|1.||I need advice on how to store all my belongings because I just don’t have enough space. What products are there that I can buy to hide my clutter?|
Unfortunately there are no storage solutions that can create more space than we have available, and it sounds as though you ‘move’ rather than ‘clear’ your clutter. I wish there was a storage solution that could hide all our clutter because then we wouldn’t have to clear it and we could keep it all! Such a storage solution would fulfill what I call the ‘tardis principle’ – they actually have more space on the inside than they appear to have on the outside.
However, we’ve got lots of storage ideas and suggestions on our storage page for different types of clutter – visit storage ideas find out more.
|2.||I’ve tried to clear my clutter on many occasions and I seem to succeed if I spend a whole day or week, only to find that a few weeks later it’s back again, and sometimes worse. What am I doing wrong?|
Notice what you’re doing right – you’re able to clear your clutter which is great, so something is working. The problem with having a ‘blitz’ is that you’re not creating a new habit, and clearing your clutter needs to become a habit that you don’t have to do consciously. That’s how you will be able to keep the clutter under control. Creating a new habit means doing something at least 20 times, so instead of clearing it once in one day, try doing it 20 times over the course of a month. You’re more likely to create a new habit that way.
Make sure you reward yourself every time you do a bit of clutter clearing – it’ll be easier to remember the reward than what clutter you cleared, especially if you’ve got quite a bit of clutter to clear and sort. It’s often hard to reward ourselves as well – much easier to pamper someone else! We’ve got reward ideas on our website – visit rewards for some ideas.
|3.||I’m worried I’ll throw out something useful. Every time I clear my clutter and throw something out I seem to need it a week later. How can I make sure I don’t throw out useful things?|
It’s what I call the ‘widget phenomenon’. We keep things in case they come in useful and then, when we clear the clutter and throw it away, within a week we find we could have used it. It’s not proving that you should have kept it because it was useful, it’s simply that you reminded yourself that you had it. If you’d not had the clear-out, you probably wouldn’t have remembered where it was, or more likely you wouldn’t have been able to find it. Don’t be afraid to throw things away. Our intention when clearing the clutter is always to ensure that things are being used for the purpose for which they were made, as quickly as possible. If you pass it on to someone else who can use it quicker than you can then that’s fine. The reality is that you can always go and get another one if you do really need it, and the one you had won’t be wasted because that’s being used as well.
|4.||I hardly get any post but still I seem to be drowning in paperwork clutter – help!|
Paperwork clutter is the 2nd most common type of clutter that people struggle with and usually because it comes into the home on a daily basis via the post – that’s why we offer a group workshop specifically on the topic of paperwork clutter.
If you hardly get any post but still seem to be drowning in it, there may be several things going on, all of which revolve around the conveyor belt system.
- Are you keeping what post and paperwork does come in? Think of it as a conveyor belt. If things are always being added to the conveyor but never coming off, even if only a little is added, over time it’ll soon get full. To manage the paperwork you need to make sure you have some way of giving it a ‘shelf life’. Legally you need to keep most paperwork for 7 years (wills, house purchases etc are obviously longer). So, when you have 7 years worth in a file, start to remove the oldest one every time you put a new one in the file and SHRED THEM in a cross cut shredder (not straight cut). You can actually get copies of statements if you need them from the bank, so you could scan the paperwork and statements and keep a copy on the computer (and your back up disc or hardware) so you can print off your own copies when you need them.
- Do you keep things for reference, to file newspaper articles or things you want to do or action? Once again there needs to be a conveyor belt system in place. When you keep something for reference or to use at some as yet unknown time in the future, write on it what deadline you’re giving in. Then, whenever you add another item to this reference category, see if any have expired for when you said you were going to action it by. You have to be firm with yourself – we can all convince ourselves we’re going to read that, take up that hobby, go on that course but if after 6 months it hasn’t happened, is it really likely to?
- Do you keep magazines and catalogues? Again, do they have a ‘shelf life’ in your home? When magazines and catalogues come into the home they’re very often out of date almost immediately. If you have access to the internet then you only need to keep the website address, as you can access the catalogue and current availability instantly on-line. That way you don’t need to keep the physical copy but instead mark the website as a favorite on your computer.
