chance to attend the NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) conference in Pittsburgh with former APDO president Ingrid Jansen. Earlier this year, I attended the Journée Annuelle for FFPO (Fédération Francophone des Professionnels de l’Organisation) in Paris. And last month I attended the POC’s conference in Toronto, Canada. It’s really interesting to see how these conferences differ but their purpose remains the same: education, connection and sharing ideas.

First of all, I would like to tell you how incredibly welcomed I felt by the POC members I met. They were all very kind and rather impressed by the fact I came from London in England and not from London in Ontario (Canada)!

The POC conference was really special to me for many reasons.

Isabelle and her friends

Isabelle met many new organiser friends in Toronto

As the International Liaison for APDO, I’ve had the opportunity to regularly e-meet some of the leaders of organising industry associations through meetings organised by the International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations (IFPOA), which APDO joined in September 2015.

In Toronto, it was a real pleasure to meet in person, to discuss and have some great laughs with Dennise Conforti (President of POC), Susie Hayman (President of NAPO), Alison Lush (President of ICD and one of APDO’s conference speakers this year), Cindy Sullivan (President-elect of ICD who also joined us at APDO’s 2019 Conference) as well as other key players from these associations; Stephanie Deakin (POC’s immediate Past President), Laurene Livesey Park (ICD’s Certification Program Director) as well as Colette Robicheau who was a speaker at the 2016 APDO Conference.

In her introductory speech at the POC AGM, Dennise Conforti talked about relationships, both inside their professional association and outside, and with other associations in the world. It resonated a lot with me as it made me realise how happy, proud and honoured I was to be part of APDO.

Being part of APDO is a fantastic opportunity to meet with other POs in the London area where I am based but also with others based all over the UK. Over the last five years, the APDO leadership has actively initiated and reinforced the relationships with other professional associations in the world. We have formed affiliate agreements with POC (September 2017), ICD (February 2019), and through APDO’s ongoing membership of IFPOA. I feel that being part of APDO means we’re also firmly part of the international professional organising community!

POC conference

I hope some of you managed to see the videos on APDO social media of some of these international leaders sending their best 15th birthday wishes to our association; they are a testimony to the wonderful international relationships APDO has with some other associations!

I also really enjoyed the POC conference because it is quite similar to our own APDO conference in terms of attendee size. Around 110 people attended the POC conference, which, like our own conference, makes the event rather intimate. I managed to talk and to connect with many people there, even though three days still seemed too short.

It was also really interesting to see how POC organised their conference between plenary sessions, workshops, Conversation Café, expo hall… It’s always a wonderful source of inspiration to see what others do.

And last but not least, a lot of the attendees spoke French… Hooray! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m French so I certainly enjoyed the novelty of talking shop in my mother tongue. The next time I visit my daughter in Montreal I will make sure that there is a meeting held by the Montreal POC chapter so that I will have the pleasure of meeting some of them again. I will definitely be attending the POC conference again in the near future and would encourage you to do so too.

It’s all about fabulous relationships…



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Katherine Blackler

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a Certified Professional Organizer, CPO®

APDO’s President Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) recently became the UK’s first Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®). We caught up with her to find out what the qualification means and what was involved.

What is a CPO®?

The CPO® is a mark of differentiation for professionals working in our field. It is issued by the Board of Certified Professional Organizers (BCPO®). There are now 368 CPOs® across the globe but there are only two in Europe at present. It’s great that we have another APDO member, Vincy Tam (Jupp UK) flying the CPO® flag in Hong Kong too. Once qualified, you can use the CPO® designation after your name and display the CPO® badge on your website, email and marketing materials.

I have a lot of respect for the CPOs® I met at two NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) conferences I’ve attended and the ICD (Institute of Challenging Disorganization) conference recently. My 2016 NAPO conference buddy Andrea Walker CPO®, Smartly Organized NJ, USA encouraged me earlier this year to take the exam. Because I admire the way she and the other CPOs® I know, approach their profession, I decided to take the plunge myself. I feel it shows an extra level of commitment to your career choice. Colleagues and clients know you’re taking it seriously and that you’re continually striving to improve your skills and knowledge to help them. I hope I can inspire other UK organisers to consider it too, even if that’s as a future goal. 

What do you need to be a CPO®?

