Containment

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.

How jars can make a statement, and that statement is: "Hey, this dude is organised".
Fig1: One Jar, many contents.
You can label them or customise them as you wish.
The original jar is on the right.

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.

Is this a bad time?

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 gag about doing something when we get ‘a round tuit’.  Well, 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.

DIY – Do It – Your shelf

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”

On the Shelf

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 it.

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 enjoy.

Re-connect with your floors in your life – install shelves.

Bossin’ it

First, find a safe space to work.

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 find it.

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

  1. stuff you need
  2. stuff you don’t need
  3. 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 piles first.

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!

Your Stuff and You

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.

Testimonial

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,
Your friend,
Paul Hawkins