- Do you print everything off from the computer and keep it? That may be adding to the amount of paperwork you have. Printing them off is fine as long as you give them a ‘shelf life’ too. If you can save them onto your computer or disc so you can read them off the computer screen then that will not only save on paper, but also save on space. Once you’ve read or dealt with what you’ve printed off, put the paper out for recycling. Don’t keep it unless you really have to, and if it’s something you need regularly then make sure you only keep one copy in a defined place so you don’t print off multiple copies unnecessarily.
|5.||I’ve got many inherited pieces of furniture that I’m keeping because they were given to me by my grandmother when she moved out of her house and into a home. To be honest I don’t like any of the pieces and they’re taking up a huge amount of room in my small home, but it would upset her terribly if she knew I had got rid of them. What would you suggest I do?|
It’s always tough when we’re given things, or are ‘looking after them’ for someone, especially if it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to use them again. Think about what’s practical for you and how you can do what’s best for you, your grandma and the furniture. You say you don’t particularly like them, so wouldn’t it be best for someone else to have them and appreciate them? You also mention that you have a small home and they’re taking up a lot of room – so presumably you’d like to have the space that they’re taking up. If it’s unlikely that your grandmother will be coming to visit you then in some ways she wouldn’t notice if you passed them on to someone else who would appreciate them. If you were able to get some money for them, what could you do with or for your grandmother with that money?
If she is likely to come to visit you, depending on how honest you wanted to be with her for her sake, you simply be honest with her and let her know that you simply didn’t have room for them all so you’ve passed them on to someone who can appreciate them more than you could. If it makes you and her feel better, you could donate any proceeds.
Don’t fall into the trap of worrying excessively when you’re the one who has to live with someone else’s belongings. If that person cares about you they’ll understand that you’re not doing it out to hurt them but rather what’s practical. It doesn’t mean you care any less about them.
|6.||I had a really productive bank holiday de-cluttering session and followed your advice of not doing more than 2 hours at any one time and rewarding myself at the end of it – I enjoyed that bit! I did do more than I thought, but there’s still so much to do, and I feel like I’m getting nowhere and I’m never going to finish it.|
Well done – you’ve de-cluttered for 2 hours, rewarded yourself and noticed the difference. You’re doing it perfectly! It’s completely normal to feel like you’re never going to see your home de-cluttered. If you’ve bought either workbook or e-workbook 2 then make sure you record the difference after each session of de-cluttering so that you can remind yourself of what it was like to begin with – either a photo or a drawing. There are 4 things to remember at this stage of your de-cluttering:
- You’ve just done your first de-cluttering session following a new step by step process – notice what you’ve achieved and reward yourself for doing it.
- It’s always harder to do something differently the first few times you’re create a new habit– a baby doesn’t just suddenly get up and start walking, it has to practice many many times. Don’t be so hard on yourself for what you feel you haven’t achieved – celebrate what you have achieved and reward yourself!
- Just like the baby learning to walk, the more you do something the bigger a step you take each time. So when you do a couple more de-cluttering sessions you’ll find that it gets easier and quicker to de-clutter the same amount of clutter, which means that you’ll probably be sorting through twice as much clutter after 3 or 4 more sessions. You’re learning a new skill and we all know practice makes perfect. So practice, reward and practice again!
- Make sure you’re not de-cluttering someone else’s clutter for them as that’s just going to add to the amount you’ve got to do. Have a ‘belongs to someone else’ category, return it to them and let them do something with it. That will reduce the amount of clutter you have to make decisions about.
|7.||How to make the best use of space in an overcrowded house (a house made for one that actually has four people living their)|
If you're living in a home that is overcrowded because of the sheer number of people living there, the first thing to do is to define your space (workbook or eBook 1, worksheet 6. Is the home/house have clearly defined areas that are yours? Do the other people living in the home know which areas belong to or are the responsibility of? Only when you've defined which areas of the home are the responsibility of each person living there, or are the space that can be used by each person will you be able to think about the space that is yours. Assuming the other people are old enough to take responsibility for their area you then have to concentrate on your area. As frustrating as that is to not be affected by the other people's space/area, if talking to the other people doesn't work then maybe setting an example of using your own space effectively and keeping it clear of clutter will make them think about their space/area.
