APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

This is no April fool: it’s Spring Clearing Week!

Yes, you read that right, APDO is encouraging you to Spring cleaR before you Spring cleaN!

Life is often busy. Our homes, our heads and our calendars can end up pretty full.

A survey by Money Magpie found that less than half of Brits now bother with Spring cleaning. However, 60 per cent seize Springtime to declutter, so, in 2018, APDO introduced #SpringClearingWeek to encourage this great ritual of a Spring Clear.

Clearing clutter at home

We rarely take time to plan what we bring into our homes; gifts, freebies and impulse purchases sneak their way in, even when we have the best of intentions. This is a great time of year to consider if you have any unwanted items that sneak in too often and for you to consider strategies that could stem the flow.

By reducing the number of unwanted items that arrive into your front door, you begin to set a good baseline from which to clear items out the back door, so to speak. Not sure where to start? A fun game to start at the beginning of a month is The Mins Game, which you can play with a friend or others in your household and helps you to slowly build up the number items to let go.

Clearing calendar commitments

Demands are made on us from work, children, friends, family, media…. The list is almost endless and we can end up feeling pulled in dozens of different directions.

Maybe you pretty happy with your physical space but you’re feeling thinly spread when it comes to the number of commitments in your week. Take some time this week to consider what is important to you and what you can put to one side, even if only temporarily; do you need to enlist help with something, learn to delegate a task or simply say “no” to something or someone?

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Creating clearer thinking

Often clearing your physical space or diary can help to increase mental clarity. Removing distractions from our environment or reducing activities that drain our energy frees up just enough space in our heads to allow us to process our thoughts more easily.

Spring Clearing Week Resources

APDO professional organisers will be sharing motivational tips and clever hacks on our blog and social media this week.

Many APDO members know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by clutter, and have become professional organisers in order to share their decluttering experience and knowledge with their clients. If you would like a helping hand this Spring Clearing Week, you can find your local organiser on the APDO website.

Small succulent plant in a white pot signifying organised recycling

7 steps to create your own home recycling system

Reducing the use of plastics, building sustainable houses, repurposing discarded materials – the media is full of information about the problems consumerism can cause and articles about how much we can do to help the situation. Some of the facts are truly mind-blowing… For example, did you know that the energy saved from recycling just one glass bottle is enough to power a light bulb for four hours? When we recycle we are decreasing the need for landfills and incinerators, therefore reducing ground and air pollution as well as land usage. In this post, Filipa do Carmo of Khora Space Sorted explains how to organise your own recycling system at home.

If you want to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, start with the simple act of recycling. Having a simple system in place is a great way to guarantee your commitment. And by simple, I mean, a system that works specifically for you (and your family or co-workers).

Here are some steps to make it happen:

1. Do your research

Start by checking online for recycling options in your community. You can easily find this information on your local council’s website. As you know, the rules vary enormously depending on location, so do check. This information will serve as a guide to help you with the steps below and provide you with a quick reference guide to check. This is especially useful if you need to separate the different types of waste.

2. Know your trash

If you know the type of waste you create and how often it’s collected it will be easier to decide which bins to get, if you need this extra storage, and where to place your bins. Take time to observe the quantity and type of waste you produce before you decide what to get.

Row of organised coloured recycling bins

3. Make it easy

This is a really important step. If it doesn’t make sense, or is dysfunctional, we will be less likely to commit.

Placing the recycling bin next to the non-recycling one will increase the chances of recycling more. When this is not possible in the space we have available, try to find the nearest location.

Another option is to have different containers which let you separate as you dispose, to avoid having to sort everything twice.

4. Compost

The benefits of composting are endless; it makes total sense to use organic matter to nourish our soil. Some councils offer compost bins and bags which they collect on specific days. Otherwise, you can donate it to local gardeners or allotment holders, or use it for your own garden, if you are lucky to have one.

5. Bathroom recycling

Whilst most households are getting better at sorting their kitchen waste, the same rarely happens in the bathroom. A good solution here is to have two bins in the bathroom too and use one to collect empty plastic bottles and paper which can be recycled.

If you want to push it a bit further, start thinking about using plastic-free alternatives – such as soap, solid shampoo –  or making your own face cream. There are a lot of options out there.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

6. Battery recycling

Set aside a small box or can in which you can place used batteries and other small electrics. These are highly toxic and need to be recycling in specialised containers. Most supermarkets now have bins for batteries, so keeping your battery box close to your shopping bags will remind you to take them with you when you go shopping.

