On a very cold and damp Friday Morning I was collected by the lovely Angie in her Shaw Trust Van. She expertly reversed up to my garage door (narrowly missing my shopping delivery guy) and, as has become a bit of a habit, we loaded her van with pre-loved items, including clothing, paintings, electricals etc. These had been collected from clients who are beginning to understand the art of letting go and realising that their ‘tat’ really can be another man’s treasure.
Angie was taking me with her on the delivery run to their favourite shop in Wantage, which specialises in vintage items. When we arrived, I was introduced to, Lorraine Adler who has been the manager at this store for four years. Lorraine and her assistant manager Karen rely on volunteer workers to keep it fully staffed 7 days a week.
The Trust feel very fortunate having Lorraine working for them, as she has the vision and flair for a Vintage shop, which is supported by both management; staff and volunteers who all work within the Shaw Trust policies.
I was amazed to see how busy the shop was on a Friday lunchtime, especially as there are three other charity shops in the market square. However, I was soon to find out why, it is a result of all the care and unique touches that were part of the shops distinctive character. It was clear to see that over the past few years, Lorraine and the team have taken the shop to the next level,
Some time ago, Lorraine owned her own ‘vintage boutique’, which she sadly had to close down. After a few other posts, she took this new position with Shaw Trust and has managed to replicate a lot of the quirkiness that she embraced in her own store. Hopefully I’ve captured this in the photos I’ve taken.
There are some fantastic touches, like a fancy dress kangaroo, cool dummies daubed in paint, many uniquely dressed up with cool shades. All things that give it an almost eccentric yet brilliant individuality, like delving into the depths of an eclectic emporium.
I was never sure what I should be donating to charity shops (on my customers’ behalf). Was it too old, too distressed, are electrical / gaming items OK, what about gold, silver and collectors’ items? I needn’t have worried, as I soon learnt that nothing goes to waste, and Lorraine has made sure there is a way for everything to benefit the charity.
Electrical items are assessed for health and safety and if they are not of saleable value, someone pays her to take them away. If clothes are not in a desirable condition, she makes sure the charity gets paid (by weight) for unused fabrics. There are even valuers on hand for art, jewellery and collectables.
Seemingly, every possible source of revenue is extracted from donated items, including the introduction of reclamation of gift aid for the charity.
Lorraine has certainly been able to carve a niche for the store having become widely recognised amongst young and old as ‘THE’ place to go for fancy dress and retro, vintage and quirky pieces whether for interiors or attire. It is evident why when you look around.
Lorraine’s imagination and own hand has had such an effect on how the store looks. Not just with the crazy painted heads but with Anne (another volunteer) posing in the window as a mannequin with a book and a cup of tea, waving at people to draw them in. Quite brilliant!
Thanks to Lorraine’s quirkiness, welcoming nature and excellent people management skills, the shop has become so popular, that she now has a waiting list of volunteers who want to come and work for her.
I learnt so much while I was there, including how items are sorted and either stored until the appropriate season, or put out immediately with tracking for gift aid and ‘expiry dates’. Each item is displayed for approximately 2-3 weeks and then either rotated through other shops or recycled.
Lorraine has managed to attract a much younger customer base than your average charity shop, who either buy because of the unusual nature of some of the items or to up-cycle / re-style. She has also managed to attract a larger male customer base than you would normally see.
I am in awe – every Shaw Trust Shop has its own ‘quirk’ or speciality and if they are all run as spectacularly as this one, I highly recommend seeking them out wherever you are.
If you’d like to find out more about The Shaw Trust Charity, just click on this link https://www.shawtrust.org.uk/
Goodbye to bad rubbish. Hello to reduced stress and extra hours.
I have a question, how much time do you spend searching for things? It could be your favourite “going out” top, a kitchen utensil, important paperwork, a CD (OK, maybe I’m showing my age a bit there) I forget we have Alexa now! However, you get my point, and let’s be honest, Alexa hasn’t progressed to finding things in our wardrobes ………..yet!
Let’s dig deeper and think of seven good reasons why it would pay us to declutter and organise our lives.
No 1 – Lost Time
A survey by IKEA determined that the average amount of time spent looking for something can be up to 10 minutes a day. This may not sound excessive to you but that actually equates to over 6.5 months of an average life. Just think of all the amazing things you could have spent that time doing – nights out, holidays, or perhaps just chilling peacefully at home.
Next time you lose an item, think about where a “forever home” could be and try to put it back there when you’ve finished with it.
No 2 – Tidy Home (Desk), Tidy Mind
Perhaps a slightly irritating quote, especially if it reminds you of your least favourite schoolteacher! However, it can’t be denied that there’s a lot of truth in it:
If your surrounded by chaos, then chaotic is what you will feel
If you’re amidst a clean and clear environment, it will have a calming effect to your well-being
Be realistic though, a home doesn’t need to be immaculately tidy, to create a calmer state of mind, taking small steps daily can help to create this sanctuary.
