Why I do what I do (3 minute read)

Last night BBC Radio Manchester were kind enough to invite me on to their Dead Good Show’s Bad Parents Club, with Simone Riley, to talk about decluttering. All the other guests (Hiya – Billy, Lucy and Louise!) put me at ease with their chat and made the process not half as bad as I was expecting. I just hope I didn’t pass on my flu-like lurgy which reared up during the night.

With my past in national print journalism I’m more comfortable asking the questions rather than being put on the spot so inevitably on the drive back home across the moors I started to unhelpfully think about all the things I’d forgotten to say…

One of the questions I feel I could have provided a better written answer for was something along the lines of how did I get into all this? I remember mentioning being an interiors editor and always being fascinated by how people live but I didn’t share that when I’d go and stay with friends and I was ever left to my own devices I’d rearrange their bathrooms or children’s bedrooms…

This is because I really believe in simplifying and helping people live with less – even if this just means putting toiletries away in a bathroom cupboard so there is less visual clutter round a sink.


I love everything about my job from meeting clients to discuss what they want to achieve (after all everyone has a different threshold so it’s not up to me to dictate what that should be) to restocking and arranging my work bags (is that really sad? Who else used to love packing bags when they were a child too…?)

I was asked if there has been an increase in enquiries since the chatter started about Marie Kondo’s Netflix tidying series.

Well, I think the programme has inspired more people to have a go, with many great success stories being shared on social media but most of the clients I work with are well versed in the theory of decluttering. They’ve read the books and watched the YouTube tutorials but there’s usually some kind of blockage which stops the process. These range from lack of time, energy and focus or simply not knowing where to start. Delayed decisions or not having permission to let something go can also hold people back. Or clients need support in figuring out a practical but simple system for arranging a functional room such as an office or kitchen.

I think people have natural aptitudes towards things and mine is organising. Show me an empty room and hand me a brush and tell me I have cover every surface with paint and I feel overwhelmed, I procrastinate and I never get into the flow or start enjoying it. However present  me a cluttered room and I can’t wait to start reclaiming it and my mind will dart around to figure out which area I’m going to focus on first.

Without sounding New Agey I love reintroducing a new, lighter energy into a space. And once that’s achieved my clients also feel a physical burden lifted from their shoulders. I like to think of it as lovely, warm sigh of relief. It also helps that I take ‘the stuff’ away to be recycled, donated to charity or dropped at the tip rather than it being shifted to another area such as the garage or spare room to fester.

betty cupboard 2

I believe the joy of organising runs in my family as if my wonderful nanna, who lived independently well into her 90s, she was ever short of something to do she’d tidy a cupboard. And this is what my 9 year old daughter does on a rainy Sunday afternoon….







betty cupboard










Here’s link to show if you want to hear me get progressively croakier…


Keeping crafting in check (2 minute read)

karen whole room

Crafting can bring immense pleasure to many people but if not kept in check can create feelings of chaos and overwhelm, as well as gobbling up precious storage space.

With this in my mind I had a chat and cuppa with my lovely neighbour Karen Cunningham, who is a keen knitter, crocheter and contemporary cross-stitcher. Whilst living next door – she’s since moved to Devon (which I won’t take personally) – she was lucky enough to have the luxury of her own craft room. You can check out some of her wonderful creations @marthamini on Instagram.

karen animals

Here are her Top Tips on how to manage and maintain a crafting habit.

  • Do have a level of control – so only buy new yarn when you’ve finished a project.
  • Try to keep your work in progress and planned work separate. It’s good to be able to have your work in progress ready to grab if you know you’ll have the opportunity to work on it when you’re out and about.
  • Be realistic about the time you have to undertake future projects. Karen uses the acronym SABLE – which means – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy – which put bluntly means will I have time to finish all this before I die?
  • Try to limit your on going projects to two or three – so you can enjoy the satisfaction of actually finishing something. servico karen
  • Be selective about what you buy – there are so many different gadgets but you probably don’t need half of them. If you are tempted borrow one from a friend before purchasing and see if it really does change your life before committing to getting your own.

