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pile of black and white photos

9 easy steps for organising printed photographs

Do you have drawers, boxes or even an attic full of printed photos? Can you imagine having them organised and digitised, ready to share with family and friends via the internet or on memory sticks which you can hand down to future generations? Jo Jacob of Benella Home Organisation takes us through her 9 easy steps for organising printed photographs.

Organising your printed photographs

It is often said that in the event of a fire most people would save their pets and their photographs because both are irreplaceable, regardless of how much insurance they have. Our lives are operating at a slower pace post lockdown, so this is a great time to tackle the job of sorting out your printed photographs and putting them in a shareable format.

a photo scanner, laptop and box of photos on a desk

Here are some simple steps to help you get the job done:

  1. Clear a dining table or large flat surface ready for sorting.
  2. Gather all your photographs together, including those in albums and envelopes. Be careful when taking photographs out of albums, especially if they are stuck down. You can use dental floss to slide gently between the back of the photograph and the surface of the album or you can use a hairdryer to soften the glue.
  3. When you’ve collected everything together, you are ready for the first stage of sorting. You will need to have a binbag or shredder to hand for the photographs you are getting rid of and then take a deep breath, you can do this! Go through the photographs and dispose of any which are:
    • Duplicates
    • Blurred
    • Have a finger across the lens
    • Showing people you can’t identify
    • Multiples of the same scene
    • Featuring a location you don’t recognise
  4. You are now ready for the second stage of sorting, and can follow this basic system:
    • “A” Photos: Create a pile of photographs you love and want to display or put in albums
    • “B” Photos: Make a second pile of photographs that you don’t necessarily want to put into albums or out on display but which you feel you should back-up
  5. Now go back through your A and B piles. Working at a table, and using Post-its to jot down your notes, start to put the photographs into date or story order. Ascertaining the date of an image can sometimes be difficult, so take note of the size and age of the people in the photograph and look for clues as to when it might have been taken. I often play detective and use a magnifying glass to count candles on a birthday cake or the printing on celebratory balloons.
  6. Once you have your photographs sorted and thinned out you need to scan them. You can do this yourself using a scanner or an iPhone or, if you have a lot of photographs, you can use a scanning company or an individual who offers this service. This is quite cost effective as scans work out at about 10p per photo.
    a box of organised photos and laptop on a desk
  7. Now it’s time to back up all your scans. You can use iCloud, Dropbox, other sharing websites or memory sticks to store and share these precious memories.
  8. It is important to label the photographs on your computer so people will know what they are. This is called adding metadata.
  9. Themes such as school trips, birthdays, holidays, family celebrations work well if you are making a photobook as a gift or for your own collection because they tell a story.

I hope you find these tips useful and that you are able to get going with sorting out your collection of physical photographs.

If this post has got you thinking about organising your precious photo collection or memorabilia, you can find an APDO-registered photo organiser here.

a hand using a laptop - keyboard

How to manage a bulging inbox

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

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

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

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

organised desk with laptop notebook flowers and coffee

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

1 Don’t live out of your inbox

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

2 Do, delegate, defer

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

3 Keep your filing simple

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

4 people sitting at desk and typing on laptops

 

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

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

5 Turn off your notifications

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

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

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

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

Finding your motivation during lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

a tidy organised decluttered kitchen counter with white cupboards

5 ways to overcome procrastination:

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

1 Set yourself a clear deadline

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

2 Break a bigger job down into smaller chunks

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

3 Schedule a time to get started

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

4 Invite a virtual body double along

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

5 Focus on the end result

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

 

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

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

 

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National Organising Week Logo

National Organising Week 2019: Love your leftovers

It’s that time of year again when The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers are dishing out their juicy tips to help everyone get organised. National Organising Week (NOW) is the 4th to the 10th of November, and members from all over the U.K. will be sharing their best tips on how to create organisational systems and bespoke storage. This year’s theme is “Love your Leftovers” and we will be focusing on how to reduce food waste and be more organised in the kitchen. This year’s NOW is even more exciting, as APDO and it’s 380 members are celebrating our 15th birthday!

