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clothes rails and shelves in an organised charity shop

Top tips to clear out the clutter after lockdown

Many of us spent some time during the pandemic-inflicted lockdown to declutter our homes. Due to the restrictions though, it has been harder to find places to take our donations and recycling. So in this post, Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms in Surrey looks at the options, and explains how she has been managing her decluttering in these unusual times. Read on and get inspired!

Decluttering after lockdown

If you had a bit of a clear out during lockdown, you are not alone. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) recently published a report which found that two in five UK citizens (41%) had a textile clear out during lockdown. They also estimate that as many as 22 million pairs of shoes and 67 million clothing items will soon need to be disposed of.

My own street frequently resembled a jumble sale during lockdown. All kinds of delightful things appeared outside my neighbours’ homes with ‘Please Take’ signs stuck to trees and walls.

A hand drawn for sale sign pinned to a tree

Not only did I acquire a rake and a shovel, but I also shifted books and kids’ toys from my own front drive.  I loved seeing everyday things being upcycled and getting a new lease of life from passers-by.

The closure of charity shops, refuse sites, and clothing banks, led to some of our clutter spilling out onto the streets. The re-opening of these much-missed services last month brought a renewed appreciation of them and an excitement about getting rid of our backlogs.

However, charity shops have had to significantly adapt their premises and procedures in order to prevent contamination and, with a generally older volunteer base, they haven’t had their usual workforce in place to operate as before. Some remain closed or unable to process donations, while some council refuse sites have restrictions and booking procedures in place.

So, how do you clear your clutter quickly and easily after lock down? I think the answer is found in the creativity and perseverance I’ve witnessed in my street in recent months. It’s not necessarily about spreading your possessions out on the pavement, but about being open to doing things a bit differently.


Organise your charity shop drop off

  • Call the charity shop before you turn up with a boot load of stuff. Anything left outside often has to be cleared at cost by the council or charity and cannot be used or sold because of health and safety issues. To avoid the temptation to drop and go, check first whether they are accepting donations.
  • Plan your day with an early drop off. Shops are currently required to store items for 72 hours before processing them and they don’t tend to have large storage areas. Once they’ve reached capacity, they can’t take any more.
  • Identify a ‘To Go’ area in your home where you can gather your donations before calling to check when and what you can deliver. This will help you feel you are making progress and give you an idea of volume before setting off.

Investigate postal and courier donation services

There are some great organisations offering free collection services for donations. To name a few:

  • Re-fashion, an online preloved clothing store, provides postal bags to donate female clothing for free
  • Smalls for All accepts new or gently worn bras
  • For your vintage treasures, Vintage Cash Cow accepts all kinds of glorious items by free post – and you can earn some money through them too!
  • Recycling for Good Causes takes outdated technology and devices

With a little perseverance you may find a more creative way to dispose of your stuff.

a box of donated books

Reuse your carrier bags

Many online supermarkets aren’t currently recycling used carrier bags so if you’ve got a plastic stash nestled in a corner of your kitchen, here are some handy tips:

  • Put a handful into the bottom of a small bin, perhaps in your bathroom or bedrooms. Line the bin with a bag. Next time you empty the bin, simply tie up the bag and re-line the bin with one of the bags stored underneath.
  • Invest in a carrier bag holder to contain and dispense of your bags more easily.
  • Donate bags to your local charity shop who may be able to use them for customer purchases.
  • Store them in your car boot ready to reuse on shopping trips or for in-car rubbish.
  • Pop a handful into your PE, swimming and beach bags for wet or muddy kit.

Try online sites

Donating or selling online can be wonderfully satisfying. I became such a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace during lockdown that it became a bit of a family talking point:

  • I sourced three desks so each member of my family could have a suitable workspace at home
  • I bought and upcycled a wrought iron bench for impromptu lockdown conversations
  • I sold my bike and bought another to get more exercise
  • I even disposed of a single bed and replaced it with a double.

This all enabled me to declutter and organise my son’s bedroom, garage, living room and even my front garden. I surprised myself!

