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A look back at National Organising Week 2020

National Organising Week was always going to be a bit different this year. The pandemic meant that our usual flurry of organising activities, from workshops to get-togethers, advice clinics to parties, were unable to take place for NOW 2020. But that didn’t stop us focusing on a week of organising and encouraging the nation to help them be more organised!

More organised in the home

This year National Organising Week focused on how to be more organised in the home and how to make our home as functional as possible.

As we continue to live with COVID-19, our homes have become even more important.  Many of us are spending more time at home and likely to be using the space differently: as a shelter, a work or study location, a reduced socialising space and more. Being organised has become a key skill for everyone to develop and make the most of the current challenges.

The aim, as in other years, was that NOW will inspire people to think about the clutter they are living with and take action to do something about it. Of course, APDO members provide one-to-one support all year round.

a family gatherered around a cardboard box marked "donations"

Supporting charities through NOW

APDO members particularly missed getting stuck in to their usual Donate-A-Day volunteering projects that form a key part of our annual NOW campaign, although some members supported local charities in other ways:

  • Jo Forde of Harmonized Living UK donated a decluttering and organising session raffle prize to “Ella’s Fight”, a campaign to raise funds for life-saving cancer treatment for a young woman local to Jo’s business.
  • Kate Galbally of Better Organised is donating the profits from sales of her book “A Better Organised Home in 30 Days” to NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde during October and November.
  • Mel Carruthers of More Organised held her first Trustees meeting for Dumfries refugee action charity Massive Outpouring of Love. Mel first met MOOL with Kate Galbally of Better Organised when they participated in a Donate-A-Day for them in NOW 2017. Mel kept volunteering and was made a Trustee and Secretary of the charity during NOW. Great timing!

Sharing advice

APDO’s activities moved online this year, with many of our organisers running challenges in their Facebook groups, filling their social media full of organising advice (yes even more so than usual!) and running competitions.

APDO supported our colleagues by upping our blogging game for the week, and publishing daily posts, crammed full of advice, tips and guidance on organising your home in the current times. Here is a summary in case you missed them!

an overhead photo of a woman typing at her laptop

Teaming up with iDesign

We were delighted to work with storage innovators iDesign for our NOW giveaway which was run on Instagram. iDesign have always been popular with our members – their clear, stackable bins came in at number 7 on our Top 10 Organising Products list! – but with their recent partnership with US organising sensations The Home Edit, iDesign’s products are selling out across the UK.

Luckily, they saved a couple of sets of 6 of their versatile wire stacking baskets as prizes for two lucky winners. Congratulations to our two lucky winners!

iDesign clear bins and baskets organising cleaning products

Katherine Blackler of Sort My Space, APDO President, looks back at this year’s National Organising Week. “National Organising Week was a little different this year”, she says. “But we are delighted with the response that we had from the campaign, and we loved hearing how we’ve inspired you to change something for the better.”

“We’re always on a mission to make everyday life that little bit easier for individuals, families and organisations”, Katherine continues. “Coronavirus has undoubtedly shifted our focus and feelings about our home environments and we’re here to help anyone who’s been struggling on that front. Support is available via blog posts and social media tips, booking a virtual consultation with an organiser or indeed, teaming up for an onsite session. All our members are following regional advice to be able to work with clients in person as appropriate.”

National Organising Week may be finished for another year, but APDO and our members will continue to share advice, tips and inspiration across our social media accounts and websites. We’re already looking to Spring Clearing Week which will take place from 22 to 28 March 2021!

an overhead photo of a woman typing at her laptop

Virtual organising: What is it, and how does it work?

Since the start of the pandemic, virtual organising has become more and more popular and many of our APDO members are working with their clients in this way. But what is “virtual organising” exactly, and how does it work? In this National Organising Week post, five APDO professional organisers tell us about their virtual work with their clients.

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do

I help busy, overwhelmed people get back in control of their time and learn new habits to stay productive, both in their work and personal lives. At the moment I’m working with a lot of people who are working from home due to COVID-19 and struggling to focus and stay productive. We look at what’s stopping them from getting things done and put in place new routines, structures and techniques which help them to get the most out of their time. This can be a lifesaver, especially for those in busy, demanding jobs, perhaps with a team working for them and often an extremely high workload.

I work entirely virtually (via Zoom), and this works really well for productivity coaching. The client generally joins meetings from their normal workplace, at home or in the office, and they can share their screen when we discuss their inbox, diary, or other documents. We might also work together on screen to create a new daily or weekly schedule, or to brainstorm work objectives or priorities. The client will then go away to try out their new habits, and we’ll discuss how they got on at the next session, providing both support and accountability.

I love working virtually because it means I can work with clients across the UK (and the world!) and can be flexible with sessions depending on what the client needs.

 

Tilo Flache of ClutterMeister

These days it is challenging to meet clients at their homes, and I have shifted a good portion of my business to virtual organising. In the process I have found that there are great advantages to using the virtual method.