7. Donation box

Another good idea is to have a donation box into which you can place clothes, electronics and other items you no longer need, but which could be useful to others. It’s always better to keep everything in one place, instead of different piles around your home. In this way, whenever you know you are going to pass by your local charity shop, you can take everything with you in one go. Or perhaps contact a charity to book a collection.

In our recent blog post “What to do with your unwanted stuff” there are some further suggestions of how to recycle the items that you are decluttering from your home.

If Filipa’s post has inspired you to declutter and get organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

white house frontage against blue sky depicting an organised home renovation

Surviving the chaos of home renovations

With so much uncertainty in the housing market at the moment, it seems more of us than ever are undertaking home renovations instead of moving, and many of us are having to live on site to save on costs. Nancy Jones of Serene Spaces has been there… so what better person to give us some guidance on how to organise your home and life in readiness for a renovation!

paint pots and ladder against pale blue wall in an organised home redecoration project

Having lived through two major home renovations, what have I learnt?

Declutter well before building work starts: 

Sort your possessions into three categories:

  • Keep – limit items to the essentials for everyday living. Store items you think you might need in a dry garage or perhaps a room which will remain untouched during the build.  Do remember, though, to keep items accessible – avoid having to climb over a mountain of things to find batteries, for example!  Have a designated area for daily essentials such as keys, mobile phones, wallet, etc. and keep valuables safe, ideally off-site.
  • Store – put items you know you won’t use or need for the duration of the build into storage. Despite the cost, this is especially true of bulky items as it will save you the time and effort of having to lug things from one room to another, not to mention avoiding the dust which finds its way into everything! The less you have on your building site the better.
  • Donate/sell/discard – when looking through your items, consider your current and future space. If you are having a modern renovation, it is likely that some of your current possessions will not work in the new space/s and you may decide to donate or sell them instead. (You can find useful information on where to donate your edited items in this recent post!)

Basic living is key:

Get your kids (and yourself!) excited about indoor camping. It is best if you can plan your build over the warmer months as the BBQ will become your best friend.  Picnics become the daily norm.  With limited storage and space, meal planning is crucial.  Plan a weekly menu.  Remember, it will not be forever so don’t feel guilty if you need to resort to some microwaved meals.

Keep calm and carry on:

Expecting to keep a tidy clean house during a build project is not feasible and trying to do so will put unnecessary pressure on you. As long as the house is safe, a bit of dirt never harmed anyone!

Keep your remaining rooms multi-functional:

The more you can keep your usable rooms flexible, the better. Go with the flow – you may find that at certain times of the renovation, bedroom and living room merge and furniture (or a well-placed sheet) may need to become a divider for your space.

paint swatches and renovation plans laid out on a table in an organised home renovation

Consider future storage needs:

Many of us struggle with a lack of storage in our homes. Renovating is the perfect opportunity to be clever with storage and make sure that you are getting the most out of your space.  This will help ensure that everything has a place and there is a place for everything.

Consider your current and future possessions (for example, when we finish the renovation, we are planning to get bigger bikes for the kids) and plan your storage accordingly.  Think about items which you only need now and then (for example suitcases, Christmas decorations, etc.) and plan how these might be stored in some of those awkward spaces which don’t need to be accessible every day such as under-stairs cupboard, spaces in the eves if you are having a loft conversion, and so on.

Keep the end goal in sight:

It is normal for your enthusiasm and momentum to wane during renovations. Collect pictures from Pinterest, Houzz, home magazines, etc. of how you would like your space to look and keep them in the forefront of your mind.  You will get there, and it will be worth it in the end!

Lastly, deep breaths and relaxation time help too. And if you need some help, you can find your local professional organiser here.

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Help is on hand, and it’s OK to take it

‘I should be able to do it on my own.’ As professional organisers we hear this, or a much harsher variation, on a regular basis as we work with people to transform their spaces. Claire de Boursac, psychotherapist and professional organiser at The Art of Clearing, examines our self-critical voices and discusses some ways to dispel them in this helpful and sensitive guest post.

Headshot of Claire de Boursac APDO member standing under a tree

Is self-criticism stopping you?

