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a box of sentimental papers and letters

Sentimental Paperwork: How to sort it out and keep only the things you love!

In this post, Carole Reed, owner of organising business HappySort, shares her insights into dealing with sentimental paperwork – items such as letters, cards and drawings that can be difficult to address when we are decluttering.

How to sort sentimental paperwork

When talking about sentimental paperwork, I’m referring to letters, cards and drawings. These items are notoriously hard to deal with and many professional organisers recommend that you leave everything sentimental to the end of the decluttering process.

Julie Holland, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University talks about sentimental clutter being the “adult equivalent of a teddy bear.” Jennifer Baumgartner, a practising clinical psychologist who runs a wardrobe consulting business, notes that, “we infuse our junk with the spirit of a moment in time, associating the tangible with the intangible. Our junk becomes the object upon which we project our internal experience.” This is why some people find it almost impossible to throw anything away.

Why do I need to get rid of things I find it hard to part with?

Try and think about this process as keeping the pieces that mean the most to you, not about getting rid of stuff.

If you have an enormous house with lots of cupboards and storage space, then holding onto a lot of things may not be a problem. However, the reality is that most of us don’t have the luxury of space so we are forced to streamline our possessions.

Many people justify holding onto sentimental paperwork by thinking they are preserving memories and connections, and they find that comforting. Holding onto something and then storing it in an attic or cupboard is not the same as preserving it. Such an item has no meaningful purpose; it’s just stored and often forgotten about.

If you don’t dispose of your sentimental items, one day your children or other family members will have to go through them. Try to teach your children good habits about only keeping the most precious and special items. Don’t burden them with the task, and associated guilt, of having to throw away the things that you found difficult to deal with.

If you keep EVERYTHING then nothing stands out; special things get lost amongst all the other things you have attached sentimental value to. If you keep back a manageable number of items that mean a lot to you, you can display them or keep them in a way that means you can still look at them and enjoy them.

Sentimental items can bring joy, but they can also prevent you from moving forward with your life. Why do you need to keep hundreds of letters from your first love? Choose one or two at most and discard the rest. People often keep things even though it makes them unhappy or guilty to look at them. Nobody needs to keep things that make them feel bad about themselves.

Sometimes we feel guilt over discarding sentimental paperwork. Perhaps there are cards from deceased family members or artwork from long grown up children. We fear that the memory of that person, or those times, will disappear with the item. In reality you are getting rid of the item, not the memory. You are not feeling sentimental or nostalgic about the object, but about the person, place or time.

a pile of organised letters

How do I start?

There are many different ways of tackling this kind of project; here are some of them:

  • Just start! Pick the box/table/drawer that you think that you will find the easiest.
  • Maybe set a time frame/limit for each session so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Put items into dump/keep/revisit piles. Work quickly. If you don’t know what to do with something, put it in the revisit pile.
  • Ask yourself, does this item evoke happy memories? Is it helping me to live the life I want to live? If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
  • If you have multiple letters which you want to read, put them in the revisit pile. The first session is to try and get rid of some of the easy things initially.
  • Put only the cards with meaningful messages in the revisit pile and discard the ones with no message.
  • Keep only the best ‘artwork’ your children have done: the pieces you like best or that you know they have spent the most time on. Plan on keeping 50% during the first session and discarding more at a later date.
  • If you are keeping hold of items because you have not had a chance to process what the memory means to you, then think about the item and the times associated with it to discover if it’s worth holding onto.
  • Revisit the difficult pile. Read all the letters, enjoy the messages in the cards. Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of them. Remember that you are doing this to free up physical and mental space. If it is still impossible to get rid of something, put it in a box for 3-6 months and revisit it. If, at the end of that time, you have not missed the item, or thought about it, it is time to let it go.
  • Work in layers and don’t go for the hardest things first. It’s fine to go back to items. Keep your goal in your head; remember why you are doing this.
  • Keep going. Yes, it will be hard but the more you do, the easier it will get.