Keep an eye on the blog where we will have tips on having a zero-waste kitchen, getting children involved with cooking experiences, recipes and much more. Don’t miss our social media channels that will be highlighting our members who participate in “Donate a Day” where they organise for local charities and schools. You can easily see what our individual members will be up to by searching for the hashtags #nationalorganisingweek2019 and #NOW2019 on your favourite platforms.

Whether you’re in the mood to cook up a storm in your kitchen or are looking for some meal planning tips for the holiday season, look no further than NOW 2019. Use the links below to follow us on our social media channels to benefit from all of amazing tips our members will be hashing out. If you’re feeling inspired and want to share your experiences with APDO, be sure to tag us or use our hashtag #NOWorganising. Together, let’s make the world a more organised place!

APDO Organised Shelves

5 top tips on making the most of your storage

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

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

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

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

Inside drawers

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

File folding clothes

On the wall

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

Under beds

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

Under beds

In the kitchen

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

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

bakeware organiser

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

In the loft

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

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

box of old family photos that need organising

Organising your precious photos

You may have noticed when you head to our website to find an organiser that you can now search by specialism. One of these specialisms is ‘Photo Organising’ – but what is it all about and how can it help you? Ian Killick from Photorganised explains all.

Why has photo organising become a profession and a hobby?

People have been taking digital photographs for more than 20 years and are starting to realise not just how many they have taken, but that maybe they don’t have time to sort through them and view them properly.  Add to that all the print or slide photos people have in cupboards and boxes which they now wish they had in a digital format to integrate with their born-digital photos, and you can see why people are looking for some help.  This is where a photo organiser comes in: to save people time or provide the skills needed to kick-start a photo sorting project or take the job through to completion.

Why are photo organisers linked to APDO?

Photos are one of the most important categories which people need decluttering and organising, because they can hold very important, happy memories for people, or they can hold memories which people do not want a physical reminder of.  People may wish simply to get their photos sorted and may ask a photo organiser for help with this.  APDO members are professional declutterers and organisers who, whilst sorting a home or office, might come across photos which need organising.  Some APDO members are trained in this specialist area and so will be able to help with the photos, or they can introduce their client to a specialist photo organiser.  Some photo organisers are also members of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) and have passed their Certification Programme.  We all work together to achieve the best solution for clients.

APDO member Ian Killick organising photos with a client

What kind of projects can photo organisers assist with?

Photo organisers can help with:

  • Scanning slides, negatives and prints
  • Photo editing
  • Identifying and removing duplicate photos
  • Photo storage and backups / archiving
  • Creating albums, photobooks and wall art
  • Integrating disparate photo sets together
  • Setting up digital cataloguing / display software such as Apple Photos or Lightroom.

What triggers people’s photo organising projects?

From experience, the following are common trigger points:

  • Upcoming milestones or events: Where photos are needed to create a personalised present. Examples are family yearbooks to surprise a spouse on their birthday or wedding photobooks to surprise the parents/in-laws at Christmas.
  • Relationship break-up: When couples split, they sometimes want to refresh their family photo wall art around their house and ask for help to organise / filter their photos first.
  • Businesses: Needing to find photos for an upcoming website refresh or publication, but their photos need organising first.
  • Death of a relative: Families may like short-term help sorting through photos for the funeral order of service and display board at the wake. Or they may like long-term help sifting through the inherited photo collection and deciding which photos to keep and how to display and store them.
  • Computer / phone failure: When someone’s electronic device crashes and they lose photos on them, it makes them think about how they could do things differently i.e. keep their photos backed up so if their device crashes again they won’t lose any precious memories.
  • Frustration: Sometimes there is no set trigger. People get so fed up with not being able to find or view their photos that they just have to do something about it. Finding a photo organiser to help can relieve the stress for them.

An open photobook of holiday photographs

Is there a particular photo organising setup you would suggest?

I have learnt over years of photo organising that there are many computer programs / apps, many platforms like Apple, Windows, Android and iOS, plus numerous combinations of these within each home and office.  Many people like to stick with what they know and just make sure that everything is organised and backed up within their existing setup.  Others are forced to change when software such as Picasa is not supported anymore and they have to migrate their photo collection to another program such as Lightroom.  Photo organisers do not force a particular system on to their clients but make suggestions and help them with any changes.

