Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Peak Stuff


You might have picked up on this phrase recently. It's been a busy old Twitter hashtag (#peakstuff) and it originated with a discussion with a senior member of the IKEA team. This article summarises the situation pretty neatly (and saves me writing it again). It was written by the inspirational Jen from Wiltshire, who runs a blog called My Make Do and Mend Life.

As a professional organiser, one of the main services I'm called upon to provide is the assistance with decluttering. (The organising of what is kept is usually a separate issue. Some clients don't have, in fact, enormous amounts to dispose of, believe it or not; it's their arrangement and accessibility of 'needful stuff' that is challenging.)

However, it's also common to find myself supporting clients through the disposal of excess. There are the clothes that either no longer fit or that are simply never worn due to a change in lifestyle. There is paperwork (one of the greatest problems for many of us), most of which is accessible online, and outdated information is usually more dangerous than no information at all. There are overstocks of food (BOGOF deals, anyone?) to the extent that it goes to waste as it goes out of date before it can possibly be eaten. And so on. And, of course, all this excess 'stuff' has to live somewhere, and most people don't have unlimited space or storage.

Jen's key point in her article is this:

"We are still being cajoled by the advertising companies that our lives will be better, and happier, and easier, if we had the latest shiny new thing. But maybe, just maybe, we’re all finally starting to cotton to the fact that this is actually just advertising bullsh*t designed to keep us spending, and that our lives are not any better, happier or easier, even after buying a whole heap of latest shiny new things. Maybe the message is sinking home that current levels of consumption are unsustainable, and our planet does not in fact have finite supplies of everything we need."

Exactly so. Less stuff means:


  • more space
  • more money to spend on experiences rather than things
  • less dust
  • less pressure to conform
  • more clarity
  • less confusion
  • more efficiency


If you're wondering, there are areas in which I'm as much at fault as the next man, or woman. I'm still a bit of a clothes addict - there's nothing like succeeding in losing nearly three stone to seduce one into buying unnecessary items just because it's hard to believe that things look good. However, I have about 35% of the quantity of clothes that I had two years ago (largely because I had a wardrobe spanning three sizes). I hate to think of the amount of money that was wasted on that one. My husband's equivalent is the books: far more volumes than he could ever, conceivably, read in a lifetime.

***

So what do you do with the #peakstuff when you decide it's time for it to go? To start with, don't panic about landfill. Almost nothing that I, or my clients, dispose of goes there. Recycle, give to charity, Freegle (like ebay but without money), give away, car boot sale, Gumtree, Ebay... so many places. I've created a page of suggestions here that you might find helpful.

And if you need support - physical, motivational, or just ideas and suggestions - contact me, or one of my colleagues from APDO, and we'll be delighted to help.

Sharing the knowledge

I sometimes get asked for articles or interviews by journalists, which I'm very happy to provide. It's not unusual for them to be done a very long way in advance of publication - with the result that I've forgotten all about it by the time that happens!

That was the case this morning. Why was I being sent a copy of 'Take a Break Extra' in the post? Because a double-page spread, featuring both myself and a fellow member of APDO, Juliet Landau-Pope, was in there - that's why!




Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Space for change

A few weeks ago, I was honoured and delighted to have been credited, in some small part, with assisting a client of mine to move on to a new phase of her life. Our decluttering work on her house, a couple of years ago, helped her to find the emotional freedom to be open to a new relationship and home. You can read about that here.

I've today read a wonderful tale with even more dramatic results. This isn't a client, but a professional colleague in an adjacent profession to my own. The lovely Sarah Morgan specialises in wardrobe decluttering and helping people to identify the right colours and styles for them. She gave me a magnificent amount of assistance a few months back, when (having achieved a two-stone weight loss, and with a house move imminent) I needed a professional eye cast over my own utterly random wardrobe.

Sarah's story today demonstrates the extraordinary power of mindset and the 'letting go' of that which no longer serves us. You can read her article here. Warning: beware the green-eyed monster... ;)

Not every decluttering session will bring such dramatic results (a move to the Caribbean being a pretty extreme example!). Yet the changes that can be brought about by release from the detritus of the past will all, in their own ways, have a profound impact on our lives.

The smallest changes can make such a positive difference.

Monday, 8 June 2015

More than just a tidy house


I was so touched to receive a wonderful message yesterday. I'd spent several sessions (across some months) with this lovely lady, a couple of years ago, decluttering her house in all corners, and she was delighted with the domestic control that it helped her to regain.

However, it's not just a tidy house, and the attendant sense of calm, that can result from decluttering; the ripples can reach much wider.

"I'm so thankful we did the de-clutter previously! It was part of the preparation, making space for the new. Many thanks for your part in the preparations. Little did you know how much I needed that de-cluttering to make emotional and spiritual space for a relationship."

This isn't the first time  that I've been privileged to have witnessed a client achieving emotional clarity as a result of physical decluttering. I am honoured to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Paperwork advice: a word to the wise

I'm so delighted to have been invited to contribute to Judy Heminsley's excellent resource for homeworkers, Work From Home Wisdom. Click here to see my article on one of the most common challenges I encounter when helping clients to declutter: paperwork.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

So what's normal?