No 3 – Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety is a word we have been hearing more and more over the last 2 years, and for good reason. There has never been a time we have had to spend so much of our days shut indoors, it’s been a challenge for us all.
A cluttered dis-organised home would have added to that anxiety, whereas living in a state of equilibrium would help to lift your mood, giving higher levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps to stabilise your mood, happiness and general wellbeing.
No 4 – Finding Treasure
Yes, I really did say “finding treasure”. When you take the first steps to organise your home, it will involve de-cluttering, which can be fun (yes really!) I can guarantee that you will find things you’d either forgotten you had, or thought were lost forever.
It’s like that feeling you have when you put on an old coat and find a tenner in the pocket.
No 5 – Extra Pennies and Helping Others
A bit of an extension on number 4 is when you find something you no longer want or need. It will not only bring welcomed space, it can also equate to someone else’s treasure. Just because you no longer like or need it, doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be delighted to own it.
Involve the children, finding toys and clothes they’ve grown out of could bring them extra pocket money or help another child that needs them.
A charity I’m involved in, that welcomes pre-loved items, is Shaw Trust, they believe that everyone has the right to live a decent and dignified life. I’ve de-cluttered many a home and dropped a boot full of treasure their way – for more information, click on the link below:
How many arguments have you had with your partner or children because either you or they can’t find something? It’s OK, I’m not going to hold you to an answer!
One thing I do know is that for many of you the following will sound familiar: you’re rushing to get to work on time, or to get the children to school and the location of your keys or their PE kit or book bag is a complete mystery. Just think, if those things had their “forever home”, your life would most certainly be made easier.
However, with the best will in the world, one thing I can’t promise, even with your finest organisation skills, is that this will never happen again. Nothing is teenager proof!
No 7 – A Sense of Pride
There’s a great advert at the moment, I think it’s for Wickes, which talks about suffering with “housebarrassment” – someone is coming to visit at the last minute and the house is in chaos – in this instance its to try to sell you a kitchen.
Put the same scenario with a turbulent and disorganised home and you will probably have that same reaction of wanting to put that person off coming.
With your newly organised home, you’ll be proud to welcome guests through your door.
Once you’ve organised the space in your home and have a place for everything and everything in it’s place, then keeping on top of it will take minimal time but give you maximum benefits.
Organisation isn’t a skill we were born with, though I’m sure you know people you think were. I’m not denying it isn’t easier for some than others, but it is something we develop over time.
I’m not actually a minimalist, just believe in keeping the stuff we love and need – here’s one of my favourite quotes:
“Being organised isn’t about getting rid of everything you own or trying to become a different person: it’s about living the way you want to live, but better” – Andrew Mellen
Can a dis-organised home really affect our physical and mental health and will decluttering our homes and offices positively impact our well being?
Most of us can appreciate that feeling of sheer satisfaction, when we’ve had a good clear out. However, does having an organised, and decluttered home do more than that? Does it affect our physical and mental being?
Many of us strive for an organised and decluttered home and recently we have had the chance to tackle the ever-evolving problem of too much “stuff.” Just one charity alone has reported a 38% increase in donations as many of us have started the decluttering process.
Clutter can affect our anxiety levels, sleep and ability to focus. It can also reduce our self-esteem and lead to a poor diet, often resulting in days in front of the TV. When we aren’t in a good place mentally, we are more likely to reach for those sugary snacks.
Your physical environment, both home & work, can influence performance, wellbeing, relationships, and our emotions.
If surrounded with an overwhelming amount of paperwork, laundry, or perhaps a bedroom with piles of clothes on the floor, it can create this mental silence, which can have a cumulative effect on our brains. It can be almost like a visual noise, overloading our senses, cognitive abilities, sleep and anxiety levels, giving us a feeling of “mental fog”. Ultimately, reducing our ability to focus.
Studies have shown, that cortisol (the stress hormone), levels are higher in people who have a cluttered home, leaving our bodies constantly at a low ebb, which is taxing on both body and mind.
When we start our day stressed, with increased levels of cortisol, before even leaving the house, it is likely that those levels will remain high throughout the day. Returning home to the same overload, means the cycle continues.
‘Procrastination is closely tied to clutter, because sorting through and re-homing items is a task that many people find unpleasant and avoid. We also get attached to things we own, sometimes irrationally. I had both of these problems when I went through the process of trying to declutter the loft with my husband.
Is Hoarding the Same as Clutter?
Many people with mental health disorders or who have suffered some kind of trauma in life, particularly the loss of a loved one, will often find emotional pain relief through constant retail therapy, collecting or just simply retaining anything and everything.