How about some top tips?

  1. Try to set aside a regular time to work on your photos: e.g. Transferring them from camera to computer, deleting duplicates or adding filenames/tags, etc. It certainly helps gain momentum with your project if you are tackling it yourself or doing prep work before handing over to a Photo Organiser.
  2. Even if all your digital photos are not named and organised, make sure you have another copy of them, especially in another location (e.g. family member’s house or on the Cloud so if anything happens to one set, you still have your other set and have not lost any precious memories.
  3. Aim to make your photos more tangible and viewed more often: Even children who have grown up in the digital era and have never taken their camera film to be developed into prints, still love to view photos away from the screen and in a printed format like photobooks. They are great fun to make, help ensure memories are not forgotten and make great gifts!

And finally…

Photos are so precious to most of us, they tell stories and help us remember important life events.  Let’s help protect them so we do not experience a lost generation of photo memories and also make sure we are enjoying seeing all of our photos to the max!  Thanks for reading this post!

If you have questions which haven’t been answered here, you can find your nearest photo organiser here.
Keep an eye out on the APDO blog in the future for more posts on photo organising.

 

Small succulent plant in a white pot signifying organised recycling

7 steps to create your own home recycling system

Reducing the use of plastics, building sustainable houses, repurposing discarded materials – the media is full of information about the problems consumerism can cause and articles about how much we can do to help the situation. Some of the facts are truly mind-blowing… For example, did you know that the energy saved from recycling just one glass bottle is enough to power a light bulb for four hours? When we recycle we are decreasing the need for landfills and incinerators, therefore reducing ground and air pollution as well as land usage. In this post, Filipa do Carmo of Khora Space Sorted explains how to organise your own recycling system at home.

If you want to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, start with the simple act of recycling. Having a simple system in place is a great way to guarantee your commitment. And by simple, I mean, a system that works specifically for you (and your family or co-workers).

Here are some steps to make it happen:

1. Do your research

Start by checking online for recycling options in your community. You can easily find this information on your local council’s website. As you know, the rules vary enormously depending on location, so do check. This information will serve as a guide to help you with the steps below and provide you with a quick reference guide to check. This is especially useful if you need to separate the different types of waste.

2. Know your trash

If you know the type of waste you create and how often it’s collected it will be easier to decide which bins to get, if you need this extra storage, and where to place your bins. Take time to observe the quantity and type of waste you produce before you decide what to get.

Row of organised coloured recycling bins

3. Make it easy

This is a really important step. If it doesn’t make sense, or is dysfunctional, we will be less likely to commit.

Placing the recycling bin next to the non-recycling one will increase the chances of recycling more. When this is not possible in the space we have available, try to find the nearest location.

Another option is to have different containers which let you separate as you dispose, to avoid having to sort everything twice.

4. Compost

The benefits of composting are endless; it makes total sense to use organic matter to nourish our soil. Some councils offer compost bins and bags which they collect on specific days. Otherwise, you can donate it to local gardeners or allotment holders, or use it for your own garden, if you are lucky to have one.

5. Bathroom recycling

Whilst most households are getting better at sorting their kitchen waste, the same rarely happens in the bathroom. A good solution here is to have two bins in the bathroom too and use one to collect empty plastic bottles and paper which can be recycled.

If you want to push it a bit further, start thinking about using plastic-free alternatives – such as soap, solid shampoo –  or making your own face cream. There are a lot of options out there.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

6. Battery recycling

Set aside a small box or can in which you can place used batteries and other small electrics. These are highly toxic and need to be recycling in specialised containers. Most supermarkets now have bins for batteries, so keeping your battery box close to your shopping bags will remind you to take them with you when you go shopping.

7. Donation box

Another good idea is to have a donation box into which you can place clothes, electronics and other items you no longer need, but which could be useful to others. It’s always better to keep everything in one place, instead of different piles around your home. In this way, whenever you know you are going to pass by your local charity shop, you can take everything with you in one go. Or perhaps contact a charity to book a collection.