You need to demonstrate an active career by chalking up 1500 hours working with organising clients over the past 5 years OR show that you have worked at least 1250 hours with clients and then you can add up to 250 substitute hours at the point of applying to take the examination.

Aside from accruing the client-facing and/or substitute hours, there’s also a 2-hour 125-question multiple choice exam to sit at one of their global testing centres. In the UK they’re available in London and Newcastle. You can apply to sit the exam in February, June and October each year. You need to pull together a detailed spreadsheet which captures all your client hours and/or the different types of substitute hours. 

NAPO runs a preparatory webinar (4 hours over 2 sessions) which I found useful and participation in that has been proven to increase the chances of passing the exam itself. 

There is also a reading list of approximately 40 books, although the BCPO® does stress that you are not expected to read every book from cover-to-cover but to pick any which cover the areas you’re not familiar with.

What sort of substitute hours could I include?

You can provide up to 250 hours-worth of such things as CPD credits (Continuing Professional Development). This includes classes (physical or virtual) which relate to the organising industry and can demonstrate a skill or learning that would benefit your clients rather than simply benefiting your own business (such as marketing or social media training). You also need to have a certificate of attendance or completion for each course for them to be treated as CPD. 

If you serve on an organising association’s board you can include 10 credits so I could include my volunteer role of APDO President. Publications, articles and blogs of at least 500 words that you’ve written are worth 10 credits each (with a maximum of 3 in this category). Mentoring or training hours can be included too and higher education study can count for up to 100 hours of credit.

Whatever you include, be prepared to provide evidence of all the substitute hours you are logging as BCPO® conducts audits on a small percentage of applicants.

What do you think the benefits of being a CPO® are?

I definitely learned more about my craft by studying for the CPO®. It’s also enhanced my natural curiosity to develop skills and knowledge that could help me personally, better support my clients and also boost my business. As with many CPOs® I’ve been able to increase my hourly rate so there’s a practical benefit to taking it too. I do feel it helps you to stand out in an ever-growing market.

The Board of Certification

Tell us more about what you learned in the process?

I realised that whilst a lot of organising skills do come to me naturally, I still had a lot more to learn about the many ways our brains work (such as left brain versus right brain thinking). I’m good with spatial awareness to optimise an environment. I’m practiced helping clients to streamline their physical belongings. And I love what I do with my clients. But I’m the first to admit I frequently struggle decluttering my own diary and commitments! (Spoiler alert: Professional organisers are human too!). Studying for the CPO® gave me a good (external) excuse to finally make time to read up and tackle some of the time management techniques out there. It’s helped me to better understand why we (myself included!) have certain challenges and how we can ride the rollercoaster of life accordingly.

As I read some of the books, I spotted ways to improve systems and processes in my own business, and life, as well as techniques to use with/for my clients. I’m confident that as a result I’ll now be a better organiser and business owner.

The exam was harder than I had expected and the time flew by. I was actually one of the approximately 10% of examinants who was audited. Doing the lion’s share of the spreadsheet and data gathering exercise before I even applied to sit the exam really paid off in terms of reducing stress when I got the unwelcome notification that I was one of the few selected for audit! Don’t get me wrong, the BCPO® staff aren’t ogres about it but any kind of audit is one extra headache we can all do without! 

How much does CPO® cost?

The CPO® costs USD $450 to sit the exam and you then pay an annual fee of USD $100. You are also required to recertify every 3 years by completing 45 or more eligible Continuing Education Units (CEUs) during that period to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professional development. Alternatively you can re-sit the exam to recertify.

NAPO’s optional preparatory course costs USD $120 as a NAPO member/USD $220 as a non-member if you wanted to sit that to help get into the study zone. They run these a month prior to each exam window. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of sitting the CPO® exam?

Browse the reading list straight away and aim to plod steadily through the books while you build up your client-facing hours. Write a review or brief summary for each book when you finish it so you can easily refresh your memory further down the line, particularly before you sit the exam. If you can, find a study buddy and divide up the reading list, teach each other what you’ve read about and test one another. Explaining to someone else really helps consolidate the knowledge.

Check out and start populating BCPO®’s sample spreadsheet from the get-go. I remember thinking about the CPO® qualification when I first started my business and realised it would be a few years before I could accrue enough hours to sit the exam so didn’t dig deeper into what would be needed. It was much harder going back and completing the spreadsheet retrospectively as you need to provide a lot of detail:  hours worked, the rooms worked on, the skills imparted to the client, etc.

