Saturday, 19 November 2011

What have you learned from a blog today?


Well, I know you've learned nothing from me - I'm a terribly lazy blogger!

This weekend I've been trying to catch up with all the blogs I follow, and spotted this link to instructions for gorgeous ribbon Christmas trees on A Bowl of Lemons. I've added them to my (long) list of things to make ...

Christmas is coming, and it's time to think about decorations!

Lemons x

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Archaeological dig in number two son's bedroom!

My sons are very different. Number one son didn't fall far from the maternal tree - he loves to clear stuff up, tidy and declutter. Number two son tends to shove things into drawers and cupboards, so his room looks tidy on the surface, but a peek inside the nearest cupboard will reveal the truth!

So I was delighted this summer when he said he wanted to clear out 'some stuff' from his room. I think he was a bit taken aback when I arrived in his room with some black sacks, the vacuum cleaner and some cleaning supplies!

Going through his things felt a little like an archaeological dig - layers of artefacts from now (he's 16) back to when he was still in primary school! Including, much to his embarrassment, an S Club 7 CD! That'll teach him to declutter more regularly.

He didn't want pictures of his room on the interwebs, so there are no before or after pictures, but a lovely shot of the pile of cr@p we got rid of. Mostly it was donated, and the remaining was recycled as much as possible.

Happy decluttering!

Lemons x

Friday, 16 September 2011

I'm back - and I've decluttered my make up drawer!

Well, it seems that the Lemons family are finally getting themselves back on an even keel, after some wobbly months. So now I have a little bit more time to inflict my boring old blog on the interwebs!

While I've been away, I've done a few little decluttering jobs that I always mean to do, and don't always get around to. One of them is my make up drawer. I'm not a girl with a lot of make (I'm a natural beauty ..... NOT ha!) and I like everything to be at hand in the shallow drawer in my dressing table.

Here's a before - it gets all grubby and overloaded, as you can see.

And yes, that's all the make up I have. Weep for me ....

I took everything out - boy was there a lot in there!

I managed to throw away an old mascara, make up brush and a few lipglosses that I had acquired.

Then I cleaned out the drawer, and washed the little containers. I found these drawer organisers at Lakeland, and they still have similar ones in stock. They are plastic and you can link them together in different configurations. It's a good job they are plastic, as a lipgloss had oozed all over it ...

I put it all back in, organising it more logically this time, and ta da! One organised make up drawer.

Happy decluttering! x

Monday, 25 July 2011

Sorry, guys ....

.. but it's been a difficult and hectic time chez Lemons, and the blog has taken even more of a backseat than it did before.

I'll be taking some time away from the blog for a couple of months, until hopefully the Lemon family are back on a even keel. But I will be back - that's a promise (or a threat!).

In the meantime - happy decluttering!

Lemons x

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Just one thing ...

Carlos Porto/

There are lots of decluttering challenges out there on the internet - '10 things in 10 days', '100 things in a month' etc. But I've found, when I'm losing my decluttering mojo, that 'just one thing' works for me. Just one thing each day that we no longer need removed from the house - whether it's the weird little screw you find in the drawer, the jumper you don't like anymore, the shoes your child grew out of a few months ago - I think most of us can find just one thing that we can declutter, however busy our day. At the end of the week, that's seven things and after a month ... well, you can do the maths!!

Happy decluttering! Lemons x

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ten Minute Tidy : drawers

I love tidying drawers - for one thing, they are beautifully portable. Most drawers will come out of the piece of furniture they are in, so you can plonk yourself somewhere comfortable to sort the contents - in front of the TV with a glass of wine, if you want. And secondly, they don't take long - for a little effort, you can be so much more organised.

I never wanted my blog to tell everyone how neat and organised they can be if only they buy a whole load of expensive 'storage solutions', so while I will add some links to drawer organisers from several UK companies, it's not hard to be creative, and use what you have. It is helpful to have some sort of containerisation going on in your drawers, particularly if you have lots of little bits and bobs, like jewellery, hair accessories etc stored in one drawer.They help you keep like items together (for example, all eyeliners in one place, all lipglosses in another) - divide and conquer is the rule of the day!

But you don't have to rush out and buy anything - you may have some little containers that work very well. Small baskets, plastic boxes like the kind you get from a Chinese takeaway or even sturdy packaging boxes cut down to the same depth - you won't see the printing on the outside if you slot them in snugly. You could always come over all Blue Peter and cover them with sticky backed plastic to get a uniform look, if it really offends you!

