7 ways to move through your clutter from the inside out

Woman in painWhen it comes to clutter, many people think it is just being messy. You can hear them while watching an episode of Hoarders: ” why can’t they just tidy up and throw things out?”

In many cases it is a lot more complicated than this and it has to do with the mental and emotional road blocks which the person in question is facing, resulting in the clutter being a by-product rather than the underlying problem.

A recent article on the website Houzz gave some great tips to move through some of these road blocks:

Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back.

Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.

 1. Come to terms with whether you’re naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.

2. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don’t want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.

3. Tackle your top problem area. What’s the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.

4. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.

5. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off in sanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.

6. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.

7. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don’t use.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of: scentsandmoods.wordpress.com

Organize your house for back to school

All lined up in a row...

All lined up in a row…

Wherever you are in the world, there is one time of year parents dread: Back to school time. Here in the US summer is nearly over so it’s time to hit the shops to buy uniforms, sports equipment, stationary and text books. And its time to shake the sand out of their shoes and get the whole family organized and ready for the new school year.

Kathryn Weber from Red Lotus Letter recently wrote an article for LA Times that highlighted some great organizing ideas to keep the family in line:

 Paper shuffle

Without question, paper is one of the biggest sources of clutter around the house once school starts. Finding a way to tame the storm will keep the house looking neater and help keep your kids be better prepared. The first step is to determine which pieces of paper need to be available and at your disposal. This includes lunch menus, announcements and the school calendar. Those can be posted on the fridge or a bulletin board for easy access.

For other papers, create a storage file and an active file for each child. The file can be a simple folder where you keep important papers such as sign-up instructions for after school activities, or even artwork you want to save for a scrapbook or framing later. Stash the folder(s) in a file box or file drawer in a desk.

Next, set up a file holder that stays on a counter or at the desk. Label individual folders for each child for papers you need to look at or, sign, or that they need to work on.

Corral the kids

Designate a place to stash all those extra shoes, jackets and sporting equipment. If your kids need somewhere for balls, bats, gloves and helmets, why not take a cue from school and keep these items in a locker? Companies like ULine (uline.com) have closed and ventilated lockers perfect for athletic equipment and supplies. Place lockers in the laundry room or garage, and keep the odors out there, too.

Indoors, find a spot for backpacks, jackets, scarves and hats so they don’t end up scattered throughout the house. This also helps keep kids find their items quickly in the morning. An entryway organizer, such as a shelf with hooks or pegs, is the perfect answer for backpacks and jackets. Don’t have room? A simple hall tree saves space.

 Organize the desk

Now that parents are more involved with their children’s homework, it helps to create a work center spot where students have access a computer and can seek help from Mom and Dad. Parents can also easily check to see if their young scholars are studying or surfing the web, texting, talking on the phone, etc. Create an address book to store online passwords and make logging into online assignments easier.

Read the entire article from LA Times here and for more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site Red Lotus Letter.

Image courtesy of CraftySouthernMama.blogspot.com

Deciding when to let go of your children’s toys

What stays and what goes?

What stays and what goes?

This is a topic that challenges many of my clients with children. It is more often than not themselves, rather than the children, that have trouble letting go of the toys and games. Unclutterer.com had some great ideas to help with this clutter challenge:

Letting go of toys can be difficult because you may be considering passing them on to younger or future children or you might think that reducing the number of toys means that you’re depriving your children of enjoyment and learning experiences.

How do you decide when it’s okay to let toys go?

Observe your children during playtime

When I was a teacher, I spent a good amount of time observing the children in my classroom. This helped me create lessons that suited their learning styles. Though interacting with them gave me lots of insight, I found that simply observing them when they were “in the moment” helped me to get to know them better. To truly discover the types of toys that your children love (or don’t love), you’ll likely need to do this as well. That doesn’t mean that you need to spend an entire hour with a clipboard in hand ready to jot down what you see. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to figure out which toys they reach for often and which one they don’t pay much attention to. Those that are not as interesting to them anymore are great candidates for donation. And, you can then decide which specific toys you’d like to introduce them to.

Look for toys that do similar things

I once worked for an organization where the motto was, “Each child is unique, precious, and unrepeatable.” Toys on the other hand, are not necessarily unique. You may have duplicates or several that function in extremely similar ways. As I mentioned before, your children will let you know which are their favorites based on their typical play habits. This means you can easily donate or give away the ones they don’t play with often.

Swap toys in/out regularly

Limiting the number of toys that your children have to play with will help you get a better sense of their likes and dislikes, and give them ample opportunities to play with specific things. Having fewer toys to focus on can be less overwhelming for them and they can get on with the business of fully learning about each one (rather than bouncing around from item to item). Rotating toys in and out will also stop them from taking over adult spaces and will make it easier to unclutter and maintain children’s areas in your home.