It always saddens me to hear people speak unkindly to themselves, often reflecting impossibly high expectations which usually don’t take into account the reality of their lives. It’s something I also hear a lot in my work as a psychotherapist, where clients feel they should be able to face challenges alone. Why? Humans are social beings. We live in community, we’re programmed to work together and support each other. We each have our unique skills and ways of being in the world. I don’t believe anyone masters every area of their life – and more importantly, I don’t think they need to. It’s a responsible and courageous thing to know our strengths and our weaknesses and to enlist support where we need it. There is no shame in asking for help.

Although these self-criticisms are as varied as the people who live with them, there are some common threads.

I hear clients make their clutter a character flaw, as if it is central to their personality. They might call themselves ‘messy’. No, the space is messy.  You are human.

I also often work with people who tell themselves they are ‘lazy’ because they haven’t tidied or haven’t unpacked those boxes from the move several years ago. I then discover they have very full lives, investing huge amounts of time and energy in work or family and quite rightly choose to spend their weekends resting and enjoying hard-earned time off.

bright decluttered organised sitting room with the letters HOME mounted on a brick feature wall

The organisation myth

There is a myth that it is easy to be organised and to keep a tidy home. It may be for some people.  But there are many more for whom it is challenging. There may be a number of reasons for this: physical or mental challenges or an emotional element to the items to be managed. ‘Stuff’ is often more than just ‘stuff.’ Objects can come into our lives through choice, gift and obligation. It can be complicated and emotionally charged to deal with them. That vase you hate but was given by a friend you love, the belongings of a loved one who has died, an object or clothes that are past their usefulness but are so deeply connected to a joyous time in your life that saying goodbye to them feels like saying goodbye to those delicious memories. Sometimes there is simply so much stuff that the thought of decluttering is overwhelming, seemingly impossible to know where to start.

Recognising your own critical voice

Whatever someone’s particular challenge is, there are doubtless hundreds, if not thousands of people thinking the same unkind thoughts and criticising themselves and their homes. A nasty inner critic is incredibly common, so much so that most people think it’s just part of them, something they need to put up with. I disagree.

You might recognise your own critical voice by its harsh tone. We typically speak to ourselves in a manner that we would never speak to someone else. What do you say to yourself from that place? Would you speak to your friend or loved one in that tone, with those words? The critical voice usually attacks us in an area we are already tender about, in this case our clutter or keeping our home a particular way. Because of this vulnerable quality, it can be helpful to ask ourselves ‘Would you speak to a child in that way?’ The answer is inevitably ‘No.’ We might then ask, if a child you care about was facing the feelings you’re dealing with right now – embarrassment, fear, overwhelm, whatever it is – how would you respond to them? I’m guessing with something like compassion, understanding, reassurance. You deserve the same.

Open notebook and pen next to a mug and plant on a white desk

The role of the professional organiser

Although I suspect it may be true for my fellow declutterers, I can only speak for myself. I have never felt critical of a client for how their home is. In truth, I am actually not so interested in the physical appearance of the home and whether it is tidy or messy. What matters to me is how my client is impacted by living there and how near or far it is from their wishes for the space. I see my role as being a skilled and supportive guide along that path and it matters not a jot to me what that path is – be it reorganising a tidy house or creating order from utter chaos.

I said I’m saddened when I hear the harsh self-criticism of my clearing clients and I am, but I am saddened even more by the realisation that there are probably clients I work alongside who have that critical voice running wild but don’t share it with me, and therefore don’t give me the chance to challenge it with them, and that there are doubtless many more people for whom the strength of this voice stops them even booking a session. If that is you, please know that it is absolutely OK that you want some support with this. You don’t have to do it alone. Now take a deep breath and drop me or one of my APDO colleagues a line. We’d be delighted to help you.

If Claire’s post has encouraged you to seek guidance from a professional organiser, you can find your nearest APDO member here.

Toys on the floor on a background at wall

How to keep an organised home when you have small children

Some of the most common questions that professional organisers get asked are around how to keep on top of clutter and keep a semblance of an organised home when you have small children. In this post, Rebecca Caution of Conscious Space Professional Organising shares her top tips on how, with a little bit of effort, it really is possible to do so.