It helps to memorise the CPO® Exam Outline inside out. I ended up reworking it into a flow chart as I’m predominantly a visual learner. I had copies up on my office wall, lounge wall and a photo on my phone to refer to it when out and about until I could replicate it all without looking at a hard copy.

And finally, I’d recommend: Go for it! It’ll help you, your business and our industry to gain recognition and respect.


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Wrapped present in Christmas Tree

Mind the Wrap – the eco-friendly gift giving campaign

The days are shorter, the air is colder and we’re all starting to prepare for the holidays. Images of shiny wrapped presents litter shopping malls and billboards around the country as we start counting down the days until Santa arrives. While the holiday season can have such a positive impact in our social lives during an otherwise dreary time of year, the impact it has on the environment is incredibly negative. While consumers are starting to lean towards greener purchasing decisions when it comes to actual gifts, it is easy to overlook the pretty packaging we wrap it up in. Luckily for us, Melat Negash from Mind the Wrap Campaign is here to tell us all about gift wrap, and how we can help our planet one present at a time!

From birthdays, to Christmas, to weddings and other special occasions, giving and receiving gifts is a wonderful tradition that helps us connect and strengthen relationships. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of waste generated by modern day gift wrapping paper. Many of us are not aware that most wrapping paper sold in shops cannot be recycled – particularly the glossy and sparkly variety. Many of them are mixed with materials such as plastic, glitter, dye, ink, laminate, sticky tape, and other things that are difficult to recycle. Because it can be so difficult to dispose of wrapping paper, tonnes of it ends up in landfills or incinerators every year, often having been used only once.

Here are some statistics to better understand the impact of our gift wrapping choices,

  • In The United Kingdom, around 100 million rolls of gift wrapping paper are thrown away after Christmas (source)
  • The United States of America consumers spent just under US$13 billion on gift wrap in 2017 (source)
  • In the United States of America, 4 million tons of waste during the holidays is made up of wrapping paper and shopping bags – this means harvesting around 30 million trees (source).
  • Canadians throw away about 540,000 tonnes of gift wrapping and gift bags during the holiday season (source).
  • Australians are estimated to use over 150,000 kilometers of wrapping paper for Christmas alone – enough to wrap around the Earth’s equator almost four times (source).

Paper waste in landfill

Even if you question or ignore the statistics, just look around shops and online at how much wrapping paper is on sale all year. A search of Amazon.com for shiny wrapping paper returns over 700 results. Is it right to create so much waste year after year for something we usually use only once? For many, it’s often an unconscious purchase – something we buy without thinking about if we really need it.

What are the alternatives?

There are lots of sustainable and beautiful alternatives to wrapping paper:

  • Newspapers (e.g. free papers such as the London Evening Standard)
  • Fabric (e.g. scarves, tea towels, cushion covers, pillowcases, offcuts, tote bags, Wrag Wrap)
  • Brown paper (try to find ones not wrapped in plastic)
  • Children’s artwork
  • Maps brought back home from travels/holidays
  • Old calendars
  • Packages from online and offline shopping
  • Sheet music
  • Tins and jars
  • Dried fallen leaves and orange/lemon peels make great finishes instead of glitter and plastic materials
  • Washi tapes, twine and fabric strips – seal your wrapping with these or other paper tapes as most plastic sticky tape is not biodegradable and cannot be recycled

Presents wrapped in old maps

Whether you are time-poor or a crafty creative, there are many options to re-use, re-purpose and save money. It can be an opportunity to declutter too! Why not use those scarves you never wear to wrap something and pass on as a ‘gift in a gift’? Or even a chance to develop a new hobby if you can master Furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping.

Please visit www.mindthewrap.org for more, where you will also find a handwritten letter from Sir David Attenborough among other goodies. Mind the Wrap is a campaign to raise awareness about wrapping paper waste and encourage use and re-use of more sustainable alternatives. Please share and spread the word!

If you need help getting ready for an eco-friendly holiday season, your local Professional Organiser is a great person to call! Have a look on our Find an Organiser page to find help local to you.


