How to take care of 5 brand new home appliances

Are you moving to a new home? Packing must have been exhausting. I know!

You probably won’t be moving everything to your new house, especially if you have been renting and your previous property had furniture and white goods already in it. Or if you had a home where you donated or discarded your old stuff and wanted to get new items to your new home.

And you finally moved in! The smell of a new fresh property is so exhilarating. But still, there are lots to be done!

So you make a list of things you want to buy for your house. You need to know which product is best in the market for your needs and how to maintain and clean it to sustain it for longer.

Check out these five home appliances you would need in your new home:

Image of a fridge - new home appliances
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One: Refrigerator

According to Reviews.com, we can choose between four types of fridges: Top Freezer Refrigerator, Bottom Freezer Refrigerator, French Door Refrigerator and Side-by-Side Refrigerator. Check their guide on how to buy the best fridge for your home.

When you have it delivered to your kitchen, make sure that you have installed and plugged it correctly. Normally, the manufacturer will advise to plug the fridge in and only put food in it when around 24 hours have passed.

Now, I recommend cleaning your fridge every 2 weeks on average (don’t tell my mum, because she insists on cleaning it every week!)

Well, lots of factors play in deciding the time frame of cleaning a fridge. A crucial factor is the number of habitats living in the house using the fridge. A single person is not like a family of 5! Adults are different in handling stuff in the fridge than children. Anyhow, in 2 weeks time, empty the fridge completely and take a damp sponge with dish soap and give it a good clean. Shelves, trays, compartments, the whole lot. Then, take a clean cloth and wipe it dry. If you want the fridge to smell nice, put a little saucer with some baking soda and 3 drops of lemon essential oils.

That was from the inside. From the outside, use a damp cloth and give it a wipe from its top to down its sides. For underneath it, when the fridge is empty, move it a little (with help please) so you can dust the dirt away. You can use a long thin duster, like the one I use for dusting my baseboards.


Image of my dishwasher at home - new home appliances
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Two: Dishwasher

I know that most people don’t have the luxury to buy a dishwasher, so washing up the dishes every breakfast, lunch and dinner would be a hefty task. But if you are able to buy one, even on a budget, and have a room for it in the kitchen, check out Review.com for their guide on buying the best dishwasher for you.

One thing I would like to point out for you is the cutlery basket. Make sure that your cutlery is always facing upwards when you put them in the basket. Otherwise, knives will cut through the bottom creating holes and will no longer hold your cutlery properly.

Loading your dishwasher is key to maintaining it for longer. Cups and glasses on the top shelf and dishes on the bottom.

Keep checking what is the best powder/tablets/capsules for your dishwasher. I personally use Fairy capsules, but from time to time I might use a DIY recipe made of baking soda and citric acid. This acts as a cleaner for your dishwasher as well! Don’t forget to clean the filter every month at least.

If you noticed in the photo, I have half a lemon in the upper rack. You know why? If I have plates that had egg or meat/fish on them, the bad odours will go away with a lemon! #Dishwasherhack 😉


Three: Food processor

Review.com has chosen the best food processor in the market. Check it out here.

A food processor is a very practical tool in the kitchen and it comes very handy if you want to mix certain ingredients together or grate particular veg and fruit.

They come with different accessories and attachments, so we need to handle each part with care.

The main body of the processor needs wiping every time you use it with a damp (a little bit soapy) cloth. If the manufacturer says in the manual that the accessories are dishwasher safe, you may put them there. Otherwise, you can wash them as soon as you are done with them and air-dry them. Be careful with parts that have blades and store them away from children’s reach.


Image of mattresses - new home appliances
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Four: Mattress

Which mattress is better? Check out Reviews.com guide!

In my humble opinion, we should invest in a good quality mattress (if you are aiming for a brand new one) for a number of reasons:

  • Its lifespan is around 8 years. So it will serve you well
  • Bad quality mattresses may cause you back and neck problems
  • You spend 6-8 hours sleeping. More than you sit on your sofa or desk!

The best way to maintain it is to:

  • Buy a mattress protector because it will trap in odours and sweat that you release during sleeping. That can go easily every month in the wash.
  • Every 2-3 months, take off all sheets and sprinkle baking soda on the mattress. It will absorb all odours in it. Leave it for around 3 hours then get your vacuum cleaner and give it a good hoover (best done with a mattress attachment)
  • Always ventilate your bed before making it. Yes! Don’t make your bed immediately after you get up, because your bed will still be warm and it needs to get cool and ventilated. So after you are up from bed, take off the duvet and pillows off the bed and open the window. After an hour or so, pat on the mattress a couple of times, then you are free to make your bed!

Image of a vacuum cleaner - new home appliances
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Five: Vacuum Cleaner

Ooooo, this is a tough one! Let’s see Reviews.com what they have to say. Check out their recommendation here.

Whatever vacuum you choose for your home, make sure it is practical for your needs.

Keep a mental note in your mind how you assembled the vacuum so that when you want to clean it, you can remember how to dismantle it. The reason why I am saying this is because you can easily take the hose, put soapy warm water in the bath, and let it soak overnight then air dry it. Same thing with the compartment (if the vacuum is bagless). The filter could be complicated so you better read from the manual how to clean it.

The brush head can be cleaned as well. If the head has a brush that can be dismantled, do so and get rid of hairs and other stuff but cutting them with scissors. Then you can soak the parts too.

The exterior of a vacuum can be wiped with a damp cloth.

In general, if you don’t pull the cable too much, or knock over the vacuum while vacuuming, you can guarantee your vacuum to live longer.

For more about cleaning, read my other blogs:

Interview with Soul Medicine Owner, Esther Felder

I am delighted to have Esther Felder, owner of Soul Medicine, as my guest for my blog this month about wellbeing!

Esther Felder, owner of Soul Medicine, Nottingham
Esther Felder, owner of Soul Medicine, Nottingham

She is an experienced Spiritual Teacher and Mentor with over 12 years experience in transformational healing. She uses an intuitive and holistic approach to complete wellness, as she focuses on the relationship you have with yourself, with others, your career/business, the universe and Mother Earth. Her mission is to provide an honest and professional service which will leave you with greater clarity and joy in your life. [1]

She has kindly accepted my invitation to interview her and discuss the links between wellbeing and decluttering.

Enjoy!


Image of a person on top of a hill focusing on wellbeing
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Mona: Hi Esther! Tell us about yourself and what does “Soul Medicine” mean in your perspective?

Esther: Hello thank you for having me as a guest blog on your site, I hope I can add some value to the readers’ lives and provide some simple guidance.

Soul Medicine is any form of medicine that can help the mind, body and soul to be more inline.  We carry so many emotions and feelings that do not always serve our highest good that we can feel much better when we have assisted in clearing them away.  When we feel better our lives have more meaning and we are not as burdened by some of the limiting thoughts and fears that can hold us back.   Some of the things we unconsciously say to ourselves are so hidden that we are unaware sometimes what is holding us back.  When these are cleared we can feel much better and start to look after ourselves and others much more which then affects all the relationships we are having in our lives.

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Mona: There is a quote on your website that says: “To end the disharmony and discord with your true spirit, you must first release with healing, then you will discover one’s true self.” How does this fit with the definition you provided above?

Esther: I help men and women eliminate some of the core wounds that they are carrying.  We all have something that is holding us back, whether that’s a lack of love for ourselves, feeling unworthy or not good enough, putting unrealistic deadlines and targets on ourselves or on the other hand procrastinating and stopping ourselves from living the lives we really want. In addition, living in lack in some way, not eating the right foods, addictions, choosing unhealthy relationships plus much more.  We think we know our true spirit but there is so much more to uncover in relation to health, happiness, creativity, love, beauty, inner and outer success.  I have helped many men and women feel much better especially from the inner chatter that has been keeping them stuck. They have been happier in their jobs, found love, healed from painful past experiences, ended the negative self-chatter, started looking after their minds, bodies and souls to live more fulfilled lives.