Think like a Montessori educator

When it comes to maintaining an organised home with small children as inhabitants, take inspiration from the Montessori approach. Montessori is a method of education based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori nurseries and schools, children make choices in their own learning, whilst staff and classroom set-up guide the process, developing independence and encouraging creativity from a young age. But what does this look like day-to-day in the home?

Designate a place for everyday items and establish daily rituals

Children learn through repetition, so putting in place routines which allow them responsibility for getting themselves ready each day will be effort rewarded with less stressful mornings. Consider affixing a hook for each child – at their level – in your hallway or by your front door. Coats and bags can live here, so that each morning your children can grab them as they leave, and each afternoon return them there. Likewise, shoes – along with seasonal accessories, such as gloves and scarves or sun hats and sunglasses – can be kept in an easily-accessible container under the sofa. My children love having their own special hooks and even though the 17-month old can’t quite put her coat and bag on herself just yet, she has a clear sense of pride at being able to get them herself when she knows it’s time to leave.

Easy access kitchen items and mealtime rituals

Similarly, child-friendly cutlery, crockery, baking equipment and lunch containers can also be kept in a place which your children can reach. Once items are within easy reach, rituals can be established around accessing plates and bowls for each meal and returning items to the sink or dishwasher afterwards. In our home, cereals, fruit and healthy snacks are also accessible, so our Reception-aged son can prepare his own breakfast and the toddler can pull out whichever cereal she chooses each day. It may take a little time and repetition to get children to return items to the same place, but it is worth it to see the self-esteem it builds when they are allowed to do these things for themselves.

multi-coloured wooden toy building blocks on a wooden surface

Fewer toys

Our consumerist culture would have us believe that the arrival of a child in our homes is synonymous with the sudden necessity for a multitude of items we never before considered we would need (clue: we don’t). And the bombardment of daily marketing plying parents and children with messaging that they “need” this-that-and-the-other just carries on from there.

Whether you store and rotate toys, or simply make a commitment to have fewer to play with, the benefits are numerous: it’s quicker and easier to tidy up; it fosters far more creativity; children play better and for longer with what they do have.

Simple toy storage makes tidying up a game

Store toys which are most loved and are played with daily in open baskets. If baskets aren’t your thing, use other easy-to-access open containers which you like the look of, such as a shelving unit, canvas bags on hooks or felt boxes – especially if this is in your living space. That way, you can feel satisfied each evening that all toys are tidied away without having the eyesore of plastic boxes encroaching on your limited child-free time.

Store toys by type (cars, soft toys, dolls, building blocks, dressing up clothes), by colour or a different way each time – whatever works because any method of distinguishing toys means it’s simple to make tidying up a game and get even the very youngest of children involved. Think like Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game.” Those with the musical ability of Mary Poppins can come up with a catchy tidying-up song too. The rest of us can find one on Spotify.

Keep toys and books visible on open shelving

Another Montessori-lesson is to store toys and books in bedrooms on easy-to-reach shelving, with as few items in each space as possible, and then to encourage your children to return an item before another is selected. This allows easy child-led tidying and also leads to more focused play rather than the over-stimulation that can come from having access to too many toys at once. When everything is visible, it becomes very easy to assess which toys are getting regular use and which have been outgrown, at which point you can decide with your children whether it’s time to rotate, or to pass some things on to someone else who might like to play with them. When this is part of family conversation and encouraged from a young age, children become less attached to a multitude of items and really value the chance to be able to share toys which they have outgrown with someone who might be less fortunate than they are.

Red and white decorated childs bedroom with open shelving and toy basket

These small and simple changes can really make a difference to a household. You will notice all the wonderful benefits of having a tidier and more ordered home: more time, less stress, clearer focus. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also notice the pride and joy it gives small children to have a little bit of independence; to take responsibility for their own possessions and daily chores; to focus and play when they have fewer toys to choose from; to truly value those that they do have; as well as gaining an understanding of the value of being able to share their good fortune with others. What could be a better pay off than that?

If Rebecca’s advice has inspired you to get your family more organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

Home Staging Association logo

Organising and home staging: An unbeatable combination!

Paloma Harrington-Griffin is the Director of The Home Staging Association UK, a source of information and support within the Home Staging industry. In this guest post for APDO, Paloma examines the relationship between organising and home staging, and how you can use both activities to increase the sale price of your home.