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Glass jars with lentils and various other ingredients

The Zero Waste Kitchen

Zero waste is not a new concept; not that long ago, not wasting anything was vital to survival. Now with the amount of waste that we’re dumping into our environment, we are starting to move back towards zero-waste living. Completely changing the way we shop and cook sounds a bit daunting, but Kate Charles (dclutterd) is here to help us with tips on building up a zero-waste kitchen.

1. Shopping and storage

The first idea in understanding zero waste is refusing to accept waste in the first place. That might mean choosing items that have no packaging over those that do and politely declining leaflets, freebies, and samples. Another way to avoid packaging is to bring your own containers to zero-waste shops, and fill them from bulk dispensers. Most of these shops charge by weight, so you can bring any empty container to the shop – fill it to your hearts content – and pop it back in the cupboard when you get home. More and more shops are waking up to the shift in attitude against packaging waste, making this a much easier venture than it used to be. The following list is a great guideline for reusable storage options that you can take shopping and store your food in:

Bread and bakery goods – cloth bags, or re-used plastic bread bags, sturdy paper bags can be used several times
Dry goods – Cloth or mesh bags, plastic or glass tubs with sealed lids, or sturdy paper bags
Vegetables – Washable mesh bags, re-used plastic bags, re-used mushroom cartons
Oils/vinegars and other liquids – two designated containers that can have the same liquid put into it every time – when one runs out, start on the second and put the first into the ‘for refilling’ bag
Meat and fish – Glass or reusable plastic containers with sealed lids are best, compost-able paper

2. Food waste – tops, tails and leftovers

Chopping fresh veg is a particular pleasure of mine – the aroma of a freshly-cut leek, or minced garlic starts my mouth watering before I’ve cooked a single thing! Once it’s in the pan, you are generally left with some peel, skins, roots and leaves. But before throwing your undesirables in the bin, consider these eco-friendly options. Depending on what you have at your disposal, you may be able to plant seeds, pits or parts of root vegetables to grow your own produce at home. If that’s not an option, chuck all of your food waste into a container in the freezer and when it’s full boil it down and strain it for your own broth. For more ideas on how to reuse your food waste, visit our recent blog post about how to reuse your leftovers. If these options are not right for you, check out some other things you can do with leftover food: 

Use a compost or wormery – if you have a garden, you can start a compost or womery where you can cultivate your own fertiliser
Bokashi bins – odour-free composting systems in a sealed container are a better option for flats and apartments with no outdoor space
Food waste bin – if your council collects food waste, this is a great option, especially for those with no garden or compost bin

Storing leftover food can be given a zero-waste makeover too: Swap out your single-use clingfilm for beeswax or soy fabric wraps, or invest in some silicone dish covers that can be washed and reused many times.

3. Cleaning and hygiene

Most of what people use in the kitchen is terrible of the environment. Sponges take longer than a human lifetime to decompose, and even “gentle” cleaners contaminate ground water supplies. If you’re serious about having a zero-waste kitchen, here are some easy swaps:

Plastic scrubbers and sponges – swap for coconut-fibre or loofah scrubbers which last as long as their plastic counterpart, are washable during use and compost-able once finished
Paper towels and wipes – cotton cleaning cloths, perhaps cut-up squares of old clothes or bath towels that can be washed and re-used
Single-use cleaners – swap for a glass spray bottle with bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, or your favourite natural cleaning recipe

Home-made cleaners

4. When food goes bad

You can avoid food waste by putting older food at the front of your fridge, planning meals that use up everything you’ve bought, and cleaning out your fridge on a regular basis. When it happens though, food that has gone bad can still be put into the compost – it’s just started composting a little early! Food that you would usually eat raw that hasn’t gone off but is a bit squishy can make the best baked goods. For example, bananas that no-one would eat make great banana bread, wrinkly apples make amazing apple sauce and hard bread whizzed in the food processor makes brilliant breadcrumbs.

5. Planning and organising

Watch out for some other articles in this series that deal with meal-planning and making grocery lists. Planning is a necessary part of creating a zero-waste kitchen, for example, if you’ve ditched canned beans for dried (cheaper!) beans, you’ll have to soak them overnight before cooking. Making a meal plan is great for this, as you can note ‘soak beans!’ the day before. Making a grocery list is the best way to avoid impulse purchases, or accidentally buying duplicates – minimising waste, and saving you money!

I hope that this article has inspired you to make some changes – if it has, let us know in the comments!