Pound shops often have small containers (which obviously cost about a pound!) that work well in drawers - Laura over at I'm an Organizing Junkie shows how well these kind of baskets work for her when she organised her junk drawer. For my make up drawer, which is wide but quite shallow, I found some interlinking drawer organisers at Lakeland which work well for me. Muji also have a gorgeous selection of acrylic boxes which could be used in drawers or small cabinets (like bathroom cabinets) - although I will admit they are quite expensive, particularly if you want a lot of them. The Holding Company has a good range of drawer organisers -  I particularly like their Clutter Buster Drawer Organiser.

I'm sure there is a drawer somewhere in this house that needs my attention -

Happy decluttering! x

Sunday, 24 April 2011

East, west, home's best ....

'Home is the sailor, home from the sea' (Robert Lewis Stevenson) and home is my little family, from ... Vegas. I know I said here that we were off to Japan, but due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami, our trip was cancelled. We didn't have much time to choose a new destination, so we plumped for Vegas, and we had a good time.

I feel like the worst blogger of all time, as my blog is so sadly neglected, but now we are back I hope to rectify that.

I've been interested in decluttering and home organisation for a very long time - back when I was about 12 I first read Shirley Conran's Down with Superwoman  and knew I'd 'met' a kindred spirit! Since then, I've read a great many books on decluttering and organising, so here's a little list. Most of these are available in my local library, so if you're interested in reading them, you may not even have to buy them and clutter your house with another book!

I hope they help somebody!

Happy decluttering! xx

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why do we have so much clutter?

I thought I'd have a little look into why we all seem to accumulate so much clutter in our homes. From my experience with friends, family and of course myself, there are a number of reasons why we have piles of stuff.

1. A sort of greed - I don't mean that to sound nasty, but a lot of us buy stuff just 'because' - because it's there, because we are constantly looking for new things. And we aren't operating a 'one in, one out' policy, so are just adding to our overstuffed wardrobes, cupboards, attics and garages. I aim for an elegant sufficiency in all things - I am not a collector though, but if you are, you may have lots of one particular thing (I saw a beautiful collection of hatpins on TV the other day). In general I aim to have enough for my needs, but not too much.

2. I might need it some day. Really? Your university papers from two decades ago? A pair of ratty old curtains? I think it's time to be a little bit brave, and believe that there will enough for you in the future, so it's ok to get rid of old and sometimes pretty unusable stuff. Just think, you might need that space it's occupying one day, too.

3. Presents. When I give someone something, I really hope they like it/want it/use it. That's the point of a present, after all! I wouldn't mind at all if someone exchanged/donated/regifted something I gave them that didn't quite hit the mark. However, I know that not all gift givers feel this way. It's hard to know how to deal with this - maybe keep it for a set period, and then discreetly donate it to charity?

4.  It's broken, but I'm going to fix it. If you haven't fixed it for a year, you probably won't! If you think you might, set a deadline by which you have to have it up and running, and if you fail - out it goes. There is a little sub-category here - useless things. Like video tapes when you don't have a video player anymore. Maternity clothes when your youngest is taking their A levels.  Odd socks. You get the picture.

5. It's new, and I've never used/worn it. I wonder why? If you have had it a year or so, you probably aren't going to use it. Unless it was buried under other clutter, and you've only just been  reunited with it. In which case, rejoice, and start using/wearing it.

6. Sentiment. This is a tricky one. I stand by my favourite quote - 'You can't have everything - where would you put it?'. It's going to get harder and harder as the years go by to keep every greetings card your family have ever been sent if you live in a modestly sized home. Keep the very, very special stuff (have a memory box for each person in your household) and pass on the rest. If you can't bear to get rid of it completely, take a photo of it, and keep that, instead. This applies to holiday souvenirs too - I don't buy them, I have photos of my holidays, and my memories, and I find that's enough for me.

7. It's worth something - or might be. Research this. It's possible that your complete video taped series of Fawlty Towers isn't as valuable as you thought. If you love the item, think it's beautiful and it makes your heart sing everytime you see it, whether it's worth nothing or £500, then keep it. But don't keep things you don't like just because they might be worth something.

8. I'm holding on to it for family/friends. They might not want your clutter. I was given bags and bags of 10 year old, stained, poorly stored (musty) baby clothes by 'someone' when I had my elder son. Whilst I did appreciate the thought, none of it was usable, or even to my taste (or current fashion). Your house and all it's storage space is primarily for your family who live in it right now - don't clutter it up with stuff for other people.

