Friday, 15 January 2010

SPACE: the final frontier

I apologise for the photo. Messy eh!

Yep. I'd agree and it's got my heart rate up even looking at it. So, just imagine what it's been like living with it. Indeed the scene that you witness here is what used to be my plastic film storage area, which until quite recently resided in a haphazard manner behind our kitchen door.

Since I discovered I could take plastic film packaging, such as rice bags and pasta bags, for recycling at our local HWRC I've simply kept stuffing them into bags upon bags until I was next passing. But because I don't pass very often, my storage space got rather unwieldy.

So when a company called simplehuman invited me to road-test their recycling bins, I most definitely bit off their hand. Although I would have loved to have got my hands on a set of these lovely bins, I had to admit that I was already sorted in that area, so instead I opted for this little baby to help me with the clutter shown in the photo above.

The aim was to attach it to the inside of our kitchen cabinet, so it could stay out of sight but due to the design of the panelled doors, it wouldn't fit, so I had to wait until I conjured up the enthusiasm to tackle the area behind the kitchen door, so we could attach it to the wall.

And look, here are the results. It's like a sight for sore eyes. Simple, but very effective. All I need to do now is bundle each full bag into my car boot, ready to take to the HWRC, in an attempt to keep this area clear.

But it's not just my recycling area that's been given the decluttering treatment this month. In fact, the rest of the kitchen has been the target of heavy action too. And it is the first step to tackling the whole house, as well as my car and the kids' garden shed.

It almost brings me to tears when I say I've hit crisis point, but that's the truth of the matter. I have been so busy during the last couple of years, that I've not had chance to attend to the stuff that's hanging about and it's got so bad I've even managed to lose my new reading glasses, not to mention a book that I bought a few years ago about the benefits of decluttering. Oh the irony!

However, since recognising the problem I have worked hard to stop new things coming into the house, by reducing the amount of presents we get and by buying less, but we've still got piles of unsorted crap everywhere due to my lack of time and inclination to deal with it. Throw in a "waste-not want-not" approach for good measure and the result you get are feelings of stress and disorganisation, with a good dose of lethargy, inadequacy and numbness to boot!

Clare Baker from the ClutterClearing consultancy describes the process of managing clutter as a conveyor belt and highlights the problem of things coming onto the Clutter Conveyor Belt faster than they are coming off.

I can relate to this issue, especially with the problem zones that exist in our home. For example, with the number of toys that the children get from friends and family, the kids find it even harder to release older toys that they still love to make room for new ones they get. That's why we now encourage people to choose smaller things such as books or lego that can easily fit into their small bedrooms. Vouchers for the cinema or local attractions also work well.

But there are other areas too. For example when I cleared the kitchen cupboards the other week, I discovered so many glass jars I could have screamed. The irony is that when I started my zero waste challenge, I promised I would NEVER EVER EVER start collecting jam jars. For starters we just don't have the space (point proven). Secondly I am hardly a domestic goddess who makes chutney or jam, and finally I get frustrated that there are very few flat-bottomed jars that can balance a bloody tea-light in position. But having hooked onto the idea of "reuse" being better than "recycling", I gave into my natural inclination as a horder. In fairness, some have come in useful for food storage, loose coins and home-made Christmas presents, but the message here is to KNOW YOUR LIMITS! And once you've got enough of what you need, it's OKAY to let go of the surplus.

So the kitchen has been my starting point on my mission to declutter the house. I needed to start somewhere and this felt the most important place in the house. When my kitchen is cluttered, I feel less inclined to cook and I certainly don't want to spend any more time there than I have to. As a result, I snack more and pick up bad habits such as skipping lunch and letting chores pile up.

Of course, my aim is to get through this process without throwing things into landfill, which is a really good job, not just because of my zero waste philosophy but Clare Baker, who founded the decluttering consultancy, also used to work for WRAP, so she's the kind of person who would also discourage things being skipped just for the sake of extra space.

No doubt there will be items that I will give away on Freecycle, or drop into a charity shop, but my ultimate aim is to collect unwanted things in a box and commit to selling them off at a carboot sale in March, to celebrate Suffolk's Waste Reduction Fortnight.

Just from doing the kitchen alone I've already uncovered the following items:

1 Hand-levered heavy-weight citrus press, replaced by a juicing machine
1 Small glass juice press
Several mugs
2 Plastic egg trays, that came with the fridge.
4 espresso cups, which haven't been used in the 6 years we've lived here.
1 toddler's wash&wipe dining mat
1 party nibbles dish
1 water filter jug, which we can no longer be bothered to use
1 small wooded cutting board
1 vegetable julienne peeler, which is too fiddly.

The challenge now is to store it all away somewhere, before I have the urge to just take it to the charity shop.

