All about decluttering and organising paperwork

Paperwork is the single most annoying thing in most people’s homes. In this post I’m going to tell you how to be a paper warrior and to keep it simple. We’ll cover stopping paper and paperwork getting into the house, keeping it all in one place and taking immediate action, and dealing with it once a week. We’ll also look at filing, and emergency action when it’s all got out of hand.

Pile of mail. Thanks to Charles Williams (CC BY 2.0).

Paper and paperwork? It’s a force of nature. It’s often unrequested, and it gets dropped and forgotten. It ends up in piles and heaps all over the house and attracts more clutter as it goes. We’re talking about forms to sign, magazines, junk mail, bills, catalogues, newsletters, newspapers, letters, postcards, lottery tickets, raffle tickets … And all the rest.

Yes, paperwork when it’s out of control is annoying. And piles of paper are the thing we notice most often in other homes – long before dusty corners or unwashed mugs and plates.

What’s more, paper and paperwork when it’s out of control is very unrestful. That’s because it’s unfinished business. How can anyone relax with unfinished business about? They can’t.

What a long way from the paperless paradise we heard about a few years ago. Time to be a paper warrior!

Be a paper warrior and be strategic

Take control. This is the only way to prevent paperwork becoming paper clutter.

1. Stop as much paper and paperwork as possible from getting into the house.

2. Put all the paperwork that does make it inside in one place. Deal with as much as you can immediately. Put the rest in your in tray.

3. Set a regular time to deal with your in tray.

4. Have a simple filing system and use it.

1. How to stop paperwork getting into the house

Prevent junk mail

You can stop quite a bit of junk mail from getting through your letterbox by registering with these four organisations:

  • Mail Preference Service – a service funded by the direct mail industry to remove consumers’ names and home addresses in the UK from lists used by the industry.
  • Fundraising Preference Service – a service that lets you stop charities from contacting you.
  • Direct Marketing Association’s ‘Your Choice’ – a scheme to stop door-to-door delivery of unaddressed mail.
  • Royal Mail Door-to-Door – opt-out form. (Be aware that registering to opt out means that you will not receive leaflets from central and local government and other public bodies. This includes unaddressed voting and election material, and information about local recycling and so on.)

Review and reconsider

Review your subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. If you don’t read them then it’s time to stop them coming through the letterbox. You could consider a digital subscription.

Reconsider any magazines you buy in shops and from newsstands. Are they one-off or regular purchases? Once again, do you read them?

Manage your ‘paper and paperwork’ online

This is a good idea but, of course, it can generate more email. (Keeping that under control is a story for another day!)

Online, you can, for example:

  • manage your bank and other financial accounts
  • pay your council tax through a direct debit
  • manage your utility meter readings and bills
  • read magazines and newspapers
  • keep a ‘look book’ for design projects on Pinterest.

2. Keep all paperwork in one place and, if you can, deal with it immediately

All paperwork in one place

This will stop it from going walkabout in the house. Choose a place and use it. It doesn’t matter what you call it – ‘command centre’, ‘landing pad’, ‘my desk’ – put all your paperwork here and do that consistently.

paperwork
The bridge, the nerve centre of a tugboat

Deal immediately with as much paper and paperwork as you can

This takes away paperwork’s power to clog up your head with unfinished business.

  • Recycle immediately – junk mail flyers, unwanted catalogues, takeaway menus, other adverts, free directories, spare envelopes etc etc etc.
  • Shred immediately – charity request letters and other junk mail with your name and address on.
  • Open letters (I use an old vegetable knife to do this quickly and easily). Recycle or shred the envelopes and anything else you can.
  • Do what you can straightaway. Then it’s done and out of the way and out of your head! Sign school permission slips and reply to invitations, send money to school or other places. Note any important dates. Once again, recycle or shred anything you can.
  • Put the rest in your in tray. This will probably be paperwork to think about, file, scan and so on. (By the way, you don’t have to use a tray. I like using one because it keeps things straight and I know I’m going to go through it at the end of the week. For some people it means that things get buried. Choose what makes sense to you.)
paperwork
You can use whatever comes to hand as an in tray. Some people use this kind of paper tray. Some people use a cardboard box.

3. Set a regular time to deal with your in tray

Every successful paper warrior I’ve met sets a regular time to deal with their paperwork. It’s usually once a week and it becomes a habit. They focus on their in tray and whisk through it, quickly and effectively.