 

hands holding three greetings cards

Re-purposing sentimental paperwork

Much sentimental paperwork can be re-purposed, you don’t need to throw it all away. This is harder to do with paperwork than it is with say books,  clothes or family heirlooms but it can be done. It can be a lot of work to repurpose something but hopefully this will be part of the process of helping you to realise whether an item is really worth keeping after all. Here are some ideas:

  • Keep only the best and most memorable pieces. How much you keep is up to you and your capacity (mental and spatial) to store it.
  • Photograph the items (letters, photos, art) and keep the images in a folder on your computer or phone.
  • Gift artwork to relatives or friends.
  • Use drawings as wrapping paper.
  • Make a collage and hang it on the wall or a door. This can be done with your child if you’re working with their drawings. Cut out the best bits and stick them on a large piece of card.
  • Open an Instagram account or blog to showcase your child’s artwork. I know parents who have done this. This way family and friends can enjoy the art too.
  • Digitise it into a coffee table book. There are numerous companies that do this. A simple Google search will bring up lots of options.
  • Frame it/them. Change the displays every year or so.
  • Re-purpose pictures into cards to send to people.
  • Make place mats. A Google search will show you how.
  • Put cards into a ring binder. This allows them to be enjoyed and stored neatly.

 

If this post has inspired you to get to work with your own sentimental items and you would like some help, you can find your nearest APDO-registered professional organiser on our Find An Organised database.

A Christmas teddy bear toy

HO HO NO! It’s Christmas!

It’s Christmas! Carole Reed of HappySort has been revising Christmas plans… and shares her advice on keeping the clutter down this festive season.

So, it looks as though Christmas is back on!

If you are anything like me, you won’t even have thought about it yet, let alone started planning for it. When Christmas plans were all up in the air, it was easy to ignore it or justify your lack of action “because we just don’t know what’s happening.”  Like many others, I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes but I did secretly hope for a quieter and simpler celebration this year. I love seeing the family but maybe not all at once, and not at the end of the most frenetic month of the year.

As leaked stories made the press, it dawned on me that Christmas WAS probably back on… but I really didn’t feel ready. It’s not just the visitors, or the food preparation, it’s the stuff! After clearing out piles of junk from the garage, the cupboards and the bedrooms during lockdown (and there still being suspiciously little space!), I don’t want to fill them all back up again with things that I neither need nor want.

Have a pre-Christmas sort out

A lot of people see January as a time for having a clear out, AFTER the avalanche of stuff has arrived and found its way into wardrobes, under beds and into cupboards. I say yes, do have a mini sort then, but the main clear out should be in early December (or any time before Christmas).

If you have children, it is likely that they are going to have a huge number of presents arriving through the door. Maybe they will get even more than usual this year just because 2020 has been such a difficult year.

Lockdowns, travel restrictions and shielding have meant that some families have been separated for nine months or more. Even if you decide that you are not going to go overboard this year, you can bet that the grandparents probably will! If you know it’s a lost cause asking them to buy less (or smaller – many younger children already have enormous bulky toys), then you will need to make space in your home and it really is worth doing this now.

Children outgrow the bigger bulky toys quite quickly. That Playmobile fire station with all the broken fire engines and tiny pieces that sits in a box under the stairs? Well, it may have cost £100, which is why you find it difficult to part with it, but it needs to go. And the Barbie house too. And the whole shelf of Mr Men books (and, yes, I know you loved them when you were a child), the Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs, the Scalextric set with the broken track, the Orchard Toy games and the over-sized stuffed teddies that you never know where to put.

A child playing with a toy buggy next to a Christmas tree

Engage your children in the sort out

I’m not suggesting that you get rid of everything, just things that are damaged or genuinely no longer played with. If you are low on energy or time, it may be easier to do this by yourself or you can help your child to make decisions about their possessions. Depending on the age of the child you can explain that you just won’t have room for all the new Christmas presents – which should be an incentive! You can talk about your child’s age and how grown up they are getting (children love this, adults not so much) to justify getting rid of more babyish things.

I heard some great ideas on a podcast recently (“A Slob Comes Clean”). One suggestion was that Santa leaves behind a sack which needs to be filled with old toys to give to less fortunate children. The Elf on the Shelf gets involved too, only performing tricks if old toys are left out for him to take away. Older children could be encouraged to get money for items sold on their behalf or they may just see the logic in what you are saying about having a clear out.

 Avoiding unwanted presents

If you speak to your child(ren) about what they want for Christmas you can then tell family members what to get for them. It can be embarrassing when a child opens a present in front of the giver and it’s not something that they like because kids are not good at hiding their true feelings.