karen yarn

  • Don’t buy too much wool so find a pattern, then buy the wool – not in the other order. Know your project before you get the equipment which is difficult when there are many so many gorgeous colours, textures and brands now available.
  • Unfollow all the emails for the various wool warehouses who send regular temptation into your Inbox.
  • Try to store patterns digitally by scanning in paper ones but do ask yourself if you are seriously going to undertake the project again.  Or purchase patterns online and keep them your own digital library. Karen also stores them as PDFs on her smart phone so she can access them when out and about. And be ruthless with all the free patterns you get give at shows.
  • Don’t buy too many craft books. Is it worth holding a whole book if you’re only going to undertake a 10th of the projects it contains? Libraries often have great craft books or arrange to swap with friends or within your local knitting or crochet group.

karen jars

  • Charity shops love receiving yarn so be honest with yourself – is it better to have your yarn languishing in a cupboard untouched or used by another crafter who has donated money to charity for the pleasure of using it.
  • Have a digital declutter on Twitter and Instagram of who you’re following – it can get overwhelming.
  • There are thousands of online patterns which show you things to make in order to use up with scrap yarn.



What’s the one thing most of us buy too much of at Christmas? (2 minute read)

Glittery, matt or gloss. Colourful or muted.  It’s all so tempting. Whatever sh*t is underneath it offers the hope of something sparkling and new which will change your life. And who doesn’t like looking at their own pile of satisfyingly wrapped present when the task is finally complete?

Well, let me remind you – something that appears so helpful will frankly be a pain for the rest of the year. It’s awkward shape means it’s often a nuisance to store and it sits around being useless for the next eleven and and a half months.

Most of my decluttering clients have a glut of wrapping paper which lives at the bottom of wardrobes or is dumped in lofts, garages and spare rooms.


Actually, I’m just as guilty so this year I decided to take stock. There was a lot. I mean a lot.


So I vowed not to buy any more until I’ve used up what I’ve got.

Christmas wrap is one of those panic purchase items – you buy some gifts then worry about what you’re going to wrap them in as you stand in line to pay – never confident in the amount you think you have and then those pesky shop keepers stick loads of it by the tills. Supermarkets offer the most temptation as you’re already pushing a trolley so it doesn’t seem as much of an effort to carry huge rolls if you can wheel them around.

So try not to buy before you’ve taken stock. Since going through my stash I’ve found a family of jiffy bags have been mating in the drawer. I’ve trawled the internet for ideas to sex them up for Christmas but to no avail. Any ideas welcome…


Whatever your thoughts on Amazon they can send stuff out in reusable cloth gift bags which have been useful.

Or buy similar from Etsy.

I’m getting a sad amount of pleasure re-using gift bags and paper which I managed to salvage last Christmas.

I intend to do the same this year but need to work on leaving a more acceptable amount of time between the present being removed from the bag and me grabbing it. I plan to keep my eye on where it gets put to reclaim later. Or I’ll volunteer to ‘tidy up’ the post-present debris so I can rescue any reusable pieces of wrapping paper too.

Here’s some I rescued last year which helpful as it already had the relevant details for this year written on it – win, win..


In an ideal world I’ll also collect random bits of tissue paper, ribbon and string to pimp up said reused bags and paper.

And when you’ve smuggly used up all your stash you can get really resourceful. Firstly, never underestimate the power of brown paper. Think Julie Andrews and her favourite things. These days you can get lovely silver and gold or striped string etc. And string is cheaper than ribbon.

paperandcardBrown paper can easily be brought up a notch with a few flourishes such as some stamps or hand-drawn stars. Some clever people on Pinterest dress their’s with buttons or sprigs of something from outside attached with said string. I’ve seen someone else tuck in some handmade paper snowflakes – the ones we all learnt to make at primary school. I tried an old cut up Christmas card and was quite pleased with the result.




Last year my odd (but clean) fluffy socks, again tied with a bit of ribbon, went down well. They’re coming out again.




