Maybe it’s a sign of the times; I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately. If your space is limited, every square inch of space you can create becomes valuable. My kitchen is small, and everything I buy comes in different-shaped containers, so I started thinking about more ordered, organised storage solutions. You can buy storage jars or boxes, but I rarely find these satisfactory. Despite their stylishness, they often feature fiddly clip locks and don’t work all that well in terms of shape or size.
What I’ve done is to ‘re-purpose’ some plastic jars that I found were a handy size and easy to open. These are old coffee whitener jars and they have proved ideal for rice, pasta, nuts, sultanas and raisins. There are other things I could use them for, but these are staples of my diet. All you have to do is find containers that you like and which can be re-purposed for other items.
Not necessarily in the kitchen, either. I’ve seen jam jars re-purposed as containers under a shelf in a garage for screws, nuts and bolts etc. Under the shelf is a great way of making the most of your available space (more of that anon).
If I buy items ‘loose’, this is a good method to cut down on my plastic waste. Dried fruit and such can be bought in a paper bag and de-canted to the jars when I unpack the shopping. The paper bags are useful for my food recycling bin.
There was never a more apposite expression to describe our current situation. 90% of the world has been brought to a near standstill by the covid-19 pandemic, and as I write, it doesn’t look like things will change. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with it all, I sympathise. I’ve had a few bad days and nights and I know other people feel the same way. Uncertainty is nobody’s friend, but if there’s one thing that’s certain about this whole episode, it’s that nothing is certain, and probably won’t be for some time to come.
Not the most helpful way to start a blog post about decluttering, but the covid outbreak has been a showstopper for ‘normal’ activities, and like most other people, my normal routine has been thrown into a cocked hat. Many people in the media have been discussing their alternative routines and wondering whether they need to re-assess their priorities in the light of all that is happening.
Few, if any of us, are now able to indulge in group activities, and many little freedoms we might once have enjoyed in our ‘spare’ time have been denied us. To take an ‘on-subject’ example, I wanted to declutter a few items, but was unable to, because the local recycling centre has been closed! The charity shops I know are all closed for deliveries. So all these simple tidy-up tasks I cannot do, for the time being. That’s a little frustrating, to say the least.
It’s still possible to use our wheelie bins to ditch a few bits, but I’d rather not do that for items that could be re-used, and we all have our day-to-day garbage to dispose of. No-one likes an overflowing dustbin.
For the reasons above, this is not a great time to start a decluttering project. So how can we make best use of our time, now that time is all we have?
What I have done a great deal of in this enforced ‘slow time’, is look at the heaps of little things I have and see if I can’t organise them a little better. Childrens toys, ornaments, books, socks etc. In my case, it’s old photographs. I have lots of them, some my own, some inherited, an historic family archive. So I’m playing lots of ‘snap’, making piles of pictures and seeing if I can locate duplicates, or find all those odd ‘loose’ photos that have fallen out of packets and find out where they came from.
I’m scanning lots of old photos. This gives me the option to ditch the hard copies and keep the ‘memory’. Photographic paper is high quality and can go in your recycling box.
I haven’t forgotten my computer either. Over the years, many files have gotten jumbled up, and now has provided ample time to look over these, delete stuff that I don’t need/want anymore (loads of old pictures and project files) and organise the others into more appropriately named folders. Even in the simplest terms, I can organise files into year-dated folders. This is a great way to keep track of memories, especially in the form of photographs, or typed letters.
I won’t deny that after a while, this could become a very tedious, boring task! But when all we have at our disposal is time, we can take as much time as we like over this project, and even if we don’t finish it, we will have made huge strides into getting ourselves more organised than we have been for many a long year.
Tedious or ‘fiddly’ tasks like this require focus. So spend time on them, enjoy the memories they uncover*; there is no need to rush. It will take your mind off the current global predicament, which is not a problem of your making, not your fault. By obeying the government guidelines and staying in, you are playing an important part in the solution. No need to do more.