Perhaps sit down with your children and do Google searches together. This can be as basic as ‘presents for 13-year-old boys’. If you run out of ideas, perhaps agree with them that vouchers or experiences are good options and, better still, they take up no space at all!

A Christmas card with the message "Collect moments not things" with Christmas decorations on a table

Another method is to draw up a list of gift ideas over the year. My son would never tell me in December that he wanted khaki trousers, but he did come home from his friend’s party in the summer telling me all about the camouflage items his friend had got and asked if he could have some too.

I also buy things over the year too as this minimises last minute panics. If you do this too, remember to check the cupboard/drawer in which you have hidden things so that you know what you have already bought and you don’t duplicate anything. There’s been many a year when I’ve checked the stash a couple of days before Christmas and realized I had more than I thought in there or that there were some perfectly good items I’d kept for re-gifting to family, but had forgotten about and so had bought them something else. The stash in the present cupboard then gets bigger. It used to be a shelf in the cupboard but now it’s the whole cupboard!

Think about a present embargo

Why not have a chat with family members about whether or not you actually buy each other presents anymore? Do you really want another jokey apron or Christmas jumper? Does your husband need another pair of comedy socks or another mug? I did this with my sisters recently and we all agreed to carry on buying for each other but we don’t buy anything for the husbands. Similarly, we have stopped exchanging gifts with my brother and sister-in-law in New York and this year we are not buying gifts for my husband’s brother and his wife, who have three children. As we have three children too, it all gets too expensive and stressful trying to come up with original ideas.

A subtle Christmas Day cull

When my children have received age inappropriate gifts (say Tinkerbell pyjamas for a ten-year-old) or multiple Lego sets, I quietly whisk them to one side to put in the present cupboard. If you don’t do it as you go along, they will open the boxes or rip off labels so that things can’t be re-gifted or given to charity.

No pressure intended!

This article is not intended to put more pressure on people to prepare for what is already a hugely stressful event. It is to point out that with a targeted focus on toys and presents, you can make space and/or control what will be coming into your home. This will mean less clutter and less stress. If you feel that it is already too late for this year, then bear these ideas in mind for another year.

If Carole’s advice has inspired you to have a pre-Christmas declutter, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers in our Find An Organiser database.

 

 

A comfortable sofa in an organised room setting

Combating complacency

APDO member Marie Bateson, owner of Cut The Clutter in Lancashire, has been thinking about complacency, and the role it plays in our decluttering.  She shares her thoughts with us in this blog post.

Headshot of Marie Bateson

During a recent virtual organising session, my client showed me a clock which had been sitting on the floor of her spare room for about a year. It was too big for her new home, which has lower ceilings than her previous house. She said she didn’t want to part with it, but that she had got complacent about it living on the floor and didn’t really notice it anymore.

The short-term solution for this clock was storing it in the attic, but it got me thinking:

  • How many of us leave pictures, clocks and mirrors hanging in places where they don’t really look right or are not shown to their best advantage?
  • Do we have any that we don’t really like but we simply leave them up due to complacency?
  • As we are currently spending more time than ever in our homes, have we started to look at things a little more closely?

 

  • A single plant with pink flowers in a grey pot

 

Does complacent mean lazy? No, it means you are satisfied with your situation and you don’t feel that any change is necessary. But a change may not actually be a bad thing.

So, I started by looking around my own home and decided to move two pictures to different and better spots.

I asked friends if they had similar experiences to share – any sudden epiphanies – and was pleasantly surprised to learn that one had taken down two pictures and a chalkboard, moved a shelving unit and liked the feeling of space this had given him.

Another had removed some ornaments, admitting that they had never liked them but had stopped seeing them.

A fellow organiser had put a couple of bags of donations on the landing and had been stepping over them for ages. They have now been taken to the charity shop!

I know many of you have decluttered during lockdown, but have you also taken the time to investigate the things which live in a permanent spot and you never really consider? Look again at that pile of papers on the chair in the corner, notice the position of that plant, could you move the furniture around to get a more convenient layout?

Working with a professional organiser could help you look at your space with fresh eyes, and help you to overcome your complacency. You can find your nearest APDO professional organiser on our Find An Organiser database.

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.

 

 

a hand using a laptop - keyboard

How to manage a bulging inbox

Overwhelmed with email? Karen Eyre-White of GO DO, a productivity coaching business, shares her secrets to managing email.

