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a client looking at phone during virtual organising session

Virtual organising sessions are a great motivator

Almost a year ago, professional organiser Lynda Wylie‘s diary was wiped clean as every decluttering session she had booked in for her business Tidy Rooms was postponed. She wasn’t the only one. For the first time ever, the UK entered a national lock down. Overnight business owners were forced to think creatively about how to operate in a world that had closed its doors. Enter virtual organising!

In this post, Lynda explains the benefits of virtual organising, and how they can be a great motivator to get decluttered and organised.

Adapting to a new reality

As we wrestled with the impact of the COVID pandemic, we looked for ways to stay connected with our friends, family and work colleagues. Zoom became our constant companion and suddenly there was a new way to work and live.

The decluttering and organising industry was no exception. Pre COVID, I worked alongside my clients in their homes. Mid COVID, I had to find another way of safely supporting my clients and still contributing to the family finances. Thankfully, many of my APDO colleagues were already ahead of the game and working successfully online. In fact, it’s thanks to a training course run by a foresighted and resourceful colleague that I gained the confidence to dip my toe into the virtual waters of online decluttering.

I struggled at first to imagine how a virtual session would work. I’m used to providing practical, hands on support in my clients’ homes. I love nothing more than being in the thick of sorting and organising alongside my client, usually crawling around on my hands and knees, or in the back of a cupboard or at the bottom of a bag! Peering at a screen didn’t seem to offer the same level of personal or practical service I had become used to, but the last year has proved me wrong!

It was a huge surprise to discover that remote sessions were a massive hit with my clients – and with me! Together we discovered that these were a convenient, accessible, productive, personal and fun way of getting things done. Clients who’ve taken the plunge have been impressed at what can be achieved from behind a camera, and they’ve come back for more. We’ve tackled kitchen cupboards, craft rooms, photo organising, routine planning, bedroom drawers and paperwork backlogs.

a phone held up in front of a shelf in a virtual organising session

Virtual organising and motivation

So, what makes remote working a viable option for decluttering and organising your home? Here are three reasons I’ve found it to be a great motivator during a pandemic:

1 Home visits are no longer essential

There’s no need to worry about spreading germs, wearing masks or social distancing. Simply connect to a FaceTime call, set your camera so your Professional Organiser can communicate effectively with you and you’re away! This can relieve any anxiety you might be feeling about having someone in your home and it can allow you and your Professional Organiser to focus on the job in hand without fear or distraction.

2 Location is irrelevant

Your Professional Organiser could live 100 miles away or even in another country. This gives you more choice about who you work with as you can choose from the whole decluttering profession rather than being limited to who’s on your doorstep. Concerns about travel costs, journey time and special parking arrangements are completely removed for all parties. This can make it a more cost, time and effort effective option for you both.

3 You can declutter with or without a professional present

Remote sessions are very flexible.

For example, once you’ve spent time talking together to decide on a goal, the steps needed to achieve it and any possible challenges, you can then agree a time for a return time. You then declutter off camera until the call is resumed at the agreed time.

This approach allows you to focus on one clearly defined task at a time, knowing that you will have a review with your Professional Organiser go over what you’ve done. The check-in slot provides a thinking space in which to reflect on how the decluttering went. You might wish to repeat the exercise until you come to the end of the booking. If you are nervous about revealing the extent of your clutter, this can be a great way to ease yourself gently into the decluttering process. It also allows you time to develop a relationship with your Professional Organiser before tackling further challenges and it increases your confidence.

a client at a laptop during a virtual organising session

Sessions in which you and your Professional Organiser remain on the call together also work really well, just like an in-home session when you work alongside each other to reach the desired goal.

With this approach, you may find that sometimes what you’re doing can’t be seen, so you have to describe what you’re doing. Your Professional Organiser may ask you questions so they can understand what’s happening and how you’re finding things. You might encounter a bit more silence than during a home visit, but this can be really helpful for focusing and processing what you’re experiencing.

Give virtual organising a try!

Finding positive outcomes in a pandemic may not have been your experience or expectation during COVID 19, but I can say with absolute certainty that virtual decluttering sessions have been a most surprising and joyful result of this difficult time. As you can probably tell, I’m now a total convert and I hope you might also step out and give this special type of decluttering session a try.