Rather like that old joke about doing something when we get ‘a round tuit’. Along with all it’s problems, covid-19 has provided a round tuit for all of us, to start catching up with stuff we never thought we’d catch up with.
*If the things you find uncover bad memories, now might be an excellent time to consider decluttering such items ‘with maximum prejudice’. Put them in the bin, and wave them goodbye.
In a previous post I talked about how great shelves were at getting stuff off your floors and out of your way, and helping you get organised. I even showed you a picture of a wall and highlighted how great walls can be for putting shelves on – but there were no shelves on that wall!
A lot has happened since that post, and by way of apology I’ve tried to improve that situation by creating a video on the subject of shelves and how to add them to your home.
You can get someone to do this for you (someone like me, perhaps) or you can do-it-yourself. But if no-one has ever shown you how to make shelves, it’s probably best to see how it’s done before trying for yourself. So here’s a first small step for Devon Clutter Busters into the world of YouTube broadcasting, you can find our shelf-making video here:
You don’t need any fancy equipment, a regular electric drill is about as fancy as it gets. Mine has a variable speed for more control (most drills will have that now). As you will see, a spirit level is handy, and a set square.
I’ve deliberately made it a ‘warts-and-all’ video, as I wanted to show people what really happens and how it’s ok to make a few mistakes along the way (everybody does), and that most mistakes… well, they aren’t such a big deal.
The YT channel is a new idea for us, and not one we know much about, but we hope we can add stuff to it that you will find useful, and we will try to link the channel to other useful information, via the ‘playlists’ feature.
Update: Following helpful comments, I’ve created a version with more written instructions so the video is easier to follow. It’s on the same channel, entitled “Making a Shelf 2”
Floors are wonderful spaces. You can put things on floors. You can stand, sit, lie, exercise, eat, read, sleep and work on floors.
Here’s a mildly amusing
anecdote I heard many years ago – so many years in fact, that one might have
whimsically referred to a radio as a ‘wireless’, and not caused too much
confusion among younger people around you.
A man was stuck in a traffic
jam and noticed a small shop that always appeared to be open, yet didn’t appear
to sell anything. The lights were on,
the door was open, customers occasionally went in and out, but their window
display showed only empty shelves – it didn’t appear to sell anything.
The tailback was very long and
it enabled the man to take a good look at the shop, finally to realise that it
sold shelving systems.
Which brings me conveniently to
the subject of this week’s epic blogular post.
It may provide a solution, if you feel your situation would benefit from
If you can’t see your floor, or can’t see much of it, this is because you have put too many things on it. You will be unable to achieve many of the wonderful activities listed above, and that would be a shame.
Fig 1: A floor, seen from above (actual shape and colour may vary).
Try doing those things on a wall. Tricky, isn’t it. No matter how hard we try, we can’t do anything on walls without
having to ‘hang on’ in some way, and that prevents us from doing anything
else. So what’s the point of walls, and
how can they help you sort out your stuff?
I will tell you.
Walls are great places to put shelves. Shelves are great places to put stuff. In fact, that’s the only purpose of shelves! It is their one real purpose in life, and, unlike many of us, they achieve it well. Brilliantly, in fact.
Take a look at your floors. How much of them can you see?
OK, now take a look at your walls. I expect you can see a lot more of them, yes? If you’re the sort of person who likes pictures, perhaps you won’t see much wall, but for many of us, if we were to work out the area of wall we could see, and compare that figure with our floor space, we’d find a lot more wall.
Fig2: A Wall, Two or three Shelves could be built-in to each alcove, or free-standing shelves could be placed here, to take items off the floor. I’ve removed some pictures to demonstrate just how much space is available.
So here’s a notion: how great would it be if we could turn
all that useless wall space into useful floor space? It would be very great, I think.
But how do we turn vertical spaces into horizontal spaces? The answer lies in Shelves.
There are two principal types of shelving system:
wall-mounted, and floor mounted.