When the first email was sent in 1971, I’m sure its creator couldn’t imagine the full enormity of what was to come. With that single message, Raymond Tomlinson began something which has revolutionised the way we communicate and made it easier for us all to do our jobs and live our lives. Today we can quickly and easily contact someone halfway across the world (or halfway across the street) at the click of a button.

But our email systems are only as good as our ability to manage them and use them well. All too often my clients tell me they feel overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive, they can’t keep up, and that it is a constant source of stress in their lives. Our work inboxes have become a barometer for whether we’re on top of everything or good enough at our jobs. It can feel like a daily battle to keep them under control, to bail the water out more quickly than it is coming in.

And with the rise of smartphones, we’re never that far away from that source of stress, whether we’re trying to watch a box set in the evening, spend time with our kids at the weekend, or enjoy a family holiday.

organised desk with laptop notebook flowers and coffee

So, how can we get all the benefits of this amazing form of communication without the stress and anxiety that have become associated with inbox management? Here are my five top tips for getting in control of your inbox before it controls you.

1 Don’t live out of your inbox

Many of us spend the whole day in our inbox, flitting between old emails and new emails, making it difficult to achieve any focused work. Instead, I recommend deciding how frequently you need to check your inbox. This will depend on your role, but it is rare to need to look at new emails more than three times each day. Decide when you’ll do this and stick to it. You’ll be amazed how much ‘real’ work you’re able to get done without the constant distraction of new emails.

2 Do, delegate, defer

When you do go in to check new emails, work through them systematically from bottom to top rather than cherry-picking the ones that look interesting or easy. All that does is leave a concentration of less interesting or more difficult emails, which you’ll struggle to motivate yourself to clear. As you work through them, decide for each email whether to do any action on it now, delegate it to someone else to do it, or defer it to later. I recommend putting deferred tasks on a to-do list and clearing the email out of your inbox.

3 Keep your filing simple

You’d be amazed how many people aren’t moving emails they’ve processed out of their inbox because they are not sure where to file them. I’m an advocate of having one ‘done’ folder and putting all your emails in there once you’ve processed them. The search function on most mail applications is excellent, and normally more effective than relying on you remembering where you’ve filed something.

4 people sitting at desk and typing on laptops

 

4 Use your to-do list not your inbox as your go-to place

Once you’ve limited your inbox use to three times a day, you’ll need somewhere else to act as the central control point for your work. This should be your to-do list. This should be the first thing you open in the morning, where you go when you have a spare minute, and the last thing you check at night. Aim to have only one to-do list and make sure to review it from top to bottom at least daily.

5 Turn off your notifications

I often say this is the single biggest thing anyone can do to boost their productivity. If you’re notified every time you receive an email, it is almost impossible not to get drawn into your inbox. Turn off those pings and you’ll find your attention span skyrockets.

Emails are a wonderful tool which we have been using for decades. It’s impossible to imagine what our work life would be like without them, but it’s vital that they serve us, and not the other way around. Follow these tips and you’ll find that your inbox feels more manageable, less stressful and altogether a more positive part of your working life.

If this post has inspired you on your decluttering journey, you can find your local APDO professional organiser here.

Click here to read more blog posts from APDO

 

 

 

yellow and white flowers arranged in a vase on an organised wooden coffee table

Finding your motivation during lockdown

Have your decluttering efforts been stalled by the COVID-19 lockdown? Are you struggling to find motivation to get organised? Help is at hand! APDO member Lynda Wylie, owner of organising business Tidy Rooms, shares her tips on overcoming procrastination and getting that project finished!

Starting (and finishing) a decluttering or organising project during lockdown

If I’m honest, it’s taken me a while to write this blog about motivation. I’ve been lacking the impetus to get going during lockdown. The idea of writing the blog made it straight on to my To Do list (Colornote for Android), but without a specific deadline, and with a growing list of priorities and glorious weather tempting me outside, it just didn’t move any further.

I know from talking to clients that this is similar to what can happen when you decide to start decluttering. Other things suddenly become much more appealing (even jobs you’ve been putting off for ages) and you can quickly lose your initial enthusiasm to get stuck in. Feelings of overwhelm are very common and you may wonder where and how to get started.