Image of myself looking at the valley from a peak
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Mona: Any person who is going through a decluttering journey will face many obstacles. My framework that I use is (Calm, Agile, Effective) since I know for a fact that being calm and in a zen-like, stress-free position is so important. How can your intuitive and holistic approach help in this phase?

Esther: A decluttering journey can be a very emotional time as you may be clearing away items which have happy or even painful memories. I totally agree to feel calm is extremely effective.  A good idea is to play some music that will help you and light some candles.  Some may choose to listen to soothing music to help calm themselves especially if the decluttering is relating to painful memories such as a loved one passing over, a child leaving home or a relationship break up.  You may wish to have someone with you to help the process in this instance.  Do it in stages and ensure that you are nurturing yourself as much as you can in the process.  Take lots of walks in the country or near some water to help clear your mind.  If you feel like crying then do as holding in emotions can be so damaging.  We have to feel to release.  Don’t feel that you have to rush to clear it all out as you may wish to take some more time to decide what you want to keep.

On the other hand if the decluttering doesn’t relate to painful memories you may wish to play uplifting music when having a clear out to get the job done.  I will always remember my mum playing rock and roll when she used to spring clean the house when I was younger and she made it fun.  I declutter on a regular basis and it’s so good for the soul.   We constantly change and I feel it’s a great idea to live a much simpler life.  I look at my house and think ‘do I really need all of this stuff? does it make me happy or bring me joy?” I look at my clothes and ask myself honestly if I will really wear them and if they suit my style.  I regularly sell things online or take items to the charity shops or the homeless places where I live. I also give things to friends and their children if I think they will be of use.

Image of a person looking at old documents
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Mona: Many people struggle with sentimental items that have either joyful or painful memories attached to it. I normally advise to keep them to the very end of the decluttering process, otherwise, the whole project comes to a stop. What is your best practice in this regard if someone approaches such items?

Esther: I covered a little bit of this in my previous reply.  I would totally agree with you and to take their time and it’s best to clean the area and declutter the items that you know that you no longer need.

It is very difficult for those who have lost someone through death, as this can be one of the most emotional things anyone will ever have to go through.  As I said earlier, take your time and ensure you have someone with you to share the emotional load.  Grieve takes time and you have to nurture yourself as much as you can in the process. Healing takes time and you will go through so many emotions.  You know that you can’t keep all the items and you also don’t want to regret being hasty and wishing you had kept something that’s why some help from someone else can greatly help.  We have kept some of the things my Dad used to have especially the old photos and some of the items that had been passed down through the generations.   Always try and remember the actual spirit of the person and not just the items that relate to them as that really helps.  Some of the people I have spoken to have found it’s therapeutic at times to remember all the memories while they are clearing out houses.  Laughing at some memories while crying at others.

If it’s the end of a painful relationship break down then I do feel that you can try and clear most of the items away. That’s if it feels right to you as we are all different.  I personally do not keep any jewellery or sentimental items from my past relationships.  I have been like this for years as it helps clear the energetic link even if you are still friends with them.  It’s almost like cutting the cords of the old so the new energy can come in.  We have so many ‘things’ these days and we don’t really need any of them.  If anything makes you feel sad when you look at it then my advice is to give it away.  Don’t open up old wounds if unnecessary as only keeps you sad for longer.  Focusing on healing yourself and showing yourself the love you deserve.

When I am decluttering my house or even when I am moving house I have taken photographs of items that have brought me joy so that I can remember the memories, especially the crazy clothes I use to wear when I was younger or items my daughter used to play with or clothes she wore.  I don’t take photos of them all just the ones that make me smile the most.  I have kept things like her first shoes as my father bought them as they make me smile.

Image of myself digging the nail of my index finger into the cuticle of the thumb of the same hand until it hurts
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Mona: Every one of us may have a distinctive way of dealing with everyday worries and negative thoughts. A thing I’ve learnt from Paulo Coelho’s “The Pilgrimage” is digging the nail of your index finger into the cuticle of the thumb of the same hand until it hurts. You then concentrate on the pain as a distraction. I personally do it and it somehow helps. Would you recommend this?

Esther: I have spent a long time understanding why I felt the way I did and to heal my mind, body and spirit.  (Your spirit is your life force, your energy, your personality, your love and  your creativity).  It’s imperative to work on the core issues otherwise they will always be there.  Our biggest job on the planet is to learn to love and accept ourselves more and to heal the negative part of our mindset so that it is at peace. Distraction only leads to more pain in the end.

My way of dealing with everyday worries or thoughts is to listen to my body, to feed it the nutritious food and drinks, to work on eliminating the negative thoughts and feelings I may have from time to time.   I am an energy medicine specialist, therefore, heal myself on a regular basis as well as go for lots of walks in the countryside to get fresh air. I continually work on my mindset to remain as healthy as I can be as it’s a constant journey to wellness.  I do yoga, conscious breathing and I go to see specialists in the field who help me with the hidden issues I may be feeding myself.  The ego is very clever at we can hide it from ourselves. I listen to many meditations and mindfulness techniques plus read many books. I take my self-care very seriously as I want to get the most of the life I have while I am here on the planet.  I think of my mind, body and spirit like I do my house, it needs regular clearing and cleaning and is not something I can do just now and again.  To feel better I have to work on myself.

Image of a happy woman
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Mona: One of our objectives as coaches/mentors is for our clients to achieve their goals and to be happy. I suppose you share this as everyone is looking for happiness! People want from me this equation: (less clutter = happy life). What would your equation be and what would you do to make people maintain it?

I definitely agree with that .. less clutter  = happier life.  When we have less clutter in our minds and our hearts we really do feel much better.  My work is like spring cleaning for the mind, body and the soul.  I am able to bring peoples happiness back by clearing away the old.  It isn’t painful either as we all lose a part of ourselves when we have been through upsetting times or illness.  My wish is that everyone becomes empowered to lead fulfilling lives.

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Mona: Last but not least, what final message would you like to send to our readers?

Having a clear out in any way definitely helps.  Go for it and I promise you will feel much better afterwards. Even if you feel you have too much on already and feel stressed. It will help your stress afterwards I promise.  Look at all the things you have any really ask yourself if you really need it.  Does it bring you joy?  Would you feel better if your house was clearer? Do you really need to buy so much in the first place?  When our homes and workspaces are clearer it allows the space for more creativity and fun.

Lots of Love

Esther, Soul Medicine


Check out Esther on her Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/soulmedicineuk/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/esther-felder-owen-3586a484/

www.twitter.com/EstherRFelder

Plastic Free July Challenge: How did it go for me?

So the Plastic Free July challenge is nearly at an end. I was planning to make a vlog about it but unfortunately, I was too busy to do one. But I managed to write down all my notes, thoughts and practices during this month and post them all together here in this blog.

I heard about Plastic Free July a month ago from a Facebook group I’m in about Zero Waste Lifestyle. It caught my attention and thought I can elaborate more on the subject.

I have heard about the concept of reducing waste and refusing plastic the first time when I watched Ahmad Alshuqairi’s show that broadcasted a couple of years ago. He met with Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, and showed us how she made drastic changes to her lifestyle and was able to produce only one jar of waste that she couldn’t Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, or Rot.

I admired this lifestyle a lot and I wished that the whole world can adapt it to make our planet cleaner and eliminate plastic usage for good. Blue Planet II is a great show to see how marine life is affected by the plastic waste we are producing. It is strange how this lifestyle was actually the norm around 100 years ago before plastic was invented. You may ask anyone in the elderly community about the way people shopped, the natural ways they preserved food,  the limitation of clothes, and the contentment of a simple way of life.