Shelves mounted anywhere else will not work properly. I would not recommend mounting shelves to a
ceiling; that’s just asking for trouble.
The wonderful thing about shelves is they come in many forms so you should be able to find a form that suits you. If you feel unsure about fitting them yourself, there are many people out there who may be able to help, even me. Yes, I will fit shelves if you think they will help you sort out your stuff (and you would be right about that). My only stipulation is – you buy the shelves. It’s simpler this way.
Shelves are wonderful things. They turn lots of ‘dead’ vertical space into functional, useful
horizontal space. They get stuff off
your floors. They place useful stuff at
eye-level (a wonderful place), or very nearly so. So all your important stuff is easy to find.
At a pinch, with judicious use of hooks, you can even hang
stuff underneath shelves! This
is useful in places like kitchens, where utensils and cups can be stored for easy
access, or where storage may be limited.
Just don’t put too much load on them.
Best of all, shelves enable you to appreciate your floor
again for the fabulous space it is. A
great floor is one you can stretch out on and not be able to touch anything,
preferably in all directions. This
enables you to reclaim a fabulous space to yourself, one that is all yours to
with your floors in your life – install shelves.
Offices where you have to go to work are only good if you’re
the boss. If you have an office at
home, you’re very lucky. An office is a
great place to get organised, and it’s even an ok place to be a bit disorganised
and still look pretty cool at the same time.
If you had an office at home but can’t remember where you
left it/where it is, hmm, not so good, but on the plus side, you know it’s
there somewhere. All you need to do is
I’m being flippant – one needs to treat these situations
with humour, or they become overwhelming.
To return to the subject, an office is a wonderful place to start
getting yourself organised.
So pull on your organising trousers and let’s fix this. Maybe you have a spare bedroom, or a spare
bed, or a spare table (a trestle/decorator’s table will do), maybe even a
garage floor (but beware of dust). Any
big space like this will help you to sort stuff out into piles of
stuff you need
stuff you don’t need
stuff you aren’t sure about
You may even be able to sort it further, like specific bill
types – but if you want to work fast and efficiently, stick with these three
This all assumes you have such rooms or organising spaces
available. If you read this and think
‘Hm, I can’t find a useable office space like Neil suggests’, then your problem
is a bit more sticky, and you might want to give someone like me a call. It’s a bit like unravelling a badly packed
bundle of Christmas lights, and at those times it helps to have a second person
to help out.
Give me a call on 07985 490 810 and find out how I can help.
Don’t let the clutter boss you about. Boss your clutter!
A balanced diet is made up from the five essential food groups. (I always thought they were proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and fibre, but a quick check on the web suggests all manner of alternatives, oh well).
There are four seasons and four tops. If any of them are missing, consider yourself short-changed.
When you’re trying to get organised, there are three basic piles of stuff
1) stuff you need
2) stuff you don’t need
3) stuff you aren’t sure about
In fact, at any time, these are the three basic types of stuff anyone will have. You’ll have a few of the first thing, rather more of the second, and lots of the third. The trick is to know how to keep (2) to a minimum, and how to turn (3) into (2).
We’ll look at how to do this in the future. For now, just keep this in mind if you’re ever looking at your stuff and wondering what to do about it.
Note: Turning (3) into (1) rarely happens, in my experience.
I would like to thank Christine Durrant for her help in cleaning and tidying my home. Thank you Christine for giving me the strength I needed to do this project and thank you for becoming a good friend as well. I would like to say that it’s people like you who help others to understand and get over their problems.
Thank you again,
I am a professional organiser but I am not an inherently tidy person or in favour of minimalist living. People worry that I am going to come in and ‘make them’ get rid of all their stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth. My role is to help you manage your belongings so that they enhance your life rather than stifle it.
Some people need to reduce the quantity of stuff in their home because they can no longer function in the space. Clutter has piled on top of clutter and they can’t find anything even though they know it is in there somewhere. This leads to them spending more money buying something they know that they own but they cannot find. Now there is yet more clutter to deal with in the daily struggle to function.