The talk of lifting the lockdown finally got me focused again on writing. Having a deadline is a powerful force for getting your project underway.

a tidy organised decluttered kitchen counter with white cupboards

5 ways to overcome procrastination:

Here are 5 established ways to get your decluttering off the ground during lockdown:

1 Set yourself a clear deadline

Deadlines don’t just apply to big tasks, like decluttering the garage or setting up a filing system. Smaller tasks  such as clearing the ironing basket or changing the beds respond just as well.  You could tell someone about your deadline, even asking them to check in with you as it approaches. Promising yourself a reward once you’ve done the task can also inspire you to get going.

2 Break a bigger job down into smaller chunks

Start with a small goal.  Setting out to file a handful of papers will feel more achievable than tackling the entire bagful. Once you’ve done it, you’ll feel great. Plus, once you’re underway you’ll often do more than you expect. If your goal is to tackle one shelf and you keep going to finish the whole bookcase, you’ll feel fantastic. Remember to step back and appreciate your hard work when you’re finished.

3 Schedule a time to get started

Making a decluttering appointment with yourself, just as you might to see the GP or go for a run, shows it’s important to you. Allocating a slot in your day helps move it from “To Do” to “Doing”, and encourages you to start. Schedule more time than you think you might need too so you know you can finish the job and maybe even have bonus time at the end for a cuppa.

4 Invite a virtual body double along

This is a great technique to try during lock down. A trusted friend works alongside you from their home by video call, whilst you work away on your task at the other end of the camera. Their presence is stabilising, helping you to concentrate and keep going when you might otherwise have got distracted or given up.

5 Focus on the end result

When you’re doing physical decluttering, focus on the space you’re gaining and how you’d like to use it for the things you’re keeping, rather than what you’re getting rid of. Planning how you want to use your new clear spaces can be really exciting and provide the incentive to get you going.

 

If you’re still wondering how to get started on your project, why not try a fun ‘Show and Tell’ video call with your friends? One of my clients has been inviting her friends each week to show and tell a category such as shoes, scarves or bags. In preparation for these weekly calls, everyone has been decluttering and organising their belongings and storage ready to show. Lockdown creativity with great results!

Many APDO professional organisers are working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown, offering “virtual” sessions over the internet and phone. If you are looking for support or accountability you can browse APDO’s “Find an organiser” page to find an organiser to help you.

 

Click here to read more blog posts from APDO

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! 

APDO Redecorating

Re-decorating your newly decluttered space

You’ve decluttered, you’ve reorganised and you are almost completely happy with the end result; but something is not quite right. You may find that after doing a big declutter your space has become a more relaxing and attractive place to be, but needs some re-decorating to bring it into its full potential. Below we have compiled some tips for redesigning your space in order to capture the newly found tranquillity and practicality of the room.

  1. Design your organisational systems first

While picking out new furniture and accessories can be the best part of re-decorating, start with your organisational systems first, so that you don’t design yourself into a corner. For example, if you have decided you no longer want to have a chest of drawers in the room think about where you will put the items that are currently in it. Will you need some open shelving on the walls? Some decorative baskets in the corner? Have a really good think about how you’re going to re-jig the items in the room so that you’re not left with a pile of items with no home.

  1. Use natural materials and colours to promote tranquillity

If you’re hoping to keep the feeling of a calm, organised space, natural materials should be used over plastics and other man-made items. Wools, linen, cotton and wood will give your room that spa-like softness that many people are looking for. It’s essentially the same with colour. Be careful with bold colours as they can stimulate a subconscious response in your brain, making it hard to relax in your space. Colour is a great way to inject some of your personality into a room, but pair them with more neutral, relaxing colours to water them down a bit. If you don’t have an eye for design, it can be very helpful to create a mood board with natural materials as a reminder when you are shopping for the room.

an organise work station

  1. Trendy accessories tend to end up as clutter

When it comes to putting the final touches on your design, it is important to remember not to go too crazy on the accessories. Staged homes and bedroom set-ups in department stores often have little statues and trinkets sprinkled around. While they do look nice in a de-personalised space, in a real home these will end up collecting dust and getting donated several years later. This is the perfect opportunity to put things on show that you saved during your decluttering sessions. Putting up photos that never made it to a frame, displaying your souvenirs from trips you’ve been on and your children’s hand-made gifts can be great finishing touches to a space. House plants and a candle or two are also good accessories that add to a room without being overbearing.