In our recent blog post “What to do with your unwanted stuff” there are some further suggestions of how to recycle the items that you are decluttering from your home.

If Filipa’s post has inspired you to declutter and get organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Help is on hand, and it’s OK to take it

‘I should be able to do it on my own.’ As professional organisers we hear this, or a much harsher variation, on a regular basis as we work with people to transform their spaces. Claire de Boursac, psychotherapist and professional organiser at The Art of Clearing, examines our self-critical voices and discusses some ways to dispel them in this helpful and sensitive guest post.

Headshot of Claire de Boursac APDO member standing under a tree

Is self-criticism stopping you?

It always saddens me to hear people speak unkindly to themselves, often reflecting impossibly high expectations which usually don’t take into account the reality of their lives. It’s something I also hear a lot in my work as a psychotherapist, where clients feel they should be able to face challenges alone. Why? Humans are social beings. We live in community, we’re programmed to work together and support each other. We each have our unique skills and ways of being in the world. I don’t believe anyone masters every area of their life – and more importantly, I don’t think they need to. It’s a responsible and courageous thing to know our strengths and our weaknesses and to enlist support where we need it. There is no shame in asking for help.

Although these self-criticisms are as varied as the people who live with them, there are some common threads.

I hear clients make their clutter a character flaw, as if it is central to their personality. They might call themselves ‘messy’. No, the space is messy.  You are human.

I also often work with people who tell themselves they are ‘lazy’ because they haven’t tidied or haven’t unpacked those boxes from the move several years ago. I then discover they have very full lives, investing huge amounts of time and energy in work or family and quite rightly choose to spend their weekends resting and enjoying hard-earned time off.

bright decluttered organised sitting room with the letters HOME mounted on a brick feature wall

The organisation myth

There is a myth that it is easy to be organised and to keep a tidy home. It may be for some people.  But there are many more for whom it is challenging. There may be a number of reasons for this: physical or mental challenges or an emotional element to the items to be managed. ‘Stuff’ is often more than just ‘stuff.’ Objects can come into our lives through choice, gift and obligation. It can be complicated and emotionally charged to deal with them. That vase you hate but was given by a friend you love, the belongings of a loved one who has died, an object or clothes that are past their usefulness but are so deeply connected to a joyous time in your life that saying goodbye to them feels like saying goodbye to those delicious memories. Sometimes there is simply so much stuff that the thought of decluttering is overwhelming, seemingly impossible to know where to start.

Recognising your own critical voice

Whatever someone’s particular challenge is, there are doubtless hundreds, if not thousands of people thinking the same unkind thoughts and criticising themselves and their homes. A nasty inner critic is incredibly common, so much so that most people think it’s just part of them, something they need to put up with. I disagree.

You might recognise your own critical voice by its harsh tone. We typically speak to ourselves in a manner that we would never speak to someone else. What do you say to yourself from that place? Would you speak to your friend or loved one in that tone, with those words? The critical voice usually attacks us in an area we are already tender about, in this case our clutter or keeping our home a particular way. Because of this vulnerable quality, it can be helpful to ask ourselves ‘Would you speak to a child in that way?’ The answer is inevitably ‘No.’ We might then ask, if a child you care about was facing the feelings you’re dealing with right now – embarrassment, fear, overwhelm, whatever it is – how would you respond to them? I’m guessing with something like compassion, understanding, reassurance. You deserve the same.

Open notebook and pen next to a mug and plant on a white desk

The role of the professional organiser

Although I suspect it may be true for my fellow declutterers, I can only speak for myself. I have never felt critical of a client for how their home is. In truth, I am actually not so interested in the physical appearance of the home and whether it is tidy or messy. What matters to me is how my client is impacted by living there and how near or far it is from their wishes for the space. I see my role as being a skilled and supportive guide along that path and it matters not a jot to me what that path is – be it reorganising a tidy house or creating order from utter chaos.