So do you want to see some before-and-after-shots of how I got on during my first attempt at decluttering? If you're a nosey-parker like me, I bet you'll want to.

The Kitchen Worktop: Before

Easy-peasy! This lot just needed tidying away into the cupboard!


The cupboard

It won't look much to you, but it's really is a big difference to me. I cleared out quite a few things that were no longer used, including rusty old baking trays, which I took to the HWRC metals recycling. The empty jars went to the bottle bank and some of the containers have now been released for Mr A's packed lunches.

Before / After

The Kitchen Table

Having cleared out the cupboard, I created extra storage space to finally shift some clutter off this table. The broom and mop, you see to the right now fit behind the kitchen door. The kids' drawings that are balancing on top of the shelf have been recycled or inserted into their artwork folders. And the teddy-bear which had taken up residence on the kitchen table, has finally been sent to his room. So at last there is somewhere to eat our breakfast!

Before / After

It will come as no surprise that the day I did this, I felt I had more energy. And it is no coincidence that as a result, Mr A now also gets regular packed lunches to take to work, which means he's no longer nipping off to the shops to buy pre-packaged stuff. It was hard work though. It took most of the day to sort out, but was worth it.

During the next week, I'll be focusing on the dining room, which is a constant source of frustration thanks to the number of uses it has. It really is a clutter magnet in more ways than one and I'm already getting stressed at the thought of it.

If you want to join me in this crusade, you'll find some excellent tips over at The site has got lots of free information, including videos to motivate you along. That's the strategy I'm following for the moment, because I can't afford a consultation, but if I get stuck, I might just need one!

And if you've got any decluttering experiences of your own, please share your wisdom as I'd love to know how you got on. In fact, I need all the help I can get.



Anonymous said...

I am so with you!
I've reached that point too. I blame my mother. :o) I've inherited the blitz mentality that she got from her mother, and find it very hard to throw away anything that may 'come in useful', one day. If you say 'jam jars' to DH he groans and twitches... I do make a lot of jam and chutney, but even so, I can see it's got a bit out of hand!It's just that I'd hate to have to buy new jars when I'd just put some in the recycling!
Combine my hoarding with DH's inability to grasp the concept of things needing a place (so you can put them away and even find them again) and you get the general gist of our house!
I have now realised that I'm spending so much time moving junk from one room to another that it's stopping us from doing things that would be much more fun, and I might be able to stop having that momentary panic about what the house looks like if DH or one of the children invite somebody to our house.
I'll try and keep up with you- virtual moral support!
Thanks for a great post. Hazel

mrs green @ said...

well done Mrs A - I hear you too; I'm so busy promoting zero waste that my house is a mess :(

Tomorrow though, I'm going to join you in the kitchen and see what I can achieve. Good luck with the rest of your decluttering and wish me luck!

Shame we don't live closer; we could have helped each other out ...

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Looks like you're doing a great job Karen, especially so as you have growing boys in your household. Can't be easy. As I've mentioned before we have downsized our home so I'm having to be fairly ruthless as I cannot really bear to be cluttered. I do tend to hoard jam jars though because although I usually steer clear of making jam, I love making chutney and I'm now thinking of trying my hand at marmalade.

Yesterday we received a letter from the local authority regarding the new "bins" we are to receive and advising collections. These will include collections of paper, clothing, shoes etc (you will know the sort of thing). We have been making regular visits to the local tip, which is brilliant but I think the new system will be good.

Good luck with your decluttering. A x

A Modern Mother said...

This seems to be a January thing to do, thanks for the inspiration!

Sarah said...

Seems to be something in the air, I'm decluttering today and I've been successfully Freecycling my surplus things - I mean, why do I have 4 spare pc keyboards and 2 webcams that I never use?

Jude said...

Very inspiring - I am a terrible hoarder, and really need to declutter on a regular basis - my art and craft materials alone take up a lot of space, but I just can't bear to throw any away! Also I am 'visually' orientated, and need to be able to see things if I am not to forget them - this of course causes its own problems. What I found really interesting was the 'knock-on' effects and benefits of de-cluttering which you touched upon.

I am full of good intentions to declutter, but it is a constant process, and very time consuming once you've let it get out of control. I think that's half the problem - lack of time leads to it getting out of control, and lack of time then means you are unable to get it back under control, so it just gets worse and worse!

I shall check out some of the other references you gave for further ideas.

djp said...

Wow! I know how you feel! I've had to empty out my medicine cabinet to repair the latch, and when I put everything back in -after putting the expired stuff in a 'bring to the pharmacy bin' it looked so much better: all that space!!
Some time in the next few days, I plan to tackle the junk drawer in the kitchen.

Layla said...