Once you’ve determined which toys your children no longer play with (and which ones you’ll keep in rotation), you can do a toy swap with friends or donate gently used items to a local charity.

To read more from Unclutterer.com click here.

6 Tips to Teach Toddlers about Organising

A big toy box makes it easy...

This is such a common complaint amongst many of my working mum clients – how can I get my kids to pick up after themselves so I don’t have to do it all the time?

This post from Unclutter gives 6 great tips on how you can do just that – and watch them grow up to be organising geniuses!

The following are a handful of suggestions for responsibilities that are appropriate for toddlers and some recommendations for teaching these skills:

  • Hanging up her coat. Put a couple of hooks on the back of the coat closet door at a low enough height that your daughter can reach the hook but high enough so her coat won’t drag on the ground. When your daughter comes inside the house, let her be responsible for putting her coat on her hook.
  • Wiping down the bathroom countertop. Get a small stool for your child to use in the bathroom when he is brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and washing his hands. Have a stack of wash cloths or hand towels within reach that he can use to wipe his face, dry his hands, and then wipe up any spilled and splashed water from the counter top.
  • Making her bed each morning. Pulling up the sheet and pulling up the comforter are tasks that most kids can handle by two and a half.
  • Putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Have a hamper that your child can easily put clothes into and see the clothes inside the basket. After you assist your child in getting out of his clothes and into his pajamas, hand him his clothes and ask him to put them in the hamper. As your child gets older and can dress himself, simply monitor him to ensure that he continues with this responsibility. (Hampers without lids are best, it doesn’t encourage leaving clothes on top).
  • Setting the table. By age three, most children will be able to set a table with minimum supervision. Having placemats is a terrific way for helping children learn where cups, plates, silverware, and napkins typically go on a table.
  • Returning toys to their storage locations. After playing with toys, toddlers should return them to their proper storage bins or shelves. As a result, storage shelves and bins need to be within your child’s reach. Label bins and shelves with pictures of what belongs in each space. Programs like Microsoft Word that include clip art are great for finding toy illustrations. It takes younger children significantly more time to pick up toys than older children, so be sure to leave time in your schedule for your child to pick up her toys before needing to move on to another activity.

Read the entire article here: http://unclutterer.com/2011/04/07/teaching-toddlers-about-organizing/

Six Top Tips for Reducing Toy Clutter

Caught! In the clutter...

Do you need help keeping on top of your kid’s toys?
Do you feel as if you’re constantly picking up toys?
Do you dread birthday parties because it means your kids will get more toys?
One client even confessed how she would like to throw away her kids’ toys while they sleep!

It doesn’t have to be so drastic. Instead of secretly throwing away your children’s toys you can involve them in the process of clearing out the clutter. Of course, this depends on your child’s age. Don’t expect a 2-year-old to agree to willingly part with any of his belongings.

Ask yourself: what toys do my children actually need? Do I have any rules in place to keep down the clutter? Or should I just resign myself to the fact that having children means being overwhelmed by toys?

Certainly, no matter how much they feel they must have the latest techno gadget, kids don’t actually need toys. As most of us have witnessed, children often have more fun playing with the box the present came in than the actual present.

Here are six top tips for reducing toy clutter:


Downsizing for Empty Nesters

That's the last one gone...

I have been asked to talk next month at a function for women who are around the age of empty nesters and my topic is going to be: Reclaiming your home after the children have gone.

Not having kids myself I can’t really relate to this topic, but I have two sisters who are going through this stage as we speak: one is quite depressed, while the other is jumping for joy!

So I have been doing some research and found this fabulous blog post called Views from the Empty Nest which pretty much summed up the syndrome quite well, from someone who is actually going through it herself ; take a read:

I wanted to discuss downsizing today. No, we are not selling everything off and moving, but I hate being taken by surprise, so I have started the process. It is painful. It is painful to let go of stuff because of the memories attached to these things, whether it is a book we read when she was little, or something she made in high school.

We have been on our property for almost 20 years. I can’t believe how all the nooks and crannies have filled up. I know what happened, we got busy living and enjoying life, and so we just didn’t deal with the stuff.

“What should I do with this?”  “I don’t know!” And so another thing would get put . . . in my office. Since my job ended, I haven’t used my office much. Still, it should not become a dumping ground for things without a home. It has become the room where everything gets shoved when we “clean house.” This past weekend I started working on clearing my office out so that I can work in there.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have a laptop. So why would I want my office back? Well, want to be able to do “office stuff” in my office–stuff like pay the bills and file them away, work on my ongoing education (taking some FREE tax preparation classes to perhaps become a volunteer tax preparer), work on my photographs, etc.