Trendy accessories

  1. One final declutter

At this point you’ve probably already spent a lot of time decluttering, and maybe the thought of it isn’t that exciting to you. However, once you have your new space there may be things that you were unsure about keeping that you realise you no longer need. You can do this as you unpack your things back into the room so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Once it’s all done and put away, light a few candles and snuggle up with a good book to enjoy your brand new oasis.

The most important thing to remember when you’re decluttering, organising or re-decorating is that your space should work for you. You should be trying to create a room that is both functional and personal. If you follow the above tips, you should be able to create the best space for you and your family.

If you’re interested in re-designing a room but need some help decluttering first, check out our Find an Organiser page to find organisers near you!

Krista Thompson

Article written by APDO Blog Manager Krista Thompson (Zen Den Oxford)

APDO Organised Shelves

5 top tips on making the most of your storage

There has been a lot of buzz recently around decluttering, and how we can improve our homes and mental health by letting go of what we don’t need anymore. While the charity shops fill up and we’re left with only what we need, some of us are left feeling a little lost on how to organise what is left. Have no fear, as Lynda Wylie (Tidy Rooms) is here with her top tips on how to make the most of your storage!

There are 3 golden rules for buying storage which I always share with my clients from the beginning:

  1. Never buy storage until after you’ve decluttered – You’ve just gotten rid of a bunch of things you don’t need anymore, don’t add more!
  2. Store items where you will use them – Not only will items be easier to find, but it’s much easier to put them back.
  3. Label everything – You’ll be able to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

Now you’re ready to organise, what type of storage do you look for? Aside from your personal style and taste, you’ll need storage that neatly contains your things and allows you to retrieve them without frustration.  Here are some tips for some of the most common areas that benefit from an organised touch:

Inside drawers

Drawer dividers allow you to group similar items together such as tights and underwear so the contents don’t get mixed up. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get organised in your drawers though; shoe boxes and other empty boxes such as phone boxes and toiletry gift sets are perfect at doing the job. File folding clothes and standing them upright in a drawer allows you to see everything available, as opposed to piling things on top of one another. As an added bonus, it is easy to slot things back in when it’s time to put the washing away.

File folding clothes

On the wall

Using the wall to maximise storage potential is often overlooked, but shelving and hooks can really transform a cluttered area. They’re a simple and effective way to keep things off the floor and provide a permanent home to return things after they’ve been used. They are particularly good in hallways, home offices and dining rooms. Use hooks for coats, scarves, kids school bags, work bags, cycle hats and scooters. Shelves with baskets are fantastic for gathering lots of things together that might otherwise end up spread over the floor, such as accessories, hair and make up supplies or stationary.

Under beds

Some people prefer to keep the space under their bed clear, but if you’re short on space, this can be an invaluable storage area when organised well. Shoe bags allow you to keep several pairs in a compartmentalised bag whilst the Ikea Skubb zip bag is great for storing out of season clothes, bedding or your children’s next sized clothing, all dust free. If you don’t have much height under your bed vacuum bags are an essential item. They compress your clothing or bedding to allow them to sit neatly until you need them. If you still need some help learning how to downsize your clothes, check out our blog post on moving towards a minimalist wardrobe.

Under beds

In the kitchen

Some of the go to products I suggest to clients to help maximise their cupboard storage space, can be found in Lakeland. The 3 most popular products for my clients are:

  1. The expandable shelf organiser, allows you to see what’s stored at the back of a cupboard so ingredients don’t get re-bought
  2. A shelf insert helps you make the most of a tall cupboard
  3. A bakeware organiser allows you to stand your baking trays upright for easy access

bakeware organiser

An important tip for the kitchen is to keep what you use most often close to the front of the cupboard. Machines and crockery that are only used once or twice a year should be kept at the back of the cupboards or in the spaces that are a bit more awkward to get to. This is because we’re much more likely to spend the effort putting it back once we’re finished with it if we know we don’t need to take it out for a while.

In the loft

Lofts are ideal for things you need infrequently such as Christmas decorations, seasonal sports equipment and suitcases. Storage needs to be dust and moisture proof and sturdy clear boxes with a solid closing mechanism are often the best. Remember not to overfill them or they’ll be too heavy to lift up the stairs and make sure they’re small enough to fit through the hatch! If you want to be extra organised, put a list or map at the entrance so you know what to find where next time you’re looking.