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you to #NOWorganise please tag us with our hashtags so we can see what you’ve been up to! 
Meal planning schedule

Meal planning: Saving time, money and reducing food-waste

In our busy lives, deciding what to feed ourselves and our families, having the right food in, and finding time to cook can be a real struggle. At the end of a long day, working out what to put on the table can sometimes be the thing that tips us over the edge. We find ourselves turning to take-away, or grabbing what we can on the way home, which can lead to wasting food and spending more time and money than we need to, without getting the healthy, balanced meals we want. APDO member and productivity specialist Karen Eyre-White (Go Do) is here to share her meal planning process to help us get organised and take some of the stress out of mealtime.

Step 1 – Schedule time to plan

Taking 30 minutes each week to plan out the next week’s meals can really help you feel in control. It doesn’t need to feel like a chore; sitting down with a glass of wine or cup of tea is a great way to relax during a busy week and be productive at the same time. This is also a great time to sift through some of your old recipe books that haven’t been opened in a while!

Step 2 – Check your diary

One common mistake that you don’t want to make is planning for food that you won’t be home to eat. So, before you start, take a look at your diary. Which nights are you out and therefore not eating at home? Which nights are all the kids at after-school activities and you’ll need to rustle something up in 15 minutes? Be sure to choose meals which fit with the time and amount of people home for dinner.

Step 3 – Check your Cheat-sheet!

Create a list of old faithful meals which you can look at for inspiration, and mix in some new recipes every now and then. BBC Good Food has a great collection of recipes for all cuisines and budgets, or try Yummy Toddler Food for kids. Don’t be over-ambitious, you don’t need to plan culinary masterpieces for every night of the week (or, indeed, for any).  It can also be helpful to choose meals which complement each other. Perhaps the leftovers from one meal can be used as the next day’s lunch, or if a recipe calls for half a bag of spinach and you can use the rest for a meal later in the week. Not only does this reduce food waste, it also saves money. Build in at least a night a week to eat something from the freezer, or for something really simple. This is very flexible so if you find yourself with extra leftovers, or an invitation out to dinner, you can take full advantage.

A lady reading a cook book

Step 4 – Make a list

Make your plan in good time ahead of food shopping for the week and as you choose your meals create your shopping list. This way, you can add things to the list that you may have forgotten when you originally made it. If you find supermarkets stressful, or find yourself tempted by food you probably won’t eat (or eat too much of!), most big name shops have home delivery services. If you plan it enough in advance you can avoid high delivery charges and it saves a lot of the time and the hassle of battling the grocery store.

Step 5 – Make it fun

If you have children, involving them in your meal planning can make the process a positive experience. Sometimes it can help children to have some predictability about food, so think up an easy schedule like Meat Free Mondays, Tortilla Tuesdays, or even Waste Wednesdays for using up anything spare you’ve got in the fridge. Not only are you integrating more quality time together, but you’re also teaching them valuable skills for when they’re living on their own. For more ideas on integrating your children into the kitchen and cooking process, check out our recent blog, Play with your food – cooking with children.

Child help shopping for foods

Feeding yourself and your family can feel overwhelming, but by following these steps you can take the stress out of it, and go into the week feeling confident. Happy planning!

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you to #loveyourleftovers with this post please tag us with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been up to! 


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Miss P mixing batter

Play with your food – cooking with children

The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home, so what an amazing place to make wonderful memories with your children! With all of the complications of the kitchen it may seem counterproductive to let children help out, but Sarah Muir (Ellibee Home Organisation) is here to explain why letting children explore food and help in the kitchen is vital for their development.

Miss P is nearly 4 and loves helping me in the kitchen – it’s become our thing! It’s our time together to chat, prepare dinner, have fun and learn. It turns out there are so many benefits of involving children in food preparation. Here are our top 4:

1. Trying Out New Textures

Miss P’s first forays into food fun was messy play! We’d go to messy play groups where there were trays of baked beans and cabbage with dinosaurs hidden underneath or construction toys and cereal! She’d get messy and explore the sight, touch and, most importantly, the taste of these foods. We’d also do messy play at home making pies for monsters with squidgy mashed potatoes or searching for the orange segment treasure in a tray of jelly – it all got put in her mouth! Even now as we prepare dinner she will try new foods and textures. A little while ago we made chicken and vegetable curry with green beans. Miss P’s job was to help with the vegetables. She played with the green beans popping out the bean seeds and sneaking some raw courgette as we prepped. We later compared the uncooked textures of the vegetables to the cooked ones and talked about what we preferred. Eating and liking food is linked to repeated exposure. It can take around 10 times of being introduced to a food before a child likes it. What better way of introducing and exploring foods for those first few times than making it fun and messy! Miss P actually didn’t like baked beans until she was sat in a big tub of them scooping them in with her hands, despite having them on her plate several times before.