Work through your in tray.

  • Sort through it. I put similar things together so I’m dealing with them all at the same time and I don’t have to change gear.
  • Read paperwork.
  • Pay bills.
  • Reconcile accounts.
  • Write letters and cards.
  • Take action on anything else that requires your attention.
  • Recycle or shred what you can.
  • File what’s completed.

Some paperwork will need more information before you can deal with it. Other papers you may be undecided about. Put those back into the in tray for next time.

4. Your filing system

  • Know what paperwork you need to keep and for how long.
  • Have a filing system. Keep it simple.
  • Only file what you need.
paperwork
Neat and tidy files make it easy to find paperwork again but you probably don’t need to keep as much paperwork as this …

What you need to keep

There are some papers to keep because they are essential and other papers to keep because they may make life much easier for you in the future.

Papers that are essential – for example, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, examination certificates.

Other papers to keep (and this depends on you and your circumstances) – for example, school reports, current passports, business documents, some financial documents.

Filing system

The main thing here is to make it easy for yourself, so choose a system that will be easy to use! You want to be able to file paperwork quickly and without fuss – and to find things again quickly and without fuss. Depending on your circumstances, you could choose a filing cabinet, a concertina file, a banker’s box (these are the right size for files or folders) or other boxes.

paperwork
Thanks to Hiro (in the banker’s box) and Mitch Barrie for this image. CC BY-SA 2.0

Set up simple main categories that make sense to you, and label each folder or file accordingly. You could have one for each person in the house, each animal in the house, bank and other financial institutions, health, and business, for example. And each main category can be divided into sub-categories, if necessary.

5. Emergency action

This is for when your house is awash with a sea of paper. Or perhaps it’s the house of someone who is ill or has recently died. Emergency action is required.

Walk through each room and collect all the paper and paperwork. Put it into a bag or box.

Find a space where you can sort it. Sort all the paper and paperwork into three piles:

  • Anything you need to keep. You can get to this later.
  • To shred. That’s unwanted paperwork with names, addresses or financial details.
  • Recycling. That’s everything else.

Good luck with decluttering and organising, Paper Warriors!

Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – some insights

This post is a bit of fun about decluttering and signs of the Zodiac but just might offer some insights …

Aries 21 March – 19 April

Aries, you know how enthusiastic, optimistic and active you are but sometimes your energy is scattered in different directions. When you’re decluttering, turn off your phone, stay centred and focus focus focus.

Aries. Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac

Taurus 20 April – 20 May

Taurus, you don’t like change, and some call you stubborn, but you can be practical and reasonable in difficult situations. You need to be surrounded by love and beauty. Looking promising for decluttering and organising your home.

Gemini 21 May – 20 June

Gemini, you have so many things going on that you don’t always have time to plan or be organised. It’s also not unknown for you to be indecisive and procrastinate. But you are so enthusiastic that decluttering will always be fun!

Gemini. Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac

Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the second quarter of the astrological year

Cancer 21 June – 22 July

You’re the most emotional sign of the whole Zodiac, Cancer, and very attached to your home and relationships. If you have to organise or declutter sentimental items after a bereavement or at other times, then it may be hard going.

Leo 23 July – 22 August

Leo people, you are warm, big-hearted and love to be in the limelight. Clothes and accessories are all part of that and, as you guard your possessions closely, there could be rather a lot of clothes in the wardrobe!

Leo. Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac

Virgo 23 August – 22 September

Virgo, you are organised, prepared and a good problem solver. Does that mean you’ve got too much put by ‘just in case’? (Full disclosure: Uncluttered is a Virgo.)

Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the third quarter of the astrological year

Libra 23 September – 22 October

Libra, it’s no secret that you seek balance and love beauty, harmony and peace. You sometimes find it difficult to make a decision, though, and that can lead to stress. Focus on beauty when you’re decluttering.

Scorpio 23 October – 21 November

Scorpio, you know what you want and you go for it. If you’ve decided to sort out your stuff then it’s going to be pretty straightforward. Put in the time, get the job done and move on to the next thing.

Sagittarius 22 November – 21 December

Sagittarius, you prefer leave the past in the past and to focus on things that are the most important here and now. But are you decluttering as you go? Or do you just push stuff to the back of the cupboard?

Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the final quarter of the astrological year

Capricorn 22 December – 19 January

Capricorn, you like to be in charge of your own environment and you’re pretty organised so you probably declutter your own space as a matter of course. It is possible to overdo decluttering. I’ve known a Capricorn buy things back from the charity shop!

Aquarius 20 January – 18 February

Aquarius, you don’t like monotony and so you can be a bit unpredictable and inconsistent. Home organisation depends a lot on your mood. You’re very sociable, though, so at least declutter so your guests have somewhere to sit!

Pisces 19 February – 20 March

Pisceans! You sweet, kind idealists. Perfection may be a little way off (as it is for all of us) but you’ll make progress with decluttering one step at a time.

Pisces. Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac

10 places you can declutter in 10 minutes

Can you find a spare 10 minutes in your day? Then you can declutter or tidy somewhere in your home, quickly and easily. This post lists 10 places you can declutter in just 10 minutes.

You can make a big difference in 10 minutes. Do it regularly and you’ll be making big strides forward before you know! Set the stopwatch and off you go!

Vintage stopwatch helping you with places to declutter
Photo credit: Ansgar Koreng (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Get started

  1. A quick tidy up is simple and makes a big difference. Take 10 minutes to clear the decks and stop clutter building up. Set the timer and work through each room, clearing the surfaces and putting stuff where it should go – junk mail in the recycling, clothes in the laundry basket, crockery in the sink or dishwasher. You can get quite a bit done in 10 minutes and you’ll feel much better about how things look.

Places you can declutter in the bathroom

  1. Declutter those small bottles of bubble bath, hand and body lotion and soap from hotels where you’ve stayed. Yes, they remind you of holidays past but you’ve probably got photos. Toiletries do go off, you know, and they also collect dust and grime in the bathroom. Have a clean sweep. You deserve it!
  1. Declutter medication that is past its expiry date, medication you’re no longer taking, and empty packets. Take it back to any pharmacy and they will destroy it safely. No charge.

Places you can declutter in the kitchen

  1. Do you actually like all those mugs you’ve got in your cupboard? Are there simply too many of them? Are there some that you never, ever use because they’re chipped or downright embarrassing? Wave bye-bye to mugs you don’t like and say hello to space in the kitchen.

    An assortment of mugs. Places to declutter
    Photo credit: Ewen Roberts (CC BY 2.0)
  1. Herbs and spices don’t last forever, you know, and fresh ones make your food taste so much better than stale ones. Go through your collection and throw away those with little or no smell, and those that are past their best by or use by date. Invest in new herbs and spices and taste the difference!
  1. If you haven’t used those small packets of sugar and condiments from takeaways by now, then you probably don’t need them. Fish them out, chuck them in the bin and wipe the shelf or drawer clean. Trust me, you aren’t going to miss your mini soy sauce collection.

More places you can  declutter quickly

  1. Let’s face it: you don’t really need those old biros, bits of crayon, broken pencils and feeble felt pens. Crank up the music, sit down at the table with some scrap paper and find out what works and what doesn’t. Tip: include those pencils that will never sharpen properly because their lead is broken all the way down.

    Many pens and pencils in a jar. Places to declutter
    Photo credit: stu_spivack (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  1. Is there any house without a bag of bags, often bags for life? Probably very few. Use the bags for your charity shop donations or just hand them straight over to smaller local charity shops which don’t have their own branded bags.
  1. Declutter the bedside table so you can find things in the dark without spilling your glass of water. Give the table a dust and polish and you’ll have a much better night’s sleep.
  1. If you love growing plants, as I do, your collection of plant pots seems to grow as well and soon becomes clutter. Luckily, more and more garden centres are recycling them. Get rid of pots which are broken, very small or an odd size or shape.

Great work!

It’s time to declutter cables and chargers

Sometimes a theme emerges from Uncluttered’s professional organising and decluttering work. Recently, it’s been cables and chargers. There have been bags, boxes and drawers of tangled cables in every home and office I’ve visited. And that’s not to mention all the loose ones lolling in corners and trailing from any surface you care to mention. And the earbuds and headphones, of course.

Cables and chargers and more laid out on a table
Photo credit: Juhan Sonin (CC BY 2.0)

Different cables and their connectors

Technology continues to race ahead, leaving some devices high and dry and others deeply unfashionable. We’re talking about phones, tablets, laptops, other computers, printers, radios, televisions, videos,  cameras, fitness trackers, e-readers, games consoles, bike lights …

They’ve all got cables, connectors and possibly chargers. There are the networking cables like coaxial, ethernet, HDMI, and the USB cables and all their different connectors. Somewhere you’ve probably got cables and chargers you don’t use but that you’re keeping, just in case. It’s time to sort them out.

