Thursday, 1 March 2018

Let's get real

If you've ever put the words, "decluttering", "minimalism", or "tidying" into something like Google, Pinterest or Instagram then I feel for you. Other than using that search to find your way to our website or blog, the results can be rather confronting. Beautiful rooms, perfect cupboards, austere living areas and offices so impossibly organised that productivity must be at insanely high levels. The problem is that this is not reality and for most of us, Alison and I included, it's simply not realistic. 

Let me give you another example; fitness. It's a huge industry and a lot of us would like to be fitter and healthier. But searching for those terms will have you viewing images of people who must spend their whole day in the gym, hair removal salon and kale juice bar. Again, it's just not something that we can achieve or should even aspire to.

Life is "warts and all" whether we like it or not. For every person that has mastered the art of tidying up to perfection there are thousands of us who have much more in our lives than amazingly folded towels or an anally retentive filing system for bills. We're the regular ones and none of us should feel guilty about it.

I like the idea of "living more with less". It's my catchphrase at the moment but I've realised the need for balance between living with just enough to get by and allowing myself to be happy.

Wardrobes tend to be a disaster zone for many of us. I looked at mine a while ago, groaned and just closed the door. I'd been looking at wardrobe hacks on a number of internet pages and it just depressed me. How could I go from the equivalent of Shrek's swamp to something that was Instagram worthy? The answer is that I can't. But what I have managed to do is make it functional. Over a little while I spent short amounts of time, no more than 15 minutes, looking through what was in there and taking action. There's still a mess in there but there is less mess. I can find what I'm looking for and some of my friends have benefited from unworn cycling gear that didn't fit me. It's not perfect in the "look at me" sense but the general declutter and rough organisation has made me a lot happier.


 And after!

If you'd like to chat about living more with less then reach out to us here at declutr. We're not perfect, we don't judge, and we like to help.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Garages, sheds, studios and hangouts...

This is Rob's first blog post. Check back regularly for more.

John Williamson wrote a very cool song all about sheds and their importance to Australian men. Check it out HERE if you are interested. The "Mens' Shed" movement also proves a point about people needing somewhere that they can commune and do something meaningful with their hands. And of course, sheds are not just for men.

I play the guitar in a band, I like to listen to loud music and I have quite a lot of CDs, records, cassettes and action figures. A portion of our garage is set aside for my studio. It's more like a miniature "Bat Cave" but without the secret entrance. The only downside is that I have to share with the cat.

The studio is the place where I have my daggy old rock and roll posters on the wall. Some of my action figures are on display and my guitars and amplifiers ready for action. I also have a desk and a comfy chair.

Recently I looked at my desk and the workbench I use and realised that they were covered in stuff. Stuff from the laundry, cycling gear, bits and pieces of sound equipment, CDs, a LEGO set, pens, books I might read and, somewhere under it all, my laptop. At the start my studio was fairly well organised but to tell the truth it had quite quickly got out of hand.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this. One is to plug in a guitar and play along, loudly, to some Midnight Oil, Angels and AC/DC tunes. I did this and I felt pretty good pretending I was onstage with thousands of screaming fans. But when I'd played the encore and said, "goodnight, thank you, we love you all!", there was still a rather large mess to look at and it made me feel grumpy. No-one likes "grumpy Rob, especially my family and Facebook friends. It usually leads to online rants about issues that may be important but gain nothing from my input. It just makes me grumpier.

When I made the connection between clutter and mess and my level of well being it made sense to try and do something about it. After all, the crowd wasn't calling out for more.

Alison had plenty of books and resources about decluttering and I'd heard some stories about her clients. It was time for me to give it a shot and so that's what I'm doing at the moment.

Step 1 was to crank up the stereo and spend a little time putting stuff away that already has a home. I wasn't worried about getting rid of things (except obvious rubbish and recycling) at this stage; just returning things to their homes. I won't lie, it took me both sides of a Pogues LP and one album by Def Leppard to do the job but it has made a difference. I can get to my desk and use my laptop without feeling surrounded. 

The next step, and this now includes the whole garage, is working out what stays, what goes and what isn't mine to decide about. It's not always simple or easy but I seem to be getting there. There are a couple of things I've enjoyed so far. One has been taking a whole load of books, puzzles and DVDs to a charity that resells them. It felt good in that I knew someone else would be enjoying them before too long coupled with the fact that I'd made a start! The other thing I've enjoyed is that, even though the garage still has a lot of stuff to work through, the small amount I have done has made a visible difference in terms of the place looking a bit better.

Do you have a garage, shed, studio or cave that could do with a bit of help? Give me a yell, I'd love to help. I'll finish mine soon as well.

PS: here's a shot taken before the studio area was even created!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Setting up systems that work

I’ve been working a lot recently. I love the excitement of the new year. January is often the time when people decide to get their home or office in order. I enjoy setting people up for a great year by helping reclaim their space and supporting them to view their belongings and time differently.

But I also recognise how important it is to take time to rest and recharge. I end each of my sessions with a reminder about how tired my client will find themselves and that they shouldn’t be surprised by this. Decluttering is physically, emotionally and mentally tiring. Most clients report back that they experience a joyful, peaceful level of weariness. As if their body is telling them – job well done!