If you’d like to find someone to declutter with you remotely, take a look at APDO’s Find an Organiser database. You can search under each organiser’s specialisms to find those offering virtual organising services.

a house-shaped paper cut out and a bunch of keys on a table top

Downsizing and moving home

Without a doubt, the global pandemic has caused many people to re-think how and where they live and, with the added incentive of reduced stamp duty rates until 31 March 2021, many people are now on the move. In this helpful post, Carol Lovesey of Lovesey Organising shares her tips for downsizing and moving home.

a room filled with packing boxes and a mirror standing against the wall

The key to a successful move

Whether you are downsizing, relocating to be nearer loved ones or moving to a larger property, the whole process can seem completely overwhelming.  The key to a successful move is to plan as much as possible in advance.  Even if you are moving to a larger property there is no point in taking things you never use. It requires excess thought, packaging and energy to pack up things you don’t want, just to have to unpack them in your new home. Moving unnecessary stuff could also increase your moving costs.

Whatever your circumstances, decluttering your home can be physically and emotionally draining.  Little and often is usually much easier than blocking out entire days; you may get halfway through a day and be totally exhausted.

Build “declutter muscles”

With many of my clients I try to start with the least emotive areas such as hall cupboards, kitchens and bathrooms.  Working here allows you to get used to making quick and easy decisions on what to keep and what to let go.  Having managed these areas you will then be able to build up to tackling more difficult places, such as studies, bedrooms and lofts where people often store things away that are just too emotionally challenging to cope with.

Just as you would when you start a new physical exercise regime, start slowly, and build up your “declutter muscles” with easy decisions.  That jug that Auntie Flo gave you 20 years ago which you stashed at the back of the cupboard and can’t stand?  Recycle it or sell it.  Loads of chipped and cracked crockery?  Ditch it.

Set yourself mini, achievable goals which will only take an hour or so. Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • Check your bathroom cabinet. Get rid of all the perfumes you don’t really like, or the endless foot scrubs you never use.
  • Review all the towels you’ve stashed for years with threads hanging off them. Hey presto, your bathroom storage will be done.

 

Think about how many rooms and storage cupboards you need to clear, draw up a list and start planning, making a noted in your calendar for each task.  Once everything is down on paper (or computer) it’s less of a “monster” and easier to take control of and manage.

a pile of folded jeans being packed into a box

Categorise & sort

Depending on what storage space you have available, possessions and gadgets can end up all over the house. This means it is easy to forget what you’ve got.  Gather similar items together, such as old phones and chargers, tablecloths or duvets, then review whether you need to keep them all:

  • Do you have you enough bed linen for an army to sleep on? – Pass spares to a local homeless shelter.
  • 30 mugs in the cupboard? – Donate some to your local community centre.
  • Old phones and tablets – depending on how old they are, these can often be sold or recycled.
  • Kitchen gadgets – do you use them? More importantly, do they work? If in doubt, cast them out!

 

As a guideline, separate items as follows:

  • Keep – You have a definite use for an item or it is something you love and enjoy. Which room will it go in in your new home?  If it’s just going to be stuck in a box in the loft for the next 20 years, I would challenge you to say yourself what is the point in keeping the item?

 

  • Sell – Is the item in good condition? Do you actually have time for the selling process?  Where will you sell your item?  There are plenty of options for selling: social media groups, antique dealers, eBay but it can be time consuming.  Do you know the value of the item? It’s important to do some research; it’s easy to confuse the emotional value we put on an item with the actual re-sale value.  Be realistic on the price and remember to give anything a good clean up before photographing.

 

  • Recycle/Charity – Better still, donate to a charity shop or check the many social media outlets which have sites for giving away items for free. Due to the current COVID restrictions, if I’m not sure which local charity is taking goods, I often ask on social media groups or phone the local shops direct – this saves trawling round with a boot full of stuff!

 

  • Bin – Sometimes there’s no life left in things and they just need to be ditched. If you have a lot of stuff for disposal, check with your local council if you need to book a place at the recycling centre.  If using a rubbish clearance firm, be sure to check they are reputable and have a waste carrier licence.

 

red front door

Motivation – eyes on the prize!

There will be items and furniture you come across in your home that you find difficult to let go of.  It’s important to notice these feelings and question why you are holding onto the items.  Ultimately, these are your things and it is your decision on what to do with them: you must do what is right for you and your family.

  • Be practical – If you have a large 5-bedroom house, garage and garden, think about the property you are moving to. How many bedrooms, reception rooms, etc does it have? What storage is there? This may sound daft but people often half forget that they will have less space when they downsize.  If you currently have a massive corner sofa unit think about whether it will overcrowd your new living room; do you need to sell it?

 

  • Be imaginative – If you have too many paintings and ornaments why not take some fabulous photographs of them and make them up into a photobook or create one big collage of your treasured memories.