For one thing, I don’t consider decluttering and organising a client’s home ‘just an emergency measure’, but a necessary learning experience. My involvement with the client is no longer hands-on, and that makes any physical activity a little more time consuming – after all, there is one less pair of hands around to get things done! With virtual organising, the client is required to do all the work themselves, which allows us to use the tactile memory to reinforce the process and ingrain it in their body memory. This makes it much easier to remember and repeat the steps I guide them through in our sessions.

The fact that I can only ever see either the work site or my client’s face can make the work a little more challenging: part of my job is to keep my clients safe, both physically and mentally. Keeping an eye out for unusual reactions often requires a lot of creative camera work to stay connected with my client. The switch between work and face allows for bursts of productive work, followed by a short break with a different, more relaxed focus, before returning to the job at hand. On the plus side, separating the practical activities from the mental and emotional work can be a game-changer, especially if the client tends to be unfocused and easily distracted.

I firmly believe that there are a good number of typical organising projects that actually work better virtually than they do with in-person assistance. If the job does not require a second person to be in the space, or the client is worried about the state of their home and wants to show me only the space they are working on right now, virtual assistance can work wonders.

Tilo Flache's desk

Kate Galbally of Better Organised

I recently worked with a client who approached me about improving her time management and her productivity. She has a management role within the NHS with a very heavy workload and rapidly shifting priorities. Over the course of a few sessions, we explored how she can manage her priorities, minimise procrastination and avoid overwhelm. I introduced her to some tools and techniques that are simple to implement and easy to maintain. We also worked together on decluttering and organising her emails and her diary, so that both are manageable and work more effectively for her.

At our last session, she said that working together has definitely made a difference to how she manages her time, that her emails are the most manageable that they have been in a long time and that she feels confident in the way she has planned out her time going forward. This has reduced procrastination and meant that she is able to focus better on deep work and not have to bring work home with her.

 

Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living

Before the pandemic, I hadn’t particularly considered working online even though many people do so,  but I gave the option of working virtually to a new client whom I was going to visit at home, but had to cancel due to COVID-19. They were actually delighted with the possibility of still being able to address their difficulties with their ‘stuff’ and felt physically able to execute the actual decluttering and organising themselves.

My client had a recent diagnosis of Asperger’s and this had explained for them the reason why they struggled with sensory overload, and often felt ‘frozen’ in terms of working through some processes and seeing projects through to fruition. It also explained their feelings of being overwhelmed by all the decisions and options available.

The next step for the client was to understand how they could manage their needs and put some systems in place that they can maintain going forward.

We talked through their priorities and where they felt ‘stuck’. Then we cracked on by just grabbing a pile of items piled on a dining chair. It was a total mixture of items:  bills, greetings cards, work documents, old receipts, leaflets, junk mail.

We addressed each category in turn, making decisions about how to deal with them in the moment and moving forward. The client took notes, including on any future actions they were going to take. Part of the success of this method involves agreeing ‘rules’ about how to deal with certain items, for example,  greetings cards. I generally ask questions such as what value does the card hold: is it a beautiful image, was it from a special person, does it hold a special message or memory? The client felt that most of the cards they had held on to did not feel important and that they did not want or need to keep them so many could be discarded. We continued with this method and the client was able to carry out lots of work independently in between our sessions as they now had a way to rationalise their decision making.

a hand using a laptop - keyboard

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire

The idea of being in my client’s home virtually, sitting on the side dresser on her device with me in Manchester, UK, and my client is in Memphis, Tennessee, is somewhat strange, but also brilliant.

I have spent several hours virtually sorting through my client’s belongings. I’ve guided her through the steps needed to make her closet space somewhere she loves going into, not a place where she feels uncomfortable.

Sorting through over 20+ years of clothing can be painful. Asking ourselves the questions of why we keep the clothes we do is often difficult. Are we clinging onto the memories of when we wore them last, or mourning the fact we no longer fit into dresses and jackets two sizes too small? Whatever the reasons, if dealt with in an understanding way, 4241 miles apart as the crow flies made no difference at all: the job got done.

We laughed, we shed the odd tear, we were productive, often silly. The end result, virtually or in person, was the same. We spoke the same language literally and figuratively. Although more physically challenging for her than me, the end result was an uncluttered organised space. A full 50% of the clothes were donated, as well as a multitude of belts, scarves, and accessories.

During all the hours I spent guiding and supporting my client, she continually said,

“It’s like you are here with me”.

And, ultimately, that was all that mattered.

If you are interested in finding out more about virtual organising, you can find our members who offer this service in our Find an Organiser directory.

a family gatherered around a cardboard box marked "donations"

Organising your home: Getting other householders on board

“It’s a case of the old, ‘You can lead a horse to water…’ problem!” says Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home.

Encouraging other household members to declutter and organise alongside you, or for themselves, can be a real challenge but help is at hand from our members who have some suggestions to help get everyone on board.