So, on Tuesday I took a day to do nothing, to read, to potter in my garden and kitchen, to walk my dog and spend a few hours on the couch with my cat enjoying that blissful place between sleep and wakefulness.

The obvious question seems to be – how could I while away a whole day if I’d been working flat out for the previous 20? The answer is simple. Systems. 

Let’s face it much of our daily lives is about drudgery. I’m the first to admit that doing the daily jobs that make a household run smoothly don't thrill me. But having systems in place eases this impost and allows me to do the stuff that needs to be done so I can move onto other activities that make me happy.

So, what is it that makes a system work? 

Simplicity. The simpler the system the more likely you are to stick to it. We have a bowl on our kitchen bench that holds our keys. We all drop them there as we enter the house. No more lost keys or tears when your daughter can’t find her keys and misses the school bus again.

Our key bowl holds house keys, car keys and more. But only keys!

Realism. If you cook simple food you’re never going to need all those exotic ingredients crowding your pantry. Get rid of them and enjoy being able to see and access the ingredients you do use.

Change your habits. Sometimes making a system work only requires a small shift in your habits. When you get back from walking the dog put his lead away instead of putting it down on the bench or the floor. Soon it will become second nature to unclip him and put his lead in the drawer.

Sparky's lead goes in this drawer. Even he knows where it lives!

Find what works for you. Do you want your home to be a shoe-free zone? Then create a space where people enter your house to store shoes. Make sure everyone in the household knows about this rule and get them to stick to it.

Implementing new systems takes time and buy in from everyone in your household. It’s no good setting up a new system and failing to tell everyone else about it. The other thing to remember is that some systems will fail. That brilliant idea you had might lack something essential in reality. Don’t be afraid to trial an idea and then shelve it if it’s just not working for you or your family. But don’t lose heart once your systems are place they'll become second nature to everyone, including the frequent visitors to your home (think hordes of teenagers all putting their bags in the cupboard instead of on the floor). 

Soon you’ll be so busy enjoying life that the effort of implementing your systems will be a distant memory.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Storing a colour wheel of scarves

So, what does a professional organiser do on their day off? Reorganise their scarf drawer, of course!

I’m well known for my extensive scarf collection. Scarves are my signature piece. They can lift an outfit from dull to colourful in the time it takes to loop one around your neck. They have the added advantage of keeping your neck warm or keeping the sun off it. But! I digress…

Back to my scarf drawer. I’ve been trialling a few different storage methods but I’m yet to hit my sweet spot. There’s nothing I like seeing less when I open the drawer is a jumble of scarves that all tumble out when you try to choose just one.

Time to try something new. First I tipped the contents of the drawer on my bed, then I carefully rolled each scarf to approximately the same size, taking care not to crush them. Them just for kicks I arranged them in a colour wheel. That made me very happy!

A colourful collection to add that extra something to any outfit
My drawer is not ideal but you have to work with the storage you have. I decided to try a system I know works well in other situations and raided my ibox supply. 

I then put a single layer of scarves into the drawer and added the rest into a couple of boxes. 

The bottom layer

The top layer, using two iPad boxes
These boxes fit perfectly on top of the layer in the drawer and are easy to remove so I can see what’s under them. I think I’m going to like this new system but I’ll keep you posted about it goes.

Oh, and before you go. In the interest of transparency, here’s my other scarf drawer. It holds warm wintery scarves as well as beanies and gloves. Time to give it a spruce up too.

All the warm stuff

Monday, 4 September 2017

The great laundry flood of 2017

‘Mum, the laundry is flooding’ are not the words you want to hear when you’re on your way home from a relaxing weekend away.

We arrived home to find our daughter wasn’t exaggerating when she said water was gushing out of the washing machine tap, which by the way, is located inside the laundry cupboard. 

My daughter walked into the room in time to see a trickle coming out of the bottom of the cupboard door and when she opened that door she was met with a mighty deluge.

The empty cupboard with a drip tray in place - waiting for the plumber to fix the taps

Luckily the plumber was already booked to fix the bathroom leak (that’s a whole other story) so we were only without the washing machine for a day. Meanwhile I was faced with the soggy contents of the laundry cupboard.

Nothing like a messy job to bring you back to earth with a thud! We’d only just celebrated two years in our new house so figured there wouldn’t be many excess items to clean or cull. Boy, was I surprised at what we’d managed to build up in that time.

It was time to don my professional organiser hat and get to work. Water damaged items went straight into the bin. Empty bottles were sent to recycling and I dried and categorised the rest.

I then grabbed some boxes from the stash I keep on hand for clients. Three mango boxes, an iPad box and the box my planner came in were the perfect combination.

This mango box was perfect for storing bottles and cans in my laundry cupboard

One box was for laundry detergent and associated products, another was for shoe cleaning supplies and the third housed the pets’ assorted brushes and combs. The final three contain other cleaning products and sunscreen.

And the beauty of the box system? The boxes are easy to lift out of the cupboard. so, everyone in the household can easily find what they're looking for and return it to where it should be when they've finished using it without creating a huge mess.