Children’s pictures also make great gift wrap.

When I was feeling a little smug at using up my wrapping backlog it was then, of course,  that I found a whole load more  …. hidden in a ‘the special place’ which I forgot existed.


Luckily I remembered it before Christmas… but I might need to buy some more presents just to use the damn stuff up.


Decluttering Christmas Tree Decorations (2 minute read)

About the only job my children are keen to help with each Christmas is dressing the tree. They love the way it signifies the start of the festive season but also take great delight in sorting through the decorations.


Each year we unearth the decorations  xxxxx which are stored and wrapped in increasingly scruffy white tissue paper. It’s like opening a seasonal memory box – they’ll remember the ones their Nanna gave them or those they made at nursery. Old favourites get put on the tree first – usually in a big clump near the middle. The ones which get left on the dining room table, as their interest wanes, are the decorations I think about chucking.

When it comes to a sentimental decoration ask yourself if you actually like it? Are you keeping it because you think you should or because you really want to? Well, tell should to shove off and put the decoration in a bag destined for the charity shop. Over the years I’ve found the meaning of some decorations fades so I can let them go. And don’t keep anything which reminds you of unhappy times.

puddingandangelWhen it comes to handmade kiddie decorations ask yourself if they are past their best? Has the glue turned yellow? Has most of the glitter fallen off? Have the children made better, more pleasing models since? Well, if the answer is yes you’re allowed to say that these decorations have served their purpose over the years and now it is time for the new creations to replace them. By now your children will have already experienced the pleasure of making them and seeing them on tree in previous years.



RNLIIf you do feel the need to get more decorations try to stick with a theme to limit the overwhelming choice. My criteria is hand knitted charity ones – ideally made by old ladies for a good cause. The only decoration I’ve bought this year is a cute knitted navy jumper with brown elbow patches and a white RNLI logo, with all the proceeds going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It feels better to buy something with a story behind it rather something mass produced and sold by a high-street chain. It is also  another way to make a festive charitable donation now I’ve stopped buying any Christmas cards.

If you feel you still have too many decorations try to order them in preference – so your Top 30 or ask yourself which ones you’d like your children to hang from their own trees one day  – so which ones will become family heirlooms?


Last year was the first time I managed to let go off my control and let my children decorate the tree. I didn’t move one thing. It was hard but I tried to remember that there will be plenty of years in the future when the kids won’t be at home to help. And frankly if anyone is going to judge me on the spacing and aesthetic balance of my decorations they shouldn’t be visiting in the first place.

Me in action working on a wardrobe… (not much reading, lots of pictures)

Today I had the pleasure of working with the photographer Matt Radcliffe, and his lovely wife Janine, to declutter and sort their wardrobes.


Whilst I was there Matt took these great shots of me in action which show some of the process. (As it’s my blog I’ve edited out all the shots where I look like my mum and my hands are super wrinkled…)

So first we got all the clothes out.


Then we discussed what to keep and what to donate to charity


Then we grouped all the clothes in like piles – so t-shirts, jumpers, trousers (or pants as they’re called up here)…

Then we did a second edit. Most people get tired at this point and want to give up!


We then put back the clothes in a logical order which meant hanging skirts, dresses, shirts and blouses (together in sections) in the wardrobe and then folding t-shirts, jumpers, sportswear and jeans and putting them in the drawers.

I taught them the Marie Kondo folding method…


Which meant Matt and Janine could easily see what clothes they had and fit more into the drawers – which didn’t matter too much as they actually had far less to fit back into them.

We bagged up all the clothes and all the excess coat hangers which were no longer needed.



Then we loaded all the bags into the back of my car to deliver to a local Oxfam Shop. Janine said this was the best bit.

When we arrived and opened the car boot for the big reveal the man working there said we’d made his day ….


Matt was so relaxed and chatty throughout the whole process I forgot he was taking pictures – which is what you want if you hate having your photo taken like me.

Check out Matt’s great work at: mattradcliffephoto.co.uk