 

  • Be inspired – Picture yourself in your new home: how do you want your new home to be? Have a look through home magazines or Pintrest or Instagram for ideas.

a doormat with the word "home" written on it

Practicalities

I’ve moved nine times and I know how stressful the process can be.  My advice is: don’t panic, stay calm and put the kettle on, everything always seems better over a cup of tea!

Here are a few things you’ll need to consider.  Please note, this is not a definitive list, it will vary depending on your own circumstances.

  • Good relationships – Build good relationships with the professionals in the process: estate agents, solicitors, mortgage advisors and surveyors. Even if you are frustrated, upset or angry, stay calm because you never know when you will need them to pull out all the stops.

 

  • Removal team – Even if you are on a very tight budget, it is my experience that these people usually work their socks off on the day. I’d suggest checking the British Association of Removers to find registered movers or get recommendations from friends and family.  If you’re not using a registered remover but are perhaps working with a local tradesperson and van, do make sure they have insurance.  Don’t forget to show them what things have to go from sheds/garages, etc.

 

  • Supplies – Keep everyone well fed and watered on moving day. Most likely your removal teams will have met for a hearty breakfast before they start, but a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits goes a long way.

 

  • Pack well, label well – If your possessions are clearly labelled with contents and what room you want them to go into, the process will be a lot easier on the day.

 

  • Cleaning kit – You never know how the property you’re moving to will be left. Have cleaning products, broom, dustpan and hoover easily to hand.  Not to mention a couple of hard-working friends or family members!

 

  • Utilities – Make sure you know who services your new home, and sort this out as early as possible. For example, there may be a considerable lead-time for a new broadband install. Take readings on the day in your existing and new homes to update the utility companies.

 

  • Change of address – Think about everyone you have a contract or account with. This includes banks, insurance companies (car, house, pet, medical), DVLA, TV licence, magazine or lifestyle memberships and subscriptions – they all need to be advised of your new contact details. Royal Mail offers a postal redirection service.

 

I hope, these have been some useful insights for you. Remember, if you are feeling scared or overwhelmed by the whole process, you can always seek assistance from your local APDO-registered professional organiser who you can find on the APDO Find An Organiser database.

“On moving day Carol helped out no end, settling me into my new flat.
Since moving, I’ve made so many new friends and have a whole new lease of life.”

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 laptop keyboard

Decluttering and organising digital documents

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms has been decluttering and organising her digital documents. In this post she explains how she did it, and how she keeps her digital world organised. 

The Big Sort Out!

I recently sorted and organised every single digital document I own. I expected it to take me days of staring at my screen in mild agitation as I wrestled with thousands of little yellow folders. Surprisingly, it only took me about half a day to complete, and by the end of it I’d renamed, removed and reassigned almost all of the documents stored in my cloud.  I now know exactly what documents I own, which folders to find them in and where to allocate new files. It was a hugely satisfying achievement that still feels absolutely wonderful!

The process was worthy of a name so I called it, The Big Sort Out!

The motivation

The Big Sort Out was prompted by a renewal request from my existing file management provider. I knew there were free alternatives available but I just hadn’t got around to addressing the task until I was faced with a renewal bill.

Deadlines (especially ones involving payments) can be great motivators! I see this a lot when tackling physical clutter with my clients. The deadline of an impending house guest can be a fantastic motivator to clear out your spare room; a tea date with your children’s friends can be a catalyst to organise your toy cupboard; the builder starting your loft conversion may well get you sorting through dusty old boxes.

It’s the same with getting started on your digital clutter. Your motivator might be to stop paying for cloud storage, to eliminate the daily frustration of searching for missing files, or simply to reduce the volume of documents in storage.

If you’re ready to embrace your own Big Sort Out, here are three tips to help you get underway:

  1. Keep all your documents in one place. This will help you see what you’ve got and make it easier to spot what you no longer need. Gather together any floating documents from other devices and drives. You might simply create a folder on your desktop called Documents. Group similar topics together dividing them into sub folders. Keep your system simple, being consistent and specific with your document names so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
  2. Consider what you need to keep. Regularly delete any out-of-date, unused, or redundant documents and folders. It’s much easier to organise less so before filing every document you come across, consider whether you really need to keep it. Look at your directories and think about where you would look for it if you needed it.
  3. Make a plan to maintain your documents. When you go into a folder, develop a habit of getting rid of anything you spot that you no longer need. Whenever you create or receive a new document, make sure you file it quickly to prevent building up floating documents in random places. Think about choosing a regular interval, such as the end of the month or half yearly, to carry out a mini review. This will help ensure your system remains simple, ordered and clear, helping you avoid another Big Sort Out in the future.