Neighbourhood sites such as Nextdoor, Freegle and Freecycle can be great for disposing of your things locally.

Like  me you will find your favourite routes.

However you manage to get rid of your clutter, don’t let the extra effort stall your decluttering project. The benefits of living in a clutter-free home will far outweigh any extra creativity or time required to dispose of your things.  The new-found appreciation I’ve gained during lockdown for simpler and slower living has made this time a brilliant season for me and my family to get creative and get clutter-free. How about you?

If you’ve been inspired to declutter over the past few months you can find more advice on decluttering your home here.



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.

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


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


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.


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.

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Smart Works just got smarter!

How do you take an already efficiently-run stockroom and make it even better? Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson (Declutter with Hannah) and nine other APDO colleagues did just that as part of National Organising Week (NOW) last week with North London charity Smart Works.

The team, headed up by Marcella Caricasole (Think Tidy), joined forces to organise the stockroom and offices of the charity Smart Works as part of APDO’s annual Donate a Day where professional organisers donate a day of their time and expertise to charities.

Donate a Day was an idea introduced by APDO’s President Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace) in 2016 when a team of six organisers helped to organise a charity’s​ new stockroom. Katherine says “This year I was delighted to participate in one of 10 events across the country involving over 40 APDO members. It’s amazing to see an idea grow with such momentum.”

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works shoe organising

In her element sorting shoes; Heidi Vorster (All Organised)

Smart Works is a UK charity which provides high-quality interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to women in need.  They give women the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools they require to succeed at interview and start a new chapter of their life.

Hannah said “Smart Works’ attention to detail in making their clients feel comfortable and special is so inspiring. We were very lucky to have had the opportunity to help make their already well-organised space even easier to manage.”

After being shown around Smart Works and learning more about the valuable work they do, APDO members got stuck in: organising rails of clothing, categorising shoes and bags, fixing and organising jewellery, steaming and mending clothes, and sorting out pedestals of paperwork.

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works Lizzie Grant

“A very long facial” described the day for Lizzie Grant (Simplify Stuff) steaming clothes

After five hours of focused activity everyone felt very positive and happy with what they had accomplished, and they had enjoyed some good giggles along the way.

Sarah Owen (A Place for Everything) said “I wanted to be part of Donate a Day because I really liked the idea of teaming up with other APDO colleagues and giving my time and expertise to a charity which would benefit from my help. I was particularly impressed with the work that Smart Works does supporting women getting back into the workplace. It was a fun day to boot, so a ‘Win Win’ for all.”

Nicki Munns

Nicki Munns (All Organised) gets to grips with 2017’s donation documents

One of the achievements in the office was liberating a pedestal by reviewing, culling and organising older paperwork. “It’s a task which often slides down the list as day-to-day demands shout louder,” explained Sam Hofer (Untangled), “but creating that additional space by scanning or shredding historical paperwork can make such a difference so it’s really worth the time investment.”

Smart Works were delighted to host the APDO team “Thank you all so much…your expertise was incredibly valuable to our staff, volunteers and clients.”

Catch the team in action with the video round-up of the day activities.

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Group photo (from left to right):

Front: Lizzie Grant (Simplify Stuff), Sarah Owen (A Place for Everything), by Marcella Caricasole (Think Tidy) and Nicki Munns (All Organised)

Back: Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson (Declutter with Hannah), Sam Hofer (Untangled), Heidi Vorster (All Organised) and Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace).


You can read about more Donate a Day activity by APDO members here!

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day

Kicking off NOW 2018 with GRACE

How long does it take four professional organisers to move 169 boxes from one stockroom to another? As Chloe Howat of Declutter With Chloe and her three team members found out during this National Organising Week (NOW) Donate-A-Day, you can accomplish a lot in an hour!

On the opening day of NOW 2018, Ingrid Jansen of Organise Your House; Sarah Bickers of Free Your Space; Carrie Ottolini – Professional Organiser and Chloë joined forces in South East London to help local charity, GRACE Refugee Aid organise their donation centre.