Organising and Home Staging: The perfect combo

Organising. Does the word alone make you think piles of boxes, chaos and runs to the charity shop? For the average homeowner that might be the idea, however, for professional organisers and home stagers, that same word can mean an opportunity to change someone’s life.

Organising and decluttering are usually the first items a homeowner needs to tick off their list when putting their property on the market, followed by handyman work, a thorough clean and the ever-so-efficient Home Staging.

There are several ways of improving a home to sell it faster – and better. Some can prove to be extreme and expensive, but others are quite straight-forward, practical and, most importantly, budget-friendly. Decluttering and Home Staging are a powerful combo for those wishing to achieve a quick sale and the highest offer value possible – which is the main goal for every Home Stager.

The effective techniques not only clear a property of excess items and personal belongings, they also prepare the homeowners for their move, getting the property ready for potential buyers who come for viewings in the hope of putting an offer down on their new lifestyle.

An organised, clutter-free home with the right pieces of furniture and accessories is ahead of the competition in the property market game.

In the Home Staging Profile 2018, research conducted by the Home Staging Association UK, 62% of property professionals mentioned that home staging has a great effect on the buyers’ view of the property, whilst 95% of the interview sample said that staged homes sell faster than non-staged ones.

In addition, 100% of estate agents and property developers said that home staging makes it easier for a buyer to visualise the property as their future home, meaning that while organisation is important, staging the home for potential buyers is key to securing a sale.

How can a professional organiser implement a few styling hues to their work?

According to Susie Batista from Cheshire Home Staging, there are some really stylish ways to be organised. It doesn’t always mean old tired cardboard boxes gathering dust, but clean purpose-built shelving with rows of wicker baskets, plastic containers for food items with trendy black labels.

Susie also suggests updated solid pine toy boxes, and stylish laundry baskets. The list is endless, and this type of organisation not only helps clear the mind and energy flow in the house but also looks aesthetically pleasing. It’s a win-win.

Before and after decluttering photo of home staged bedroom

Elaine Penhaul from Lemon and Lime Interiors suggests taking control and working strategically to eliminate the mess when decluttering a house for sale. It can be an exhausting task that sometimes seems never-ending, however, with the right approach it can be done in a very efficient manner.

Elaine likes to group her clients’ items into three categories: skip, store, show. One of the goals is to prepare for the move, so get rid of anything that isn’t needed for the new home. This is a lot more effective than storing and sorting later.

Before and after decluttering photo of a sitting room

The Home Staging Profile 2018 showed that 23% of the properties that were sold had the reception room staged, followed by 22% of properties that had the master bedroom staged. Therefore, if you need to choose a room to organise and style, these should be the ones to prioritise.

Whether it is to improve one’s quality of life, or to secure a sale which will allow a lifestyle upgrade, organising and staging walk hand-in-hand and can achieve great results when combined. It is proven to work, and the benefits are real – so what are you waiting for?

You can download a FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Home Staging at the HSA’s website 
and find your local professional organiser here.

Headshot of APDO President Katherine Blackler

Presidents Day: An interview with Katherine Blackler, APDO President

18th February is Presidents Day – what better day than to have a catch up with our APDO President Katherine Blackler. Katherine runs her company SortMySpace Ltd in South East London, but has taken some time out today to share her story with us.

How did you get into your chosen career and why?

I left a fast-paced project manager role in the corporate world to work out “what makes my heart sing”. I had spent 15 years in the City organising people and processes but was experiencing a disconnect. Whenever I was plugged into the day job, I just couldn’t reflect easily.

In the past, I’d travelled between work contracts to gain perspective and inspiration. This time I decided to stay put in London and refurbish my small home instead. While I was sleeping on a friend’s sofa-bed to dodge the dust of the building work, I noticed an article on minimalism which my best friend had left out. The William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” jumped out at me. It changed the way I created my new space and saw my possessions. And, unbeknown to me, it started to shape my new career path.

I then took a six-week road trip across the USA where I found myself helping out my host families: organising the trunk of a sleep-deprived mum’s car to have items for the ‘top-end’ of their kids in one box and items pertaining to the ‘bottom-end’ in another!  I made suggestions for my cousins in Chicago on how to use their space differently to save the hassle of moving to a new house. I even found myself in IKEA with a tape measure within 24 hours of meeting one of my brother’s friends in LA!