2. Opportunities for learning

Cooking is fun for children (and can be for parents too) but there are also many learning opportunities. Here are five of our favourites:

  • Fine motor skills – cutting (with a blunt knife or kid-friendly scissors), spreading and pouring can all help develop fine motor skills ready for writing and drawing in the future.
  • Creative skills – Whether it’s coming up with tasty combinations, or making your meal into a work of art, cooking forces you to use your imagination. Miss P’s favourite thing at the moment is making pizza faces with different ingredients.
  • Numeracy skills – Miss P loves numbers so we use cooking as a way of practising her maths skills. She identifies numbers on the scales (number recognition) and counts out different ingredients as we use them.
  • Safety skills – Sharp knives, high heat and germs are the biggest safety factors in the kitchen. When cooking with Miss P I use these as learning opportunities to teach her what she can and cannot touch and why. Not only am I keeping her safe, but showing her the reasoning behind all of the rules means she’ll understand what is dangerous.
  • Food waste and recycling – Miss P loves being my ‘bin lady’ when we’re preparing food. It’s the job she can easily do with little instruction. As a result of this she knows what we put in compost, what goes in general waste and she even has a better idea than Mr Ellibee of what goes in the terracycle or flexible plastic bins!

Miss P rinsing blackberries in the sink

3. Eating more food

This is probably one of the best benefits of cooking with children – they eat more food! It is scientifically demonstrated that children are more likely to eat food that they prepare themselves. A 2014 study conducted by van der Horst, Ferrage and Rytz and published in Appetite showed that children were 76% more likely to eat salad when they had helped to prepare the meal than if the parents had prepared the meal themselves. This is great news for increasing nutritious eating in children and helping to reduce food waste. When a child takes part in preparing food they feel more control, have more ownership over it and feel a sense of achievement. They want to eat it and they like what they eat. We have definitely noticed this with Miss P. She’ll tuck in with vigour when it’s something she’s been involved with preparing and more often than not she loves the taste and has a good go at eating it! This is great news for reducing food waste.

Miss P eating vegetables

Delicious raw courgette!

4. Making informed decisions about food

Being part of the meal preparation, whether it’s choosing items in the supermarket, selecting what we want to prepare for dinner or deciding how much food goes on the plate helps the child to make their own decisions about food. The other night Miss P was helping me prepare chicken pasta bake
and she tried the sauce that we made and decided she would prefer plain pasta with her dinner. As she wasn’t having the vegetables that were in the sauce, I gave her the choice of a carrot, tomato and cucumber and asked her to choose which ones she wanted with her pasta. She ate all of her dinner that night because she had chosen it (with restricted options and guidance from me). Guiding young children to make their own choices gives them a sense of control. It has the short-term benefit of increasing the chances they will eat what is on their plate but also has long-term benefits that will set them up for making nutritious and waste-free choices in the future.

Miss P and I love cooking together. Our favourite things are making smoothies (a great way of using leftover fruit) and making homemade pizzas. Cooking makes room for many conversations about food and other everyday things and the fact its fun and reduces food waste is a big bonus! What will you cook with your little ones?

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you, please tag us on social media with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been up to! 

A newly renovated white kitchen

The ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a room that we spend a lot of time each day preparing our meals. So it can be very exciting and scary when the decision is made to invest in a new one! Here to help is APDO member Natalie Hare (Hare to Organise) with her ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen.

I often come across clients who have decided to invest in a new kitchen. Usually, they have already had a kitchen designer come over and have been given some beautiful design plans. For more successful sales, kitchen designers tend to focus heavily on the aesthetics, giving their potential clients a beautiful print out of a gorgeous kitchen. It is then easy for the practicalities that are so important to keeping a kitchen clean and organised to be forgotten. However, you don’t need to compromise when it comes to having both function and beauty. That’s why I have created the ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen; so that you feel equipped to make the best choices and get your money’s worth.