Do the default settings on your computer work for you?

If you find that every time you start a new document in (say) Microsoft Word that you're driven nuts by the need to change the font, its size, the margin settings or whatever, you need to change what your computer sees as 'normal'. Often the manufacturer's settings won't be to your taste, or practical needs.

If what you get for each new document is Times Roman - or in more recent versions, Calibri - and you don't like that choice - change it. Change your computer's view of the world with a few simple clicks!

Check out this very straightforward set of guidelines - a set for each of several versions of the software - and reduce your time-wastage and frustration.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/291291

Oh, and if you would prefer help with learning about this stuff from a real, live person... just give me a shout.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Preloved : the value of imagination

This is rather a long post. However, if you enjoy hearing of recycling at its best, wonderful creativity and the gifts of love, please take the time to read the story of Fairfax and Olaf, the wooden cats.

We moved house a few weeks ago (my husband, an Anglican parish priest, took up a post in a new benefice). Our new house is smaller than the previous one - which isn't to say it's small, just that the previous one was very large! As a result, a great deal of the inevitable decluttering took place, both before and after the move. Yes, professional organisers do need to take a dose of their own medicine sometimes.

Many items went to charity shops, of course, and made far more money for the charities than I would have made, which pleased me very much. However, a few items were rather special, and I wanted them to have the chance to go to some known 'good home'; so I posted a few photographs on Facebook, offering my friends to chance to claim anything that took their fancy.

One of these was a pair of wooden cats. I have no recollection of where they came from, but I was always rather fond of them; they sat on a high shelf in our living room for many years. The new house simply had nowhere appropriate for them to live, and it was time for them to move on.



I was delighted when they were claimed by a friend as a special gift for her young stepsons - one of whom had coveted her existing wooden cats for some time. When she emailed me to let me know they'd arrived, she intrigued me by telling me the following:

I don't believe in presents for kids that don't inspire the imagination - none of your main stream stuff here.  My poor children have been brought up on a diet of home made stories and toys and are hopefully better (if weirder) people for it. My two young stepsons now receive the same treatment and your two lovely cats inspired a story (I will send it to you when it is complete) which I will package with the cats at Christmas. Obviously the cats needed names for this purpose and Fairfax and Olaf seemed to fit the bill.

I was entranced by this wonderfully imaginative and personal approach, delighted that my preloved wooden cats would become the subjects of a story, and excited to know more. So when today I received a copy of 'the story so far' (my friend plans to continue writing about them) I was so pleased when she agreed that I could share it - in the form of a letter from Santa to the two boys. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I wanted to tell you how successful your cats were on Christmas day, so much so we have not heard of anything else.  And as promised here is the letter from Santa telling the story of how they came to be in their possession. 

Hello Dylan and Tommy

I have heard quite a few stories about you both over the past year. Dylan, I know you have been working hard at school and you have been trying to remember not to shout. It is hard when you want to tell someone something though isn't it? Tommy, I know you have started big school now and you are learning very quickly. I also know that you try to get ready on time but it is hard when it's cold outside and your bed is warm. Mrs Claus likes to stay in bed too. Did you know that Santa and Mrs Claus have a big bed shaped just like the sleigh I bring all your toys on, on Christmas eve? Maybe one year I will harness the reindeer up to it and give Mrs Claus a ride through the skies whilst she is asleep...

Anyway, because you have both been such good boys this year, the magic at the North Pole has whispered to me you should have this special present. It is not new from a shop but something precious that has been around for a long time. It has lived in other people's houses and taken care of them in a quiet and magical way.

And here am I saying it when really there are two things in this box. It isn't one each but for you both to share. Maybe you could be really sensible and work out a way to look after them together?
You also need to decide a quiet place to keep them somewhere near to you. They need to be quiet for their magic not to disappear and also for them to help you. Perhaps your secret shelves would be a good place to keep them, what do you think?

As they get used to being in your house and around you, you will notice the effect their magic has in your lives. You will feel happier and have more fun . Anything you find difficult will become easier and you will learn more quickly.

But. You need to help them keep their magic. I have already told you they need to be quiet but also you need to carry on being good boys and continue to work hard. Try your best always, tell the truth and be kind to others. Be especially kind to animals - you will find out why when you see what is inside the box...

[The next instalment was inside the box with the cats]

Now you know what is in the box, there are a few more things I need to tell you about Fairfax and Olaf. Obviously they don't need feeding or watering but they do need polishing. You can ask Daddy or Amanda to help you (I don't suggest you ask Tom and Ryan as they can't keep their room tidy). You will also notice Olaf has a little splinter of wood missing from his ear. All magic cat pairs have a little something like this and it is a sign to other magical creatures that you two are to be kept safe.

Remember that being chosen to take care of Fairfax and Olaf means you are now their Guardians. It is a big responsibility so take it seriously and you will be rewarded.  If ever you need any advice then please ask Daddy or Amanda. They too have a pair of magical cats entrusted to them so they will be able to help you. 

Lots of love from Santa xx