I said I’m saddened when I hear the harsh self-criticism of my clearing clients and I am, but I am saddened even more by the realisation that there are probably clients I work alongside who have that critical voice running wild but don’t share it with me, and therefore don’t give me the chance to challenge it with them, and that there are doubtless many more people for whom the strength of this voice stops them even booking a session. If that is you, please know that it is absolutely OK that you want some support with this. You don’t have to do it alone. Now take a deep breath and drop me or one of my APDO colleagues a line. We’d be delighted to help you.

If Claire’s post has encouraged you to seek guidance from a professional organiser, you can find your nearest APDO member here.

Toys on the floor on a background at wall

How to keep an organised home when you have small children

Some of the most common questions that professional organisers get asked are around how to keep on top of clutter and keep a semblance of an organised home when you have small children. In this post, Rebecca Caution of Conscious Space Professional Organising shares her top tips on how, with a little bit of effort, it really is possible to do so.

Think like a Montessori educator

When it comes to maintaining an organised home with small children as inhabitants, take inspiration from the Montessori approach. Montessori is a method of education based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori nurseries and schools, children make choices in their own learning, whilst staff and classroom set-up guide the process, developing independence and encouraging creativity from a young age. But what does this look like day-to-day in the home?

Designate a place for everyday items and establish daily rituals

Children learn through repetition, so putting in place routines which allow them responsibility for getting themselves ready each day will be effort rewarded with less stressful mornings. Consider affixing a hook for each child – at their level – in your hallway or by your front door. Coats and bags can live here, so that each morning your children can grab them as they leave, and each afternoon return them there. Likewise, shoes – along with seasonal accessories, such as gloves and scarves or sun hats and sunglasses – can be kept in an easily-accessible container under the sofa. My children love having their own special hooks and even though the 17-month old can’t quite put her coat and bag on herself just yet, she has a clear sense of pride at being able to get them herself when she knows it’s time to leave.

Easy access kitchen items and mealtime rituals

Similarly, child-friendly cutlery, crockery, baking equipment and lunch containers can also be kept in a place which your children can reach. Once items are within easy reach, rituals can be established around accessing plates and bowls for each meal and returning items to the sink or dishwasher afterwards. In our home, cereals, fruit and healthy snacks are also accessible, so our Reception-aged son can prepare his own breakfast and the toddler can pull out whichever cereal she chooses each day. It may take a little time and repetition to get children to return items to the same place, but it is worth it to see the self-esteem it builds when they are allowed to do these things for themselves.

multi-coloured wooden toy building blocks on a wooden surface

Fewer toys

Our consumerist culture would have us believe that the arrival of a child in our homes is synonymous with the sudden necessity for a multitude of items we never before considered we would need (clue: we don’t). And the bombardment of daily marketing plying parents and children with messaging that they “need” this-that-and-the-other just carries on from there.

Whether you store and rotate toys, or simply make a commitment to have fewer to play with, the benefits are numerous: it’s quicker and easier to tidy up; it fosters far more creativity; children play better and for longer with what they do have.

Simple toy storage makes tidying up a game

Store toys which are most loved and are played with daily in open baskets. If baskets aren’t your thing, use other easy-to-access open containers which you like the look of, such as a shelving unit, canvas bags on hooks or felt boxes – especially if this is in your living space. That way, you can feel satisfied each evening that all toys are tidied away without having the eyesore of plastic boxes encroaching on your limited child-free time.

Store toys by type (cars, soft toys, dolls, building blocks, dressing up clothes), by colour or a different way each time – whatever works because any method of distinguishing toys means it’s simple to make tidying up a game and get even the very youngest of children involved. Think like Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game.” Those with the musical ability of Mary Poppins can come up with a catchy tidying-up song too. The rest of us can find one on Spotify.

Keep toys and books visible on open shelving

Another Montessori-lesson is to store toys and books in bedrooms on easy-to-reach shelving, with as few items in each space as possible, and then to encourage your children to return an item before another is selected. This allows easy child-led tidying and also leads to more focused play rather than the over-stimulation that can come from having access to too many toys at once. When everything is visible, it becomes very easy to assess which toys are getting regular use and which have been outgrown, at which point you can decide with your children whether it’s time to rotate, or to pass some things on to someone else who might like to play with them. When this is part of family conversation and encouraged from a young age, children become less attached to a multitude of items and really value the chance to be able to share toys which they have outgrown with someone who might be less fortunate than they are.