GRACE Refugee Aid

Created in 2015 in response to the growing refugee crisis, GRACE Refugee Aid sends clothing and essential supplies to those in need along the migration route in Greece and Syria. The Lee-based charity also supports destitute families locally and abroad with much needed clothing, bedding and baby accessories.

GRACE relies on generous donations from the local community, as well as an army of volunteers to sort and distribute donated clothing, shoes and more. But as GRACE founder Claire explained, “We’ve been in a state of disorganisation as core volunteers have been away over the last few months. We need help to put us back together again.” Time to call in the professionals.

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day Before

GRACE Refugee Aid: Before

The Donate-a-Day

During this Donate-A-Day, masterminded by former APDO President Ingrid Jansen, the team of four set out to improve GRACE’s stockroom efficiency by rethinking its layout and relocating clothing and footwear sorting stations. The often-neglected shoe racks were moved to a more prominent position to ensure they were given the attention needed to prepare them for shipping, and all donation boxes ready for collection were brought to the back of the building by the loading bay.

After four hours of heavy-lifting and a helping hand from GRACE volunteer Tara, the APDO team had created a more organised and efficient system for sorting donations. And we’re pleased to report ‘the client’ was equally thrilled with the results. Claire said, “It’s been absolutely fantastic having four APDO members helping out and getting us ready for our next shipment. I can’t say how grateful I am.”

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day After

GRACE Refugee Aid: After

And what did our APDO members make of the day?

“I fully support Donate-A-Day because it’s important for us as professional organisers to give back. We have such special skills that we can share with others. We donate a lot to charity shops thanks to our clients but to be able to donate our time and skills is really important too. And GRACE Refugee Aid couldn’t be a more worthy cause to support”, said Ingrid.

Chloë added, “It never ceases to amaze me what APDO members can achieve when we work together, especially when we’re motivated by such a valuable and essential cause. In just a few short hours, GRACE’s stockroom became a functional space with a defined system for sorting donations.”

“Being new to the professional organising industry and seeing the time and effort given during Donate-A-Day by professional organisers is amazing. I was thrilled to be involved, we made such a huge difference to the organisational systems used at GRACE.  I feel proud to be part of such great association, helping others to get organised during National Organising Week”, said Carrie.

Sarah added, “During National Organising Week we focus on the organising element of our job as opposed to the decluttering we are usually better known for. Doing a Donate-A-Day with a charity is an incredibly rewarding challenge for everyone involved. This is the third year of Donate-A-Day and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s wonderful to be a part of something like this”.

APDO N2018 Donate-a-Day group

National Organising Week

A huge thank you to Ingrid, Sarah, Carrie and Chloë for donating their time during NOW 2018. And keep your eyes peeled for more Donate-A-Day action throughout the week from professional organisers across the country, as well as professional tips and tricks to help you get organised, and a series of daily interviews with professional organisers from around the UK.

You can read more about APDO members’ activity this National Organising Week on the blog. And if this has inspired you to get more organised this NOW2018, you can find your local professional organiser here.



Dress for Success Donate a Day

“Donate a Day” to Charity


Dress for Souccess APDO log

This guest post is provided by Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) who covers London and the South East. She talks fondly of turning her vision to help a worthwhile cause into reality for NOW National Organising Week 2016.

A brand-new initiative for NOW 2016 last November saw six hardy APDO members donate a days work to the charity Dress for Success Greater London to celebrate the benefits of getting organised NOW.

Dress for Success is a global charity that empowers women who have fallen on hard times by providing them with a network of support, professional attire and the developmental tools to thrive. The ultimate aim is for women to achieve economic independence. Women are trained and prepared for interviews and, on getting work provided with a free capsule wardrobe and ongoing support.

Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) had the idea of APDO members volunteering as a team, and five other APDO members jumped at the chance to lend their time and expertise. ‘We initially reached out to this charity to support them, as we  could see obvious synergies between APDO members decluttering surplus clothing in our clients wardrobes and DfS kitting out women to face the corporate world. However,once we arrived onsite and saw the extent of their inventory, we realised that what they needed more than anything else was volunteer time, organisational experience and cash to reach the women who need them most! Even after our visit that need still applies’

Before Pictures


The Dress for Success Greater London branch had moved premises during October and were still overwhelmed, with over 300 boxes of clothes, shoes and accessories filling their new East London stock room to the ceiling. Fionnuala Shannon, Director of Operations & Programmes at DfS Greater London, had been delighted at the offer of some assistance from APDO

‘We receive generous donations of end of season clothing from high street retailers including Next, Eileen Fisher, Marks and Spencer, Mulberry, Viyajiyu and JD Williams but were struggling to deliver our usual professional service to our clients from our new HQ. We loved the vibrancy that the APDO team brought that day; now we can quickly find any surplus stock items to sell in our monthly sales to the general public, which raises more funds for DfS Greater London’

Nancy DeBroka (The Zen Home), Julie Stevens (Younique Designs Ltd), Sarah Bickers (Free Your Space), Caroline Rogers (Room To Think) and Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House) joined Katherine to blitz the stockroom on 8 November. In order to maximise the teams contribution on the day, Katherine had spent an evening with Sheila Nilsson, DfS Greater London’s Boutique and Volunteers Manager, measuring and designing the new layout and checking shelving inventory. Nancy had organised APDO branded T-shirts and aprons to reflect the teamwork and camaraderie of the UK’s industry organising experts. We all admitted that with six independent organisers in a small room there was potential for clashes of opinions on how to get the job done, but it was heart-warming to see how we all pulled together,

Ingrid explains ‘Being natural organisers, each of us spotted what they could do next and simply took on a role to keep us moving forwards. I was so proud to see my members working in harmony together like this, and for such a great cause. I’d love to do something like this every year, and to see similar charity events happen across the UK for NOW 2017.

After Pictures


In the spirit of such collaboration, Julie took on the role of our social media onsite rep, liaising with Kate Ibbotson (A Tidy Mind & APDO Head of PR & Social Media) and running Facebook Live videos during the day. Caroline volunteered for the less enviable task of opening, identifying and labelling all the ‘magical mystery’ boxes we’d had to drag outside in the cold. This gave Sarah the space inside to become such an expert at building clothing racks that she could nail a round of Crystal Maze blindfolded if that task arose! Caroline and Sarah then organised and re-packed the shed with all their surplus stock – a real Tetris task! Nancy single-handedly matched and arranged over 100 pairs of shoes on the racks she’d just built. Meanwhile Ingrid freed the kitchen of clothing as early as possible to keep us all easily refreshed, and kept us on track in order to have cleared everything from the outside courtyard before dusk fell. And Katherine, having done so well to pull the day and the team together somehow managed to get squished between two racks of clothes as they were enthusiastically moved to their new location on the floor plan she’d designed!


As you can probably tell, we all had a great giggle and thoroughly enjoyed working together. As Sarah said, ‘Most of us usually work solo with our clients so this was a great opportunity to feel a part of something bigger, to get to know some APDO members more personally, and to do something really productive and worthwhile at the same time.’ Caroline reflected that the day was ‘typical of my own experience of working in the voluntary sector where organisations are often under resourced. It felt very worthwhile to give our time to a place where it was so valued and relevant.

And Dress for Success Greater London are still enjoying the experience too emailing us with this afterwards:

‘I wanted to say a big Thank You to your wonderful organisation, APDO. You have certainly allowed us to be more functional and practical, which saves us time, energy and frustration when looking for items for our clients.  Who would have believed when you all came to sort our space, declutter and organise our storage room that you would have achieved this in five hours? You are all truly amazing and we are very grateful to APDO for making Dress for Success a de-cluttered success’!
Sheila Nilsson
*Boutique and Volunteer Manager*

There really is no task which APDO members find too overwhelming. They simply want to help you make positive change to your space. If you would benefit from their expertise, find an organiser near you. Or if you’re a natural organiser, find out more about joining APDO and our training opportunities.