Step one – Declutter

Before you can know what kind of storage you’ll be needing in your new kitchen, you need to know how much stuff is going into it. Because people don’t renovate their kitchens very often, it is easy for unnecessary gadgets, appliances and crockery to pile up in the deep dark corners of your cupboards. Once you’ve pulled everything out and gotten rid of what you don’t need, you’ll know exactly what you have left. This should be done either before or in the very early stages of the design process, as this may change your opinion on how you’d like to use your kitchen. Hiring an organiser to help with this step can be very beneficial, as we work with you to discuss the practical issues and solutions for better function in a space. You can find your local organiser by popping your postcode into our Find an Organiser tool.

A clear decluttered kitchen

A kitchen that has no clutter is much easier to manage

Step two – Visualise

When having input into the design of your new kitchen, I advise you to take a good look at the one you are using now.  What annoys you?  What makes using your kitchen difficult? If someone came into your kitchen to make you a meal, would they find things with ease? Visualise yourself using the space so that you can efficiently plan out your storage. If you put something next to where you are most likely to use it, then the chances are better that it will get put away and the space will stay tidy. Don’t forget to consider physical health:  if you or someone else in your home has a health condition that affects your mobility, then this needs to be considered in the plans. Having low cupboards may not be a good idea if you cannot get down to floor level, equally having lots of upper storage isn’t ideal if someone is in a wheelchair. This is a great discussion to have with your designer as they will know about creative solutions that may not be obvious.

Step three – Organise

So at this point you know how much stuff you have and you can visualise how you’re going to use it in your new kitchen. That’s a great start. Your designer should now be able to give you a design that is functional, beautiful and perfectly tailored to your needs. Even though the actual skeleton of the kitchen is very important, it can also be helpful to have some organisational systems within the cupboards. Anyone who has been to a cupboard in my house will know that I have a little bit of an obsession with neatly packed boxes and baskets.  What I love most about them is the fact that I can empty a cupboard in minutes and I haven’t got to worry about sticky marks/oil etc on the surface of the unit. Rather than having open packets of flour, sugar etc floating around, decant them into clear containers with labels. Baskets and boxes containing food items make it easier to see what you have.  How many times have you been to the supermarket and got a bag of pasta, only to find two stuffed down the back of another cupboard?  Not only does this technique simplify your storage, but it cuts down on food waste when you can see everything clearly.

A kitchen cupboard set with tall storage

Step Four – Finalise

So now you’ve done all of the steps that have lead to making a decision on a kitchen that not only looks great but functions exactly how you need it to. It can be nerve-wracking to finalise something as big as a kitchen, so I’ve created a final checklist of things that often get overlooked to ensure that you’ve considered everything before signing on the dotted line:

  • Corner storage – Can you reach all of the areas of your storage? There are many different corner solutions now that allow you to access your items by sliding out a tray or rotating a shelf. Things that are not easily accessible tend to be forgotten about.
  • Bins – Have you considered where your bins will go? If you have decided not to have built-in bin systems, make sure that you’ve allocated space for them in the floor-plan.
  • Cleaning supplies – Don’t forget about your mop, bucket, broom etc… It may be worth ensuring that you have a long skinny compartment in your cupboards to store these awkward tools.

Getting a new kitchen can be very exciting, but try not to get caught up in the aesthetics before the practical side is finished. Follow my ultimate guide and you can have a kitchen that not only looks beautiful, but is truly functional as well. Happy designing!

Natalie Hare

Natalie Hare of Hare to Organise

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired a post on social media, use #NOWorganise or tag us so we can see what you’ve been up to! 

Creamy salmon bake

Three easy ways to love your leftovers

When APDO decided that this year’s National Organising Week‘s theme was going to be “Love your Leftovers” I got really excited. You see, I’m not an amazing cook, but I love using cooking as a creative outlet in my day-to-day life. My step mother is an amazing cook, and she made sure that I knew the basics of cooking from quite a young age, which has allowed me to experiment with food. Not only is learning the basics a great gateway to more serious cooking, it’s also a key element in wasting less food. The following recipes are some of the easiest ways that I love my leftovers!