Follow my lead

Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space says, “The person who has committed to getting more organised needs to start with their own things”. Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms agrees. “Lead by example. When other people in the household see and experience first-hand the difference decluttering and organising makes to a family member, they often become interested in what the individual is doing, sparking positive conversations and feedback”. Laura continues, “They’ll notice how much happier and more relaxed the person doing the organising has become, thus opening themselves up to giving it a go”. Lynda is convinced this gentle, patient approach can be a real recipe for change.

For those of us with more people than usual working in our home, Karen Eyre-White of Go Do says, “If you’re finding it stressful that your partner or other family member isn’t keeping a good work schedule, or setting good boundaries when working from home, find small ways to show them what you’re doing. For example, pin your schedule to the fridge, or cover up your work area at the weekend. They’ll soon start wondering what it’s all about and you’ll find them asking you questions, or simply following your lead”.

A comfortable sofa in an organised room setting

Think of others

Involving others in your decluttering journey is a key part of success.  Laura Williams of OrganisedWell explains further: “Think about the reasons, benefits and vision for the space and really engage all parties in these. Also understand any concerns others might have and talk about boundaries. It may be necessary to leave items or areas that family members aren’t comfortable with organising until they’ve seen the results elsewhere and can follow the great example their family members have set”.

Decluttering coach Suzy Kell, who specialises in helping couples to work on their organising together, agrees. “After organising my own possessions, I waded into joint ownership territory and I hit a wall”, she remembers. “But then I realised it was unfair to force conversations and decisions on my husband without warning”. It was only when Suzy’s husband watched the documentary ‘Minimalism: a film about the important things’ about a year later that he was ready to have those conversations with her – and by that time he was all in! “We then did a mega clear out and we started changing our relationship with belongings forever”, Suzy recalls. “Together we were unstoppable!”

A newly renovated white kitchen

Involve young people

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire reminds us that children and young people need a positive role model to follow so they can develop habits they’ll take with them into adulthood. “My youngest daughter is 12 and is forever making changes to her bedroom and her drawers. She is aware that in order to keep her tiny room neat, everything needs a place. I am so proud of her.  Since I started organising professionally, she could see that the changes made in our own home were hugely beneficial to a smooth-running household. Getting her involved with tasks such as with making labels has made all the difference”.

Shelly Moss of Kewniek agrees. “With children and young people it’s important to get their buy-in from the start. Explain what you are doing and how they can help. For example, you might explain how somebody less fortunate would love to have some of their special toys”.

A pile of children's books

Keep talking

The presence of a professional organiser in your home can often help promote conversation where it might previously have been a difficult topic to broach. Amanda suggests highlighting the discretion of a professional organising service, emphasising the fact that they will never touch someone’s stuff without their permission. She says, “Speak to them and explain what is causing you an issue and why. Explain how things could change with their support and perhaps how much involvement, if any, you expect from them. Focus on the positive outcomes as a result and why this is important”.

Focus on the benefits

There are fantastic benefits to getting everyone in your household on board so keeping these in mind will encourage you to keep going. Not only can being organised reduce arguments over lost things or increased spending on duplicates that can’t be found, it can get everyone working together on a shared goal. Living in a more organised space can really ease the pressure on family dynamics, reducing stress and giving everyone more time with each other. Tidying and cleaning routines become easier to manage as a team, so it helps to share the load with everyone in your household.

If this post has encouraged you to talk to your family about organising your home, why not show them Monday’s post on getting started on your organising project to kick off the conversation. 

a yellow organising bag

What’s in an organiser’s tool kit?

When your professional organiser arrives at your home, they will have our bag of trusted tools with them, as well as a skillset built up over their years of experience. Both are personal to each of them and the way that they approach their work. In this post, our members give a sneak peek into their toolkits. 

What’s in your bag?

Nicky Davie of TidyGirl lists out the contents of her toolkit:

  • Marker pen for labels. They’re not always used but some clients like to label items.
  • Pen and diary to schedule further appointments and follow-up phone calls.
  • Mobile phone for taking project photos and showing my clients ideas and inspiration.
  • Phone charger and power pack so I can be organised, even when my phone runs low.
  • Re-usable boxes for sorting items in a systematic and environmentally conscious way.
  • Biodegradable bags to remove donations, recycling, and rubbish.
  • Business cards to leave with the client if they want to recommend me to family and friends.
  • Marie Kondo’s children’s book “Kiki & Jax” to help parents understand how to help their children organise their rooms.
  • A snack and drink to maintain momentum and help me keep my energy levels up!

 

Shelly Moss of Kewniek has a similar list. “My good old Mary Poppins bag has everything you would expect”, she says. “It is a proper bag of tricks!”:

  • Label maker
  • Sellotape
  • Packing tape
  • Mini toolbox
  • Clean indoor shoes
  • A candle to help wooden drawers run more smoothly
  • A pair of socks to slip on my hands for wiping over blinds

 

A label maker on a desk

Marie Bateson of Cut the Clutter includes a small step ladder in her list of essentials, to help reach higher areas, and to sit on if sorting on the floor.

Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home adds to the list:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie pens
  • Plastic wallets
  • Scissors
  • Elastic bands & bulldog clips

The power of Post-its

“I couldn’t live without Post-it notes!”, says Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space. “They remind us which piles are which when doing the first run-through of decluttering (keep, mend, donate, sell, recycle, and so on)”. Laura also used Post-it notes as temporary labels while her clients make sure that their new, tailored organisation system works for them, and can be easily maintained and enjoyed. “Quick to make, easy to use, and guilt-free to scrap if the system needs tweaking!”

APDO member Laura Williams decluttering signs

OrganisedWell’s customised sorting cards

Custom signs

Laura Williams of OrganisedWell has a fun way of labelling sorting piles. “My customised signs travel everywhere with me”, she says. “They make it super-easy to allocate the things we’ve sorted through into For Sale, Recycling, Shredding, Bin, and so on”.

Timer

Laura also recognises how helpful it can be to have a deadline to complete a task. She uses a kitchen timer to help her clients work in bursts to focus, or to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Sian Pelleschi of Sorted adds to the list. “I bring a number of things with me when I’m working with clients: my physical toolkit and my mental toolkit”, explains Sian. “My physical kit has everything from my screwdriver set to bin bags, cleaning cloths to my favourite tool – my label maker!”

APDO member Sian Pelleschi's organisers toolkit

Sian Pelleschi’s work bag

Mental toolkit

Sian’s mental toolkit includes bringing a calm but positive mindset, a practical approach, and an eagerness to help. “It’s so important to have this mindset”, she says, “as a lot of my clients are either nervous, worried, feeling a little down in the dumps and have generally hit rock bottom before calling me. They need me to help pick them up and get them going and if I’m not in the right mindset, how can I help them?”

Claire Lawrence of Let’s Get Sorted! agrees. “In terms of mindset and skills, it’s all about keeping clients positive and feeling that they are making progress. So, mini goals, lots of encouragement, a list to tick things off as we go, and rewards for getting through the list. Well, a cup of tea and a biscuit anyway!”

Privileged position

“A professional organiser must be non-judgemental, patient and an active listener”, says Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms. A large part of being an organiser involves working alongside someone in their personal space, helping them make decisions about things which may be deeply sensitive or never previously shared or expressed. “It’s a very privileged position”, explains Lynda. “As for physical tools, I wouldn’t be without my labelling machine, coloured bin bags or polish!”

APDO member Lynda Wylie's organisers toolkit

Lynda Wylie’s organising kit

Flexibility

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do is a productivity coach who helps her clients to be more productive when they work from home. “I bring flexibility and adaptability with me when I work with my clients”, explains Karen. “I make sure my solutions are bespoke for each client. It’s vital that we find new habits and work patterns which work specifically for the personality and preferences of each client”.

If you enjoyed this insight into our organisers’ toolkit, did you see yesterday’s post outlining our members’ Top 10 organising products?

cardboard storage box for organising

Professional organisers share their Top 10 organising products

You’ll often hear us professional organisers tell you that the best organising products are the things you already have in your home. And you definitely don’t need to buy lots of fancy equipment to get more organised.

However, most professional organisers will agree that there are some items that make organising your home easier. So, for National Organising Week, we asked our members to share their favourite organising products. This is what they came up with.

Top 10 organising products

 

10 – Shelf inserts

When your kitchen cupboard has lots of wasted vertical space, and you don’t want to go to the effort of installing extra shelves, shelf inserts are a quick and easy solution. By adding a shelf insert, you can double your space and more easily see what is in your cupboard.

They also work well in pantries, craft cupboards, bathroom cabinets. Anywhere you need to double your space quickly. As Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms says, shelf inserts are “fantastic for making the best use of high or deep kitchen shelves”.

Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to wipe down, there is a reason why many professional organisers will have a stock of these ready and waiting to double your cupboard space.

Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to wipe down, there is a reason why many professional organisers will have a stock of these ready and waiting to double your cupboard space!

9 – Vacuum storage bags

Use vacuum bags to store away bedding and out-of-season clothing when space is at a premium. The space-saving powers of vacuum bags also make them perfect for packing bulky bedding, towels and clothing for a house move, as well as doubling the space in your suitcase when you are travelling.

8 – Command hooks

Hanging items makes use of otherwise unused vertical space, and a good solid hook is part of the solution. Command hooks are a favourite for their staying power, ease of use (no nails required!) and simple, clean removal. Laura Williams of OrganisedWell is a fan. “I love Command hooks and picture hanging strips for those items that you haven’t got around to hanging yet.”, she says. “They are fantastic for quickly and securely hanging pictures and other items that need to be stored hanging up. No drilling or DIY needed, and they can be taken down with no damage.”

7 – iDesign clear bins

Clear containers have been made more popular than ever by the success of US celebrity organisers The Home Edit, and it seems our APDO members agree. iDesign were already known for their wide range of clear acrylic organising products, and now they produce The Home Edit range, as seen in the TV show.

iDesign clear bins and baskets organising cleaning products

Our organisers tell us that they hardwearing and versatile, making them the perfect solution for kitchen, pantry, bathroom and craft storage. The clear acrylic means that you can see exactly what is inside each container, meaning better organisation and less wastage. Lynda Wylie sums them up, “Clear, handled storage is perfect for kitchens, especially larders. Stackable, durable and you can see exactly what’s inside.”