Once you're clear what is your area, then you can begin to think about using it effectively. As always, de-clutter first. Make sure you've got no unnecessary items - broken, incomplete, out of date, old, unused etc. Only when you've de-cluttered can you think about storage.
There are lots of things on the market that are sold as 'space savers' - but remember they're only space savers if you use them efficiently. Don't just throw things in and expect them to magically hold twice as much!
We’ve got lots of storage ideas here
Think about the following when trying to use space most effectively:
- Do you have any dead space that you could use, such as corners, above wardrobes, under beds, behind doors? Hammocks, door tidies etc can be useful for this space.
- Do you have an outside space that you could use for storage? Some things such as bikes, plastic toys etc are kept inside, but could they live outside instead?
- Have a strict 'one in, one out' rule whereby if you buy a new item of clothing for instance, you throw an old one out. If you don't you'll soon find that you have more than you have space for and the clutter starts to get out of control again. Decide how many or what you really need
|8.||Q: Where do I put the off season clothes/shoes?|
The basic principle is that the less frequently you use something the further away from your common areas they should be. Consider it like the London Underground. Zone 1 is used by many and often – and this is where your daily things should be kept/stored. Zone 6 is used rarely and either seasonally or infrequently, so things that you use once in a while or for a period of time should be kept/stored here.
Using this principle, off season clothes/shoes can go in your Zone 6 space. This may be in a sealed box or bag, in the attic (if you have one), under your bed, in the top of a wardrobe or in unused suitcases (thereby helping to use wasted space).
|9.||Q: Nothing seems to have a particular home and I know I’ve seen stuff but can’t find it when I actually need it!|
We’ve all been there – you just KNOW it’s in there some where. And the same happens when we have a clear-out. We throw something away only to find we needed it a couple of days or weeks later! If only we hadn’t got rid of it…. Don’t worry, this is your brain playing tricks on you. Your brain works like a filing system and works backwards to the last known record of that thing. Throwing it away has simply moved that memory file to the front of the filing system, which means you’ll remember it quite quickly when a situation arises where you could have used that thing.
Things need a home otherwise you or others in your home can’t find it. It sounds like you need to spend some time defining your space before you start clearing and sorting the clutter.
Take a piece of paper, draw a floor plan of the room you’re going to clear and draw on it what HAS to live in that room and what you WANT to live in that room. Does the room need to have several functions such as a lounge and a study?
Play around with what goes where, decide with others if necessary what areas of the room or home will serve what function.
Workbook and eBook 1 has more information, help and advice about how to define your space to help you clear and control the clutter. Find out more here
|10.||Q: We asked scrapbooking expert Sandra Gardiner from Page of Memories in St. Albans, Hertfordshire who sell scrapbook supplies and run workshops to preserve your memories, what people can do if they’ve suffered from the floods.|
Is there a way that water damaged photographs can be saved?
Dry out the photographs as much as you can, and once they are dry you will have to attach it to something that is acid free and lignin free. Sandra suggested that if the photos are wet, then you should dry it on something flat and then turn over regularly to make sure the ends do not curl up. She would suggest you then store them in photo safe albums that have had the chemicals removed. There are only a couple of shops that provide the albums and adhesives with it and luckily Sandra’s can help you here.
Do photographs deteriorate over time and would scanning be the best thing to do asap?
All photos deteriorate over time if they are stored in a box. The worst way to store them is with peeling film or with sleeves which you can flip to view the next photo. Over time the photos will start to turn a faded yellow, turn brittle and the colour will leech out of them. Consider storing them in photo safe albums that have had the chemicals removed so they don’t deteriorate –Sandra can help you with this. You can double up the protection by scanning copies into your computer and saving onto disc, just in case.
What advice would you have for anyone who has been affected by the floods and is worried about their photographs, personal letters etc?
If possible, store all your photo's high from the ground. Sandra stores all her photos in a cupboard. f you have digital photos, don’t keep them on the camera or just the computer but back them up onto disc and perhaps ask family or friends to keep a copy. That way if your home, computer and camera suffer in any way there’s still a copy somewhere.
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