Happy decluttering! xx

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Planning - a bit boring, but necessary

Image : winnond /

Like lots of other people, I am really tight for time in the mornings. And although I am a 'morning person', I like to be organised and get everything done efficiently, without too much effort (because I'm a bit lazy, too!).

Before I go to bed every night, I work out (in my head, although sometimes I will get everything out) what I am going to wear, sort the laundry so I have a load to put on as soon as I'm downstairs, and make sure everything the boys need for school is ready, or at least 'locatable' (as my boys are older, this normally just means asking them if they have their swimming stuff etc). I don't like last minute panics. If I'm going to town that day, I will make sure I have all the things I need - list of what to buy/do, any banking stuff, items to be returned etc - in a bag, ready to go.

My husband thinks this is mad, but he's the one who's stressed and scrambling around trying to find everything when he's late for work .... who's the mad one?!!

Happy organising! xx

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ten Minute Tidy

We all have them. Little piles of stuff that just accumulate. Once one thing is plonked by the phone, more papers, letters and 'things' are put on top - and hey presto, you have a pile. Obviously, the best thing is to put everything away, but I'm sure I'm not the only one with a family who just put things any-old-where when they can't think, or be bothered to work out, what to do with them.

So, I had a spare ten minutes the other day, and that's the ideal amount of time to deal with these little clutter piles (so long as you haven't let it build up, of course!).

First, my two little piles -

Lovely - a pile of  'stuff'' in the living room

This one started with my younger son plonking a CD-ROM containing some downloaded software on top of a dish. More stuff seemed to come from nowhere to sit on top.

A quick declutter, throwing away a couple of pieces of paper and rehoming the CD-ROM and voila -

That's better!

The other 'pile' wasn't technically speaking a pile, since it was vertical - in the letter rack I keep in the kitchen for current and ongoing papers (it's next to the phone, so it's logical to me!).

There are too many papers in here, and some of them aren't even anything to do with me, or even necessary to keep. It's those pesky other people that live here that are responsible. A quick minute sorting it all out, and it now only contains the things I need.


If you have a spare ten minutes, I'm sure there is a little decluttering job you can fit in.

Happy decluttering! x

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Wardrobe clear out - a slight diversion

winnond /

Excitement is rising in the Lemons household, as we are off on holiday in April. So whilst I have been clearing out my wardrobe, I have also been pondering on what to pack. So this post is not strictly speaking decluttering, but it is organising, and links in nicely with my new wardrobe policy and also the idea of a capsule wardrobe.

Many years ago, I met a woman who had travelled extensively for work and pleasure, who only took black and white clothes on holiday with her. She maintained everything mixed and matched beautifully, and she added what I believe fashiony types call 'interest' with lots of jewellery. I tend to look like a waitress if I wear black and white, but the concept seemed sound to me.

So, I have diverted slightly from decluttering to organising my 'capsule' ready to pack, in the hopes that I will hit Japan looked groomed and put together (as I have never managed this on any previous holiday, I am travelling in hope!). I was happy to find something on this very subject by Sally over at Already Pretty,  with pictures, and despite being the most unfashiony person ever (me, that is, not Sally) I was thrilled to discover she went with the the colour scheme idea as well, and not only that, but that I had kind of done this too, in my preliminary thoughts! My scheme, such as it is, will be grey, black, white and purple, as after my decluttering the jeans and trousers left fitted with this scheme. As I have bought a few new things to fit with this, I have also been trying outfits on, also as Sally recommends. If you are a 'fling everything in' packer, who always has to pay for excess baggage, Sally's blog is worth reading. It's worth reading even if you aren't, because she is funny with a strong style of her own, and her blog is full of practical information too.

Don't worry, I won't be branching into a fashion blog any time soon - I am still organising and decluttering my house and will be sharing more in the near future.

Happy decluttering ... and happy packing if you're going away! x

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Half term hiatus

It's half term here, and even though my sons are big, they still manage to take up a lot of time when they are around all day! So I've been a little quiet, but will be back with gusto next week.

In the meantime, I've found some information about a lovely charity called Give and Make up - it's a non-profit organisation which aims to give women and children living in womens' refuges essential toiletries and make up. You can read more about it, and how to donate (they will take 'gently used' toiletries and cosmetics) on their blog here.  If you are decluttering your make up bags and boxes, please think of this charity. And thank you to the ladies on the Money Saving Expert forums for telling me about it.

Happy decluttering! x

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wardrobe clear out Part 1

Image: Carlos Porto /      
I have a feeling this series of posts will go on and on and on ....