Visit the APDO Instagram page to enter our giveaway to win a set of 6 of the popular iDesign stacking wire baskets!

6 – Curver boxes

Versatile and inexpensive, Curver baskets and boxes are also a favourite with our APDO members. Amanda Manson of Orderly Home & Office explains why. “Curver storage boxes, with or without lids, can be used all over the house. You can easily wipe them down, so they work well for food, makeup and bathroom items.”

5 – Really Useful Boxes

Containers really are popular. The clear, lidded Really Useful Boxes come in at number 5. Our members recommend them because they are strong, durable, and stackable, which makes them a go-to for many of our members when working on garage, attic, and playroom projects. Ingrid Jansen of Organise My House agrees. “They are sturdy, stack really well, have particularly good lids that close properly and come in a variety of sizes. We use them regularly for loft, basement and garage projects”.

a row of Really Useful Boxes in an attic

4 – Label maker

Once you have organised, labelling your boxes, baskets and bins is an easy way to keep on top of your home. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is so much easier when all household members know where that place is. As Mel Carruthers of More Organised explains, “a label turns a box or a shelf into a dedicated home for your possessions, whether in children’s bedrooms, pantries or tool sheds”. There are many ways to make labels, but a label maker has to be the easiest and quickest way. They are loved by our professional organisers for a reason.

A label maker on a desk

3 – Velvet coat hangers

In third place, our members ranked velvet hangers. When you need more space in your wardrobe, consider swapping out your coat hangers for the slim, velvet ones beloved by professional organisers. “Use skinny or velvet hangers – and give yourself more room”, advises Shelly Moss of Kewniek. “I still use wooden ones for winter coats, but for everything else, change to velvet ones and give your old ones to a charity shop”, she recommends.

2 – IKEA SKUBB drawer dividers

In second place are IKEA’s SKUBB drawer organisers. These canvas square and rectangular boxes come in different sizes and are perfect for organising clothing, linens, toys, and craft items. In fact, anywhere where you need to split a larger space into smaller compartments. Monica Puntarello of I Sort You Out “I use them for literally everything! I love the different sizes they have and how well they fit into drawers or cabinets”, Monica explains. “I use them for underwear and socks for the all family, in the bathroom cabinet where I store creams and shampoos, in our media storage to contain wires and power cables, and finally in the kitchen for storing pasta and flours”.

And finally, in first place…

1 – Boxes you already have

We may be decluttering experts, but that doesn’t mean that we get rid of everything! Professional organisers recognise the value of a good box as much, if not more, than anyone. From shoe boxes to smart phone boxes, plastic fruit containers to re-used envelopes, we look at the storage potential of everything. Nicky Davie of TidyGirl even suggests that you cover your old boxes in pretty paper to give them a new lease of life.

Like most of us, Nicky recognises the allure of a new organising product, but she recommends buying new products only after you have thoroughly decluttered your space and know exactly how much stuff you need to store, and how you want to store it. After a good declutter, you can often find new ways of using your space and find items around the home to use as storage.

But as our members have explained in this Top 10 list, the right organising product in the right place can make a big difference to storage, efficiency and aesthetics.

If you enjoyed reading this post about organising products, you will love tomorrow’s post where we delve into our organisers’ toolkits and find out what they always take with them when going to help their clients declutter and organise.

 

Pens organised in pen pots on an organised office shelf

Show us your workspace!

Many of us are working from home at the moment. Some of us for the first time, most of us more than usual. So in this post for National Organising Week, we asked some of our APDO members to show us their workspaces, and give us some tips to make working from home work for you.

Show us your workspace!

Nicola Davie of TidyGirl

Nicky Davie's office

Nicky Davie’s office

At the beginning of lockdown, I was sharing an office workspace with my husband. Then, when our youngest child moved out to get married in the summer, we changed their old bedroom into an office space for my husband! I am very fortunate now to have a lovely space of my own – ready to re-decorate, organise and make mine!

Tilo Flache of ClutterMeister

Tilo Flache's desk

Tilo Flache works from his dining table

A lot of my work is done from home but, as I don’t have room for an office, I work in my living room. Since there is only one table here, at first I found it hard to separate work time from free time. I solved the problem by simply sitting at a one side of the table for work, and on the opposite side when it’s time to relax. Putting all my work stuff away after work is an additional reminder that the office is closed. I find my mind is much better able to make the switch through these two simple actions.

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms

Lynda Wylie at her desk

Lynda Wylie at her desk

I’ve seen all sorts of home working set ups since I’ve been back in client homes post lockdown. Necessity has produced creativity to establish the best arrangement, and there is a great deal of compromise going on. Our house is no different!

