Organising Your Home for Sustainable Living

This week is National Organising Week (NOW) when the Association for Professional Declutterers and Organisers experts are sharing information to inspire and motivate anyone who wants to declutter or organise any aspect of their home or life. We don’t just do physical decluttering, and can also support you with life organisation, motivation, habit change and overcoming procrastination, in person or virtually.

This year’s theme for NOW is Organising Your Home For Sustainable Living.

We all need to reduce our impact on the planet and, like decluttering a cluttered house, it can feeling overwhelming and too daunting to make a start. But change happens through a collection of little actions, none of us can do everything at once.

I want to share some principles with you which can help us use less resources, save energy and save money.

Make use of what you already have

If you already have something, it’s a waste to buy it again.

By decluttering and having an organised home, you know what you have, can find it when you need it and don’t need to re buy things you already have that are lost.

Keeping track of the food you already have will save you money as you use up what’s already in the kitchen rather than buying more.

Use the heat in your home. Check your doors and windows for draughts and use draught excluders and curtains to keep the heat in.

Borrow or rent items you only need occasionally

A hat for a wedding, a pressure washer, a pair of salopettes… How often are any of these things useful and how much space do they take up in people’s homes? Instead of buying new for the rare occasion that they are necessary, things like this can be shared. Maybe you know someone who can lend you what you need or you can hire for occasion. There are more and more libraries of things being established to enable the sharing of tools and other useful objects. I am very excited that a successful crowdfunding campaign has brought Exeter Library of Things into existence in the last week.


Does someone else have something you need and do you have something they have been looking for? If so how about swapping.
You can organise a clothes swap amongst a group of friends and freshen up your wardrobe at the same time as passing on the things you haven’t been wearing.

Is there a product that you use in looking after your home or yourself that you could swap for a more sustainable product? Changing your deodorant – I like Pit-tastic, or your cleaning products – Mix have some great options, is a tiny habit change which can really help reduce your impact on the environment.
Some other swaps to consider include changing from disposable nappies, sanitary pads and wipes to washable options.

You can look at the options for swapping the food you buy pre-packaged for the same product direct to your container or bag. We are fortunate where I live in Devon to have an increasing choice of food shops with zero waste options.

Check your second hand options before buying new

Be it clothes, furniture, homeware or electrical items, check if you can find what you need second hand before going to buy new. By doing this you save precious resources as the thing that already exists doesn’t need to be made again just for you. By this point in time, the things we need are usually already in existence somewhere. I like playing the game of matching the object with the person who needs it. By hunting charity shops, second hand shops, asking friends if they are getting rid of what you need, you can often get what you need without buying new.

Embrace Imperfection

Often items don’t reach the big retailers for sale because they are not perfect. Minor imperfections can lead to perfectly good products being sent to landfill. See if you can get what you need for less, while saving something from landfill by looking out for descriptions like wonky, seconds, graded, or refurbished.

Buy local and seasonal

Small local producers are important for a sustainable world. Buy local where you can, reducing the need for transportation. When buying food locally, as well as reducing transportation, your food will be in season, will need less refrigeration and you will be able to eat it when it is most nutritious.

Reduce, Reuse, Donate, Compost, Recycle

Living more sustainably involves all of these things.

Reducing what we consume naturally means using less. We can always ask the question. Do I really need it?

Reusing makes sense of what we already have. If something is worth having, it’s worth making use of.

Donating what we don’t need means someone else can avoid buying new. It is also a way that charities can make money by selling in their shops.

Compost what you can, makes some of your waste useful.

Recycling is really important, but it takes energy to recycle and the less we consume in the first place, the less recycling we will need to do.

What small steps are you taking so that you live more sustainably? I am most interested in the small steps because the little things are usually the ones that concern our everyday habits and I’m all about establishing and maintaining great habits. Our everyday habits have a much bigger impact that one off actions. Don’t let the enormity of the task put you off doing something today. We can all do something today or this week which will have a huge and very positive impact.

Kate Wren
Your Sorted Nest

Avoiding Christmas Overwhelm

I’m so sorry for mentioning the C word in October. I won’t be putting our tree up for a very long time, but knowing how stressful so many people find Christmas and getting prepared for it, I wanted to raise the issue well before the busy-ness of the season begins.

A problem with Christmas is the level of expectation. There are traditions to be kept, loved ones to make feel appreciated, memories to be made. We want to have a magical time and yet so often some people get to Christmas exhausted, stressed and wanting a holiday to get over all the work of making the day so special.