How to declutter and recycle cables

First of all, make sure that all the working devices in the house have the necessary cables. Check with everyone else. Remember that not all new devices come with cables or a plug so some cables have to do double duty or even more.

Next, discard cables and chargers that don’t work. And discard broken headphones while you’re about it.

Then, discard cables that don’t connect to any working device. And discard non-working devices while you’re about it.

Finally, reduce the number of similar cables if you can, but make sure that there are still enough for all the personal devices in the household. This should help to avoid tension and squabbles about recharging.

Have a look at these suggestions of what to keep and what to get rid of. It might encourage you.

Now recycle the discarded cables and devices at your local recycling centre. This video shows how waste electronics are recycled.

Organise the remaining cables and chargers

Labelled cables and chargers
Photo credit: Judit Klein (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Label each cable with a sticky label or masking tape.

Then wind or fold the cables loosely. You could secure them with elastic bands, wire, ribbon, string or velcro cable ties.

A further step, if you want to be very neat, is to put each one (or each type) into freezer bags, old toilet or kitchen roll tubes, or old sunglasses cases. You could also consider a cable organiser or electronics accessories case.

A cable organiser with cables and chargers
Photo credit: Tim Walker (CC BY 2.0)

Where to store the cables and chargers

Where do you store your labelled and neatly rolled cables and connectors? It boils down to:

  • with the device
  • near the place you charge the device
  • in a central location.

It could be a basket, a drawer, slung over a kitchen roll holder or in a box with a lid. At the end of the day, somewhere that makes sense to you is the best place.

Weeding books from your personal collection

This post is about weeding books. It’s contentious, I know, but there are times when you have to do it. Let’s talk about it.

A few points about books

For me, books are not clutter. They pass on human knowledge and experience and develop ideas. They help to stock the mind. Whether fiction or non-fiction, books take you beyond the here and now.

A personal collection is just that: personal. Built up over years, it reflects your own particular interests and, to some extent, yourself. Judging by the furore that greeted Marie Kondo’s apparent pronouncement that you should have fewer than 30 books in your home, there are a lot of book lovers out there. And for that we should be glad!

Weeding books is a personal affair yet others understand it very well. Read So we’re in deacquisition mode around the bungalow. You’ll empathise.

Times for weeding books

One of the times when weeding books becomes necessary – and sometimes essential – is when space runs out. This is when the shelves are full and there are piles of books everywhere. You might find it difficult to move about or to sit down.

weeding books

Another common time to weed is when you move. Perhaps you’re moving into a smaller home and there simply isn’t the room for all your books. Perhaps you are moving into an existing household or setting up a new home with someone else, and you want to bring your collections of books together.

Weeding books gives you …

I’ll offer you five possibilities and, of course, there are more.

Space on the shelves or the floor – don’t underrate it!

A look in the mirror, which may not always be pleasing or flattering. Be prepared for this.

Great joy on finding books once again – this can be wonderful.

Great shock on finding boring or embarrassing books.

Pause for thought and reminiscence on finding books associated with something in your life, far away and long ago.

Photo by Philippe Donn from Pexels

Questions to help you weed

How obvious to say that your book collection is made up of individual books! Yet being aware of this is the way to weed. The journey starts with a single step: looking at a single volume.

Questions to have in mind as you are weeding books:

  • Is this book a duplicate?
  • Is it out of date? Learning moves on. To encourage you, I recently let the 1999 encyclopaedia with the broken spine go.
  • Do I feel I ought to read this book but I don’t want to? Most of us probably have books like this.
  • Do I have this book because someone else liked it or wanted me to read it? If I don’t like it or don’t want to read it, then it’s time for it to go.
  • Is this a book that was so-so and I’ll never read again? Or even a book that was simply bad? I’ve read quite a few of these and it’s one of the reasons I use the library so much.
  • Is this book part of my life now? Sometimes it’s very difficult to answer this question and sometimes it’s simply blindingly obvious.
  • Is it beautiful? I have books I keep because of their hand-drawn illustrations.

Where does a book go when it leaves?

My advice is to get the books out of the house as soon as possible but to where? When it’s time for a book to leave, where does it go? Here are some possibilities.