At that point I’d never heard the concept of a professional organiser and declutterer, but it made me realise this was something I genuinely enjoyed and that it could be an expanding market in the UK in the near future. Amusingly, I initially googled the term “efficient living consultant” as I had no idea what I’d be called if I made the jump!

A group photo of APDO Board members

The APDO Board in January 2019, one of 3 live meetings a year that the APDO Board hold

How did you become APDO’s President?

I first volunteered to be part of the APDO conference team as I have experience of running events from my corporate life. The Board felt I would be a good fit for a new role as Head of Partnerships and Campaigns helping to connect the Association with relevant businesses and charities whose focus or products overlap with the work our members do. I introduced the concept of Donate a Day during National Organising Week 2016 whereby our members get together to give their time and expertise to a charity for the day. It started with one event in London with six organisers and by 2018’s National Organising Week, we had almost 40 members supporting 12 charities across the UK. That’s one of my proudest APDO achievements – thus far!

I then introduced a second campaign week to APDO’s diary and we launched Spring Clearing Week in 2018 as a twist on the traditional spring cleaning idea. We are expecting Spring Clearing Week to grow year on year now in the same way as National Organising Week has.

In April 2017 I became APDO’s President-Elect, shadowing the then President Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House). I stepped up in April 2018 for a two-year term as President. When I step off the board, I’ll become Past President for one year, on-hand for advice and support to the next President.

Group photo of Katherine Blackler and APDO colleagues

Katherine and APDO colleagues during the first Donate a Day at Dress for Success during National Organising Week 2016

What do you hope to achieve during your Presidency?

I’d said in my manifesto that I want every household in the UK to know what a professional organiser and declutterer is before I step down! Nothing like an enormous goal to keep you focused (or permanently in post!). That’s not to say every household will also engage a professional organiser, but without knowing that our members and their services exist they won’t be able to even entertain the idea.

I’m convinced the concept is catching on. Anyone joining the industry now is getting an easier time finding clients and building their business than even a few years ago, even if it still feels slow to them! But we still have a long way to go until our services are as recognised and embraced as those of a window cleaner or a plumber.

I appreciate that you can now watch videos on YouTube on how to tile a bathroom (or indeed improve organisation in your wardrobe) but if you call in an expert it’ll be done in a fraction of the time, be tailored to your exact needs and it comes off your to-do list so you can do things you enjoy more!

What do you get from the President’s role?

Volunteering for APDO is undoubtedly a big commitment but it’s such an exciting time to be involved in this growing industry; I wouldn’t miss it for the world! We’re at a challenging transition point for the association as we position ourselves as THE go-to resource for professional organisers and the public. My board members, past and present, are a true inspiration. They are an enormous support as I learn and develop to be the best version of me that I can.

I see this role as supporting my personal goals of spreading the word further whether that’s speaking on stage, radio or TV (as well as continuing to work one-to-one with my clients). I feel our physical environment is so important to the way we operate and how we respond to the world and life’s curveballs. If I can help more people achieve some balance and joy that brings me huge satisfaction; it’s the ‘personal connection’ puzzle piece I was missing in my City days!

Screen shot of a video conference screen during an APDO virtual Board meeting

An APDO virtual Board meeting, one of 3 virtual meetings that the APDO Board hold each year

Why the sudden massive interest in decluttering and organising?

It’s been growing steadily for the past decade, but conversations have undoubtedly spiked with the Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo and her new show hitting Netflix this January. The fact that APDO has doubled our membership from 150 to over 300 members in the past 3 years demonstrates an increase in awareness as this as a career or business choice too.

With time being the most precious commodity of all, we’re all trying to find ways to gain time for friends, family and memorable experiences. One way to do that is to reduce what you need to curate, maintain, repair and replace in your home.  Great initiatives like the Library of Things are expanding where you can borrow household appliances that you only use once or twice a year instead of buying and storing them yourself.

I feel that social media is helping spread awareness about our buying patterns and the impact on the environment, especially issues like single-use plastic or throwaway clothing, so consumer habits are shifting too. These environmental trends align with the work we’re doing decluttering and asking our clients to consciously consider what’s necessary or joyful for them whilst trying to stem future influxes of items into their space.

I’m excited to see how things unravel over the next few years for APDO and all its members.

If Katherine’s story has inspired you to consider a career as a professional organiser, you can find out more about joining APDO here.