My husband has taken over my home office and after a few weeks’ sofa surfing, I settled on a desk in our living room. I’m out for a few hours every day with clients but, once the kids are back and the after-school TV starts, the headphones go on to zone everyone out! Whilst my work files are all still securely stored in the office, I have moved all the basics to have them at hand.  Plus, I have a great view of the comings and goings on my street which has been great fun as passers-by have been waving at me!

Jane Zhang Rice of Serenity Organising & Decluttering

Jane Zhang Rice's workspace

The office and relaxation room in Jane’s house

My workspace used to be our upstairs home office. Since both my husband and I work from home now, I have given him the upstairs office (because he needs space for two monitors) and I use the kitchen/diner as my workspace. I also added a few things to the home office in the past months, making it a relaxation room as well as a workspace. The relaxation room is where I do my reading, calligraphy and meditation at weekends.

Most of the time the space works well for both of us, although I now realise I need a space for my printer in the kitchen/diner, which means I need to declutter and make space in one of the kitchen cupboards!

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire

Sian Winslade's organised office

Sian Winslade’s office

When I realised that I would be working from home more I also realised that, as much as I valued the holistic meditation space I had set up in my home office, it was taking up too much space in the room. I removed it to add a second desk, so that my daughters had one desk and I had my own. I also added a second IKEA KALLAX unit which is perfect for storage, including business files. I also use portable drawers to store stationery, as I like to keep as much clutter off the desk as possible to reduce “mind clutter” and distractions.

Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home

Amanda in her office

I’m lucky to have a spare room as my office. I use a desk, set of drawers and two shelves of a bookcase for work-related matters. My husband has been home based for more than 20 years but we’re lucky to have a separate space for him to work in.

I clear my desk at the end of the week rather than every day, as often I’m mid-way through something and it would take longer to put it all away and bring it out again!  If I go into that room over the weekend it is purely a spare room at that time, not an office.

What works for me?

  • A clear distinction between personal paperwork (I keep this behind me) and work paperwork (I keep this on a bookcase and in drawers).
  • Creating a layout on the desk that I can stick to, so that I know where to find what I want, when I need it.
  • Having a consistent layout creates a habit for the brain with less ‘thinking time’ and more ‘automated actions’.

Laura Williams of OrganisedWell

Laura Williams' desk

Laura Williams’ desk

When I started my business, I worked from the dining table and created an ‘office in a box’ with all the things I needed for my day-to-day work. It worked really well for a while, and I could pack it away when my working day was done so that we could carry on with family dinner and activities.

Later, however, I wanted my own space to spread out, display images, store more work equipment and have a standing desk, so I targeted our spare room. As many spare rooms do, it had become a space for storage and laundry. My first step was to look through everything, and I found that the things we had stored in there were no longer as important to us as they once were and we felt comfortable giving them up in favour of creating my office. I took photos of some items that held memories and donated, sold and disposed of anything we no longer wanted to keep. I was then able to organise the cupboard space for my work and to store some family items.

There isn’t a lot of space, but I have a home for everything, my stand-up desk fits perfectly and I can run workshops and video calls with clients in peace. I’m lucky to have this space because shortly afterwards the rest of my family moved in for lockdown!

Shelly Moss of Kewniek

Shelly Moss's office

Shelly Moss’s office

My husband works from home and so has his own office.  I have a dedicated space which we call my “Harry Potter cupboard” – we put a few shelves in the cupboard and made a fold down desk.  I only need it for occasional admin so it is perfect.

If you don’t have a dedicated space, it helps to put everything away at the end of the day or at the end of the week to ensure that you leave work at work.  If you are thinking longer term, then think about a small desk, perhaps converting an old dressing table, or using cupboard or wardrobe space.  When working from home, the most important thing is to go online and do your own mini work station assessment: ensure your laptop or PC screen is at the correct height, and invest in a supportive and moveable chair. And, of course, make it Zoom-friendly so you don’t have a dressing gown hanging in the background!

If you enjoyed this post, did you see Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo‘s advice on organising for these current times? And look out for our next National Organising Week post tomorrow, where we reveal our members’ Top 10 organising products!

organised slippers lined up in hallway

Organising your home for the current times

Rosie Barron is the owner of organising business The Tidy Coo, a Gold Certified KonMari Consultant and a Photo Manager. She lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband, four home educated children, eight ponies, five dogs, three cats, two rabbits, ten chickens, six ducks and several fish – and they all Spark Joy! In this post for National Organising Week, Rosie is sharing with us her thoughts on organising our homes for the current times.

Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo and family

Organising your home for the current times

Living, as I do, in deepest, darkest, rural Aberdeenshire, my motto is, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.  Even before the current COVID-19 crisis hit, preparing for winter here meant preparing for being snowed in and being unable to leave the house for a significant amount of time.  However, even winter storms usually come with a few days warning, so you get the chance to pop to the shops to top up if you need to and to make sure that everything is in place.  Being told to self-isolate on the other hand, or developing COVID-19 symptoms, is likely to come completely out of the blue: a sudden lockdown, without any chance to finesse those final preparations.

We discovered this ourselves a few weeks ago when my husband, suffering with a migraine, coughed a couple of times and decided to book himself a test – it’s hard to think straight when your head hurts.  I had no doubt that he didn’t have COVID-19 (and the excellent NHS Grampian had the negative results back to us within 24hrs), but we immediately had to self-isolate and, boy, was I pleased that I had the preparations done already.

So in this blog post, I am going to run through some of the things that you can do now in order to prepare for winter in general, and particularly a winter with COVID-19 restrictions.

Make a plan

First of all, it’s important to have a plan in place in case a member of the family has to self-isolate. Decisions such as how the infected person should isolate from the rest of the household are best taken when everyone is well.  My husband had to isolate from the rest of the household whilst waiting for his result.  I slept in our middle daughter’s room and he stayed in our bedroom.  He used the bathroom last and cleaned it when he was finished and had his meals in his room.

A Facebook follower of mine pointed out the importance of keeping enough fuel in your car (if you have one) to get to a testing centre and back.

Take stock

This is also a good time to take stock of your food.  Have a look through what you have, discard anything that is out of date and see where the gaps are.  If you were asked to self-isolate without warning, would you have enough food to last several days before you can get a delivery?  Of course, what you should absolutely NOT do is go out and panic buy food. You should make a list of meals that you enjoy eating and then ensure that you have enough of the ingredients to make them.  We don’t eat many pre-prepared meals, but we do have various soups and meals in the freezer and we probably have enough food to last us almost the entire two weeks if necessary.

organised pantry shelves

A medicine cabinet stocktake is also an important thing to do at this stage.  Again, no panic buying!  But do ensure that you have a couple of packets of paracetamol and make sure you don’t let any prescription medicines run right down. This is especially important as we face to a possible No Deal Brexit.

Buddy up

Another important preparatory step is to buddy up with a friend to be their emergency shopper if needed.  Several friends here have my number; they know that they can call me if they are stuck and that I will go to the shops and get supplies for them. I also know that I can rely on them to do the same.

Sort out your working space

As we face a long winter of home working, it’s important to get your home working space sorted out. Whilst some people are lucky enough to have a spare room or home office already in place, others are not.  We have four children, so space in our home is at a premium. We have a desk in our bedroom which my husband has been working at.  Initially, he tried to work with just the desk and chair that were already there but he ended up with terrible, incapacitating, back pain so over the last seven months, we have made changes to this space: first he got a kneeler chair and, more recently, he invested in an add-on that becomes a standing desk – both significant improvements.

When lock down started, I took my entire organising business online! I had no desk to work at, so I had to hot desk around the house with my laptop and my headset. This worked for a while, but complaints from the children grew too loud, so I cleared out a linen cupboard and converted it into a very, very tiny office.  More recently, I have run electricity out to a shed, which I have insulated and painted, so now I have a functioning workspace away from the main bustle of the house.

Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo

Try to diversify

As a small business owner who has only been going for a couple of years and was not eligible for the government’s support system, I could see my business slipping away if I didn’t grab it with both hands.  As well as my KonMari online coaching, during lock down I have invested in a lot of extra training, including in photo management, so now I have a second string to my bow to help me through this time.  It has not been easy, but my investment in a space that I can work in and in extra skills is already proving its worth.

Get your home weather-ready

Winter takes its toll on the outside of our homes, but there are a few things you can go to reduce the risks. Make sure your gutters are clear, your pipes are lagged and that you have plenty of salt and grit in stock.  If applicable, make sure your chimneys are swept, and wood or oil on order.  Make sure you have fresh batteries in your torches and, if you are one of the homes in the UK that runs off a well as we do, have plenty of bottled water on standby in case your pump gives up!

Find your happy place

I’ve spoken a bit about physical resilience (being prepared with food) and business resilience (ensuring you have a workspace and trying to improve your skills), now I’d like to talk a bit about emotional resilience.

As the winter nights get longer and the weather gets colder and wetter, our homes become ever more important as a refuge.  As we are unable to get out as much as we are used to, we should think about how to make our home a happier place to be.  Obviously, as a professional declutterer and organiser, I’m going to suggest that you declutter and organise your house, but I’d also like to look at other things: perhaps get some cosy blankets that you can curl up in, look for some good viewing on TV, or some good books.  Even without clearing your entire house, is it possible to make a spot where you feel happiest.  Remember, it’s OK to find this time of year hard, especially with the added stress of a global pandemic! Christmas this year may not be what we usually expect it to be, so think about what you can do to make it special.

If you are inspired to organise your home for this strangest of winters to come, don’t miss yesterday’s National Organising Week post “Organising your home: Getting started“. And if you need help, you can find your nearest professional organiser in our Find An Organiser directory.

 

a mug on a table top with "begin" written on it

Organising your home: Getting started

Sometimes the hardest part of an organising project is getting started! So in this first of our daily posts for National Organising Week, we’ve gathered up some expert advice from our members to help inspire you to get started.