The great laundry flood of 2017 occurred in January and I'm happy to report the cupboard is still in tip top shape, give or take a bottle or two!

PS. Xena thoroughly enjoyed the laundry clean up. She couldn't decide whether to be in the cupboard or the boxes and finally settled in the laundry basket.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Let's get crafty! (Tips to create and maintain your craft room.)

Pinterest is full of gorgeous images of beautifully curated craft rooms. Not a thing out of place. Big rooms, small rooms, cupboards and corners, the possibilities are endless but they are always beautiful, colourful and spotless.

Added to this there are many blogs out there detailing how to set up a craft room, how to curate your stuff, beautiful storage solutions - both bespoke and off the shelf but what none of them tell you is how to maintain the space once you've set it up. Most fail to plan for future purchases or even the practicality of creating in the space.

Systems fail when they're too complex to maintain. Simple is best. But how does that work in a room that is like an Aladdin’s cave? A room stuffed to the gills with every craft material you've ever bought but perhaps never used?

After we moved house three years ago, I achieved the unthinkable – a whole room of my own for crafting and creating.

To start with I used the furniture we had, a motley collection of storage cubes teamed with a desk and credenza bought for an entirely different shaped room. And I made these things work while I dreamed of a Pinterest-worthy space. I was happy here and spent many hours creating.

Meanwhile I planned my ultimate craft room for over a year. I measured my space and drew up plans, then I redrew them. I visited IKEA and Howard’s Storage World and redrew my plans again.

I planned and re-planned. I took stock of what I had and then planned again.

Before I bought a single piece of furniture I revisited every item in my crafting supplies from rulers to fabric squares and scraps of paper to ribbon and wool. I knew exactly what I owned and what I was never going to use. I attended a crafting event and sold my unwanted supplies to raise money for charity. I donated the rest of my still over-abundant supplies to various school and church groups and I felt lighter and more focussed. I was ready to build my dream room.

My existing furniture went into my husband’s studio and suddenly I was faced with an empty room. My hours of dreaming and planning were put to the test as I bought and assembled the storage units I had decided upon.

I mounted these cubes to the wall. They are both functional and decorative

I have to admit feeling a level of fear and trepidation as I filled my shelves with my carefully chosen supplies but everything fitted, with space to spare and the room was beautiful – Pinterest-worthy even. And just between us, for a while I was too scared to use it in case things got out of place. But I soon got over that and I can now spend hours happily crafting and creating.

IKEA's kitchen shelves and rails are a great addition to your craft room

So, what did I learn?

  •  Take stock of what you have. Cull and donate. Be ruthless if you haven’t used it in 12 months are you going to?
  •  Shop smart - stop auto subscriptions. Whilst beautiful these subscriptions tend to be the very things that are stashed away and never used because they weren’t bought with a particular project in mind.
  •  Be clever and creative with storage ideas. Use what you have. A successful room is one that suits your needs not something from the pages of a magazine.
  •  Future proof. Don’t plan a craft room that can only house the supplies you have now. Like any good storage solution, it should only be 70 per cent full.

And the key to maintaining the craft room of your dreams?


Put stuff away.

Make sure everything has a home, even those works in progress. Only too often I hear the words – my craft room is a disgrace! And the messier a room becomes the less likely you are to use it and the less likely you are to use it, the more likely it is to become a dumping ground. Stop the cycle before it begins.

The finishing touches

 And now it’s time to go and live a creative life.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The room of requirement

We have a room adjacent to our kitchen. It's lovely big room, full of light, with views to the deck on one side and garden on the other. It's a room where people gather, it's warm, welcoming and spacious. But strangely, it's a room without a name. All of the other rooms in the house have titles - lounge, dining, bedroom, laundry - based on their primary use.

Sometimes we talk about the Red Room, based on its decor but even this doesn't stick. Its the hub of our home, a that room matches our ever-changing needs, it's the room where anything can happen. A room where variety is the spice of life, the room of requirement. 

Depending on the time of day it can the breakfast room, a quiet reading room, an extra bedroom, a games room - this is where the Xbox and play station live and the room can be brimming with teenage boys vying for supremacy in soccer or rugby. It was also the dance floor, complete with DJ, for my son's 18th Birthday. For a month it was the room where my mum convalesced after her back surgery. It's also been a massage room! 

Rob had to fight the cat for his turn!
It's where we gather when we all come home, to chat, debrief and shrug off the day. At Christmas time we move the dining table in so the extended family can fit. It's a room that invites laughter and conversation. But it's also a room that lifts you up when you need it most.

I've spent a lot of time in here over the past few years. Central to the room is a sofa bed that also converts into a chaise. And it's here that I've recovered from my various surgeries. 

A flashback to the time I spent six weeks in this contraption as it bent and straightened my knee.
I'm in the room right now, writing this post. so, now the room is an office too. This is how the room currently looks, complete with pets, washing and an abundance of lemons. This room is real life. 

Xena has a red blanket and Sparky has a red beanbag and they don't like to share.

What room is the hub of your home? Do you have a room that changes with your needs? What do you call it? I'd love to hear about it.