Rails of brightly coloured clothes in a charity shop

What to do with your unwanted stuff

With UK Charity shops reporting record levels of donations in January (some have even closed their doors to donations as they are full), Sue Spencer of A Life More Organised gives us some suggestions about what to do with our unwanted stuff. Over to Sue…

Reuse, recycle or regift

As a professional organiser I work closely with my clients to try and reduce the number of discarded items which end up in landfill – my approach is reuse, recycle or regift.

  • Reuse – rather than buying new furniture or storage, look for ways of repurposing some of the things you already own.  Often moving furniture between rooms, or adding baskets to shelves in wardrobes, can change the look and feel of a space to suit your needs better.
  • Recycle – paper, plastics and metal can be recycled at your local household waste site. If you sort these in to boxes before leaving home, it makes it really easy to drop them off – my local household waste site is proud to recycle over 94% of the items it receives.
  • Regift (or donate) – your unwanted items to charity or pass on to friends, but do make sure that it’s something your friends need before you offload it on to them!

Donation suggestions

But what happens to the hard to donate items which charity shops don’t want?  Before putting them in the bin, have a quick look at the following suggestions as the chances are someone could find your unwanted “stuff” really useful.

Reading Glasses     

Most high street opticians will happily take your old reading glasses from you; they are sent off to Vision Aid Overseas who distribute them around the world, giving people the gift of sight again.

Rows of secondhand books for sale

Books 

Not all charity shops take books so if you have some which are in good condition, why not consider offering them to a local library, playgroup or school.

You could also try a trade-in site (We Buy Books, Ziffit or Music Magpie).  Download their apps and use the bar code reader to get an immediate trade-in value for your book.  Whilst some books are only worth 5p others do get trade-in values of £2-5. As postage is free, the income can soon mount up. One of my recent clients paid for her session with me through trading in some old books!

These trade-in sites also take DVDs and CDs and will accept mixed boxes of books and DVDs, something to bear in mind if you decide to go completely digital.

Bras – don’t burn them just yet

The charities Smalls for All and Against Breast Cancer accept bras which are in good used condition and then send them on to help women in African countries.

If you come across any unopened packets of ladies’ or children’s pants (or want to buy some to donate) then Smalls for All will also take these.

A pair of blue high heel shoes being discarded

Shoes

Most charity shops will accept shoess but there are also a charities, such as Sal’s Shoes which collect outgrown children’s shoes and distribute them to countries around the world – finding, in their words, “new feet for preloved shoes”.

Toiletries and Make Up

If you have a stash of toiletries left over from Christmas gifts or some miniatures acquired from hotel bathrooms which you’re not going to use, why not contact your local council to see if they have a collection scheme for a local women’s refuge or homeless centre as they are always looking for donations to give to the people who go to them for help.

Give and makeup is a charity which helps women in the London and Cardiff areas and will take toiletry and make up donations by post.

Bedding

Homeless centres and night shelters are always grateful for donations of unwanted bedding such as sheets, duvets and blankets but it’s always worth checking to see what they need (my local night shelter can only take single duvets).

If you’re an animal lover then vets or animal charities may also take some bedding blankets and towels to use as bedding in cages.

Rails of brightly coloured clothes in a charity shop

Clients often say that not knowing what to do with their edited belongings can be a block to getting these items out of their house. Now that you have some ideas about where to donate and send your items, you can declutter with peace of mind, knowing that your unwanted items will soon be on their way to becoming useful once again and bringing joy to someone else.

If you would like some guidance with your own decluttering, you can find your local professional organiser here.

Marie Kondo organised wall

Demystifying the Marie Kondo method

With the recent release of the Netflix show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, the Marie Kondo (or KonMari™) method of organising has become a hot topic in both the press and the professional organising world.  If you have read any news publication or looked at any social media so far this year, chances are you will have seen something about decluttering or the benefits of being tidy, both to your physical environment as well as your mental health.

The KonMari™ method differs from other decluttering methods because it advocates tidying by category rather than by room, and you choose what to keep based on what “sparks joy” for you.

In this post, certified KonMari™ consultant Jennifer Dudfield of Spark Serenity deals with some common misconceptions about the KonMari™ method.

APDO member Jen Dudfield of Spark Serenity

What is the KonMari™ method all about?