Red and white decorated childs bedroom with open shelving and toy basket

These small and simple changes can really make a difference to a household. You will notice all the wonderful benefits of having a tidier and more ordered home: more time, less stress, clearer focus. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also notice the pride and joy it gives small children to have a little bit of independence; to take responsibility for their own possessions and daily chores; to focus and play when they have fewer toys to choose from; to truly value those that they do have; as well as gaining an understanding of the value of being able to share their good fortune with others. What could be a better pay off than that?

If Rebecca’s advice has inspired you to get your family more organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

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Organising and home staging: An unbeatable combination!

Paloma Harrington-Griffin is the Director of The Home Staging Association UK, a source of information and support within the Home Staging industry. In this guest post for APDO, Paloma examines the relationship between organising and home staging, and how you can use both activities to increase the sale price of your home.

Organising and Home Staging: The perfect combo

Organising. Does the word alone make you think piles of boxes, chaos and runs to the charity shop? For the average homeowner that might be the idea, however, for professional organisers and home stagers, that same word can mean an opportunity to change someone’s life.

Organising and decluttering are usually the first items a homeowner needs to tick off their list when putting their property on the market, followed by handyman work, a thorough clean and the ever-so-efficient Home Staging.

There are several ways of improving a home to sell it faster – and better. Some can prove to be extreme and expensive, but others are quite straight-forward, practical and, most importantly, budget-friendly. Decluttering and Home Staging are a powerful combo for those wishing to achieve a quick sale and the highest offer value possible – which is the main goal for every Home Stager.

The effective techniques not only clear a property of excess items and personal belongings, they also prepare the homeowners for their move, getting the property ready for potential buyers who come for viewings in the hope of putting an offer down on their new lifestyle.

An organised, clutter-free home with the right pieces of furniture and accessories is ahead of the competition in the property market game.

In the Home Staging Profile 2018, research conducted by the Home Staging Association UK, 62% of property professionals mentioned that home staging has a great effect on the buyers’ view of the property, whilst 95% of the interview sample said that staged homes sell faster than non-staged ones.

In addition, 100% of estate agents and property developers said that home staging makes it easier for a buyer to visualise the property as their future home, meaning that while organisation is important, staging the home for potential buyers is key to securing a sale.

How can a professional organiser implement a few styling hues to their work?

According to Susie Batista from Cheshire Home Staging, there are some really stylish ways to be organised. It doesn’t always mean old tired cardboard boxes gathering dust, but clean purpose-built shelving with rows of wicker baskets, plastic containers for food items with trendy black labels.

Susie also suggests updated solid pine toy boxes, and stylish laundry baskets. The list is endless, and this type of organisation not only helps clear the mind and energy flow in the house but also looks aesthetically pleasing. It’s a win-win.

Before and after decluttering photo of home staged bedroom

Elaine Penhaul from Lemon and Lime Interiors suggests taking control and working strategically to eliminate the mess when decluttering a house for sale. It can be an exhausting task that sometimes seems never-ending, however, with the right approach it can be done in a very efficient manner.

Elaine likes to group her clients’ items into three categories: skip, store, show. One of the goals is to prepare for the move, so get rid of anything that isn’t needed for the new home. This is a lot more effective than storing and sorting later.

Before and after decluttering photo of a sitting room

The Home Staging Profile 2018 showed that 23% of the properties that were sold had the reception room staged, followed by 22% of properties that had the master bedroom staged. Therefore, if you need to choose a room to organise and style, these should be the ones to prioritise.

Whether it is to improve one’s quality of life, or to secure a sale which will allow a lifestyle upgrade, organising and staging walk hand-in-hand and can achieve great results when combined. It is proven to work, and the benefits are real – so what are you waiting for?

You can download a FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Home Staging at the HSA’s website 
and find your local professional organiser here.