Home-Made Stock

I love making home-made stock because it’s the base for so many recipes! You can use it for risotto, to add some kick in a creamy pasta dish and use it to add depth in a chilli or sauce. *Note* When collecting scraps for your stock you can start a collection tub in your freezer. Whenever you’re done preparing your food, instead of putting the scraps in the compost put them in the collection tub. Once the tub is full you can schedule in some time to boil it down for the below recipe.

What you’ll need: 

  • Water
  • Leftover vegetable scraps or bones
    • For vegetable broth use vegetable scraps
    • For meat broths use leftover meat bones from roasts and add some onion, carrot and celery scraps if you have them on hand
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Any other spices that you love
  1.  Put your scraps in a pot and just put enough water in to barely cover them. Cover with a lid and bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.
  2. Once the stock is simmering add salt and pepper and any other spices you want to taste. I really like adding smoked paprika to my veggie broths while dried herbs are a great addition to chicken stock. Cover again and let simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. When your timer has gone off, taste the stock and make sure that it is flavourful. Add more spices if you wish.
  4. Turn off the heat and pass your stock through a sieve with a bowl under it to catch the liquid. Throw out your scraps and voila! What’s left in the bowl is your home-made broth. Once this has cooled you can separate the liquid into several containers and freeze what you’re not going to use right away.


Sauces are definitely my favourite way to integrate random leftover veggies and meats that are in the fridge because they’re so versatile. Sauces not only go with the obvious choice of pasta, but can be baked, smothered and dotted on just about every dish imaginable. Whether it’s tomato, creamy or sweet, sauces can transform a dish and clear out your fridge so it’s ready for another shop.

  • Creamy Sauces
    1. Start by adding some oil to a pan on medium heat, once the oil is hot fry some chopped onion and garlic (optional) for two to three minutes and then add your leftover veg and meat
    2. When your veg is nice and soft and the meat is hot, add thick Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche (my favourite) to your pan and turn the heat down to low
    3. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish
  • Roux Sauces
    1. Add equal amounts of butter and flour (usually about 1/4 cup) to a pan and mix them together until it forms a paste-like texture
    2. Slowly add warm milk or broth until the sauce has the consistency that you want
    3. Add salt, pepper and desired spices to taste and take off of the heat. Heat up your leftovers separately and add to the sauce
    4. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish, use as filling for a pie
  • Tomato Sauces – These are probably the most common sauce I make with leftovers because I almost always have several jars of tomato sauce in my cupboard.
    1. heat some oil in a pan, throw in some garlic and onions (optional) for two to three minutes
    2. Add your leftovers and let them fry until the vegetables are soft and/or the meat is warm
    3. Add the jar of tomato sauce, and any desired spices and let simmer for 5 minutes
    4. Add to pasta, bake with meat or use for Shashouka

Pasta Dish


Soups are another easy way to use up leftovers and a lovely addition to a cold, rainy day. They can take time to make but usually it’s easy to stretch soup into large batches and can be frozen for later consumption.

  • Broth based soup
    1. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    2. Add leftovers and spices to the mix and let fry stirring often for another three to four minutes
    3. Add desired amount of broth (it should cover the mix plus a few inches) to the mix and bring to a boil
    4. Turn the heating down to low, cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes
    5. Serve with fresh bread and butter
  • Blended soup
    1. Boil potatoes and/or root vegetables, once you can get a fork through them, drain and put to the side
    2. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    3. Add the leftovers (vegetables only, meat will be added at the end), and desired spices, stir to coat everything in the spices and let fry until soft, about five minutes
    4. Take off of the heat and let cool
    5. Put all of the ingredients in the blender with potatoes and/or root vegetables, add some of your preferred broth and blend until smooth and creamy
    6. Add any leftover meat
    7. Reheat in saucepan and serve with fresh bread and butter
Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

These recipes are just scratching the surface of what you can do with your leftovers. Here is a list of other recipes that are versatile to look up if you want some more inspiration on what to cook:

  • Risotto
  • Omelette/Quiche/Frittata
  • Fritters
  • Potato pancakes
  • Pizza
  • Stir-Fry
  • Tacos
  • Fried rice


I hope that you’ve been inspired to get in the kitchen and start experimenting with what you’ve got. If you have any other ideas for leftovers, leave us a comment below! And now, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine, throw on your favourite tunes and get cooking!

By Krista Thompson (Zen Den Oxford)

Krista Thompson

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you to #loveyourleftovers please tag us with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been cooking up!