Pass it on to a friend or member of the family, and ask them to pass it on too.

Most charities have shelves of books in their shops. Some charities have specialist bookshops where books are sorted by knowledgeable volunteers.

Universities, colleges, schools and other libraries may accept specialist books or collections.

You could try to sell your books through a trade-in site such as We Buy Books, Ziffit or Music Magpie.

Almost two million people worldwide use BookCrossing. It’s the act of releasing your books ‘into the wild’ for a stranger to find, or via ‘controlled release’ to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.

At the end of the line, some books are for pulping. Sad, perhaps, but true.

Good luck!

What do professional organisers say about Marie Kondo?

After a demanding day, do you return to a peaceful sanctuary or to a cluttered house? For many people, enough is enough. Suddenly, decluttering and organising is everywhere you look. Yes, decluttering in North Wales is a thing! Part of this is due to Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert with a signature fringe, whose Netflix series Tidying up with Marie Kondo is sparking joy, jokes and discussions across the world.

New Year's Eve fireworks 2006 spark joy like Marie Kondo
Photo credit: Max Klingensmith (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Marie wrote the New York Times best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (also in manga) and Spark Joy. It’s the Netflix series, though, scheduled to ride the New Year wave of resolutions, that’s generating so many column inches and minutes of coverage.

How simple are Marie’s ideas and the KonMari method? And what do professional organisers say?

First of all, time

Decluttering and organising take time so that you’re not overwhelmed and things can settle. Marie Kondo’s approach is to do it ‘all at once’, by which she means in no more than six months. Experienced professional organisers usually work with clients once a week for as long as it takes, which could be much longer.

Imagine your ideal lifestyle

This is one of Marie’s rules and it’s got a lot going for it. KonMari is not about minimalism (although you’ll find yourself with many fewer things, if you follow it). It’s more about learning who you are and what you like.

Imagining a fully blown ideal lifestyle is a tall order for those of us who just want something like clear floorspace in the bedroom but it’s worth playing with. Even just an outline will encourage you to move forward.

Sparking joy and other emotions

None of us need negative things in our lives and Marie Kondo has a very positive approach. Her emphasis is on what to keep and that’s why she tells you to hold an item in your hand and ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Other organisers might ask whether you need something, want it or use it.

Joy is one of the emotions that decluttering can produce but be prepared for others. Decluttering can release complicated feelings.

Follow the right order

KonMari lays down a ‘right’ order of things to work on: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous) and, finally, sentimental items. This is to build up our ability to distinguish what sparks joy. It certainly makes sense to work on things such as letters, postcards and photos last. You’ll have built up stamina from all your other decluttering.

Letters and photos sent during Second World War. Marie Kondo
Photo credit: Cynthia Closkey (CC BY 2.0)

The order sounds nice and simple but scratch the surface and you will find many more categories underneath. The ‘komono’ category, for example, is huge, running from garage to loft, from toys to kitchen.

Rather than imposing an order, most professional organisers take their lead from their clients. Some are ready to tackle the ‘worst’ area in their home. Others have to build up slowly.

Marie Kondo says to let go with gratitude

The KonMari method advocates thanking items you are discarding for their service to you. This reflects Japanese culture’s respect for inanimate objects but it may be a step too far for you. Even so, for many people it raises questions about consumerism and how we live our lives.

Piling all the clothes on the bed? Really?

The huge pile is where many professional organisers part ways with Marie Kondo. She gathers everything in a category (clothes, say, or tools) so you can see exactly how much you have. This makes great television but it’s usually not a good fit with real life. For many of us it’s far too overwhelming. What’s more, it takes time to go through everything and we need to be able to use that bed tonight!

Some professional organisers declutter by category like Marie Kondo but others work room by room. Whichever approach they take, they always try to make a task achievable by breaking it down into smaller chunks. You can focus and it keeps the motivation going! A smaller chunk might be a category like jeans or hammers, for example. Or it could be just one shelf.

Space

Marie gives each of her possessions a designated ‘living space’. Most of us know about this already: a place for everything and everything in its place. Here we all agree.

Marie Kondo and folding

Marie is big on folding clothes and storing them vertically in drawers. You save space, see everything at a glance and nothing is squashed at the bottom of a pile.

Many people see folding as a game changer. And others feel they have better things to do with their time. It really depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of home, storage and amount of time you have. Your choice.