I have a few hacks to share to take some of the overwhelm out of Christmas.

Firstly, don’t wait until just before guests arrive to organise your home. If your space is already decluttered and you know where everything is, everything, including Christmas preparations will be easier and less stressful. A tidy home is not just for Christmas, as the saying should go.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to delegate. Don’t let pride or feeling you should be able to do everything stop you from asking guests to contribute food for the day, or giving other members of your household jobs to do to make the celebration a fun one.

Thirdly, food! This can be a big potential stress point.
Before setting yourself the goal of creating from scratch every festive food that was ever eaten, find out what those you’ll be spending Christmas with love.
What are their favourite festive foods, what are yours?
Maybe each person can choose one thing, and even better, maybe each person can be responsible for making that dish in advance.
If there are traditionally festive foods that no one’s that excited about, you could skip them.
Eat what bring you and your loved ones joy. You don’t need to prepare and consume out of obligation or tradition.

Fourth, presents.
Do you have to buy for a million relatives? Or does it feel like you have millions of relatives once you get to shopping?
Instead of buying something for everyone in your extended family, alternatives include
– planning to spend the money you would have spent on a day out together. A shared experience will last in everyone’s memories longer than any gifts you might have bought
– secret santa. Each member of the family or friendship group is given someone at random to buy for. That way everyone gets one person to buy for and one present to open. There are helpful secret santa websites which make the process of assigning giftees to gift buyers easy

Finally, whatever you have planned, give yourself enough time.
If you love Christmas crafting, making hand made gifts and cooking elaborate winter feasts, Awesome, I love these them too. Just give yourself a realistic amount of time to complete your plans.
If you know you have a tendency to be over ambitious in your planning, make a list in order of priority, with the ‘if time allows’ things on the bottom. That way you won’t be disappointed if you just get the most pressing plans done.

Nothing takes the shine of Christmas like people being too stressed, too tired or too overwhelmed to enjoy it.

If in doubt, simplify.

If you know that Christmas overwhelm is something you struggle with, or if the time between now and then already feels stretched. Do get in touch.

I am available for both in person home organisation and decluttering and for virtual life organisation and planning sessions.
Together we can come up with an achievable Christmas plan or make space for your celebration so that you get to enjoy your holiday and not collapse in a heap while others celebrate around you.

Decluttering can be daunting (but it doesn’t have to be)

There are so many reasons that decluttering can feel really daunting, but the good news is that by understanding why it can feel that way, we can find ways to make the process much easier, fun even and really satisfying.

A lot of people feel like they should be able to declutter and thinking about not having done so sends them into a spiral of guilt and negative self talk which can become paralysing.
– there are no shoulds or oughts and spending time criticising oneself is a waste of precious energy. You can choose to prove that voice wrong by picking a tiny (I do mean tiny) area to declutter and then stop. When you next see that place you keep your keys/fruit bowl/window sill/whatever you chose, you can focus on what you achieved, on how good it feels now and use it as the inspiration for the next mini declutter.

If we feel overwhelmed by clutter it can start to feel like sorting it out would take ages, that we don’t have ages to spare and so can’t do it.
– if you’re feeling this way, try decluttering with a timer. You can set yourself a mini task, another of those tiny areas, set a timer and see how long it actually takes. Just choose the small area, pick up each item that is there. If it lives somewhere else, move it to that place. If it needs to be recycled/donated/thrown away take it to the relevant bin (it’s helpful to have a box near things like recycling boxes specifically for things that you’re going to take to the charity shop). Give the place you’re working on a quick dust along with anything that’s staying there, put things as you want them. Then stop the timer, admire your work and ask yourself did it take more time than you expected or less?

The idea of spending time decluttering can feel boring and be put off because there are more fun things to do. It can be hard to stay on task when we feel like this and so we get distracted and then disheartened by our lack of progress.
The good news is there are lots of hacks that we can use to get around this feeling and get to the bit where we feel great for having got the job done.
choosing to do something that you’ve been trying to find time to do whilst sorting things is a favourite of mine. If there’s a book that you’ve been meaning to read, find the audio version, settle down to listen to it and whilst you listen keep your hands busy with decluttering. The added bonus of this one is that when you revisit that newly decluttered area of your home, you associate it not only with a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment of the space, but also with memories of whatever you were listening to.
– the timer can be helpful with this one also. Even when there’s fun to be had and outside is calling, there can be a bit of time to work on things which will save time and energy later. Choose how long you have, set the timer and only do that much. 5 minutes really makes an impact it you do it often and maybe you can spare half an hour.
scheduling decluttering helps. I hear from clients all the time that having our appointed time to work together keeps them to task and stops them getting diverted to other tasks. Putting it in your diary whether you’re working on your own or with someone else gives the job the priority that it deserves and makes it a lot more likely that it will happen.
accountability buddies are so helpful. Letting a friend or family member know that you’re going to do some decluttering is really helpful. You can ask them to check in with you about your progress. Maybe they have a similar plan and you can support one another and share your wins and challenges.

It can be hard to start decluttering if organising feels like a world of rules that you don’t understand.
Like sourdough baking and beekeeping, you will find many approaches to home organisation and whoever uses a particular method tends love that one the best. It doesn’t mean that their method needs to be yours. Those of us with perfectionist tendencies can get caught in wanting to do things right and if there are too many options, get frozen and stop in case we do it wrong.
– there really are no rules, there are just ways of working that make some of us feel better than others.
you can decide the rules and trust that what you want to do is right. You may want rainbow book shelves or you may prefer to organise by category. You may have a library or you may have books only on digital devises. You don’t have to have books at all. You get the point.
– if the item belongs to you and is in your home, what priority it gets and what you do with it is your choice. You don’t have to love it because someone you loved love it, and also, you can love it because they did. You can’t go wrong by feeling how you feel and responding to that.

Decluttering can feel stressful, emotional and it can bring up memories both happy and sad. If you find it hard to do for these reasons, having someone work with you on it is a really good idea.
– being in the company of someone who finds a situation less stressful that you find it can make what feels impossible absolutely doable.

The role we humans play in helping one another regulate is gladly getting increasing recognition. Lock downs and being separated from others has been extremely detrimental to mental health and wellbeing and has highlighted that, especially in times of stress, we need contact with each other to be able to regulate ourselves. One way in which this works can be seen is in the observations around the body double which is something which I have done in many aspects of life, including as a parent and doula, and which I now find extremely valuable in my professional organising work.

There are many reasons that decluttering and organising can be hard to start, but there is a solution to every challenge and there are so many benefits to getting started that there isn’t space to list them here. More on those next time.

Hoarding Awareness Week

This week is Hoarding Awareness Week so I wanted to share a bit with you about this often misunderstood condition.

Hoarding Disorder is not a lifestyle choice and it doesn’t mean being untidy or bulk buying during lock down. The media’s desire for a quick story has meant that hoarding has been sensationalised and trivialised adding to the shame and confusion that can be attached to this condition.

People who hoard have extreme difficulty discarding items. They may feel a great responsibility to look after things or feel emotionally attached to belongings. Like many other conditions, which are more greatly discussed and understood, holding onto things starts as a self protective coping mechanism, but it can develop into a situation where the priority that the behaviour takes over other things can make daily life extremely challenging for the person doing it and for those around them.

Hoarded items can prevent rooms from being used for their intended purpose, can make people socially isolated as they stop being able to have friends or family visit. Daily tasks can become laborious, time consuming, dangerous and at times impossible.

It is thought that 2-6% of the European and US population have Hoarding Disorder and yet only 5% of those get to access professional support due to how isolated people who hoard become and the shame that they can feel about their condition. Only very recently (in 2013 and 2018) has Hoarding Disorder been recognised as a mental health condition. It is important now that as a society we learn to have more understanding and make it possible for people to get support with this.

For more information, I can highly recommend, Jo Cooke’s book Understanding Hoarding, which is now in it’s 2nd Edition.

There are organisations which can help including:

Hoarding Disorders UK
Hoarding UK
Clouds End
Rainbow Red
Help for Hoarders

As a professional organiser with a special interest in hoarding I am available to discuss support and available resources if you or your loved one has difficulty discarding. As well as having a personal interest in hoarding and our relationship with our belongings, I have attended specialist training with Hoarding Disorders UK on Hoarding and on Neurodiversity and Clutter. I am also a member of APDO Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers

t: 07973 824383

My children like cleaning windows – and what this has taught me about engaging them in other household tasks

My children like cleaning windows. This fairly unremarkable fact is something that I’m immensely proud of. It warms my heart to see them joyfully clean them. Apologies if you know me and I’ve already bored you with my pride on this subject!

In all honesty, while this domestic task is one they will ask me if they can do, there are others which have taken more effort to enthuse them about.

This led me to wonder what is it about the windows?

Window cleaning for me is a lovely thing when it’s done. I love the extra light and the sense that life just feels a bit more shiny. It is not something that I have ever felt guilty for not making time to do. It doesn’t really need to be done very often. If it’s not done, we can still play or bake or have friends over. Windows aren’t stressful for me, but they take time to do well and I am full of appreciation for anyone stepping in to do this job.

Many other domestic tasks are much more loaded. They easily get wrapped up in stress, shame, guilt or anxiety.
We worry that visitors will judge us for not doing them or not doing them well enough, we can feel less for not doing them, feel anxious about when they will get done or how we will do necessary things while the jobs left undone.
Anything that has those sort of worries or negative associations is hard to ask others to help with in a motivating way.
When we feel anxious, ashamed or frustrated before the job is started, those around us will pick up that stress and feel edgy and reluctant to engage.

Since I realised about the windows, there are things I do to help my children engage more around the house.
I check how I’m feeling before I ask them to get involved
– Am I feeling frustrated, anxious or stressed? If so I need to deal with that before speaking to them or maybe leave it until a better, calmer time.
– Do I need a drink of water? Am I tired?
– How do I feel about what I’m asking them to do? Are we getting together to give the house some love or am I desperate for them to get competent at housework because other wise something terrible may happen in the future? Knowing if I’m coming from a relaxed, purposeful place or one of anxiety and stress, lets me know if now it the right time to ask them to join in.

– I make sure there is enough time for what I’m asking them to do, so they don’t feel pressurised
– I make sure they have the equipment they need and that the job is simple enough to do, or is broken down into simple steps
– I frame the job simply as a task that needs to happen, avoiding blaming anyone for it not being done already
– I make a point of appreciating their work

In short I try to make their involvement in looking after the house and their things more windows and less stress, knowing that they are going to be happier and crucially, more likely to engage , if that is my attitude.

Along with some of my APDO colleagues, last week I was at a talk by Shiri Atsmon, founder of Helpful Kids. Shiri has developed some really helpful resources for encouraging kids to help around the home and I would really recommend visiting her website and etsy shop if any of what I’ve said above has struck a cord.
I don’t get any payment for recommending her products. I am simply recommending because, as a parent, I think Shiri’s products are great.

Meal Planning

Today I want to talk about one of my favourite organising tasks – meal planning.

I’m a foodie. I feel happy when I have a well stocked and ordered kitchen and I love having a crowd of family and friends around the table and sharing food with them. I can’t wait for times when big meals, BBQs and shared picnics become the norm again.

Because of my background in nutrition, it’s important to me that, as much as possible, we eat organically produced food, that we eat what is fresh and in season and that our food is locally produced.

For these reasons, some of my favourite places to shop are:

Riverford – they bring our weekly vegetables, fruit and milk

Hodmedods – stock amazing UK grown pulses and grains

Suma – they bring our bulk essentials

Pipers – my go to for meat

Having food in the kitchen from these lovely producers, each week before I sit to make my plan I do a quick inventory of the kitchen.

  • what vegetables did we get this week?
  • what meat do we have in the freezer?
  • what leftovers are in the freezer? – handy for quick mid week meals
  • which dry pulses and grains do we have?
  • what else in the fridge do we need to make use of this week? – maybe tofu, cheese, cooked pulses or grains

Then I’ll sit, with a cup of something delicious and a few of my favourite recipe books, and plan meals for the week. I’ll make sure that there’s a plan for all of the fresh ingredients and some of the freezer or dried goods.

Some people like to list which meals they will eat on which specific day. My inner rebel can’t deal with quite that much structure, so I list 7 evening meals and decide as the week goes on what order those meals will appear. I make sure to include a couple of really quick meals for days where time is of the essence, some with more preparation involved and a couple of salad or soup veg plans for lunches.

I make a list of any ingredients that we don’t have, buy them, and then know that we will have what we need for the week’s meals taking the stress out of daily meal preparation.

I’m a pen and paper girl. I hand write my list and stick it to the fridge with a magnet, but there are also handy apps for keeping track of your kitchen stock, for storing recipes and some that link to online shops to buy the ingredients.

How do you meal plan?
Where do you start? With what you want to cook or with what you have in the kitchen?
Do you use an app? I’d love to hear if you have favourite ones.
Do you plan a week or a month at a time?

Let me know your favourite meal planning tips.