Sometimes, it can be just too painful to let things go. This is what we call ‘Hoarding Disorder’ and is actually a recognised illness.
But, is clutter always bad? There 2 sayings that I often hear:
Often those who have messy desks, or surroundings can be more creative, break away from the norm, yet those who have tidy surroundings have tendencies towards conforming to expectations and playing it safe.
I have a friend whose paperwork is a mountain, but bills never go unpaid and she can identify and find one item of clothing in a pile of many. I shared a house with her, in my twenties, and it drove me nuts but she is still one of my favourite people in the world. She is, in fact, the most whacky, creative person I know.
These are 2 completely different schools of thought and I know which one I adhere to! What about you though, do you think a tidy desk is a wasted life?
When you’re organising your home, whether it’s the ornament from Great Aunt Susan, the model of the Eifel Tower that Cousin Bob bought, or your great grandmother’s dinner service, do you feel obliged to keep that unwanted gift?
It’s natural to feel guilty for not liking something someone has bought for you? Afterall, haven’t we always been taught that it’s the thought that counts? And, they did take all that time to wrap it up for you.
Maybe you should keep them in your own ‘just in case’ store of presents with the idea to re-gift one day.
These gifts are evidence of thoughtfulness, kindness and love, but the problem is that you don’t like them, will never use them and they don’t fit your lifestyle or décor, but now you feel guilty of what may seem to be ungratefulness. You can end up shoving them under the bed, in the loft or at the back of a cupboard.
So, after thanking the gift giver with your very best “I love it” face, what should you do next?
Depending on how well you know the person, it may be possible to explain, in the nicest possible way, that it’s lovely but not something you’d use and would they mind if you exchanged it? Don’t forget they have spent their hard-earned cash on your gift and won’t want that money wasted. However, this is something only you can gauge – some people do get offended with this approach.
Donating to a charity shop is often the most obvious answer but I do understand, this is currently difficult. Charity shops are predominantly closed, or unable to accept donations due to lockdown, also many are over stocked (too many people decluttered during the crazy year we’ve had and not enough people are buying). You may need to keep items to one side for the time being and when the time is right, call ahead to check they are accepting donations. Also, check their web sites, there are some items that they cannot or will not accept.
Shelters for victims of domestic abuse, or the homeless, always welcome items for personal care (shampoos, shower gels, deodorants etc) as well as larger household items that can help a survivor start to make a new home for themselves. However, do check with your local shelter as to what they can and can’t receive.
Another great option is the “Give back box”, which is a genius way to solve a problem. Every time you receive a delivery, unpack a box and re-pack with anything that can go to charity. Log on to www.givebackbox.org.uk , print a label and send them your donations which will go to charity. An excellent way to both re-cycle and help some really good causes. An excellent alternative whilst we are unable to get out and about.
If it’s your children that have received unwanted toys, these are often received by hospital’s children’s wards or hospices. Any board or computer games, Lego, arts and crafts, or electronic gifts are usually welcome, as are mobiles and development toys for babies. For unwanted books, look at Toddler Groups, Schools, and Libraries in your local area. They often have book exchange schemes or take a look at https://books2africa.org.
Hopefully, this year will have taught us about the most important things in life and for me, that is being able to spend time with people, in different places. I hope I never take for granted again, having a coffee or glass of wine with family members or a friend and being able to hug them. This, to me, is far more important that buying gifts for the sake of it.
Here’s some useful questions to ask yourself before taking the “gift plunge”:
Will [Aunty Edith] really love, or need this?
Am I buying something just for the sake it?
Have I been influenced by clever marketing or a special offer?
Has this item been sustainably sourced with environmentally friendly packaging?
Could I buy an alternative which supports a charity?
What is my budget, can I afford this?
Would a beautifully presented homemade gift (chutney, jam, even sloe gin) be a better alternative?
Good luck, this is always going to be a tricky one!
Do You “Eat” (lovely food) but have to “Pray” (you can find your utensils). Yes? Then let’s get you a kitchen you’ll “Love”
How many times have you been frustrated because you can’t find the right pot, lid, or utensil? You’ve invited friends to dinner (well, maybe not this year!) and cooking for them is a time consuming, tedious, nightmare. Maybe it’s time to organise your kitchen.
Well, it doesn’t have to be like that, no matter the size of your kitchen, you can make it work for you. It’s all about organising the space efficiently.
Whether you’re reinventing your existing space, or creating a completely new kitchen, the same rules apply:
Empty the cupboards, ditch all that is chipped/cracked or buckled, and donate what is good but unused
Look at the remaining items and identify where and what they are used for.
Assess your space (identify each main focal point)
The final step, (after following my guidelines), will be to implement your practical kitchen haven.
So, let’s begin!