Finally

Tidying up with Marie Kondo is an entertaining television show and it’s certainly captured people’s attention. People are talking about how clutter makes your already busy life even more pressurised and complicated. And how it affects family, relationships and work.

Things can be different, though! If you declutter and organise, you can transform your home and make space. Home can become a sanctuary, a safe space to regroup and revitalise yourself.

You don’t have to do it all at once – do what you can, even if it’s very small.

You don’t have to do it on your own – get in touch for support and guidance if you think it would help.

 

How to declutter before moving house

So how do you declutter before moving house? In a nutshell: think it through and plan ahead. Be prepared and start early.

Early morning sunrise in California. declutter before moving
An early start in California by Allyndon. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

But first – feelings

We’re not all the same and both decluttering and moving affect different people in different ways. Although some people sail through in a very matter-of-fact way, other people get quite emotional.

According to Zoopla, homeowners move, on average, every 23 years.
That’s a lot of time to make memories and accumulate stuff.

Some people find engaging a professional organiser helps things run smoothly. We’re not emotionally involved and we have lots of useful tips and tricks to help.

Think about the big picture

Being clear about some of the good reasons to declutter is a great start. One good reason, for example, is that you will have fewer things to pack. Another reason is that you will pay less to move because there will be fewer things. And a third is that fewer things are easier to unpack and you’ll settle in more quickly.

Then think about life in your new home. Whether your new home is a caravan or a mansion, in town or at the beach, it offers an opportunity to live your life differently. It’s going to be a new chapter in your life.

Now consider what you’ll need, and what you’ll no longer need.

Thinking through the detail

Are you upsizing or downsizing? How many people will usually be living in your new home? How much stuff do you want to take with you?

With measuring tape and notebook in hand, go through each room in the old house asking yourself ‘What will fit my new life and home?’ Think about clothes and shoes, for example. Will you still need clothes for dogwalking or glamorous evening events or standard office clothes? How much kitchen equipment, cutlery and crockery? What about furniture? Take notes!

Three matching forks with bone handles. Declutter before moving
Three matching forks with bone handles – will they fit into your new lifestyle?

Then there are things that have been untouched for some time, perhaps even since the last move – often prime decluttering territory. Nobody really wants to move boxes of old paperwork – utilities bills from long ago, guarantees for electrical items now broken and thrown away, old bank statements that don’t need to be kept for business purposes. Some books may have had their time – novels bought for beach holidays, out-of-date reference books, cookery books without any recipes you want to cook.

Plan ahead, be prepared and start to declutter well before moving

Planning ahead means that you won’t forget anywhere. The loft, under the stairs, the shed, the big cupboard no-one ever uses: these are all common places that slip people’s minds.

Be prepared with:

  • boxes and bags, packing tape, labels, marker pens
  • a confidential shredding service if you have more than a few sensitive documents. Shredding takes time and domestic shredders have a habit of jamming
  • details of the charity donation centre or shop you want to use
  • details of the local recycling centre
  • a skip if you’ll be throwing out a large amount of stuff that can’t be recycled.
Piles of yellow skips. Declutter before moving
Skips on the bank of the River Wandle, with thanks to Stuart. (CC BY 2.0)

Start sooner rather than later. You’ll give yourself time to go through everything in good order. You’ll be able to work well without exhausting yourself.

A few decluttering rules of thumb

Focus on the area where you are working and don’t get distracted.

Remember! It’s not obligatory to take stuff you don’t need, want or use to your new home. Be ruthless, if necessary.

A tried and tested method is to sort into boxes. These are useful categories: keep; give away; recycle; throw away.

Good luck!

 

12 ways to store hats, gloves and scarves

Baby, it’s cold outside! So if you’re going out, get togged up in hats, gloves and scarves. But can you find them?

gloves and scarves
Jean-Marc Merlin by David Merrett (CC BY 2.0)

 

Here are a dozen possible places for your hats, gloves and scarves to live – with pros and cons. Decide on a place, set it up so it works for you and use it! Then you’ll be able to find your hats, gloves and scarves easily.

For North Wales readers: get organised! You’ll be able to go out to enjoy our great outdoors even sooner, whatever the weather.

1. All together now

Put the scarf down the arm of the coat. Or roll the scarf and put it with the gloves in the hat. You could roll woollen gloves together like socks. These ideas are good for when you’re on the move or if you’re wearing the same hat, gloves and scarf every day.