WOW!! Love the 'before' & 'after' pictures!!
(Especially the 'after' pictures!! You have some awesome containers and no-tin-lids glasses there!!)
I think you generally have prettier 'stuff' in England than here, or maybe just in your house? (Had to take a look at that shop you recommended and they have fab tableware indeed, sigh!)

Well, I sort of decluttered the files/notebooks/old university books and handouts/notes closet during holidays, and it's nowhere near ready, but muuch more accessible! If you can't grab it easily or figure out what it is, you won't use it!
I wanted to make 'Avocation stations' that Barbara Sher recommends - so that stuff you need for a particular thing is all together and ready to use, even if you just do 15 minutes or 1 hour of it! That's my target for 2010 I guess! To have stuff easily documented (the attic stuff in boxes! - great tips for that in a SHE book!) & easily accessible!

Wishing you luck & keep fingers crossed for me too! :)

Sarah, I wish you lived closer! I'd love a webcam! :) (And would need an old ancient 5-pin PC keyboard, lol! For the 'ancient computer' that I'd love to put linux on!)

Karin said...

This I can agree with. I've found being cooped up as a result of the weather and slippery conditions just the time to start the de-cluttering process, but I've started on our bedroom, where I have had piles of papers that will come in useful at some point, but months and even years on that point has not yet come.

I've got a tub full of paper and greetings cards to recycle and a bag to take to Oxfam, but the rest will have to go to landfill. The thing is to be more mindful from now on so I don't have to throw so much away again. Past mistakes cannot be helped, especially when committed in ignorant bliss, but now I'm aware of the problems there is no excuse.

Condo Blues said...

Oh Mrs. A. Your before shot of your recycling center looks like mine. I haven't dropped off anything since before Christmas. First there was the holidays, then my husband and I were sick, and then's a bit of a mountain. It's going to the city recycling bin this weekend word of honor.

With the kid's old toys, have you considered letting them sell them? My nephew (who won an award from school for recycling I say proudly) had a deal with his parents. If he went through any of his old toys and put them out in his parent's yard sale, he got to keep the money if they sold. That was his pocket money to spend however he wanted during their family vacation that summer.


LOL Hazel - you know I blame my mother too. I think I've inherited the same gene. Bizarrely so has my youngest son who looks like my side of the family and shares many of my other characteristics too :-D

Hi Mrs G - Good luck :-D. I know what you mean. It was never as bad as this before the blog. I think I am going to have to start saying no to stuff just for sanity at home. It would be lovely if you lived closer. Just imagine the rest of the fun we could have :-D

Hi Anne - thank you, and great news about your extra recycling facilities. Do let me know how you get on with it. It will be interesting to see the impact on your main rubbish bin. :-)

Hi Modern Mother - LOL, it is definitely a January thing to do. That's what I've been telling my husband since last February :-D

LOL Sarah - LOL - I am dreading opening our cables drawer. Yes, we have a drawer full of chargers. And I do not know what the heck they are for. Must go and scoop a photo now. Good luck with your Freecycle takers :-D

Hi Jude - I am so on your wavelength. All the arts and crafts stuff is something that I've gathered for a long time ever since I started to make our own cards. My 5 year old has now adopted my approach to life and is very difficult to overcome. Good luck with your own challenge. Time is most definitely the issue :-)

Hi djp - It really is the cupboards and drawers that get you isn't it? Fortunately, we've only got one tiny little junk drawer in our kitchen, most of which my little one bunged into a bag some weeks ago and I've never seen since. When I tackle his room, no doubt I'll find the bag that he put it in :-D

Hi Layla - Thank you. I love the idea of the Avocation Stations. What I really need is to have some proper systems for sorting out the different parts of my life. Without the space for an office, and having a 5 year old who is really "into everything", it really is very difficult to keep things organised.

Hi Karin - LOL, I have lots of those piles too. I now try and avoid bringing leaflets home to try and reduce this problem. Instead I write down tel numbers and dates of events in notebooks. It's helped a little but hasn't resolved the problem entirely. You're right about past mistakes. Best to forget and simply be prepared for the future with new found knowledge and habits. Good luck with your decluttering :-)

Hi Condoblues - LOL, glad it's just not me. My behind the door scene was beginning to get to the point that it was very hard to squeeze through the door :-)

Good idea about the boys toys. I'll give it another go. I suggested it last year but they just clutched their stuff and said no,no,no. But I think they were a bit young then and didn't quite have the same appreciation of money. :-)

Transition Housewife said...

Hi Mrs A,

Sorry I haven't been around much to keep up with your blog. Great stuff. Sorry too that I'm going to post topic, but did you see Kevin Mccloud Slumming it last night? It was on Channel 4 - you can catch it on 4oD. Some amazing recycling stories, upto 85% of household waste recycled, but oh the conditions. Do try and watch it if you can, the recycling bits were at the beginning of the prog.