A kitchen has 5 “high traffic areas”
Coffee and tea making space
Needless to say, this is where your pots, pans, chopping boards, measuring jugs and other cooking utensils should be kept. Now you’ve ditched any worn, tired items, return one set of pans, baking trays etc so they are easily seen and accessible. Plate racks, dividers or even hanging hooks for saucepans are all great to assist you to organise your space.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know, that the cupboard under the sink is where I see the most kitchen chaos. A mass of washing up liquid, spare hand soaps, cloths, bin bags, dishwasher tablets, bleach ecetara, ecetara, ecetara! Completely overloaded and impractical.
It doesn’t need to be like this, and can be remedied with a custom-built shelf, or some specific under sink storage containers. My under-sink cupboard is double width so I’ve put an expanding curtail pole in, meaning I can hook up all my spray bottles. I’ve also used easily pull out plastic trays, making access to the back of the cupboard a lot easier.
The dishwasher is usually next to the sink, so bear this in mind when choosing the area for your crockery, keep it in close proximity.
Think about what you use to keep your food fresh and keep it close by. I’m thinking, Tupperware, cling film, tin foil, make your life easy by not hiding it away.
Fridge organisation is a subject all on it’s own, and one I’ll save for another day!
Food storage / Pantry
3 simple steps:
Take it all out
Check BBE (best before end) dates and ditch accordingly
Consolidate and decant – (ie 3 bags of open flour or pasta into one container).
Containers are great for saving space, keeping things fresh and saving money. Plus, you will always know where your flour is!
For those of you that did an “apocalypse buy” earlier in the year, now’s the time to start eating up (or, in extreme cases, donate to a food bank)
Coffee and Tea Making Area
Don’t make the mistake of putting your mugs/cups away with your crockery. Store them next to where they will be used, I’m betting you keep teabags, coffee and sugar there so why not your mugs and cups.
Spices can be a clutter zone, all of their very own, many people have them in a drawer or stashed in cupboards.
There are lots of fab ideas available for spices, like this magnetic wall storage below from HomeLoft UK. Or you could even use something as simple as an over the door clear shoe store.
Magetic Spice Storage from HomeLoft UK
Make sure you store them alphabetically, it really does make finding what you need so much easier.
Now that you’ve worked out which items go where, it’s time to consider how you use them:
keep what you use and need the most at eye level
items used occasionally need to be kept up higher or down lower,
Try as best you can to keep work surfaces clear, it will make entering the kitchen more appealing, giving you the space to get creative.
After a month or so, reassess. By now, you will have worked out what works and what doesn’t and you can adjust accordingly.
I find that my kitchen, and the way I use it, keeps evolving and it’s an absolute pleasure to work in.
Good luck with your project, I hope you manage to organise your kitchen successfully. Please do let me know how you get on and if you need more guidance, please contact me.
You’ve decided you can’t stand it any longer, your house is amass with overspilling draws, cupboards and floordrobes. The kids seem to be growing out of all their toys and clothes and your husband has a strange attachment to his eighties shell suit (though thankfully doesn’t wear it!)
Where do you start?
What do you cast aside?
What do you keep?
What happens to the items you let go?
However, the thought of tackling all this on your own, fills you with dread:
Sometimes, starting your own decluttering project is not only all-consuming, it can also be too hard emotionally. We can all form an attachment to “precious” items, meaning we struggle to decide when and how to let them go.
This is where the services of a professional organiser and decluttering specialist can come in. But, don’t be fooled, there are plenty of people out there that will sell the service but aren’t actually professionals in their trade.
The decluttering and organising profession is becoming more and more in demand, with TV shows like “Making Space” and “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”. However, how do you know that you are getting a true professional, rather than someone that’s just very good at tidying up? A professional organiser and declutterer will be a member of APDO, The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers. This is a UK membership that sets standards and provides professional development.
An APDO member will be trained in best practices, be accredited, fully insured, and committed to a code of ethics. They will also be registered with HMRC and follow the GDPR regulations. If you’d like to find out more about APDO, just click here. A truly professional organiser will always be able to advise you how to re-home your pre-loved possessions, whether it be to charities, schools, playgroups, art groups etc or, how and where conscientious recycling can be done. Some may even do it for you!
It’s much like other professions, if you were searching for a plumber or physiotherapist you would expect them to be fully trained and following the correct regulations in their line of work. Wouldn’t you?
As a member of APDO, we are surrounded by a team of highly motivated colleagues, who share tips and form a support network. So, no matter how unusual your needs are, we will be able to assist you. If you have a specialised object, maybe an antique, or jewellery that needs re-homing, we’ll always do our best to find out, through our group, how best to do this.
So, if you need guidance or support to organise your home, your office, or even your life, make sure you use a professional. Use the best in the business.