And I want to be able to leave my stuff out if I want. Right now, I schlep it all into the living room, do what needs to be done, and then schlep it all back into my office until the next time.

To get myself geared up for serious cleaning, I watch a few episodes of “Hoarders”.  A couple of things always come to mind:

1) We hold on to things because of the emotion: She was so cute in that.

2) We shop for comfort, for that adrenalin rush, for the thrill of a deal. And who knows, some day we might need it. We never do use “it”, so it sits on a shelf gathering dust.

3) We let our kids store stuff at home when they begin their voyage into the wide world, and 10 years later it is still in our garage. So, they come home and go through it, and say “Oh, just get rid of it.” So now it is my job–my time, my effort– to get rid of their stuff. (Learning to say “E-bay” for this and “it is yours, you deal with it”)

4) Also, older family members give us stuff. They give it to us because they know we will “take care of it.” Yikes!! I personally have all the family history for my husband’s family. I can’t make decisions on what is important and what isn’t. It isn’t mine. He has to decide that — or his son or his daughter. But not me.

To read more go to: http://markbarendt.com/anna/2010/07/12/downsizing/

10 Ways to Reduce and Simplify Your Stuff

To fold or not to fold...

I was talking to a client with 3 young children on the phone yesterday and her biggest problem is she just can’t get on top of the washing – whether it is folding it, ironing it, putting it away – it just kept piling up all over the house. My advice to her was, will the world end if the washing isn’t folded? Her priorities have changed from when she was a single, care free, house proud woman to a sleep deprived mother of 3 and I suggested that she stop beating herself up and be more easier on herself. I think we can all take this advice when it comes to house work!

This morning I read a blog from Small Notebook that also touched on the same topic that I thought I would share:

If you’ve come upon a brick wall in your efforts to reduce and simplify, take heart.

I’m afraid we have the idea that if we can declutter enough, if we can reduce our possessions, if we can stop being concerned about having things, then our lives will become simple, and it simply isn’t true.

Owning fewer things definitely helps, but it doesn’t solve everything. The process of reducing doesn’t even end because there are always more papers or something to go through later.

But we do have a few other tricks to simplify and make things easier.

1.  At our house each family member gets one cup in the morning and uses it all day. (“You want a drink, child? Where is your cup?”) At the end of the day there are four cups to wash, not sixteen.

2. There is no possible way, no chance, that I could keep my family’s stuff picked up all by myself. Even though I have seriously decluttered, there is still too much mess for one person. Keeping it all picked up is something our family does together, five minutes at a time with a song playing, and we all help to pick up each other’s things, not just our own.

3. Organise your stuff, but know when to stop. Organising your stuff should save you time, not consume it.

4. Put hooks on the wall in the entry way so you have a place to hang coats and bags and keys. When your family comes home tired, it needs to be as easy as possible to put things where they should go.

5. Fake it. Move all the papers on your messy desk into a tote bag, or simply close the door to a disorderly closet. One day you’ll have to deal with them, but you don’t need to have everything simplified right this minute.

6. Don’t let the dishes pile up. I know all too well the feeling of “I can’t do the dishes because the sink is too full of dirty dishes.” It’s a downward spiral.

7. Keep your bag ready by the door so you have the essentials you need, without having to remember them every time.

8. Box up half of your child’s toys and rotate them every once in a while. You don’t need to get rid of them, but they don’t all need to be on display or on the floor. Better yet, let your child decide which toys he is done playing with for a while. Do the same with children’s books.

9. Declare toy-free areas. My kids can play with their toys in their bedroom and the living room, but my bedroom and the kitchen get to stay toy-free.

10. Give up. I have a quilt that goes on the couch, and I used to keep it nicely folded. I was folding this quilt four times a day because I was the only one who cared. Why?! Now I just throw it on the couch and it looks fine.

Read more here: http://smallnotebook.org/2011/03/01/10-ways-to-simplify-without-becoming-a-minimalist/




Children left home but not their stuff?

Box it up and send it on!

We all have this problem to some degree, but parents with children who have left home are the ones who suffer the most.

What do we do with other people’s stuff in our home? We feel guilty if we throw it out, we feel overwhelmed if it is left behind and eventually we may start to hold a grudge with the person who owns the stuff when they don’t collect it.

So what can you do?

Firstly, explain to the owner of the stuff how you are feeling, that you need your space back and could they come to collect it? Sounds obvious right?

If this doesn’t work, follow up by telling them that by a certain date if the stuff isn’t gone, you will start going through and sorting it for them. You will sell the more expensive and not-very-sentimental items and then use that money to ship what you believe to be the sentimental items to them. Sounds fair.