2. A hatstand

This is great for hats and scarves but not so good for gloves unless it has a shelf. A bag hanging from the stand would work. Remember a hatstand is most efficient if it’s not overloaded.

3. A hook

Yes, but it has the same problems as a hatstand (see above). Once again, you could use a bag.

4. A shelf

I do like this one because hats, gloves and scarves can dry out and get warm. A generous shelf above a coat rail is the best system I’ve ever seen. It was in Sweden and they understand about cold there.

Knitted mittens with furry wristbands. gloves and scarves

5. A drawer

On the plus side, things are together and don’t splurge everywhere. (I do recommend dividing the drawer with a box or two to keep gloves and scarves separate.) On the minus side, wet things have to dry out first.

6. In a cupboard

Same as the drawer. If you use it, organise it!

7. On a chair

I understand why but if you live with anyone else this is the short path to mislaying at least one glove. Or even losing it.

8. In a basket

Yes, it’s a good idea for hats, gloves and scarves although rummaging may be necessary. And it’s good to be streamlined when you’re trying to get out of the door. A basket for each person works nicely.

Woman laughing and wearing grey knitted bobble hat, gloves and scarves

9. Over door shoe tidy

This is a good idea if you’ve got the right door.

10. On the table

OK as a short-term measure but it’s not sustainable.

11. In the kitchen

This doesn’t really work for me.

12. On the floor

My first thought was: No! Don’t do it!

My second thought was: This is where I put my soaking hat, gloves and scarves by the radiator to dry out, and it’s the best place in the house for that.

Conclusion: as a place to put them it’s OK, but only temporarily.

I’m off out now

Now, where did I put my gloves? (Just joking.)

Woman jumping on moorland in hat and big scarf. gloves and scarves

 

Help with cataloguing your art collection

Do you collect art or have you inherited a collection? Do you know exactly what you’ve got? It’s not always clear and a number of my clients have requested help with cataloguing their collections. This post outlines how we take the first steps, and what information we put in the catalogue.

To adapt Shakespeare a little:

be not afraid of art collections: some are born with art collections, some achieve art collections, and some have art collections thrust upon ’em.

And in all those cases, it is easy to lose track of what you own. If you have inherited a collection, it may be more a case of not knowing rather than losing track. I can give you help with cataloguing.

Girl holding a crook, with two lambs. Help with cataloguin

Keep your art safe, secure and dry

The first and essential step is to make sure that your art is safe, secure and dry. These are particularly important considerations with inherited collections.

Is it insured and held in a secure location with an alarm system?

What about damp? It is surprising how often paintings, prints and sculpture are stored in unsuitable places. Stacking paper or canvas against outside walls, for example, is generally a bad idea, even if the house does not feel particularly damp.

To keep the collection safe, secure and dry may involve moving your art to another location.

Help with cataloguing

The aim of cataloguing is to list all the pieces you hold with their title, name of artist, date of creation, provenance and any other relevant information.

Firstly, we collect together all paperwork, including receipts from art dealers, framers and so on, as evidence of provenance. This is the record of ownership of a work of art or an antique. It’s a guide to authenticity or quality. I also include ephemera, such as cards, invitations to private views and so on.

Then, we begin to go through the art, piece by piece. We take a photo and label the piece. The label may be a provisional one if we are not certain about some points.

We enter the piece on our list or database in progress.

Finally, we cross-check the piece against any lists (probably both complete and incomplete) made over the years. These might include, for example, auction lists, valuation for probate, and personal estimates of value.

Statue of Julius Caesar in Rome. Help with cataloguing

Hmm. Interesting …

Interestingly, cataloguing can shed new light on art and owners often find themselves looking at the pieces in different ways.

Getting help with cataloguing your art collection puts all the facts at your fingertips. Now you’re in a good position to decide whether to display, store or sell your art.

How to sort out your garage or shed

Welcome to this post about how to sort out your garage or shed.

It’s the post for you if you want to be able to find what you need – easily. Without having to move too much. It sounds pretty  good, doesn’t it?

You’re not alone in having a cluttered, unusable or downright dangerous garage or shed. Read on for some of the reasons other people give for wanting to sort these places out.

Some great reasons to sort out your garage or shed

You’d quite like to put the car in the garage

Uncluttered says: Good idea, you could save £££ on the motor insurance. And you wouldn’t have to scrape the windscreen on those frosty mornings.