If Lynda’s experience has encouraged you to get your digital world more organised, you can find APDO professional organisers who specialise in digital organising and photo management on our Find An Organiser database.

The book "Making Space" by Sarah Tierney on a white background

APDO Book Club: “Making Space” by Sarah Tierney

APDO members chose Sarah Tierney‘s novel “Making Space” to discuss at a recent APDO Book Club meeting. APDO volunteer Mel Carruthers of More Organised caught up with the author after the book club meeting, to ask some of the questions that were raised by the group. 

“Making Space”

First, a brief synopsis of “Making Space”: Miriam is approaching 30 but her life hasn’t turned out how she expected it to, and she gives away all her belongings in an attempt to reimagine herself. Erik lives amongst a stifling hoard of books and magazines, a cocoon and protection from the parts of his life that he doesn’t want to remember. Fate throws these two main characters together, and Sarah has cleverly used their opposing relationships with their possessions to examine their personalities and lives. A diverse ensemble of secondary characters reinforce our relationships with our possessions… making this the perfect read for anyone interested in decluttering and organising

An interview with Sarah Tierney

I was delighted to catch up with Sarah Tierney to ask a few questions about “Making Space”, following a number of questions raised in our discussions of the book. Our industry isn’t often featured in novels and film, so it was interesting to see decluttering and organising portrayed in the novel.

Did you work with a professional organiser and what research did you do?

I didn’t have the opportunity to work with a professional organiser, though that would have been really useful. Instead I read some books about working with hoarders – including Digging Out by Michael A. Tompkins and Tamara L. Hartl, and Stuff by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. I also did quite a bit of research online – looking at websites of professional organisers and reading articles about the subject.

I also used my own experience of having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when describing some of the techniques Lisa uses, and when writing about Eric’s avoidance of confronting the past. I’ve known a few people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and this fed into his character too.

I also talked to people with experience of hoarding. I found that when you tell people you’re writing a book about hoarding, they inevitably have a story to tell you about someone they know who hoards, or they confide that they’re a low-level hoarder themselves. I think a lot of people struggle to keep on top of their possessions nowadays – it is hard to throw things away, and yet very easy to buy things.

What prior knowledge of the professional organising industry did you have and what prompted you to include it in the plot?

I wrote Making Space back in 2012/2013 when the industry was much more established in the US than it was here. I think the fact that it was a relatively new industry in the UK gave me the freedom to ‘make stuff up’ a little bit and imagine what a professional organiser might do. I’m really pleased to hear that real-life professional organisers can relate to it because I didn’t know whether I’d managed to make it convincing or not.

What role did the professional organiser play in the plot:

One reason I included a professional organiser, Lisa, in the plot was because I wanted to get Miriam out of the position of being Erik’s ‘therapist’ (because that’s not a good basis for a romantic relationship!) Primarily though, I wanted to give a sense that both Miriam and Erik had moved forwards in their lives by the end of the book.

I thought professional help would be the logical next step in tackling Erik’s hoarding. And when Miriam gets a job with Lisa, it showed she had grown as a person through the experience of working with him, by gaining confidence, skills, and a new career direction. I also liked the idea of having a professional organiser who wasn’t particularly organised herself.

What’s next for Sarah Tierney?

I’ve written a new novel about two sisters on holiday in a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve only just sent it to my agent so I don’t know yet what will happen to it from here but I’ll keep you posted!

Thank you Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved the book and can’t wait to read the next one!

If the novel or the interview with Sarah Tierney has inspired you to find out more about becoming a professional organiser, find out more about the benefits of joining APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers, or take a look at the available training.

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.

 

 

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

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Decluttering when someone has died

Sentimental items are without a doubt the most difficult things to deal with when decluttering. Emotions around objects can be incredibly strong, as we link feelings and memories to physical objects and this is especially true when someone has passed away. In this post, Zoe Berry of Life/Edit gives her advice on decluttering a lifetime of possessions after someone dies.

sentimental flowers

Decluttering when someone has died: How to deal with a lifetime of possessions

Recently I have worked with two clients for whom this is a huge issue: they are responsible for decluttering after someone has died, and they find themselves hanging on to far too much stuff because of an almost paralysing inability to make decisions on what to do with it all. There are varied reasons for this: in these particular cases, the sheer volume of it all was overwhelming. Where do you start with a whole house or the contents of someone’s entire life that’s ended up in boxes in your loft? But perhaps greater than this is the associated guilt. When someone has died it can be so hard to part with their belongings: knowing how hard the person worked for them, knowing what the items meant to the person, worrying that you are being disloyal or disrespectful by simply ‘getting rid’ of them, or not knowing who to give them to or where they should go if you do want to part with them. This post explores how you can respectfully and thoughtfully keep someone’s memory alive without having to be the keeper of all of their belongings.