Hopefully, this will light a fire under them and they will come and collect it all. If not, you still have a way to remove all the clutter without any guilt whatsoever. You gave them a chance and the fact they didn’t come probably means it wasn’t really important to them anyway.

One way or another – you will have your house back!



What does Australia Day mean to you?

You are never too young to celebrate Australia Day!

Today is Australia Day – normally a day most Australians head outdoors to have a BBQ, play a game of cricket (or watch one) and crack open a tinne to celebrate being a true blue, dinky di Aussie. But Beyond the BBQ, beyond the backyard cricket, and beyond the fact that most of us get a day off work, what does Australia Day REALLY mean to us?

(For my international readers, Australia Day is commemorated each year on January 26th, the day The First Fleet (a group of ships from England) landed in Sydney Cove in 1788 to begin forming the Colony of New South Wales).

City Search Sydney (a website that helps people to find out what’s on around town http://sydney.citysearch.com.au/)  asked a few locals to put down their tinnies, and tell us what Australia Day means to them. Here’s what they had to say:
“I think sometimes we’re too busy watching the rest of the world for clues on where we should be heading, and what our identity should be. I believe we have a great culture and sensibility, and that we have a lot to offer the rest of the world. The funny thing is, the rest of the world knows that; we’re just a little too slow and reluctant to realise and admit that. We’re far too good at putting ourselves down, so Australia Day is a chance to really grab hold of our culture, and say, ‘Hey we’re not so bad after all’!” (Tim)

“For me, Australian Day signifies that fact that I’m lucky enough to live in a country not at war with the rest of the world, the individual freedom this offers, and the opportunity to spend time with family & friends enjoying the day.”(Karen)

“I’m patriotic everyday so I don’t get all gushy over Australia Day – but I do enjoy the day off to lie in the sun and actually experience what Australia is about – sun, sand and surf!” (Donna)

“Australia Day is about friends, celebrating our beautiful environment, friends, sport and having a laugh. Things we do everyday, but rolled into one big happy celebration! I’ll always remember Australia Day 1996, travelling on a bus through heavy snow from Cork to Dublin with a bunch of fellow Aussies. We all longed to be with our family and friends back home. We talked of blue sky, the smell of lamb chops on a bbq, cricket on the radio, cold beer, Paul Kelly songs, a game of beach cricket, jokes, lamingtons and even flies! The bus was 5 hours late getting to Dublin so when we arrived for our Irish Australia Day celebration – the pubs were shut!” (David)

“To me Australia Day means a chance to remember how the Australia of today came about. It is also a reminder of the cultural tsunami that white man inflicted on the indigenous population and the lack of progress we have made in terms of reconciliation.” (Gabrielle)

“It makes me feel warm and fuzzy about living in a pretty good country that’s come a long way in a short time. And I will be eating Vegemite on toast for brekkie, having a barbie in the arvo and keeping my stereo an Oz only zone!”(Kelly)

“Having recently established my Aussie citizenship, Australia Day means a lot to me: it’s a celebration of a country (and people) who welcome others with open arms, offering the promise of prosperity for both me and my family. It’s about the freedom to speak your mind, and be heard. And it’s all those other things that we take for granted — but aren’t afforded to those less fortunate. (Oh, and before my brother-in-law punches me in the arm: it’s about beer and backyard cricket).” (Richard)


4 quick tips on storing kid’s clutter

The perfect place for teddy & friends

Now that the kids are heading back to school, it is time to get organised with all their toys, especially all the new ones they may have received for Christmas that don’t have a proper place to be stored as yet.

Unclutterer.com had a question from a reader about how to store her grandchildren’s toys in her small house and came up with a few good tips on storing toys that could easily be used in most home:

  • Find a small bookshelf that you can put in a closet or a low-traffic area of your home. The lower shelves can contain toys appropriate for young children and the higher shelves can hold toys for the older kids.
  • Repurpose the lower shelf of a bookshelf you already have in your home. Label boxes with your grandchildren’s’ names, and then put the age-appropriate toys in the specific boxes. Your grandkids won’t ignore boxes with their names on them.
  • Get a traditional toy box and put it at the foot of a bed or near your main entrance. When your grandkids aren’t visiting, it can be a place to sit to put on your shoes. When the grandkids are visiting, they’ll know exactly where to find the toys. Separate toys in the box into smaller boxes and bins, with the older toys in boxes that require more dexterity to open.
  • Get another container that works with your home’s decor. Paint “Toys” or your grandchildren’s names on the container. Again, your grandkids will know exactly where to go to find the toys. You won’t have to remember a thing.

Check out some other great suggestions from the readers here: http://unclutterer.com/2011/01/21/ask-unclutterer-accessible-but-clutter-free-toy-storage/