I am not good at clothes. When the fashionistas were in the queue for effortless style, I was obviously somewhere else. The library, perhaps. That said, I have lots of clothes, but it's recently come to my notice that I wear about 30% of them. So I need to get rid of things I don't wear, because really, they're just taking up space, and someone else could be wearing and enjoying them.

I've said earlier that in order to clear out cupboards and wardrobes, you need to get everything out . Everything. Then sort through the stuff and only put back what you want/need/love. I've tried this with my wardrobe, and it's the exception that proves the rule. I end up putting everything back! I've come to the realisation that I'm scared of not having 'enough' clothes. But of course, I only use what I wear, the remaining stuff is clutter!

My new method is slow. Very, very slow. And less scary because it's slow. Everyday, when I go to get dressed, I try and be aware of things I pass over becase .... it's got scratchy seams, it rides up, it falls down, the colour makes me look ill, it's too short, it's too long, the pockets stick out, the neckline is too low, I've got nothing that goes with it. And then I take the offending item and put it in the charity bag straight away. If it's something that I like but I don't have anything to go with it, I write down a note to look for something to go with it (and hopefully to go with other things in my wardrobe).

So here is one (just one *blush*) of my wardrobes, before.

Wardrobe - before

It doesn't help that I use my wardrobe to store things that are not clothes, but that I use in the bedroom. For example, my hand weights are stored in the bottom left of the wardrobe. But you can't actually see them because of all the other stuff.

So after a couple of weeks of discarding things as I was getting dressed, I have gathered a little pile of things. In this pile are shoes which don't stay on, a handbag that's too small for me to fit my life in, some jeans that are too small and some trousers that have faded in a very odd way.

Small pile of unwanted items

Ta da!! Ok, not that different ...
And my wardrobe 'after' picture is hardly inspiring, but does look a little tidier. I got rid of the various random items from the bottom of the wardrobe - some empty plastic bags (why??) and other bits and bobs. Now, I still don't wear everything in there, but slowly, slowly catchy monkey! Bit by bit, those unworn things will be leaving the house. Of course, that does mean I might have to go shopping, as there will be a lot of space and my sad lack of clothes will be obvious. And I am going to try really hard to only buy things that I will wear.

I had a little search to see if I could find any helpful information on building wardrobe, and I did find details of a capsule collection on My Capsule Wardrobe. The clothes in that collection work really hard, and actually get worn. My plan is to achieve a similar capsule, but that's very much a work in progress.

I have another double wardrobe and a single shelved cupboard which will be featuring when I've made more progress.

Happy decluttering!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

You home should rise up to greet you ...

... so says Oprah! I find that quote really evocative of the feeling you get when you open your front door after a difficult day, and immediately feel 'thank goodness, I'm home'.

My continuous quest for an organised and tidy home comes from the desire to have a house that says 'welcome' rather than 'where the heck have you been, have you seen the state of the kids' rooms?'!

I'll be back soon, with tales of my adventures with my wardrobe ...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A small victory - files are organised!

I've finished!

This horrible pile of files and papers has now been transformed ...

My beautiful new filing!
... and now looks like this! I did have a bit of a dilemma when choosing my new files - when our office is finally completed the files might be on show, so I wanted to choose something I could stand to see on a daily basis. Spotty purple folders will always make me smile!

The newly streamlined cupboard
I faffed about with the cupboard last night, and removed, rehomed, shredded and recycled quite a bit, so even the cupboard is looking better.

The blue and red files on the bottom shelf belong to himself - I wonder how he would feel about purple spotty folders ...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Facing my nemesis - paperwork!

Paperwork gives me the heebie-jeebies. And our home filing system was set up when we were a no children, no car, two cat family. Now we are a two children, two car, one cat family and the system is struggling! Here are some shaming photos of our current 'system'.

Left cupboard
Right cupboard

Now, the top shelf in the right cupboard is all paperwork to do with statementing, IEPs and other things to do with my elder son's disability. As we are in the middle of The Big Fight for Funding for specialist college, all this needs to be at hand. The pale blue lever arch file and the purple file on the top shelf of the left cupboard is also to do with his disability benefits. The files I want to concentrate on are these two babies.

I don't know why I use lever arch files - it's not like I leaf through our bank statements and energy bills on a regular basis! But I find them easier to file things in. However, these two files (banking/saving and home and utilities) are heavy and overstuffed. This afternoon I sorted out the home and utilities file and managed to find some stuff to shred or store elsewhere.
Pathetic file decluttering result

Slightly skinnier, organised file. Still tatty, though.
And the file looks a bit skinnier, and is certainly more organised. I think it's time I invested in some new files - maybe when I've sorted out the banking/saving file - that's cheered me a bit, I love new stationery!