In these homes clutter is not creative, it is very stressful, so stressful in fact that people develop mental blinkers which enable them to cut out the clutter so that they are not overwhelmed by it.
As an organiser, I do not see it as my job to leave you with an immaculate desk or living area in which you can no longer find anything. Many people need visual clues to remind them of their ‘to do list’. My role is to help you sort out what is working as a system and what is not. Once we discover the things that do work then we can bring that knowledge to the areas that don’t work for you and revise them so that they work too.
Certainly I have found many of my clients to be interesting and creative people. They are also extremely generous with their time, devoting much of it to outside the home activities helping others. The combination of these elements can have the effect of accumulating mess that brings a resulting chaos in its wake. That is why they call me in.
If any of this resonates with you, leave a comment.
A mountain of clothes litters the floor and from it you pull any items you can see that will
a) fit you and
b) look and smell relatively clean.
You can’t open the wardrobe door or chest of drawers because the floor mountain is in front of it? It is possible that you have lots of space in the wardrobe but you don’t actually know because it is so long since you last were able to explore its interior.
Take courage in both hands and sort the mountain into separate piles on your bed: tops, trousers, jeans, jumpers, underwear etc. Have the laundry basket close by for the things that don’t pass the visual and/or nasal tests.
The pile will now take a form that is easier to deal with.
Once the wardrobe/drawers are accessible check what is inside. Chuck any that are too small too big or follow advice in part 1 of this blog.
Clean the cupboard spaces and line drawers and shelves with pretty paper. Old Sunday supplements are perfect for this job as long as you don’t let them distract you from the task in hand.
Why do this? Because we don’t like cleaning and the next time you have to sort your cupboard you take out the lining paper and throw it away before putting fresh paper down.
Think carefully about your wardrobe. Why did you stop using it?
Do you dislike hanging things up?
Maybe a hanging wardrobe is not for you. Get a local handyman to fill the hanging space with shelves and put your clothes in neat piles on them.
Do you hate coat hangars that snag on each other?
Try buying some rounded plastic ones or wooden ones. They are better for your clothes and snag less easily.
Do you find it difficult to find what you want?
Think about putting items you wear together next to each other rather than sorting your wardrobe into trousers, skirts, tops. Now you have outfits together instead and you take three things out together. Now if the coat hangars snag it won’t matter so much because they are all coming out together anyway.
A mountain of clothes litters the floor and from it you pull any items you can see that will
a) fit you
b) look and smell relatively clean.
This could be because you have a wardrobe so full that you cannot squeeze any more in it, and if you try to extract one item, a further three will try to prevent it from leaving. Why is it that coat hangers all desperately want to stick together?
If you (and your beloved) are never irritated or frustrated by your ‘clothes mountain’, then read no further. You are happy, and you have the right to remain so.
However, for those of you who get frustrated because you can only find one red shoe and one blue, or even a matching pair of black left shoes and you are already running late, read on, and see hope rise.
Take a moment, and think about why your clothes mountain is there. Is it due to the packed wardrobe?
Now is the time to take a day to clear it out. Chuck anything that is too small or too large. The former fills you with guilt that your sylph-like figure is receding; the latter tells you that you are not strong-willed enough to keep the weight off. Either way, do yourself a favour and get that stuff out of your wardrobe! If you must keep it, box it, label it and put it out of sight.
If you want to make money you can take good stuff to your local ‘As new’ shop. They are interested in clean, nearly new, quality labels (Primark is not for them). Old unusable items can be sold as ‘rags’ for about £3 per 10 kgs (a large black bin liner full is a close approximation) if you know a local merchant. If not, cloth recycling is often carried out at your local recycling centre.
For the rest, you can take it to the charity shop of your choice. There are many represented in every high street, and the money they make from resale supports many worthwhile causes.
If all this is too daunting, we are here to help if we can.