In Nottingham, there are attempts to bring back the old way of shopping goods, which is buying in bulk and using environment-friendly packaging. One example is Sarah Maloy’s Nottingham Zero Waste Collective pop up shop whom I interviewed in my guest blog this July.  Another example is the Dash Vegan shop on Triumph Road. They offer packaging-free products and alternatives.

This July, I made a pledge to myself to try to reduce, or even better refuse, 3 plastic items to come into my home. Looking how this summer is so hot due to climate change, and how much plastic there is in our oceans, I can do little changes at first, and gradually be plastic free as much as I can. But before I tell you what they are, it’s worth mentioning that there are 3 plastic/non-biodegradable things that I stopped or even don’t purchase at all due to cultural practice.

Here are 3 plastic items I don’t use:

One: Kitchen/Bathroom Cleaning Wipes

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For cleaning my home, I always use cleaning cloths and sponges. Cleaning cloths could be either old vests or T-Shirts made into rags or old towels. I use the normal yellow sponges you get from the shops, but once I am done with them, I am going to buy the reusable ones. I use also black and white newspapers sometimes to polish glass (Good way to reuse them!). Soapy water and other cleaning products are what use with the cleaning cloths and sponges. I never was convinced with the single-use cleaning cloths you use for bathrooms or kitchens. I admit I use hand wipes when I am outdoors, but I am willing to use reusable ones when my current ones run out. One thing that I never do, is throwing wipes in the toilet. Never ever!

Two: Plastic Water Bottles

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I never had a problem with drinking tap water. Where I live, we are blessed with good quality water. When I am out for a walk, I have my water bottle filled from home. I reuse a large glass bottle I have and fill it when we as a family go out. A great benefit of glass is that it keeps water cold. When we are at restaurants, we also order tap water.

Three: Plastic Straws

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After watching a video where a Marine Biologist extracts a plastic straw out of a turtle’s nostril, I vowed never to buy single-use plastic straws again. What’s wrong with drinking from the glass/cup immediately? I don’t need them. One of my daughters insisted that she needs a straw to drink her milk (7-year-olds “rolling eyes”), so she uses now a reusable straw and cleans it after every use. The pain that turtle went through just isn’t worth it.

Here are 3 items I pledged to try to reduce or refuse For Plastic Free July: 

One: Shampoo Bottles

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I am not a shampoo/beauty products hoarder in the first place. I buy one bottle of shampoo/conditioner/shower gel when I need them and I don’t buy others until they are finished. Same with soap. But you can’t help knowing that these bottles and packaging materials are sometimes not recyclable, and they will most likely end up in land fields or in the sea.

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In terms of soap bars, I collected soap scraps I have at home and made them into new bars. Sucess!

I researched for Shampoo/Conditioner alternatives, and found a couple of options:

  • Buying original Aleppo soap (made from olive oil and lye) which you can use not only for your hair but for your body as well. Most of these soaps come in environment-friendly packaging.
  • Buying Shampoo/Conditioner Soap Bars which lathers on wet hair and is mostly made out of natural ingredients. They are normally sold to you in paper bags.
  • Taking a clean empty jar or bottle with you to a Zero Waste Shop, fill it with shampoo/conditioner there and buy by weight.
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I did all three of the above as a matter of fact. The Shampoo Bars were good for me but difficult for my children as they found it very fiddly to use. So, liquid shampoo and soap for my kids are more practical for them.

But they do not come cheap. A 55g shampoo bar costs around £6 comparing to a £3-4 250 ml bottle of shampoo. It is advertised that they last around 3 months. Well, I will do the math in 3 months time!

There is another option as well, which I haven’t experimented with yet but will do when my shampoo finishes, which is buying liquid castile soap in bulk and customising it as you like with essential oils. You can use it for your hair, body, hands and even as dishwashing soap. Will give it a go soon!

Two: Cling Film

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I was worried about this one, but with a quick check in my kitchen cupboards, I was able to:

  • Use my glass Tupperware
  • Put plates over bowls
  • Use parchment/baking paper to wrap sandwiches, fruit and veggies.
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I don’t know if parchment/baking paper is the best way to store food in the fridge, but I think it works for me. Unlike kitchen rolls, they don’t absorb moisture. So all my fruit and vegs are staying fresh for a long period! That’s a win-win!

Three: Fruit and Veg Packaging

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This is probably what I am finding the most difficult to tackle, as I normally shop at supermarkets where packaging fruit and veg in plastic bags, wrapping or boxes are very common. Even though there is loose fresh produce without packaging, but it is doesn’t apply to all.  I depend on frozen fruit and veg a lot, which obviously is in plastic packaging as well.  

To try to buy my fruit and veg with no plastic, I had to go to either a Farm Market or small deli shops. This led me to make several shopping trips to different destinations. I am still on the hunt for shops or supermarkets in Nottingham where I can do all my shopping in one place! Just like the one Bea goes to:

It was a busy and exciting Plastic Free July for me! I have still a lot of research and findings to do, but I think I’m on a good start. This is not the end of course! I will keep on looking for plastic-free alternatives that suit my family and I and smarter ways to sustain the only planet we live on.

At the same time, I think as a concerned community in Nottingham, we need to see how we can arrange to get a Zero Waste shop. There is a lady in Leicester who did it:

 

Did you take the Plastic Free July challenge? What swaps did you do? Let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy your summer!

Interview with Nottingham Zero Waste Collective Owner, Sarah Maloy | #PlasticFreeJuly Blog

I am honoured to have Sarah Maloy, owner of Nottingham Zero Waste Collective, as my guest for my blog this month for Plastic Free July.

Sarah Maloy, Owner of Nottingham Zero Waste Collective
Sarah Maloy, Owner of Nottingham Zero Waste Collective https://www.facebook.com/nottinghamzerowastecollective/

She had a Plastic-Free Pop-Up shop running for a couple of days back in April, May and June this year at the THINK in NG Meeting space in Nottingham City Centre.

I passed by her stall once and we had a chat, finding that we have a lot in common and the passion to make a better change to people lives and the environment. I noticed that Sarah had a copy of Bea Johnson’s book sitting on one of the shelves: Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life. We both expressed our admiration for this woman who started a blog that gradually lead to a worldwide movement.

We hope that we might inspire you while reading this interview with Sarah to use less plastic this month and think about other alternatives.

Enjoy!


Mona: Hi Sarah! What does “Zero Waste Life” mean in your perspective?

Sarah: Hi Mona and the Organising Ninja Gang! Well, a Zero Waste life to me means to ‘consume consciously’ so that you are taking steps to minimise the waste you generate in your life.  Blue Planet II highlighted the problems that plastic is causing in our world; polluting our oceans, injuring wildlife and also likely affecting the health of us all. So I empower myself with information so I can live more consciously. This means that I plan as much as I can, my meals and shopping for example, and I always carry my reusable water bottle, take my reusable cup, straws and produce bags wherever I go so I don’t get caught out and end up with any plastic packaging.

Mona: As a Nottingham resident, spreading awareness in our local communities about clutter and its negativities is a social responsibility for me. If you agree with this, how would you approach people who haven’t heard about Zero Waste Life?

Sarah: When I talk to people about following a zero waste lifestyle I generally explain that I am reducing the waste I create as I am concerned about our environment. I originally trained as a Biologist and I know that we are part of the environment and not separate from it. We have a responsibility to protect it as it provides us with so much; the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.  I often talk about Blue Planet II as a lot of people saw that.  I explain how sad that makes me feel, and that makes me want to take some action.  

Mona: There is a strong connection between the “living with less clutter” concept and the Zero Waste Life movement. I had a client where after a big clear out, they wanted to make sure they won’t accumulate clutter again. How can adopting a Zero Waste Life help them in that?

Sarah: When you become more aware of the waste you create, you automatically start to reduce it.  I started out following the 3Rs, in this order – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle but over 2 years ago, when I read about the zero waste movement and the damage that our waste is doing to the world, I added in some more – now I start with Refuse!  And also include Repair in the Rs, so, with a fantastic group of people, I also coordinate Nottingham Fixers, a voluntary community repair group who run repair cafe to help people fix their broken things rather than throw them away and buy new ones.   

Mona: I have visited your “Plastic Free Pop-Up Shop” at THINK in NG. The aroma of your products reminded me of shops in the good old days where goods are displayed in front of you. Do you think millennials would be interested in buying in bulk instead of buying conveniently from a supermarket?

Sarah: We are social human beings and it’s in our nature to want to interact with each other, they can do that is a ‘slow-shopping’ experience at a bulk market such as the one I run with Nottingham Zero Waste Collective.  I also think that people are wanting to make a connection with their food when they buy in a ‘market’ type environment they are doing that. Finding out where our food comes from, knowing that it’s been grown in a sustainable way, shopping locally, are all connections that people crave, and for good reason.

Mona: The temptations of consumerism nowadays lure people into making the wrong purchasing choices, and that sometimes end with accumulative clutter in their homes and might end with hoarding issues, along with serious mental and health problems. I saw this in many homes and it is sad to see this happening. From an environmental point of view, what would be the shocking element to use to make people wake up from this?

Sarah: With all this ‘unconscious’ consuming the human race has become detached from our impact on the environment. In nature, things come into being, they die, decay and go back to the earth and support new things then to grow.  It’s a beautiful cycle that keeps on repeating itself as it is so successful and makes sense.  As humans we are taking from our environment and generating new things and then we are discarding them; we are not completing the circle. When I visit schools, I show the children a plastic bottle of water. I say that when you have spent your few minutes drinking the water from the bottle, where does this bottle go? What happens to it? Then I show them the landfill hole in the ground, some plastic bottles littering our streets and on our beaches some bottles on our beaches.  Then, there are also some shocking images of wildlife… but I always follow up with the positive changes we can easily make!

Mona: I support a minimalist lifestyle, and I coach clients who want to live a simpler, richer life. It is sometimes a drastic change and close family members, or friends can stop them and not support them in this journey. I believe that you face many challenges in your “Plastic Free Pop-Up Shop”. What are they?

Sarah: Unfortunately society isn’t really set-up to minimise our waste. Many of our food staples are packaged and it’s not always convenient to shop in our own containers.  I think the biggest challenge is to buy staples without plastic, like pasta, rice etc. Then there’s coffee and nuts and seeds. Packaging from these types of items were ending up in my bin so these are the things I decided to sell.  I think once people become aware of the single-use plastic around them they start to want more information about other choices they could make, such as ditching wipes and using a flannel. Or refusing straws, or covering their leftover food with a plate rather than cling film.

Mona: Last but not least, what final message would you like to send to our readers?

Sarah: If you’re concerned about the state of our environment, don’t despair, there are always things you can do. Plan for some simple plastic swaps such as using a reusable water bottle and coffee cup for when you’re out and about. How about walking when you can and not driving your car? Maybe go on a litter pick or join a local wildlife group. Or perhaps de-clutter and send some items to charity for others to use!

Good luck and go and make a difference!


Check out Sarah on her Social Media:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/nottinghamzerowastecollective/

https://www.facebook.com/nottinghamfixers/ 

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10 Steps to Organise Documents for Visa Purposes

So I have been helping this client who just wanted me to help them gather and organise their documents for visa purposes.

It can be really stressful and daunting because of all the requirements official sectors need. After a few sessions, we were able to organise all the paperwork.

Their visa application was successful! Phew!

Happy client!

Here are the steps we did to make it possible:

  1. Start your application process at least 3 months before your submission date. It will give you more time to check if you have any documents missing.

2. Read carefully and thoroughly what documents are needed for the application. Create a check list.

3. Check if your documents need attesting, verifying, stamping, signing or translating. It takes quite a while to have them done.

4. Put personal photographs in a small envelope and attach it to the main application or with your ID.

5. Make copies of every original document you have.

6. Pile each category together and stack them chronically with the oldest on top.

7. Open a MS Word or Excel to create a table of contents. Be very specific in what each pocket will contain. Print it out.

8. Buy a display book and label each pocket according to your table of contents. Put the table of contents in the 1st pocket.

9. Put all your documents in place and let a second person check that you have all the docs in place.

10. Keep scans of your documents in your cloud system/email just in case!

Good Luck from The Organising Ninja 😉

6 Tips For Writing Better New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a swell time celebrating!

Going back to work/school after 2 weeks of overeating and partying could be the most unpleasant feeling in the world. That’s why I waited 10 days after New Year to write this blog, just to get back to my routine, get things settled, and start planning for this year.

Now, I know most of you write down “Resolutions”, which are your own personal goals or objectives to achieve during the new year. But before doing that, ask yourself this question:

Did you complete all your goals for last year?

Or: Did you have any resolutions at all last year?

If your answer is no for any of the above, it’s ok. You can move your unachieved resolutions to complete this year, and for those who didn’t do any last year, here’s the chance to make some.

Check these tips for creating your New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Reset your mind for a fresh new start. You can use meditation, yoga, praying, or any method to reflect your inner self.

  • When writing down resolutions, choose a place where you can see them visually every day. It could be in your diary, planner or a board.

  • Make your resolutions SMART! As the above graph, it is important to follow these rules to make sure your objectives are completed during the year.

  • Don’t write too many. 3 major goals and 5 minor ones on average is enough.

  • Share them with your close family members and/or friends to help you with them. They will keep you motivated and committed.

  • Stay optimistic and keep a smile on your face! There will be days where you will feel down, but after a rainy day, there is always sunshine to follow it.

If decluttering your house or organising your life will be one of your resolutions for this year, my advice to you is to not make the time frame short. Spread out the tasks on a period of 6 months at least, give it time. It is like losing weight, making small steps at a time in the long-term will make astonishing results.

A professional organiser can always guide and help you with your decluttering and organising goals. It is worth the investment if you are struggling to commit. You may read other blogs of mine to give you an idea on how to start.

Good luck!

5 Uncommon Things To check Before The Holidays

Ah, Christmas and New Year, the nation’s favourite holiday every year. A joy for some, but a heart attack for others!

Stress, anxiety, panic, we feel all these before we approach the festive season, especially if you are the person who is hosting dinners and giving gifts for kids and adults. The best way to eliminate all these unnecessary feelings is by planning ahead of time.

They are common and obvious things you need to do before the day comes, like gift and dinner shopping. But check out my 5 things to check off your list that doesn’t normally occur to you before the holidays:

  • Have a list of family and friends who are not living in your town/city. Send them cards/gifts a month before to avoid tardiness. Nothing wrong to send out your greetings ahead of time before the traffic starts!

  • Have a good stock of dry goods in your pantry such as rice, lentils, sugar, salt, spices, etc.

  • Do a good declutter and cleaning round for rooms where guests will stay over. Make sure sheets, towels and extra toiletries are ready. Always treat your guests like royalty!

  • Clear out all rubbish from your bins so it won’t accumulate and look nasty in front of your house!

  • Check your local supermarket’s opening times during the holidays. We all know that emergency trip to the shops!

I know it very tiring, but seeing the smiles on the faces of your loved ones really deserve everything you have been through the past month.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Fasting & Decluttering. What do they have in common?

We all heard about fasting, which is a willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. A lot of recent reports are praising fasting for its medical benefits. There is even a medical clinic in Germany that specializes in Fasting! Individuals fast for various reasons, either for religious, spiritual or dieting purposes. Of course it is hard in the beginning, but then your body gets used to less food and water and adapts to this new routine.

Whatever your purpose is, fasting is a form of decluttering. Why? Because you are minimizing your intake of food and water and detoxing your body from toxic and unhealthy substances.

Hunger and thirst, and therefore eating and drinking, preoccupy us sometimes from certain aspects of our lives, our relationships and our belongings. Same thing with clutter, it makes a barrier between yourself and the outside world.

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When you are willingly fasting in a correct manner, you suppress your hunger and thirst and eventually you become more aware of the surroundings around you. Since eating & drinking are no longer a priority during this period, you can be able to focus on other things.

And that is the same thing with house decluttering. It is a process of removing unwanted items in your crowded home, making room and learning to take in fewer things in your home. After this process, you will have space in your home and an emptier mind. Therefore, you will be ready to take in new challenges and new resolutions.

Fasting and decluttering both have common teachings and findings. Some of them are:
  1. Minimalism: Going through these journeys teaches you accept less, and cherish the true treasures and riches in life.
  2. Social Responsibility: Giving excessive food, clothes and other items in your home for donation while fasting or decluttering raises your awareness for people in need.
  3. Concentration: as clutter or food/water are shifted away from in front us, you will find the time and space to focus on other things, like contacting your relatives, going out for activities and experiencing the environment around you
  4. Inner Peace: They will lead to less stress and more calmness and relaxation in your life.
  5. Controllability: You will be able to resist temptations easily and be in control what goes into your body or home.

 

Fasting, like decluttering, must be done slowly on a long period of time with no exhaustion. Preparing yourself mentally and physically is a vital key for successful results. Consult a doctor or a professional organiser for an effective plan.

My Nan’s Tweezers

When a close relative or friend of yours passes away, you will go through a tough grieving stage. Grieving differs from one person to another, but it is important to have someone to support you during this hard period. One factor that is similar to all grieving cases is the deep attachment to items that belonged to the deceased.

We feel so emotionally attached to those items that it will be so difficult (maybe impossible) to let them go. It is absolutely normal to keep some items as a memory from our loved ones, but how much is too much? My friend referred me to (N.M) 6 months ago who wanted my advice: They still keep their mother’s paintings, large antiques, and other small items, in their small apartment even though she has passed away 7 years ago.

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N.M was not willing to give away any of these items, even though they are affecting their lives on a daily basis. Space is very scarce in their home and they needed the extra bedroom (where the mother’s things are placed) for an expected baby. So, in order to convince N.M to let go of some items, I told them the story about my nan’s tweezers.

The story goes like this:

My nan was the most elegant, sophisticated, loving grandmother in the world. She was a respected figure in the community and was known for her beauty and wisdom. She was loved by every member of my family and going to her house during the weekends was a delight to me, my siblings and my cousins.

Unfortunately, she had Rheumatoid Arthritis the last 10 years of her life, which affected her knee joints. She stayed most of her time in bed but was able to move around the house with her walker.

My nan had a very distinctive scent that was similar to baby skin. It was so comforting and soothing, that I used to love lying beside her and talk to her for hours and hours.

I lived with her during my studies at university, and managed to catch up with her the last 3 years of her life. Her health deteriorated the last six months and then gracefully passed away on 8th March 2005 (on International Women’s Day).

The shock, the tears, the sadness, and the pain were very distressing and blinding to the extent I can’t remember when my aunties managed to sort out her stuff! After the funeral, I started to look for at least one of her night dresses so I can keep it for myself to remember her scent, but alas, all her clothes and personal belongings were gone.

I was very mad, that I wanted to beat myself up for not being aware of what was going around me. I kept looking around the whole house to find anything that will remind me of her. Before I completely gave up, it occurred to me to look under her bed.

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For my surprise, I found her tweezers. Yep. Old rusty, chipped tweezers that I am sure they were hers because she had asked me previously to pluck some of her unwanted facial hairs with these tweezers.

Could a pair of tweezers be a satisfying object for me to keep as a memory from my nan? Since that was the only item from her in the whole house, I put the tweezers in my pocket in dismay.  Even though I wanted a piece of her clothing to remember her scent, my auntie told me that the best way to remember our loved ones who passed away, is by mentioning their good deeds during their lifetimes, giving charity in their names regularly, and pray for peace in their afterlives.

I carried out my auntie’s advice, but my longing need for that scent never left my mind. I tried all the perfumes in the world to match it but couldn’t find any to my satisfaction.

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It was not until I gave birth to my twin daughters, when I found my nan’s scent beneath their skin! I cried that day so much and realised my mistake. We should never assume that keeping items that belonged to our loved ones will keep their memory. It is their legacy and their family members that will keep them alive among us.

Funny as it may seem, I held on to those tweezers till this very day. I still use them; they are functioning very well, probably better than any tweezers I bought later on. I can’t say I remember my nan whenever I do my eyebrows, but every time the twins sneak into my bedroom to play with my makeup things (including the tweezers), we always end up talking about my nan and how a wonderful woman she was.

N.M laughed after hearing the tweezers’ story, but I wasn’t sure if they will take my advice.

I haven’t heard of N.M for a while but was told they gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby. N.M called me a month ago, and told me: “I found a silver hairbrush among my mum’s things. I want to keep it and let go of the rest. I want my baby to have a decent nursery room. When are you available?”

I laughed this time. After that phone call, I went to my bedroom, took out the tweezers and said: “Thank you Nana. May you rest in peace.”

10 Things You Forget To Clean

As a Professional Organiser, a clutter-free space is an objective I always thrive to commit to. I keep this in my mind while working with clients, talking in social events, discussing with my local community, and dealing with my home. I totally believe that helps you clear your mind and become a better person. As a result, my mission is to show how you can be in control of your belongings and your life instead of the other way round.

Decluttering a home is very similar to a weight loss programme. Normally, a fitness coach or a nutritionist is there for you for guidance. Professional Organisers’ job is to give you advice and motivation, explain the decluttering process and support your journey.

Decluttering and cleaning are different practices but link to each other eventually. Ideally, decluttering comes before (if not during) a big spring clean. If the decluttering aspect sounds daunting you can consult a professional organizer to help overcome the initial hurdles and give you an action plan for progress.

After you finished decluttering, comes the cleaning. You may perform a big spring clean, but is that enough? You have to develop habits to keep up with the results you achieved.

Since it is National Spring Cleaning Week, I am happy to share my own cleaning tips that you may forget to include in your weekly cleaning routine.

Here are my 10 “things that you forget to clean”:

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  1. Baseboards and Over Door/Switch Edges

Baseboards drive me crazy! Even though they have a thin, camouflaged surface, not dusting them on a regular basis can easily be seen by the thick layer of dust collected over it. Especially in areas where there are furniture in front of them!

Also, if you look above your doors or light switches, you can find a little edge where dust sits too.

 

Dusting baseboards and over door/switch edges is now included in my weekly dusting routine. I use this long static duster and slide its narrow pointy end on the surface.

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For hidden baseboards, I leave a gap about 2-3 fingers wide between my furniture and the wall so I can slide my duster in the gap and wipe the dust of the baseboards.

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  1. Heating Radiators

Radiators become dusty and can get really mucky eventually. Wiping them from the outside is pretty obvious, but what about inside the panels? I use my long static duster as well because it easily slides through the panels dusting away those pesky particles.

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  1. Window and Patio Door tracks

Cleaning the windows from the outside is a project by itself, especially if they are not on the ground floor of your house. But whenever you wipe your windows from the inside, window tracks must be cleaned too. Water, dust and insects are always found there! Therefore, make it part of your window cleaning routine. The easiest way I found is to use the smallest nozzle you have for your vacuum cleaner, vacuum all the dust, take an old toothbrush and scrub the tracks with a little bit of soapy water, then wipe it with a dry cleaning cloth.

  1. Telephone Cords and Electric Extensions

Ever notice that your telephone cords and electric extensions get discoloured overtime, especially if their colour is white? Well, that is because they do not get cleaned regularly. Best way to tackle them, is by disconnecting them from the sockets first, then take a soapy damp cloth and wipe them thoroughly.

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  1. Toilet Brush and Holder

General rule: you must ALWAYS clean your cleaning tools whether your clean yourself with them or clean items in your home, especially in the bathroom!! So, does it apply to Toilet Brushes AND their holders? Yeeees, of course! How do you clean them you ask me? Well, after you scrub the inside of your toilet, don’t put the brush immediately into the holder. Whatever disinfectant you use (bleach or a green home-made recipe), put some of it on the brush and some of it in the holder. Wash the holder, put it aside then place the brush handle between the toilet seat and rim making the brush end positioning over the toilet bowl. The brush and holder will naturally air dry (open windows or turn on extractor for better results). After that you can safely put back the brush to the holder.

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  1. Toothbrushes, Hair Brushes, Makeup Brushes and Razor holders

I’m sure you heard about cleaning your toothbrushes, hair brushes, makeup brushes and razors before, but what about the holders?? In case I skip cleaning mine for two weeks, I end up with ugly brown circles and hair inside of them. So, cleaning them while you do your bathroom routine is a must, with a sponge, with a cloth, whatever method you choose, but make it a habit to tackle them on a weekly basis.

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  1. Electricity Box and Lamps/Shades

Does it occur to you dust your Electricity Box? Wherever it is located in your home, up the wall, on the side, it needs dusting. Use a very dry cloth or a duster to clean it. Put this item on your dusting routine, otherwise the handy man won’t even touch it!

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Lamps and shades are sometimes forgotten, because they are either hung from the ceiling or they stands upwards. Again, use a very dry cloth or a duster to clean it.

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  1. Beneath your shoes

If you and your family are used to walking in your home with the same shoes you came in when you were outdoors, you need to think again. You would be stepping on to God-knows-what out there and you don’t want them on your hard floors, carpets or wardrobe! So, the best thing probably is to take off your shoes when you enter the house. But even so, cleaning them especially from beneath is crucial. Use two cloths, one damp with soapy water and the other dry. Wipe beneath your shoes with the soapy cloth then dry it with the dry one, then place the shoes on their sides on an old towel (if they are very muddy, consider cleaning them in the garden). This way, the shoes will get air dried and any excess water with drip on the towel. Then put shoes in their designated place or you are free to wear them indoors.

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  1. Washing Machine Tray

This is not the first time I point out about this, but many people neglect their washing machine trays thinking that because it holds washing products, it is clean. WRONG! Mould eventually builds up in the tray and inside the gap where it is located. Best way to clean it: Dunk the tray in a bowl of water and leave it overnight, then scrub it the next day. Ways to prevent it: Keep the tray and the washing machine door always open!

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  1. In the kitchen …

The Kitchen by itself is a nightmare to manage especially while spring cleaning, as it is the place we prepare food 3 or more times a day and it results with crumbles, stains, leaks, greasiness, grubbiness, you name it!

Other than the normal “wiping the kitchen counters and floor” ritual, think about these things and try to fit them with your weekly kitchen routine in any order or frequency you like to save yourself lots of scrubbing and blitzing effort in Spring:

  • Inside fridge, outside and over
  • Inside oven
  • Inside microwave
  • Oven extractor
  • Over kitchen cupboards, kitchen cupboard doors
  • Gas hob knobs
  • Sink drains
  • Sponges and towels
  • Aprons and oven mitts
  • Inside bins
  • Utensil Trays and Holders
  • Spice racks
  • Toasters
  • Sandwich Makers
  • Coffee Makers
  • Salt and Pepper Shakers!

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I will be participating in National Spring Cleaning Week that will take place between 6th and 12th March 2017: http://www.springcleaningweek.com/ by using the hash tag: #springcleaningweek on social media. I will be offering lots of help online to motivate you to declutter, so follow me to keep up!

Spring Cleaning; TON’s Guide

Spring is FINALLY coming! Winter was so cold and depressing last year and I am thrilled that it will be over soon!

There are so many things I’m looking for this spring, and one of them is … Spring Cleaning!

Yes, Spring Cleaning! Why have you raised your eyebrows? For many, it sounds like a daunting task and reminds you of your parents when they made you help them with this yearly event! Cleaning may not be an exciting project and does not bring joy to you at first, but there is an event coming soon that will change your mind:

I will be participating in National Spring Cleaning Week: http://www.springcleaningweek.com/ by using the hash tag: #springcleaningweek on social media. I will be offering lots of help online to motivate you to spring clean, so follow me to keep up!

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Basically, I define Spring Cleaning as performing a cleaning ritual (deep or light) to items that are normally unreachable, unseen, or covered on a seasonal basis. The reason why it occurs in Spring (or sometimes Summer) is mainly because of the change of weather. You are free to wash more and air dry things quicker, Ventilating rooms is easier as warm fresh breezes rushes through, your mood is better because of longer days and you can see your cleaning process better because it is brighter!

Now, before taking out your mops, cloths and cleaning products, you need to describe the current status of your home. I have three names for homes and each one of these homes has a different approach for a spring clean (with all due respect to all householders):

  1. A Cluttered Home
  2. A “Need for Deep Cleaning” Home
  3. A “Well Maintained” Home

ONE: A Cluttered Home:

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I don’t mean here the messiness you leave behind during the week and you eventually clean and tidy up in the weekend. No. I mean that your home possesses too many items that blocks you from cleaning from the first place.

Approach: You can’t spring clean if you have clutter in your home because cleaning always become after decluttering. Therefore, have a thought of how you are going to declutter and plan it out. Read my blog about how to Spring Declutter.

TWO: A “Need for Deep Cleaning” Home:

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You may have finished a long decluttering process or your home is clutter free but cleaning your home was not something you do on a regular basis. Here, Spring Cleaning is a must and it will take longer and more hard work to get rid of months (or years) of accumulated dust and dirt.

Approach: One room may take two days to finish as you need to “remove the scum off the surfaces” first, and then tackle the rest afterwards.

THREE: A “Well Maintained” Home:

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Your home is clutter free, all your items are in their proper places and you have a cleaning routine. Your spring cleaning will be a piece of cake. Since you maintain your home regularly, the only tasks you will do this Spring are cleaning items you don’t clean on a weekly or monthly basis but on a seasonally basis, like pillows, curtains, walls, etc.

Approach:  Spring cleaning in this case will take one day for each room.

If you noticed, I have numbered these home names on purpose as these are as well stages of reviving any home from a chaotic house to a livable space. So eventually, if your home is number one, you have to go to number two before three and so on.

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I by coincidence found my spring cleaning list I wrote when I did my Spring Cleaning last year. I have written things I don’t clean on a frequent basis to make them my main focus. I will share on my social media channels the way I cleaned them during National Spring Cleaning Week, but in general, the points I considered while spring cleaning are:

  • If your home is a 2 or 3 story house, start from the upper rooms to bottom, starting with lofts or storage rooms, then bedrooms, lounges, bathrooms and leaving the kitchen to the very end.
  • Specify one room each day (you can do a room once a week, or 5 rooms 5 days a week, depends on your timetable and energy limits).
  • You can do it alone, but if you will use ladders, lift or move heavy things or try to clean outside windows, ask for support. Don’t put yourself under any dangerous risks.
  • Make sure children and pets are preoccupied away from you during Spring Cleaning a room.
  • Consider swapping your summer clothes with your winter clothes in your current wardrobe before spring cleaning your bedroom.
  • If you plan on decorating, bear in mind these rules: Before spring cleaning you can paint walls, take out old furniture/appliances, mending anything that needs repair, install tiles, and fit in fitted furniture. After spring cleaning you can fit in new carpets and bring in new furniture/appliances.
  • Unplug any electrics/lighting while cleaning and disconnect electricity while cleaning chandeliers/lights/vents.
  • Keep your washing machine empty and handy as lots of wash will generate from spring cleaning.
  • You can use commercial cleaning products or home-made recipes, it’s your call. Just make sure they don’t cause you any allergies.
  • Make sure your cleaning tools are clean before cleaning!

When you are done Spring Cleaning this year, my biggest advice for you is to develop habits and routines to always keep your house clean. Therefore, you will not spend too much time and effort in Spring Cleaning the year after.

Spring Clearing (Decluttering)!

Who is ready for Spring Clearing?!

For sure you have heard of Spring Cleaning, but what about Spring Clearing?

Never done it before? Don’t worry, I got your back. Who is better to give you advice than a professional organiser and declutterer?

Clearing (Decluttering) simply means to prioritize your material possessions through a process and remove unneeded items from your home. In other words, a massive tidy up! You need to prepare your mind set and boost your motivation up to the highest as it needs lots of dedication from yourself and support from your family and friends.

Keep in mind that you must declutter before you do any spring cleaning. In order to declutter, you need to see your home as a project. Therefore, you need a strategy.

Consider these 10 points while planning for your Spring Clearing:

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  1. Tackle a loft/storage rooms first, then bedrooms, living/dining rooms, bathrooms and finally kitchens.
  2. Each room needs 1 to 2 days to declutter depending on the amount of stuff you have, your timetable and energy limits. So, using a dairy or a calendar really helps.
  3. You can do it alone, but ask for support because decluttering tends to be very overwhelming. Consider taking a 5 minute break every hour and a half
  4. Do not buy anything extra during this period (except for daily food) since decluttering will reveal the buried treasures you have hidden in your home
  5. Make sure you have no distractions from kids, pets or phones. Otherwise, your task will be left undone
  6. Prepare your decluttering tools, especially bin bags. Use different coloured bags for each type of findings. Example: Black for rubbish, Green for recycling, Blue for donation, etc.
  7. Be ruthless when giving decisions about items you know deep inside that it should leave the house
  8. Deal with sentimental items at the very end of your decluttering journey. They may spark memories that will slow down your process.
  9. Dispose waste/donations generated from the decluttering process the very same day. If not, it will slow down your decluttering journey
  10. After a room is decluttered, give it a light cleaning (dusting, vacuuming). When the whole house is decluttered, you can start Spring Cleaning!

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When you are done Spring Decluttering this year, my biggest advice for you is to develop habits and routines to always keep your house clutter free. Therefore, you will not spend too much time and effort in decluttering later on.

Good Luck!

Organised Desk, Better Productivity!

Whether you work in a company, work remotely from home, or have a home office, it is essential to keep your workspace in order and free of distractions.

Here are my top 6 tips in maintaining your workspace:

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  1. Keep frequent items on desk, infrequent items away: Things you need on a daily basis like stationary, notebooks, diaries, phones, etc should be in front of you. Keeping in mind that things like pens should be in limited quantities. There is no need for 10 pencils or 15 blue pens stacked in your pen holder! Check the ones that are working, store them as inventory, and keep one or two pens available at your reach.

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2. Put items on your desk in containers: To avoid items getting scattered, put all similar items together in a container. Example: Pens in pen holder, paperclips in little jars, mail in paper trays, etc.

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3. Mugs/cups/plates: I prefer not eating at all on your desk, but I know that sometimes you have to. To avoid crumbs, keep a tray under your plate or food. Big rule here is; when you are done with mugs/cups/plates, take them to the kitchen immediately! It’s not nice to find your mug the next day with coffee stains! That itself demotivates you!

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4. Put a board up!: Hanging a board for timetables, reminders, etc is a an effective way to visually see your notes. If you prefer to go green, keeping your notes electronically on your phone, tablet or even your desktop is a good idea as well.

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5. No personal/sentimental items: Photos of your kids, cards, souvenirs or any personal items are a distraction to your focus and working time. Try to avoid them as much as possible.

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6. Keep current Paperwork only: It is extremely important to not pile lots of paperwork on your desk. Paper clutter will avoid you to work and anxiety will build up. Make three containers/trays for paper work: One for unread/to do (this must not be ON your desk), one for pending/current paperwork (this should be on the desk), and one for archiving/filing (also must not be on desk). Taking into consideration that when these containers/trays are full, they must be emptied immediately.

Open the windows and smell the fresh air!

I can’t stress enough how ventilating your home or office is EXTREMELY important. It helps new supply of fresh air to enter the space you are in, and eventually maintaining a healthy, cleaner and fresher environment for you and your family or colleagues. I don’t use air freshers because it only gives fragrance to the room and it all falls on the floor. It can never be a substitute for ventilation. So, here is my ventilation routine (especially in Winter):

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I open my windows fully first thing in the morning for 5 to 10 minutes on a daily basis to allow fresh air in and get rid of all the sleepiness odours. You may imagine that this may seem a bit harsh especially on cold mornings. But believe me, you will notice the impact of this practice later on. During this period, fluffing pillows and making beds are essential since any dust particles generated from this task will lead itself out of the windows. After shutting the windows, that is where you may turn on the heating system, light up some aromatic candles or oils, and enjoy a fresh and warm atmosphere.

I do this same routine while I am dusting as well. Even if I have good absorbing dusting cloths, there are no problems in ventilating while doing so.

So don’t underestimate the power of ventilating your home or office! It is one of those little things that make a big difference!

Setting your mind is the key …

We must admit that our houses are getting smaller, our items are increasing and our time is flying out of the window! The result is, unfortunately, a cluttered home.

The fact that our lives nowadays are infected by the fast, dynamic and demanding economy is becoming so overwhelming; we can’t even scratch our heads. If we don’t catch up with it, we will be left far behind. The same applies to our homes and offices. If we don’t keep the order sustained, it will accumulate to the point where we might not be able to walk through them.

It’s not about being a messy person, but not being able to keep a system in our lives can cause clutter in our homes and workplaces without even realising it. This may develop into more extreme cases of hoarding if it is not tackled at an early stage. People get ashamed of their clutter, which is normal, and end up isolated in their homes. So, they need to seek help before it affects their health and wellbeing.

I know many cases where people with clutter seek help from family members or friends. Most cases do not achieve any outcomes because of clashes and disagreements between both parties. Turns out that hiring a “stranger” is more effective and can reach to the wanted results.

So, when that day comes, and I meet those eager clients, everything should be “accessible”, “flexible”, “practical” and “effective”. I hear these phrases all the time when I see them during my 1st assessment, whether it was in a domestic or business atmosphere. Everybody is BUSY. That’s another word I hear all the time. But is it an excuse?

If that busy-ness includes 2-3 hours browsing all your social media on your phone while you are sitting on the sofa with your partner and watching TV, you need a desperate makeover in your life!

It is so essential to measure your time and make sure you are investing it in a way you don’t regret doing other things later on. There is a saying that goes: “Time is like a sword. If you do not cut it, it will cut you”. There are too many precious events we can’t let them slip away, like meeting friends and family, new experiences, etc. Life is too short to be wasted on invaluable things.

Motivation and determination are essential keys to start any transformation. It is a journey, an emotionally bumpy ride, where all members should hold hands and support each other. Mistakes may happen, but one must not stop there. Learn from the mistakes and do corrective actions to avoid making them again.