That's it for today. I'll do the banking one tomorrow, and go shopping on Thursday for new folders (yay!).

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Cable and lead clutter

Every device that enters this house seems to have its own entourage of leads and cables. For some reason, other people in this house just shove them in a drawer and forget about them. This means when it comes to declutter time, I find numerous important-looking leads, but nobody has a clue what they are for, and what they belong to! It was driving me bonkers, until I decided two things.

Thing number one - all leads and cables should be labelled when they arrive in the house - I love my LetraTag label maker!

Thing number two - all the various cables I find during the course of my decluttering, that cannot be identified, are moved to a lidded plastic box in the utility room cupboard.

Then we know where to go to look for them, as they aren't scattered throughout the house, wherever people (ahem ... son number 2, you know who you are!) decide to put them. This worked really well when my husband wanted to sell a computer moniter, but couldn't find the VGA connector, as it was safe in the box (you can see it in the picture - it's the blue cable on the left!).

Friday, 4 February 2011

All change

A nice clean, shiny look to my much-neglected blog. When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing, or why, and my lack of direction really showed! But I've been thinking (and it didn't hurt. Yay!) about how I want to use this blog and what I want to put in it. And I've decided on concentrating on decluttering and organising as my theme. I'm not an expert, but I can do it, and I'm quite good at it.

Now the blog has a new name, but the same old blog address, and I've included my favourite quote of all time concerning clutter and possessions - You can't have everything. Where would you put it? (Steven Wright).

There are lots of lovely blogs out there that are like organisational porn! The gorgeous images on IHeart Organising are enough to make anyone want to at least tidy up a bit, and shove the kids' toys in a cupboard!

But my own philosophy is that before I buy shiny new boxes and baskets for all our stuff, I need to get rid of the dross. Otherwise I still have too much stuff, it just looks neat. Neat and organised are not the same thing. I need to sort and declutter my instructions and guarantees before I neatly file them. What is the use of a beautiful file of instruction leaflets if it includes details of a toaster that died three years ago, and the guarantee for the trampoline when your youngest is off to university?

Over the years I have formulated some of my own guidelines for dealing with clutter and 'stuff', so I am going to share them here.

Baby shoes. Aww!

* There is room for sentiment. I am not a ruthless chucker-outer who lives in a big empty white space. I still have my elder son's first ever little shoes. They are small, and impossibly cute, and I can't get rid of them.

* Despite what I said above about sentiment (contradicting myself already!), this doesn't mean that absolutely everything that comes into the house has to be kept. As the quote says, 'you can't have everything'. I see decluttering as making space - yes for new stuff, obviously, but also for new experiences and new ideas. Keep small mementos of the past, but not everything, so you're constantly reminded of it - you live in the here and now, give it room!

* Start small. Particularly if it's overwhelming. A drawer, a shelf. When you've done it, sit back and look at it. And if you feel up to it, do another drawer. Or shelf.

* It'll look worse before it looks better. This is particularly true of decluttering wardrobes and cupboards. The only way to do it is to get it all out. Yes, all of it. Then sort it all out into piles - to sell, to keep, to donate, to throw away. Clean out the cupboard, and only put back what you're keeping. Admire. Then turn around and there are the other three piles, looking at you! Dealing with them is part of it - bag up the stuff for the charity shop. Allocate a space to keep all the things you want to list on Ebay, Gumtree or Freecycle. Ditch the rubbish.

* I like to recycle as much as possible. Selling or donating is great for this. Bras can be sent to the Bra Appeal, and high street opticians often collect glasses for Vision Aid Overseas.

* Know that decluttering is like painting the Forth Bridge. You have to keep doing it. Every day more and more stuff arrives in our houses. And we live in a time of abundance. I heard a statistic the other day that we now have 30% more possessions than a generation ago! I don't think our houses are any bigger, so we need to keep control, or we'll drown in stuff!

* I always find things that I can't identify. Particularly when the boys were small - little random pieces of plastic that looked useless but could be something vital belonging to a toy. I found a few more the other day, and the only toys my boys have now are electronic. I look on it as part of the fun - and then I put whatever unidentifiable little object it is in a pot and if I don't need it a few months later, out it goes!

That's it for now - I'm planning to do more posts on my decluttering dilemmas and how I resolved them.

Happy decluttering!