There are so many different approaches to decluttering, it can be as hard to figure out how to begin as it is to deal with the clutter itself!  Different methods deal with the clutter in different ways; each as individual as you and your needs.

There are methods to help up with decluttering your home, moving house, downsizing, house clearances, hoarding and those suffering with mental health issues. The list is endless; whatever can be organised has a method to help you along the way.

Along with this spotlight on the industry comes many misconceptions (and fears) about the KonMari™ method or what a professional organiser does.  What you can be sure of, however, no matter which method of decluttering you choose, a professional organiser will treat you with respect, empathy and compassion every step of the way.

You’ll make me bin all of my belongings

Currently trending is the fact that Marie states that you must discard all your books and that 30 is the optimal amount to keep.  Bibliophiles are not happy about this one, and quite rightly, books are sacred!  Luckily, this is entirely untrue; if the books bring you joy then Marie says keep them with confidence!  However, we all have our favourites and some that we will never read again, so do not feel obliged to keep those that do not ‘spark joy’.  You will be supported and coached in making your own decisions, no decision will be made for you and you will never be forced into discarding anything you don’t want to.

You’ll leave me with an overwhelming pile of mess

Professional organisers are there to support you every step of your journey to a more organised life.  KonMari™ consultants will not come into your home, pile all of your items in the middle of the room and leave you to tackle it on your own.  We will do what’s right for you as an individual. For some people confronting a large pile of their belongings is just what they need to see (the ‘power of the pile’), but for others, this is overwhelming (or there isn’t the space to do this). In these circumstances, we will break the overall category down into more manageable subcategories.

I don’t want to live in a stark minimalistic house

Decluttering is about making your homework for you and your family, it is not about living in an Instagram worthy show home which is always pristine (unless, of course, this is what you’re after!).  We will gently guide you into making those decisions that are right for you and will implement systems that really work in your home so you won’t revert to clutter again, and so that when your home does inevitably get messy (life happens!), everything will have a place so you can put it back easily, saving you so much time and stress.

organised sitting room with bookcase and grey sofa

I don’t know what “spark joy” means, nothing I have makes me happy

Don’t worry!  It’s really hard to identify what makes you happy, or ‘sparks joy’ when you start decluttering.  As you declutter you start to learn more about yourself and, in time, what makes you happy.  You learn to listen to, and trust, your decisions.  Remember, things don’t have to be beautiful to ‘spark joy’, they could make you happy for the practical purpose they provide, a phone charging cable may not ‘spark joy’, but a fully charged phone sure will!  When you are less distracted by clutter you will be able to identify what causes you stress and address it, so you can live a more relaxed life, freeing you up to do the things you’ve never managed to find time for before.

A lot of my belongings are sentimental to me

As part of the KonMari™ process, we leave sentimental belongings until last. This is to give you a chance to understand yourself, and the feelings you hold about your belongings, in more depth before you try to address the more emotional items.  Of course, it’s not as easy to just classify pictures and letters as sentimental, there are sentimental items mixed in with all other categories (your wedding outfit, an ex-partner’s jumper, your grandparents’ tea-set…) and it is ok to leave them until the end.  Don’t try and address them until you are ready.

Doing things in a particular order is too rigid

As with all approaches to decluttering, the KonMari™ method is client-led.  We tailor the philosophy to meet the needs of the individual, to make the most progress and spark the most joy.  We will not force you to do anything you do not want to do.

It seems like so much work

Dealing with your clutter and organising your home is a one-off exercise.  If done properly then you should never revert to clutter again.  Everything will be so much easier to maintain, folding your clothes will become a joy (not a chore!) and you will cherish your belongings.  If it feels too overwhelming then it can be broken down into further sub-categories, whatever makes it easiest for you.

Organised wall

Whichever approach you take to tackling your clutter needs to work for you.  Professional organisers are compassionate, caring, empathetic and will listen to you and your opinions, offering alternative solutions to help you get, and stay, organised.  Above all, we all love mess and can see the potential and opportunity in any home.

If you’re ready to start your decluttering journey, choose a method which inspires you, whether it’s watching ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ on Netflix, YouTube videos, joining supportive Facebook groups, buddying up with a friend or hiring a professional organiser from APDO, there is a person out there to help you with whatever you need.

If you want to find your local professional organiser, you can use the APDO Find An Organiser search tool here.