Hi TH - How lovely to see you. I've been wondering how you're getting on and have been meaning to get in touch to catch up with your thoughts on the Seven Suffolk Streets project.

That programme sounds brilliant. I didn't get to catch it but I will definitely have a watch on 4oD. Don't forget, if you fancy meeting up some time, drop me an email. It would be great to get-together finally :-)

Anonymous said...

Well Mrs A and Mrs G, as I live in between the two of you, I'm tempted to suggest you meet (and declutter?!) at my house! No? Oh well...
In the meantime I've tackled the utility room (for which you can read 'room where recycling and anything else that is of uncertain home can be stashed') so that I can get that sense of achievement the declutterers promise you. It does look good- the trick will now be to keep it that way whilst I move onto the next area!
The children and I are also going to use up some of our stack of craft bits before we get tempted by anything new. Yesterday we made 2 rollerskate birthday cards for a party DD2 was going to out of salvaged bits and pieces I'd kept and DD1 decoupaged a cereal packet with scraps of wrapping paper to make a magazine holder. Very satisfying!


Hi Hazel - LOL, I see you don't miss a trick. Hee, hee. I can see we'd have fun though wouldn't we :-)

Great going on the "Utility" room. Oh I'd love one of these. We've made a good start on our dining room this weekend, with more to follow next week.

Great news about the cards. I'm uncovering loads of scraps too, so I must get sorted and get my creative head on. Hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend and I'll catch up soon :-)

what happened ?how did i get HERE? said...

Hi there! I'm writing this with a black sack on my lap about to be filled with all the rubbish from house is a TIP!! However, I do recycle all my glass, paper and plastics. Love the before and after pics - I'm definitely stuck in the before phase!! I'll keep popping over to watch and learn!! Mxx

Nick Palmer said...

Hi, Almost Mrs A,

Those simplehuman bag holders are Ok but they have a weakness. The black plastic tops clip onto the metal frame with a "designed to fail" system - four "C" shapes that break far too fast (or at least they did in our kitchen).

First they "open out" or stretch so they don't clip on very well, then they break. You need to treat them with rather too much care (for a product that should be robust) when opening and closing the lid in order to keep them intact.

Nick Palmer
blogspot: "Sustainability and stuff according to Nick Palmer"


Hi Nick - thank you so much for making me aware of the pitfalls. There are indeed some bags that are harder work than others. From what you say, I'm hoping we won't run into too much difficulty as we're only using it for light plastic film packaging, so it shouldn't strain the bags. Worth watching out for though and I'll be sure to provide an update here with how I get on. Hope you're well by the way. :-)

Nick Palmer said...

It's not the bags that I was on about although some are harder to fit, as you said. It is the "hinge" of the black plastic lid that is the problem - the black plastic hinge clips fail...
The rest of the unit appears to be reasonably robust.


Hello to What Happened.How did I get here! - So sorry, I missed your comment yesterday in my rush to multi-task.. I should have learned, I cannot multi-task. Thank you for your comments and I hope that black sack wasn't too full. Keep up the great work and do come back soon :-)

Hi Nick - Ah, I see what you mean. I had to replace our bag today so had a good look at it. At the moment it seems ok, but I'll watch out for wear and tear and see how it goes. Thanks again for the warning. :-)

Nick Palmer said...

I think the problem is when you try to fit a smaller bag on - you have to stretch the bag and it covers the horizontal bar that the top clips onto. The top can be clipped on top of the plastic covered bar but this is obviously opening out the "C" hinge clips and straining them.

If you have these products for evaluation, when they come back for your opinion could you pass them onto me? I have a few more suggestions that could improve their product to achieve a higher "sustainability" level.




Hi Nick - yes, most definitely will do :-)

Potty Mummy said...

Oh, those jam jars! When we moved I cleared out our cupboards and we had about 15 of the things, all stored handily for when I make jam and mincemeat. Which, of course, I don't....

You asked me recently about recycling facilities in Russia; I'm on the case but have to find any. I have my suspicions there are some enormous landfill sites outside Moscow but am still trying to be hopeful this is not the case... Will keep you posted!


LOL Potty Mummy - so many people can relate to the jam jars. I hope you're settling down in Moscow and can't wait to hear your news. I'll be over to visit soon...not Russia of course but the nearest equivalent...your blog LOL :-)

Notes to self plus two and the need for red shoes said...

I am with you, I am spring cleaning like a pregnant woman. This is my cleaned out closet, my clothes are packed away.

<a href="</a>

Good luck with the clean - enjoy!

Notes to self plus two and the need for red shoes said...

opps, link to my clean closet is Here

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin