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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! 


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Miss P mixing batter

Play with your food – cooking with children

The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home, so what an amazing place to make wonderful memories with your children! With all of the complications of the kitchen it may seem counterproductive to let children help out, but APDO member Sarah Muir (Ellibee Home Organisation) is here to explain why letting children explore food and help in the kitchen is vital for their development.

Miss P is nearly 4 and loves helping me in the kitchen – it’s become our thing! It’s our time together to chat, prepare dinner, have fun and learn. It turns out there are so many benefits of involving children in food preparation. Here are our top 4:

1. Trying Out New Textures

Miss P’s first forays into food fun was messy play! We’d go to messy play groups where there were trays of baked beans and cabbage with dinosaurs hidden underneath or construction toys and cereal! She’d get messy and explore the sight, touch and, most importantly, the taste of these foods. We’d also do messy play at home making pies for monsters with squidgy mashed potatoes or searching for the orange segment treasure in a tray of jelly – it all got put in her mouth! Even now as we prepare dinner she will try new foods and textures. A little while ago we made chicken and vegetable curry with green beans. Miss P’s job was to help with the vegetables. She played with the green beans popping out the bean seeds and sneaking some raw courgette as we prepped. We later compared the uncooked textures of the vegetables to the cooked ones and talked about what we preferred. Eating and liking food is linked to repeated exposure. It can take around 10 times of being introduced to a food before a child likes it. What better way of introducing and exploring foods for those first few times than making it fun and messy! Miss P actually didn’t like baked beans until she was sat in a big tub of them scooping them in with her hands, despite having them on her plate several times before.

2. Opportunities for learning

Cooking is fun for children (and can be for parents too) but there are also many learning opportunities. Here are five of our favourites:

  • Fine motor skills – cutting (with a blunt knife or kid-friendly scissors), spreading and pouring can all help develop fine motor skills ready for writing and drawing in the future.
  • Creative skills – Whether it’s coming up with tasty combinations, or making your meal into a work of art, cooking forces you to use your imagination. Miss P’s favourite thing at the moment is making pizza faces with different ingredients.
  • Numeracy skills – Miss P loves numbers so we use cooking as a way of practising her maths skills. She identifies numbers on the scales (number recognition) and counts out different ingredients as we use them.
  • Safety skills – Sharp knives, high heat and germs are the biggest safety factors in the kitchen. When cooking with Miss P I use these as learning opportunities to teach her what she can and cannot touch and why. Not only am I keeping her safe, but showing her the reasoning behind all of the rules means she’ll understand what is dangerous.
  • Food waste and recycling – Miss P loves being my ‘bin lady’ when we’re preparing food. It’s the job she can easily do with little instruction. As a result of this she knows what we put in compost, what goes in general waste and she even has a better idea than Mr Ellibee of what goes in the terracycle or flexible plastic bins!

Miss P rinsing blackberries in the sink

3. Eating more food

This is probably one of the best benefits of cooking with children – they eat more food! It is scientifically demonstrated that children are more likely to eat food that they prepare themselves. A 2014 study conducted by van der Horst, Ferrage and Rytz and published in Appetite showed that children were 76% more likely to eat salad when they had helped to prepare the meal than if the parents had prepared the meal themselves. This is great news for increasing nutritious eating in children and helping to reduce food waste. When a child takes part in preparing food they feel more control, have more ownership over it and feel a sense of achievement. They want to eat it and they like what they eat. We have definitely noticed this with Miss P. She’ll tuck in with vigour when it’s something she’s been involved with preparing and more often than not she loves the taste and has a good go at eating it! This is great news for reducing food waste.

Miss P eating vegetables

Delicious raw courgette!

4. Making informed decisions about food

Being part of the meal preparation, whether it’s choosing items in the supermarket, selecting what we want to prepare for dinner or deciding how much food goes on the plate helps the child to make their own decisions about food. The other night Miss P was helping me prepare chicken pasta bake
and she tried the sauce that we made and decided she would prefer plain pasta with her dinner. As she wasn’t having the vegetables that were in the sauce, I gave her the choice of a carrot, tomato and cucumber and asked her to choose which ones she wanted with her pasta. She ate all of her dinner that night because she had chosen it (with restricted options and guidance from me). Guiding young children to make their own choices gives them a sense of control. It has the short-term benefit of increasing the chances they will eat what is on their plate but also has long-term benefits that will set them up for making nutritious and waste-free choices in the future.

Miss P and I love cooking together. Our favourite things are making smoothies (a great way of using leftover fruit) and making homemade pizzas. Cooking makes room for many conversations about food and other everyday things and the fact its fun and reduces food waste is a big bonus! What will you cook with your little ones?

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, please tag us on social media with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been up to! 

A newly renovated white kitchen

The ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a room that we spend a lot of time each day preparing our meals. So it can be very exciting and scary when the decision is made to invest in a new one! Here to help is APDO member Natalie Hare (Hare to Organise) with her ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen.

I often come across clients who have decided to invest in a new kitchen. Usually, they have already had a kitchen designer come over and have been given some beautiful design plans. For more successful sales, kitchen designers tend to focus heavily on the aesthetics, giving their potential clients a beautiful print out of a gorgeous kitchen. It is then easy for the practicalities that are so important to keeping a kitchen clean and organised to be forgotten. However, you don’t need to compromise when it comes to having both function and beauty. That’s why I have created the ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen; so that you feel equipped to make the best choices and get your money’s worth.

Step one – Declutter

Before you can know what kind of storage you’ll be needing in your new kitchen, you need to know how much stuff is going into it. Because people don’t renovate their kitchens very often, it is easy for unnecessary gadgets, appliances and crockery to pile up in the deep dark corners of your cupboards. Once you’ve pulled everything out and gotten rid of what you don’t need, you’ll know exactly what you have left. This should be done either before or in the very early stages of the design process, as this may change your opinion on how you’d like to use your kitchen. Hiring an organiser to help with this step can be very beneficial, as we work with you to discuss the practical issues and solutions for better function in a space. You can find your local organiser by popping your postcode into our Find an Organiser tool.

A clear decluttered kitchen

A kitchen that has no clutter is much easier to manage

Step two – Visualise

When having input into the design of your new kitchen, I advise you to take a good look at the one you are using now.  What annoys you?  What makes using your kitchen difficult? If someone came into your kitchen to make you a meal, would they find things with ease? Visualise yourself using the space so that you can efficiently plan out your storage. If you put something next to where you are most likely to use it, then the chances are better that it will get put away and the space will stay tidy. Don’t forget to consider physical health:  if you or someone else in your home has a health condition that affects your mobility, then this needs to be considered in the plans. Having low cupboards may not be a good idea if you cannot get down to floor level, equally having lots of upper storage isn’t ideal if someone is in a wheelchair. This is a great discussion to have with your designer as they will know about creative solutions that may not be obvious.

Step three – Organise

So at this point you know how much stuff you have and you can visualise how you’re going to use it in your new kitchen. That’s a great start. Your designer should now be able to give you a design that is functional, beautiful and perfectly tailored to your needs. Even though the actual skeleton of the kitchen is very important, it can also be helpful to have some organisational systems within the cupboards. Anyone who has been to a cupboard in my house will know that I have a little bit of an obsession with neatly packed boxes and baskets.  What I love most about them is the fact that I can empty a cupboard in minutes and I haven’t got to worry about sticky marks/oil etc on the surface of the unit. Rather than having open packets of flour, sugar etc floating around, decant them into clear containers with labels. Baskets and boxes containing food items make it easier to see what you have.  How many times have you been to the supermarket and got a bag of pasta, only to find two stuffed down the back of another cupboard?  Not only does this technique simplify your storage, but it cuts down on food waste when you can see everything clearly.

A kitchen cupboard set with tall storage

Step Four – Finalise

So now you’ve done all of the steps that have lead to making a decision on a kitchen that not only looks great but functions exactly how you need it to. It can be nerve-wracking to finalise something as big as a kitchen, so I’ve created a final checklist of things that often get overlooked to ensure that you’ve considered everything before signing on the dotted line:

  • Corner storage – Can you reach all of the areas of your storage? There are many different corner solutions now that allow you to access your items by sliding out a tray or rotating a shelf. Things that are not easily accessible tend to be forgotten about.
  • Bins – Have you considered where your bins will go? If you have decided not to have built-in bin systems, make sure that you’ve allocated space for them in the floor-plan.
  • Cleaning supplies – Don’t forget about your mop, bucket, broom etc… It may be worth ensuring that you have a long skinny compartment in your cupboards to store these awkward tools.

Getting a new kitchen can be very exciting, but try not to get caught up in the aesthetics before the practical side is finished. Follow my ultimate guide and you can have a kitchen that not only looks beautiful, but is truly functional as well. Happy designing!

Natalie Hare

Natalie Hare of Hare to Organise

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

Creamy salmon bake

Three easy ways to love your leftovers

When APDO decided that this year’s National Organising Week‘s theme was going to be “Love your Leftovers” I got really excited. You see, I’m not an amazing cook, but I love using cooking as a creative outlet in my day-to-day life. My step mother is an amazing cook, and she made sure that I knew the basics of cooking from quite a young age, which has allowed me to experiment with food. Not only is learning the basics a great gateway to more serious cooking, it’s also a key element in wasting less food. The following recipes are some of the easiest ways that I love my leftovers!

Home-Made Stock

I love making home-made stock because it’s the base for so many recipes! You can use it for risotto, to add some kick in a creamy pasta dish and use it to add depth in a chilli or sauce. *Note* When collecting scraps for your stock you can start a collection tub in your freezer. Whenever you’re done preparing your food, instead of putting the scraps in the compost put them in the collection tub. Once the tub is full you can schedule in some time to boil it down for the below recipe.

What you’ll need: 

  • Water
  • Leftover vegetable scraps or bones
    • For vegetable broth use vegetable scraps
    • For meat broths use leftover meat bones from roasts and add some onion, carrot and celery scraps if you have them on hand
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Any other spices that you love
  1.  Put your scraps in a pot and just put enough water in to barely cover them. Cover with a lid and bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.
  2. Once the stock is simmering add salt and pepper and any other spices you want to taste. I really like adding smoked paprika to my veggie broths while dried herbs are a great addition to chicken stock. Cover again and let simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. When your timer has gone off, taste the stock and make sure that it is flavourful. Add more spices if you wish.
  4. Turn off the heat and pass your stock through a sieve with a bowl under it to catch the liquid. Throw out your scraps and voila! What’s left in the bowl is your home-made broth. Once this has cooled you can separate the liquid into several containers and freeze what you’re not going to use right away.


Sauces are definitely my favourite way to integrate random leftover veggies and meats that are in the fridge because they’re so versatile. Sauces not only go with the obvious choice of pasta, but can be baked, smothered and dotted on just about every dish imaginable. Whether it’s tomato, creamy or sweet, sauces can transform a dish and clear out your fridge so it’s ready for another shop.

  • Creamy Sauces
    1. Start by adding some oil to a pan on medium heat, once the oil is hot fry some chopped onion and garlic (optional) for two to three minutes and then add your leftover veg and meat
    2. When your veg is nice and soft and the meat is hot, add thick Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche (my favourite) to your pan and turn the heat down to low
    3. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish
  • Roux Sauces
    1. Add equal amounts of butter and flour (usually about 1/4 cup) to a pan and mix them together until it forms a paste-like texture
    2. Slowly add warm milk or broth until the sauce has the consistency that you want
    3. Add salt, pepper and desired spices to taste and take off of the heat. Heat up your leftovers separately and add to the sauce
    4. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish, use as filling for a pie
  • Tomato Sauces – These are probably the most common sauce I make with leftovers because I almost always have several jars of tomato sauce in my cupboard.
    1. heat some oil in a pan, throw in some garlic and onions (optional) for two to three minutes
    2. Add your leftovers and let them fry until the vegetables are soft and/or the meat is warm
    3. Add the jar of tomato sauce, and any desired spices and let simmer for 5 minutes
    4. Add to pasta, bake with meat or use for Shashouka

Pasta Dish


Soups are another easy way to use up leftovers and a lovely addition to a cold, rainy day. They can take time to make but usually it’s easy to stretch soup into large batches and can be frozen for later consumption.

  • Broth based soup
    1. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    2. Add leftovers and spices to the mix and let fry stirring often for another three to four minutes
    3. Add desired amount of broth (it should cover the mix plus a few inches) to the mix and bring to a boil
    4. Turn the heating down to low, cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes
    5. Serve with fresh bread and butter
  • Blended soup
    1. Boil potatoes and/or root vegetables, once you can get a fork through them, drain and put to the side
    2. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    3. Add the leftovers (vegetables only, meat will be added at the end), and desired spices, stir to coat everything in the spices and let fry until soft, about five minutes
    4. Take off of the heat and let cool
    5. Put all of the ingredients in the blender with potatoes and/or root vegetables, add some of your preferred broth and blend until smooth and creamy
    6. Add any leftover meat
    7. Reheat in saucepan and serve with fresh bread and butter
Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

These recipes are just scratching the surface of what you can do with your leftovers. Here is a list of other recipes that are versatile to look up if you want some more inspiration on what to cook:

  • Risotto
  • Omelette/Quiche/Frittata
  • Fritters
  • Potato pancakes
  • Pizza
  • Stir-Fry
  • Tacos
  • Fried rice


I hope that you’ve been inspired to get in the kitchen and start experimenting with what you’ve got. If you have any other ideas for leftovers, leave us a comment below! And now, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine, throw on your favourite tunes and get cooking!

By APDO Blog Manager Krista Thompson (Zen Den Oxford)

Krista Thompson

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 please tag us with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been cooking up! 

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Smart Works just got smarter!

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

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

“Having an opportunity to work in a team with my awesome colleagues was the strongest appeal. Doing so for the benefit of such a terrific charity was the icing on the cake,” said Arianna Steigman (Reclaim your Space), a sentiment that was echoed by the whole team.

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

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works shoe organising

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

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

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

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

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works Lizzie Grant

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

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

“It’s very inspiring to see so many beautiful clothes and accessories and how much love and care has been put onto creating this amazing walk-in wardrobe which will change the lives of so many women who are trying to get back into work,” said Filipa do Carmo (Khôra : Space . Sorted)

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

Nicki Munns

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

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

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

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

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Group photo (from left to right):

Front: Arianna Steigman (Reclaim your Space), Lizzie Grant (Simplify Stuff), Sarah Owen (A Place for Everything), by Marcella Caricasole (Think Tidy), Nicki Munns (All Organised) and Filipa do Carmo (Khôra : Space . Sorted)

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


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

APDO Sarah Owen professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Sarah Owen

This National Organising Week, we have been showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, their challenges, successes and motivations. In our final interview in the series Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything in Hemel Hempstead shares lots of great advice, and tells us about her business.

Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

I love to organise, so it’s hard to pick just one thing or area as I enjoy bringing order and calm to all my clients, regardless of what they need help with.    I love to help families because I remember how it felt to be overwhelmed by children’s stuff and not having enough time or energy to sort it. A lot of my work involves sorting toys and children’s clothes.  I also get an immense sense of satisfaction helping people with their paperwork and working with them to implement efficient systems and routines to keep it in order.   Paperwork is something that doesn’t generally get messed up by children so stays sorted for longer!

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

It’s the little things, like adopting good routines, which have made the biggest differences in helping me and my own family be more organised.   For example, I insist that everyone puts their coats on the coat hook and shoes on the rack when they come home.  (They don’t always remember, so I sometimes have to tidy up after the children, but the routine is mostly there). We have a bowl for our keys by the front door so we know where they are when we go out again!

I always carry my diary and notebook with me and write things down as I think of them or as soon as I make appointments.   We have a perpetual shopping list on the fridge, so we add things to it as soon as something runs out.  No more forgotten ingredients!

One of my mantras is “Everything in a home should have a home”. I am passionate about making sure things are put away in their proper place as soon as they are not needed.   Where possible I try to tidy and re-set at the end of one day to be ready for the next.  I find a day starts so much more positively if yesterday’s mess has been cleared away.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

I wish!  I live with a not-so-tidy husband, two children (aged 7 and 11) and two cats.  Some days it is more ordered than others and it is never as tidy as I would like it to be, but I do know where things are, and I do have efficient systems (I just wish everyone else in the family was as passionate as me about following them!)  My daughter’s room is definitely the worst and she’s not even a teenager yet!  Unfortunately, she hasn’t inherited my tidy gene!  At the end of the day, our house is a lived-in home and not a show home.

apdo blog family organising decluttering

What prompted you to set up your business?

Pre-children I spent 10+ years organising corporate events and loved the challenge of juggling lots of projects and relished the fact that no two days were the same.  After having my children, I decided not to return to the events world, mainly because I couldn’t travel and be away from the family for long periods of time.  I therefore wanted to find a job, ideally my own business, which would allow me to work flexibly and utilise my organisational skills.   Having worked in the corporate sector for large companies, I often found it hard to see where I was adding value so wanted to be able to make a tangible difference with what I did next.   I came across APDO and learnt more about the decluttering industry… and the rest, as they say, is history!   I knew this line of work would suit my skill set and more importantly my work would really make a visible difference in people’s lives.  Working for myself means I have lots of flexibility and I love what I do.  In some ways it is like what I did before, as I work with lots of different people, and no two days are the same.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your business?

There have been so many challenges, as I would have expected in changing careers and setting up my own business. The first was overcoming the fear of failing, stepping out and taking a risk to try something new.  I am so glad that I did step out!  One of the biggest challenges I am facing as a small business is building my brand and finding clients in what is still a relatively young industry.  However, I am relishing the challenge of being creative, finding new places to leave my flyers, write blogs, post on social media and talk to everyone and anyone that I come across about my business.  In the past, I would have described myself as an introvert rather than an extrovert, so having to promote and sell myself has certainly forced me to step out of my comfort zone.   A challenge that I am enjoying!

When you are going to a client, what essentials are in your organising bag?

  • Black rubbish bags, blue bags for recycling and clear strong bags for charity shop drops
  • Labels, marker pens, elastic bands, scissors and paperclips
  • Examples of files for organising paperwork – e.g. clear wallets, document files
  • IKEA/Lakeland catalogues for storage examples
  • Rubber gloves
  • Caffeine free tea bags
  • Snacks, such as nuts and a banana. Clients often bring out the cakes and biscuits but because I am Gluten Free I prefer to bring my own
  • Water – it’s very thirsty work!
  • Thick socks, as I normally take my shoes off; they keep my feet warm!

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

I think this is one of the best testimonials I have received.   It was so satisfying to be appreciated.

“I really can’t praise Sarah highly enough. My flat was a complete nightmare with mess beyond description! I had arranged for a friend to come and help me, but was so embarrassed by how ghastly it looked, that I felt I had to find a professional declutterer. From the minute I met Sarah, I felt at ease and comfortable and didn’t for one second feel she judged my chaotic home. I didn’t know where to start as I was completely overwhelmed by it all, but Sarah came up with ideas that made complete sense. I am absolutely amazed by how much we have already done in a short space of time and completely delighted with seeing space again! Sarah is just really good at the job – organised, calm, warm, non-judgemental, helpful. She has a knack of encouraging me to get rid of things without in any way pressuring me. It is a huge relief to have found someone who can get me back to having a home again. Thank you, Sarah!”

NOW interview Sarah Owen decluttered organised hallway

What’s the best outcome you’ve seen?

I’ve been working with a client for quite some time now and we have decluttered their entire three-bedroom home. We are on the final room, the study, and we still have a bit more work to do, but we are nearly there. We have methodically worked through each room and cleared away years of stuff which is no longer needed.   The house is safe to live in and the client is proud to call it home again.  After several years of not being able to invite friends back, this client can now have guests.  As well as clearing out the unwanted things, we have implemented new systems and routines to stop the clutter accumulating again.  The client has grown in confidence and feels in control of their life again.  Such an amazing achievement for the client and a huge sense of satisfaction for me that I have been able to support them on this journey.

Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?

This is a really good question!  I guess my flippant answer would be “my dream client would live in a really nice house and just around the corner!”   In reality, I don’t have a “dream client” – I just want to help and support people who are struggling to get organised by themselves.  I aim to help people regardless of their background or current situation and want to make a very real difference to my clients’ lives.   It is always rewarding to be appreciated and to be told that you are making a difference.

What’s your top tip to share?

When organising, tidying or decluttering, I would say little and often is the key to keeping on top of things.  Try not to let things pile up so that they become unmanageable and overwhelming.    If things however do pile up, then tackle small areas at a time and celebrate what you have managed to clear; don’t give up on your goals for a more manageable home.  Big journeys start with small steps and the destination of a calm and clutter free environment is most definitely worth pursuing.


If this week’s interviews have inspired you to pursue a career as a professional organiser,you can find out more about the benefits of joining APDO here..
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

You can read the rest of this week’s series of interviews with some of our professional organisers here on the APDO blog!

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO Marie Bateson decluttering organising

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Marie Bateson

This National Organising Week, APDO is showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview, our penultimate in this week’s series, is with Marie Bateson of Cut The Clutter in Preston. Marie tells us about her love of organising, and how she has turned it into a business.

Marie Bateson of Cut The Clutter

What does being organised mean to you? What does being organised look like?

A great question as it made me consider it deeply. The first part, what does organised look like, is obviously different to different people. In a home it could be something as simple as a wall chart showing appointments or, at the other extreme, completely neat and tidy rooms. Some would say tidiness is not a prerequisite of being organised and I agree with this to a point. Having an organised mind, which is not visible, is closer to my idea of what organised means. If your life, schedules, work and time are in a mess, then nothing is manageable. So to me, being organised starts with, and continues to cover, all areas of our day-to-day living.

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

My favourite area to organise is the kitchen. I enjoy any space and even paperwork, but I feel clients get a lot from re-organised kitchens.  Things are often spread around instead of being kept together, such as baking ingredients, herbs and spices, and the positioning of working areas often needs a rethink. For example, kettles may be at the opposite end of the kitchen to cups. Everyone keeps stuff in their kitchen cupboards that they will never use and once it’s re-organised clients are visibly delighted.

NOW interview Marie Bateson decluttered organised kitchen

I worked with a lady earlier in the year who is a “buyer” and lives alone. She had many duplicates but hadn’t realised how many due to disorderly spaces e.g. 12 jars of marmalade and nine jars of curry sauce. Over the course of a few weeks we made up six boxes for the local food bank. Both of us got great satisfaction from that and I always suggest it now to other clients with too much food.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

I am very tidy and organised everywhere except my home office. My partner says it’s as if someone else lives in there! As only I use it, I am less bothered, and this indicates that I like people to see my orderly environment. This is interesting, as I hadn’t considered this aspect of my home before! I run out of time regularly and paperwork is the thing that suffers.

What prompted you to set up your business?

I set up my business because of the huge feelings of job satisfaction I get from organising, sorting, staging, dressing and minimalising homes.  This coupled with the good it does for others who need my help.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your business?

The biggest challenge has been, and still is, securing clients. Once I get a client I almost always get repeat business. I have tried lots of methods but, ultimately, they find me.

When you are going to a client, what essentials are in your organising bag/toolkit?

I always carry a plastic box with my essential kit in the boot of my car. It contains bin bags in three colours for sorting (virtually all clients have their own but just in case), scissors, labelling machine, spare batteries, slippers, folding step, bar keepers’ powder, hand sanitizer and my receipt book.

What’s the most memorable collection you’ve seen? (What did you/the client do with them)

A large collection of Durex! Every bag or box I emptied contained a few packets. This was a single, quite reclusive girl and she didn’t seem embarrassed by them – she simply put them all to one side and then took them to her bathroom cupboard.

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

The nicest comment I’ve received came from the mother of a client. Her daughter suffers with some mental health issues and I worked with her for a few weeks. Following a couple of sessions her mum said she had never seen her daughter this happy ever!!!

NOW interview Marie Bateson decluttered organised room

Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?

I don’t think we want the dream client as ultimately, they would be so organised after a session that they wouldn’t need us again. Or is that some organisers ideal? It’s a tricky question! I have some “nice to have” traits when considering my ideal client.  For example, they would be decisive, open to suggestions and would work at a good pace. But to me the dream is to make a person’s life better. To help them feel settled and to enjoy their surroundings. Anyone that gets this outcome is a perfect client to me.

What’s your top tip to share?

My top tip is to start small. Clients who are overwhelmed by the chaos benefit from seeing a key area sorted. I look at the situation and assess where they may appreciate and continually see progress. This could be clearing the kitchen table, the surface of the bed or the entrance hall. I encourage them to keep looking at this area which they are now delighted with and remember what it was like. Realistic expectations need to be set early on, for example, that the whole house cannot be done at once – otherwise a client can feel disappointed. Positive endorsement of what has been achieved is key.


If you are considering a career in professional organising like Marie, you can find out more about APDO’s training courses here.
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our final interview in this series of interviews with APDO organisers! You can find yesterday’s interview here.

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO Krista Thompson professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Krista Thompson

This National Organising Week, APDO is showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview, our fourth in the series, is with Krista Thompson of Zen Den in Oxford. Krista shares her tips for an organised home, and tells us about some of her successes with clients.

Krista Thompson of Zen Den

What does being organised mean to you? What does being organised look like?

Being organised to me means a stress-free space. Things should go where they make the most sense so that you don’t have to go on a hunt to find them when you need them. This keeps maintaining the space so much easier. Often, homes are disorganised and cluttered because putting the item back where it belongs is too much trouble to the person using it. Clutter then builds up and putting everything away becomes a mission, hence, the stress! Organised to me looks like everything has a home that makes sense!

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

It’s easy to make something look organised in nice matching baskets but creating a system that makes sense to the person or people using it is the most helpful. When I moved into the house we’re in now, I made sure that we had real organising systems in our home. We have a good system in the kitchen cupboards, a good laundry routine and a good house map of where everything should go. For example, all the paperwork in our house, whether it be warranties or wedding invitations, go into my office. That way, if we need an important document we know exactly where to look because there’s only one place it could be. After setting up the systems, they’ve been really easy to maintain.

What prompted you to set up your business?

I always knew that I wanted to be self-employed, but I loved organising so much that I didn’t think anyone would possibly ever pay me for it. It’s the classic dream of “do what you love” and it seemed a little too good to be true. When I started looking into it though I realised that I have a skill that some people don’t, and I was so excited to help people get their homes back on track. I discovered APDO and realised that there were so many other amazing people in the UK who were the same as me, and I was inspired to start my own business.

What benefits do your clients experience from becoming more organised?

Each client is different, but I think the overall benefit is that they are less stressed. At the end of every organising project I do, I can almost see a physical weight has lifted off my client’s shoulders. It’s just like any major project you’ve been wanting to get done for ages and then you can scratch it off the to-do list!

NOW interview Krista Thompson decluttered organised sitting room

When you are going to a client, what essentials are in your organising bag/toolkit?

My label maker! I have to bring my label maker to every organising project that I do. Things can still get disorganised after having a professional in if people are just blindly putting things away. Little storage boxes in medicine cabinets, big plastic bins in the loft and binders full of paperwork are the easiest things to get mixed up after a space has been organised. If you label them, people will actually stop to look at what they’re putting away.

What’s the most memorable collection you’ve seen? (What did you/the client do with them)

I had a client who really loved Star Trek and had a huge collection of Star Trek memorabilia. They sold some of the items which they no longer wanted on eBay and we made some space for them to display the ones they really loved in their sitting room. 

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

I had one client who has a teenage daughter with autism. During the project, the daughter would often wander into the room and we would have long chats about different things while I was working. My client at the end told me that her daughter doesn’t talk to a lot of strangers and that she was touched she felt comfortable enough to spend so much time with me. That made me feel really great!

What’s the best outcome you’ve ever seen?

I had a client where we did the whole house, from the attic all the way out to the garage. We filled three skips full of junk, sent three car loads of stuff to the charity shop and sold £200 worth of stuff. Their house wasn’t functional when I first went there. You couldn’t sit on the couches in the living room, you couldn’t use the desks in the offices and the extra storage wasn’t even accessible through everything which had piled up in front of it. When I left, it was like a brand-new home!

NOW interview Krista Thompson decluttered organised home

Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?

My dream client is someone who is just moving into a house. I have always loved the bits of moving house that no one else likes, and setting up a home so that organised systems are there from day one is so important. And the clients love the fact that they can just walk into their brand-new home and everything is where it should be without having to lift a finger!

What’s your top tip to share?

My top tip is to get to the root of the problem in your home. If there is a space that’s not working for you, there is definitely a reason why. Stand in the space and go through your usual motions to see where things should really be placed and what you have or may have to buy to facilitate that. If you’re still struggling after that, call in an expert! Professional organisers have seen it all, and we’ll definitely be able to help!


If Krista’s interview has inspired you to pursue a career as a professional organiser,you can find out more about APDO here.
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our fifth interview with an APDO professional organiser! You can find yesterday’s interview here.

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO Juliette Harding professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Juliette Harding

This National Organising Week, APDO is showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview, our third in the series, is with Juliette Harding of Tulips De-Cluttering Services in North London. Juliette explains how she found her new career in professional organising, and tells us about some of the challenges and successes she has experienced in her business.

Juliette Harding of Tulips De-Cluttering Services

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

I am very particular about things so can’t leave a messy area when working and finish an area I have started working on. Paperwork has to be in date order with the most recent documents on the top.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

Pretty much, although I often have clear outs and find a cupboard/drawer that hasn’t been sorted for a while and will give it a good sort out!

What prompted you to set up your business?

I have always loved organising and sorting, and have done it for friends and family for years. But when my father died and I had to sort out my parents’ home I really struggled when I was on my own, and found it completely overwhelming. Yet if someone else was in the house with me, it felt easier somehow.  It was then that I realised that if someone who loves doing this was struggling, how do people who don’t cope?   Hence the plan to start a business and help people.

NOW interview Juliette Harding decluttered organised

Who has influenced you the most in your organising business?

My colleagues/friends in APDO and other networking groups have been a great support. It’s hard going from the corporate world and being part of a large company to being on your own, so having people who won’t judge you but will support you even if you ask a stupid question is important.  When you first start a business, you don’t know what you don’t know until it comes up.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your business?

I have had three clients who are bi-polar and for some reason find I don’t work well with them/for them, so I now try to avoid bi-polar clients.  I do struggle a bit with severe hoarders but tend to pass them on as they need more mental health support than I am equipped or trained to give them.

What benefits do your clients experience from becoming more organised?

Some haven’t been able to sleep in their own beds (one client hadn’t slept in his bed for seven years) or invite friends and family over without feeling embarrassed.  Organising also helps people to save money, as they don’t have to keep buying things simply because they can’t find them!  It also becomes easier to put things away, as everything has a home.

NOW interview Juliette Harding decluttered organised bedroom

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

“Thank you!”  This was the client mentioned above. We had been working together for several months and finally I got to his bed, cleared it and put clean bedding on it.  I woke the next morning to a text saying, “Thank you so much for everything you are doing to help me, I slept in my bed for the first time in seven years last night and it was amazing!”  I burst out crying!

What’s the best outcome you’ve ever seen?

I think going back to a client months later and seeing that something you put in place for them is still working. That they are no longer struggling to stay on top of an area in their home (this is mostly related to paperwork).

Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?

My dream client would be someone who is nice – sometimes I enjoy my job so much, I almost feel it’s wrong to be paid!!  Someone who uses me fairly regularly; I have a few clients whom I help with paperwork and that is great as I can plan around them and know I have the work coming up.  I love helping older people who are down-sizing and struggling to make decisions, but these clients are short lived as once they have moved they tend not to need me anymore.

What’s your top tip to share?

If someone is struggling with their “stuff” and trying to do a bit on their own, I tell them to take it slowly, one drawer or area at a time.  When I work with clients I am respectful of their things and treat them as I would want to be treated if someone came into my home and went through my “stuff”.


If you are considering a career in professional organising like Juliette, you can find out more about APDO’s training courses here.
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our fourth interview with an APDO professional organiser! You can find yesterday’s interview here.

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day

Kicking off NOW 2018 with GRACE

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

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

GRACE Refugee Aid

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

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

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day Before

GRACE Refugee Aid: Before

The Donate-a-Day

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

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

APDO NOW 2018 Donate-a-Day After

GRACE Refugee Aid: After

And what did our APDO members make of the day?

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

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

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

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

APDO N2018 Donate-a-Day group

National Organising Week

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

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