First: ask for help

This is going to be hard. You probably can’t do it on your own, so allow the people who are offering help to work through it with you. Or if this isn’t an option, look up a professional declutterer here: https://www.apdo.co.uk/find-an-organiser/. We are trained to help you, and can help to guide you through the process.

Start with the ‘least difficult’

In the case of post-bereavement decluttering, there probably isn’t an ‘easy’ place to start, but whatever you do, don’t start with the most emotional things. You’ll know what these are. For some people it’s about their mum’s clothes, for some it’s their husband’s precious collection of books which were his pride and joy. For some people it’s about something that may seem entirely random but you will know what is going to be the most difficult for you. Leave that until the end.

Do I really want to keep this?

Look at the item and ask yourself: what precisely am I sentimental about? Chances are, it’s not the object itself but its association with a person, place, or time. You will retain that memory without a physical object to remind you. However if you look at the item and love it, then it’s not clutter.

pile of photographs letters and memories

Let go of guilt

Often people keep items not out of love or nostalgia, but guilt. It could be because it feels ‘bad’ to get rid of something, or it could be because you had a difficult relationship with the person who has died and you’re subconsciously trying to make it better. Allow yourself to realise that your complex relationship with your aunty will not be fixed if you keep hold of her hideous set of figurines now that she has passed away.

Take a photograph

If you have your grandparents’ table and chairs and you know you can’t keep them and won’t use them, take a photo of them as part of the process of letting them go. Use the same logic as you do with other parts of your decluttering life (you wouldn’t keep all your kids’ toys for example) and apply it to the post-bereavement decluttering.

Pass it on

Do some quality research before passing your items to charity. Some charities only take specific things (for example, no electrical goods) and you don’t want to be turned away after the difficult and emotional process of sorting through, loading your car and driving to the charity shop. Recently I donated a whole lifetime’s worth of clothes which had belonged to a client’s mum. Going through these clothes was so difficult for my client, she spent hours in tears remembering the stories that went with them: where her mum wore them and how they summed her up. I made sure these clothes went to a charity shop local to me which specialises in vintage clothing. For this client, the idea that the next generation of vintage-loving young women would be soon wearing them filled her with joy and pride.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Family

You may not want something or have room for it, but you can always offer it to others in the family. Remember to check with them first before packing an object off to somewhere outside the family.

Upcycle

To hold onto your connection with something, create something new that retains its sentimental value. An example of this recently was an antique chair belonging to a client’s beloved great aunty. I encouraged her to upcycle it so it fitted more in to her house décor and she covered it with some beautiful fabric bringing it right up to date whilst still retaining the nod to her family member.

Dealing with collections

It’s very difficult when dealing with the possessions of an avid collector. Your dad may have loved his thousands of model cars, your brother loved his rooms full of books, but it doesn’t mean you have to absorb them into your home. Choosing one or two keepsake items to represent a collection, person or era can allow you to let the rest go.

Memory Box

Just as you’d keep a memory box for your children with their precious school drawings, first shoes and other sentimental items, you can also do this for someone who has died. It doesn’t matter how off-the-wall these things are – if an empty margarine tub makes you chuckle thinking about your gran, then pop it in the box. This is a good way to preserve memories without taking up too much space. It also keeps the items all together, so you can choose when you want to look at them, particularly if grief is still very raw.

Most of all be kind to yourself. Take time, acknowledge that this is one of the hardest things to do, accept help and reward yourself when you make progress.

Open notebook and a pen next to a pot plant

Spring Clearing Week wrapped up!

Spring Clearing Week 2019 has been inspiring and informative! In case you missed any of our tips, blogs and interviews, here’s a round-up for you:

 

decluttered organised bedroom

We were delighted to guest post for:

 

organised boxes in a white room ready for unpacking

We shared these intriguing initiatives happening outside APDO:

  • You might think it odd that we interviewed an online sales platform but you’ll soon see why we wanted to bring you this very interesting interview with Tara Button, founder of BuyMeOnce.
  • If you’ve not used Library of Things we highly recommend watching this fascinating interview with Alys Penfold, Community Activator. Will you be inspired to set up a Library of Things in your community?!

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

Thank you for reading, sharing and liking our Spring Clearing Week tips!

And, finally, thank you to the APDO Social Media volunteer team: Simon Wizgell, Nichola Skedgel, Claire Birnie, Cory Cook, Tilo Flache, Mel Carruthers and Kate Ibbotson, for working tirelessly behind the scenes this week.