There’s nowhere to put things that really matter to you

Uncluttered says: I understand. I would really like to overwinter some beautiful pelargoniums I bought at the Botanic Garden’s sale last year but there’s no room.

Different coloured zonal pelargoniums. Sort out your garage or shed

You buy duplicates of things that you know are in the garage or perhaps in the shed but you can’t find, even though you’ve looked. In fact, you can’t find anything at all amongst all those boxes and bits and pieces.

Uncluttered asks: Can you see all the bits for the BBQ anywhere??

What? Bikes for a 6 year old? They are in their 20s now. And some of their other toys are here too.

Uncluttered says: Now I’ve looked, there’s an old push-along toy of mine there. That’s got to be decades old.

It’s a bit damp so it’s actually not a great place to store things

Uncluttered says: Anything in cardboard is definitely destined to be colonised by black mould. And tools easily go rusty in damp conditions if they aren’t cleaned and rubbed over with an oily rag.

You have a nasty feeling that much of the stuff in the garage and in the garden shed is actually rubbish but you can’t bear to look

Uncluttered says: It could be true, this one.

It’s an accident waiting to happen. Tools fall out when you open the shed door and that assortment of ancient chemicals doesn’t look at all safe.

Uncluttered says: Time to do something about it!

But first, stop and think!

What do you want to use your garage or garden shed for? Having a clear picture of this in your mind may help as you declutter and organise. Do you store all the bikes in the garden shed at the moment, for example? Would they be better in a bike shed? What’s possible, given your particular circumstances?

Green bicycle outside old shed. Sort out your garage or shed

How long will this take me?

You have two choices.

Choice A is to declutter little and often. Say, 15 minutes every day.
On the plus side: you won’t overdo it and you’ll have time to ponder your decisions in between times.
Against: you might easily fall out of the habit because you don’t see the inside of your garden shed or garage every day. Out of sight can be out of mind.

Choice B is to do it all in one big blast.
On the plus side: that’s it, done.
Against: it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose heart or your temper, and you might hurt your back.

Whichever you choose, break the big job into smaller pieces to avoid getting distracted.

Use this tried and true decluttering system to sort out your garage or shed

It’s a great system that works in almost all situations. It sorts things into four boxes: relocate; mend or repurpose; donate; recycle or bin.

Keep and relocate. I mentioned above that it’s important to be clear about what you want to use your space for. Are there are some things that would be better (or should be) in another place?

Mend / repurpose. Be realistic when you put something in this box. Will you actually ever mend this item? Is it still useful? Will you actually ever repurpose this other item?

Donate or recycle. Donating or recycling unwanted items makes you feel good.

Do you know someone who’d be delighted to receive that old sports equipment perhaps? Or children’s painting equipment? Put things for the charity shop in bags and boxes and get them on their way as soon as possible.

Some things are toxic and have to be disposed of carefully. Ask the council recycling centre about paint, motor oil and chemicals such as weedkiller.

Many paint pots on shelves. recycling paint professional declutter organise north wales Sort out your garage or shed

Bin. You’ll probably know things for the bin when you see them! Old paint rags and mildewed cushions definitely fall into this category (speaking from experience here).

Organising what’s left in your garage or shed

Start sorting by putting like with like (for example, all wood together or all plant pots). This will help you see how much you have in each group.

Then consider the space (remember to look up) and how you can store things efficiently and safely. Aim to put things you need regularly all year round within easy reach and those used less often further away.

There’s often sufficient room overhead in a garage for racks or pipes to store wood, and perhaps a pulley system to lift bikes up and away.

The wall is the place for heavy-duty open shelves which can hold all kinds of containers. Clear containers are good so you can see what’s inside.

A wall-mounted broom holder works for large garden tools and brushes. Wall hooks are good for ladders and tools (draw the shape of smaller tools so it’s easy to put them back). Pegboards work for some tools and magnetic knife strips are good for small tools.

Use glass jars to store nails, screws, nuts, bolts and other small items. Screw their lids to the underside of shelves for easy access.

Use plastic downpipes to keep long-handled tools in order in a box.

Label your containers and shelves so it makes it easy to find what you need and easy for everyone to put things away promptly. Check every six months or so to keep things tidy and to move things around as the seasons change.

Congratulations!

I hope that you’ve made (or you’re on the verge of making) the decision to sort out your garage or shed. Or even both. You won’t look back!