If you need help decluttering and/or organising your space, you can find your nearest professional organiser on our Find an Organiser page! 

APDO clutter

Clutter: out of sight, but not always out of mind

Imagine this: your home is sparkling clean with no clutter in sight, ready for your evening guests. You look around proud of your home, but something is not quite right. Could it be the 10 pairs of shoes, 3 coats, junk mail and broken lamp that you’ve chucked in the spare closet to clear the space? Emily Wapples of Simply Sorted is here to tell us all about why hiding our clutter is not the answer.

We all have that one area of our home where our belongings go to, never to see the light of day again. The area that amazes us with its insatiable storage capacity and which we affectionately refer to as “Narnia”, or “The Tardis”.  Maybe yours is in the loft, under the bed, the spare room, or (for people who don’t live in London) in the garage. These areas are crammed full of things that we no longer use on a regular basis or, possibly, at all. But it’s fine, because at the end of the day, we can close the doors and forget about them. Except, often we don’t.

These items may be out of sight, but they’re not always out of mind. In fact, we mentally and emotionally carry this physical clutter around with us all day, fretting and stressing over how long it will take us to sort it out.

This clutter consumes important brain space and clouds our judgement. We perceive the task to be insurmountable, so we put off trying to tackle it, which encourages negative thought patterns. As a result, we are more likely to procrastinate in making changes in other areas of our lives. While we may be able to escape the physical clutter, it is more difficult to escape its psychological effects. Constantly ruminating on the situation can cause, or contribute to, poor mental health. This in turn can make us increasingly unmotivated to tackle the area and to make those life changes we so desperately crave.

So why don’t people just bite the bullet and tackle their clutter?

The most common reason I’ve heard is that they don’t have time (or at least, they think they don’t). And even if time isn’t so much of an issue, they would (understandably) rather be doing something more interesting. Some may be overwhelmed by the perceived size of the task at hand, while others may just be lacking motivation to get started.

But whatever the reason, help is at hand. You just have to ask for it.

I’ve worked with many clients to help them declutter and organise the problematic areas of their home which they can’t stop worrying about. Some have accumulated belongings over 30 years that are now tightly packed into their loft. While others have unopened boxes of things in their spare room, or under the stairs, left over from a house move.

The intention was never to leave the items in these spaces forever; they were all placed there as a temporary solution, just to keep them out of the way. But months, or years pass and the items remain boxed up (if they’re lucky) behind closed doors.

Clutter breeds clutter.

And not only do those original items stay there, additional pieces join them. Because, once we designate an area as an unofficial “dumping ground” for items we no longer need, want or use, we are more inclined to add to the clutter collection, thereby perpetuating the problem. It may take a few hours to a few days to declutter and organise the area concerned. However, once we’ve finished, clients have overwhelmingly reported that they feel an immense sense of freedom and relief.

The space it creates isn’t limited to square footage.

Clients are able to think more clearly and have the capacity to make decisions and bring about changes in other areas of their lives. They feel empowered to take action; the process often motivates them to declutter other areas of their home or to start that project they’ve been putting off for years. And although it is too simplistic to expect that the process is able to cure mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, it may help to alleviate some of the symptoms; even if the benefits are experienced on a more long term basis.

So what can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

  • Don’t try to avoid it – Accept that you need to declutter and organise these belongings to bring about positive changes in your life. Yes, the process will be physically and emotionally exhausting, but its benefits will be felt in all aspects of your life going forward.
  • Learn how to recycle – Sometimes the thought of an item ending up in a landfill is the reason people avoid decluttering. To learn about recycling more difficult items, take a look at 6 Ways to Avoid Waste While Decluttering.
  • Enlist help from a supportive friend or family member or, ideally, a professional organiser via the APDO website to help you tackle the area.
  • Break it down into manageable tasks if you are feeling overwhelmed by the size of the project, and take it one task at a time.
  • Speak to your GP if your clutter is causing you to feel anxious, depressed or stressed. You may also want to investigate other strategies for maintaining good mental health such as yoga, mindfulness, exercise and healthy eating.

A picture of Emily Wapples of Simply Sorted

You can learn more about Emily and her business at www.simply-sorted.co.uk