Mindset

“Mindset is everything”, says Sian Pelleschi of Sorted. “If you’re not emotionally ready to declutter and organise you will struggle to do so. It’s about getting your head and brain ready to take on the challenge. This is easy for some, but less so for others”.

Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space agrees with this approach. “Anytime you feel motivated or inspired is a good time to start, even if you have only ten minutes. The right headspace is the most important thing!”

Sian goes on to explain her method. She suggests that if you are easily overwhelmed, take a step back. Breathe. Then sit and write down everything you want to do, getting it all out of your head and onto paper.

Start small

Pick one area, preferably one that’s small and easy to work on. Once you’ve tackled this, pick another small space and gradually build up until you’re ready to work on the area that will take the longest and will potentially be the most difficult. Hopefully, by the time you’ve enjoyed success with some of the smaller spaces, your head will be ready to tackle the bigger space.

Claire Lawrence of Let’s Get Sorted also recommends starting small. She suggests breaking down each room into small areas/categories, either on a list or in your head and starting with the “easy wins”, e.g. the bookshelves, the linen cupboard or the bathroom shelves. Claire also suggests starting with  rooms you don’t go into very often, or categories of belongings which are not emotionally tricky.

A hallway or a single kitchen drawer are both good starting points, explains Nicola Davie of TidyGirl. “I recently had a client who was so overwhelmed that when we went into the kitchen she became really anxious. So, we just stopped, chatted for a short time and then just started with one drawer… and we were then able to complete the whole kitchen in three hours. She was absolutely delighted with the finished result!”

an organised, open kitchen drawer

Mel Carruthers of More Organised describes this as “warming up your organising muscles”.  “It’’s easier to tackle the big areas once you have warmed up with smaller, easier projects”, she explains. “And if it isn’t, get someone to help you. There’s plenty of help out there, all you have to do is ask!”

Change starts with a single step

Elizabeth Gresson of All Organised For You agrees. “All change starts with just one step”, she reminds us. “So I suggest starting small. I don’t advise turning out every drawer and cupboard because you’ll just create more mess. Clearing one room, or one type of item, at a time will produce better results”.

Elizabeth also recommends removing items as you go, whether it’s putting things in the recycling bin, or taking things to a charity shop or the tip at the end of the session. It’s also important to get rid of surplus containers; nature abhors a vacuum – if there are empty containers sitting around, the chances are they will get filled up again!

Declutter first, then organise

Most professional organisers suggest that you should declutter first, and then organise what you are keeping. This way you won’t waste time organising items you will later decide you don’t need and you will also avoid falling into the trap of buying “organising products” that you will never use… and which will become more clutter!

Just start!

Elizabeth starts by asking her clients which area is causing them the most anxiety. It could be that one room is so full of stuff that they can’t use it. It may be that their paperwork is out of control, causing them issues with missed payments and appointments. Or they may have lots of clothes in their wardrobe but still can’t find anything to wear.

“For me, the important thing is just to start. It can be one type of item, e.g. books or clothes. It can be one particular room. Wherever you start, every action you take will make a difference and you will feel the energy in that space lighten and, hopefully, you’ll be encouraged to continue”, she says.

organised bookshelves

Practical steps you can take now…

It may be that because of the pandemic you have a little less to do each week and a little more time to dedicate to you, says Amanda Terry of An Organised You. “So this week, declutter a commitment you felt you obliged to say ‘Yes’ to, and make space in your diary to invest in a little YOU time. This  will help you feel organised and ready for the future, and this will also benefit your loved ones”. Amanda recommends turning off the TV,  putting down your phone, cancelling the Zoom meetings and putting on some favourite music (or you might choose to use this time to be quiet and mindful instead).  She suggests trying to dedicate 1-2 hours decluttering a space that is cluttering your mind, then STOP.  Diarise this small slot every week and you will soon create the habit and feel stronger and able to do more.

Professional organisers tips for getting started:

  1. Switch off your phone and other distractions
  2. Write down your objectives
  3. Start small – a space at a time
  4. Declutter first, then organise
  5. Ask for help

This post is the first of a daily series for APDO’s 2020 National Organising Week. Come back tomorrow to read APDO member Rosie Barron‘s advice on organising your home in the current times.

If all this great advice has inspired you into getting started, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers in our Find An Organiser directory

Glass jars with lentils and various other ingredients

The Zero Waste Kitchen

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

1. Shopping and storage

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

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

2. Food waste – tops, tails and leftovers

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

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

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

3. Cleaning and hygiene

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

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

Home-made cleaners

4. When food goes bad

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

5. Planning and organising

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

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

Kate Charles of dclutterd

Kate Charles of dclutterd

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

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

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

Step 1 – Schedule time to plan

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

Step 2 – Check your diary

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

Step 3 – Check your Cheat-sheet!

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

A lady reading a cook book

Step 4 – Make a list

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

Step 5 – Make it fun

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

Child help shopping for foods

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

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

 

Click here to read more blog posts from APDO