Decluttering a space from accumulating items is that bumpy ride that must never be underestimated. Memories, valuables and lots of other stuff turn up in this process. Therefore the relationship between the space owner and the declutterer must be built on total trust and honesty.

Decluttering is the hardest phase in this transformation and it always come before Organising your space. I use a framework with my clients during their journey which is (Calm, Agile, Effective)

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In the organising world, there are soooo many different methods to maintain your items. There is no right and wrong. You should find the method that suits your individual/family/business needs according to the space you have. If you are not sure, you can always ask an organiser to guide you to the best solutions.

So, as you see, it all starts with that little desire of change for the better. Change is difficult; no one can deny it, especially if that change involves habits. It all depends on foreseeing the positive results using SMART objectives (Specified, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed). It is an investment, and any person needs to be convinced of the returns of that investment. Common sense and reason play a big role as well. I am sure that each one of us standing here wants the best for themselves and for their loved ones. It does take courage to admit our weaknesses sometimes, but we are humans at the end of the day, and we can never reach perfectionism. So, speaking up and seeking help and support is the best way to reach our goals. Success, happiness and satisfaction for sure are the Holy Grail we humans seek for. Hard work and dedication are the routes to them, but every person’s experience looks, tastes, smells, sounds and feels different. This uniqueness must be celebrated.

 

Receipts … Keep or Throw?

When you empty your bag, purse, wallet, or pockets, how many of you end up with a pile of receipts and tickets?

No wonder! Since we are likely to purchase at least one product or service each day of the week, we end up finding we have around 7 to 30 receipts and tickets, if not more! It’s truly a menace, especially when find them lurking on every desk, table, in drawers and even over the microwave! Aghhhh!

Purchasing systems nowadays are obligated to print out these receipts/tickets. But if they will end up piling in our homes and offices with no real use for them, we will hoard them and it will eventually take a long time clearing them out.

There are many ways to nip these receipts/tickets from the bud. It is really up to why you might need them in the first place. If it is for your bookkeeping or to record your expenses at work, of course, keep them. You have to make the decision the moment you purchase your item/service. If there is no need for them (other than the reasons I mentioned before), simply ask the person at the till that you don’t need the receipt/ticket. Some of them don’t mind and if they didn’t agree, you can immediately tear it up and throw it in the bin. There are some cases where you need the receipt if it involves delivery or customer service information, or if you will probably return that item. That is definitely a keeper until a certain period of time.

Now at home or your office, you must contain these receipts/tickets in any kind of container. It can be a box, a cup, in your diary or even on your board if you have one. It must be placed in an area where you can see it and must be identified as a container/place for these receipts/tickets only. No bubble wraps in there, please!

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For sure I’m not going to ask you to file them when each and every receipt/ticket that comes in. You can save them up for 7 days and you must assign at least 30 minutes once a week to deal with them. I do advise not to keep them more than 7 days without being sorted out since they will double the week after.

The key here is to really make the effort to devote yourself to this task. Some people sit hours browsing on Social Media without noticing. 30 minutes of your time will certainly not keep you off your busy schedule! Time by time, it will be developed as a habit without even thinking.

When you go through the receipts/tickets, you need to sort them by deciding if you need to keep them for filing or bookkeeping, or if it is alright to throw them away. If you make the decision to throw them, make sure you shred them if you have a shredder or tear them up, as they contain sometimes your personal information and your card details. For the receipts/tickets that you decide they need filing or bookkeeping, it really depends on why you need them for. If they are for work, most businesses need them scanned or attached to an expense form. Either way, when your claim is paid, there is no need to keep them and you can dispose them with a clear conscience!

In terms of bookkeeping, you may enter the values electronically on a simple Excel sheet. The reason why I like Excel is that you can do all the calculations and do some analysis of the data you recorded. After entering them on Excel or any electronic method, you can scan the receipts/tickets and keep them in a separate folder on your computer. You can link the receipts/tickets with the date recorded as well. That way you have saved paper and you can shred those receipts/tickets and take it for recycling.
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If you insist to record them manually, that is totally up to you. I know for a fact that some people prefer still to use actual diaries or read paper books instead of smartphones or tablets. As long as you have the space to store and file them, that is absolutely fine. For the self-employed in the UK, I know for a fact that the HRMC asks you to keep your records up to five years. No need to keep them more than that!

So, it’s simply knowing the need and usage of these receipts/tickets and dealing them as soon as possible. Setting up your mind for this needs time but once you get in the habit of doing it, you will find it a piece of cake and your home/office/desk is clutter free from these little buggers!

“I can do it by myself”

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Organising is my favourite thing to do since I was very young. All my dolls were always sitting on the window sill in a very neat row. Soft toys were stacked smartly in my bookcase. I attached each notebook to the schoolbook designated for in my bag. I helped my mum with her spring cleaning. I was an expert in loading the dishwasher with maximum dishes possible! I made a timetable to study and finish before the exam date in university. I did inventories for books and a file system at work. I feel great satisfaction when I make things in order and now, I get to do it for people who need help in organising and decluttering.

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My collection of photos in a neat and tidy way back when I was a teenager

Starting a career as an Organiser was such an important milestone in my life, as I get to use my “talent” (if you call it so) as my daily job. So, doing the “job” is not the issue. I helped many of my neighbours and relatives the past 6 months with unpacking, tidying, decluttering, and many others things.

Organising and decluttering for others is a very different experience from doing it for your own home. As for organising for my home, I am the only decision maker and I tidy how I find it fit for my daily practicality.  In this situation, I have to ask the homeowner of every change I will make. It does make the progress a bit longer and so mentally tiring, but it is an obligation I have to take. As a result, I overcame the anxiety of entering other people’s homes and going through their clutter. The final results are so satisfying and all homeowners were very pleased.

With the help of APDO-UK’s training course (www.apdo.co.uk), I can now do this job in a professional and standardised way. I’m ready!

Now, I am facing many challenges. One of them is the client’s “I can do it on my own” attitude. I don’t mind at all people dealing with their own clutter and managing it by themselves. On the contrary, an Organiser’s goal is exactly that, to make people understand the importance of having a clutter-free life and the benefits of it. Some people know how to do it, bravo for them! They are Organisers by nature. But what about the other people who don’t know how? Or need help? Or probably just in denial? How can we reach them? How can we spread the word that there are professionals who can do this service for you?

The culture of hiring an organiser/declutterer is still not common in the UK. Many people fear strangers entering their homes and being judged by their “mess”, as they call it. Even though our code of conduct strictly states to never be judgmental and each client has their unique circumstances. Some underestimate our profession and see it is a waste of money. Therefore the “I can do it on my own” attitude that I spoke about earlier comes through their minds and the clutter stays where it is until the homeowner chooses the day to do it ….. and they don’t! That is why Organisers such as myself have a responsibility to spread the awareness of our profession. We need you to know that hiring us is the best choice instead of leaving the task untouched. After a short period, that clutter will turn to a difficult hoarding problem that us declutterers may not be able to help anymore. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask help. That is our job and we are everywhere!

All of my colleagues in the decluttering business participate in fairs, community and networking events, conferences and even do voluntary work. We do collaborations with cleaning companies, estate agencies, charity institutions and local councils as well. In addition to all that, the traditional marketing methods of business cards, flyers and newspaper ads. And to keep up to date with the tech side of things, Social Media is indeed helping us in do so by setting up accounts on famous social channels such as WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Youtube. TV programmes helped with the awareness such as Oprah, Ellen and Rachel Ray in the US, and The Big Spring Clean and Making Space in the UK.

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Capture Screen from Channel 4’s website, (Making Space) Programme.

With all this, we still have to enter each home and shout out that there are professionals out there to help you. And don’t say “I can do it on my own”! Call us before it is too late!