Monthly Archives: June 2012

3 Questions for Decluttering Sentimental Items

william morris - useful or beautiful
{via Pinterest via E17 Art House}

Please know: decluttering emotional areas and sentimental items is hard. Often really hard.

It takes longer and is more emotionally draining than decluttering the kitchen drawers or wardrobes. You are making a deliberate and awesome choice to start freeing yourself and your home from the weight of these things, but be patient with yourself. Take time. Don’t let go of certain things if you are really having trouble with it.

You know the best answers for your own life. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. Sometimes you have to be brave.


Today, choose a small area to start. Perhaps:

  • one storage box of keepsakes
  • a shelf of knick-knacks
  • a cupboard of old toys or clothes from your grown-up children

Somewhere that tugs at the heart strings when you think of it.

Then, grab a garbage bag and a donate box. And simply start.


For each item you pick up, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Does This Item Mean Something to You?

Often we keep things because we think we “should”. Or because it is representative of good times, fun holidays, our now-grown children, or people we love. But does the actual item, the thing you’re holding in your hand mean something to you?

If not (and you may be surprised by how many of these things do not mean anything on close inspection) then the decision to remove it from your home should be simple. Decide whether to donate it or throw it away.


2. What Emotion Does This Item Bring Out?

If it does mean something to you, then ask yourself the above question.

Study that emotion for a moment.

What is it? Why do you feel it?

Would you still feel that emotion without the physical item? (If yes, then your decision has again been made. Decide to donate or throw away.)

Do you have multiple items that rouse the same emotion? What if you kept one or two that are truly meaningful, instead of blindly keeping everything?

If there is no strong emotional attachment, then again, you can more easily decide to remove it from your home.


3. Would you Display the Item in Your Home?

We all keep things that we wouldn’t display in our home. And it’s not my intention to have you remove everything that you wouldn’t hang on the wall. But asking yourself this question forces you again to really examine why you’re holding on to the item and what the item itself means to you.

If you wouldn’t display it, then really examine your reasons for keeping it. (Remember, there is no right or wrong here. But the intention is to pare down and simplify these sentimental things.)


Once you’ve asked yourself these questions and decided whether to keep the item, donate it or throw it away – you can let go and be proud.

Let go of the guilt of removing it from your home.
Let go of the weight of the thing you are keeping.
Be proud that you are surrounding yourself and your loved ones with things that are truly meaningful


If You’re Really Struggling…

If you’re really having difficulties letting go, you can box up the firm maybes, write the date on the box and 6 months later, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate it, unopened.

(Avoid this if possible though – you are more likely to hold on to things unnecessarily if you know there is a second-chance rule.)


There is no easy way to declutter and simplify sentimental items, but these questions should help as you move through your storage. Also know that it does get easier. As you begin to feel lighter and happier in your newly simplified home, it will not be so difficult to let go of things. Promise!

And if you’re struggling, please let me know in the comments or via email. It’s hard, and I’ve been there!

What Are You Holding on to?

Decluttering sentimental items

So far this year I have rid our home of hundreds of unwanted, unneeded items. Some big, some small, some expensive, some cheap, some important, some meaningless. And I’m proud of how level-headed and realistic I’ve remained. The attraction of a slower home and a simpler life have been strong enough to keep me focused. To see the bigger picture.

And then two cheap Made in Taiwan ceramic figurines, a tacky piece of the Berlin wall and some empty cardboard boxes turned me to tears.

Because sometimes, things are more than things, aren’t they? At least that’s how we feel.

The cheap figurines? Hand-me-downs from my grandmother, to remind me of her when she’s gone. 

That tacky piece of the Berlin Wall? A gift from my Dad when he was on a business trip, to let me know he was thinking of me.

The hundreds of empty jewellery boxes? They are dreams and hopes for my self-founded business. They are also the failures that saw me close the business down.

And we hold on to them.

But in this quest for a simpler, slower life, we need to realise that things are just things. They may remind us of the grandmother once she has passed away, or the love of our father, or the dreams we once had.

But the knick-knacks? They are not my grandmother’s memory.

The Berlin Wall encased in perspex? Not my Dad’s love.

Those empty jewellery boxes? Not my ambition, my intelligence or my dreams.

They are just things. And not even beautiful or useful things. They are things that are a weight on me. Because I don’t love them. I will never use them. But I feel that I have to keep them because someone I love gave them to me. Or because I invested so much time, energy and money into them and what they represent.

So they weigh heavily.

But do you know what I discovered when I finally let go? When I eventually tossed 251 jewellery boxes in the recycling bin?

We can be light instead. We can feel free. Free from useless clutter. Free from failures. Free from whatever we’re holding on to.


Believe me, I understand this is infinitely harder to act on than it is to write.

Confession: I still have the ceramic figures and the Berlin Wall. Which is OK.

But it’s OK because I’ve gone through the process. I truly understand they are not the love, the memory, the realness of the people who gave them to me.

And for you to know what is OK to keep, you need to go through the process too. So tomorrow I will give you three questions to ask yourself when decluttering sentimental items.

But in the meantime, answer this question, “If I was completely free, what would I let go of?”

How To Make Your Own {Green} Carpet Deodoriser

how to make your own carpet deodoriser

You may remember we bought a puppy about a month ago?

It is no coincidence then, that this post tackles how to keep your carpets smelling fresh. Even after they have been assaulted by the peeing machine (AKA Cash the Dog).

As is always the aim with the green cleaning recipes here, this one is made using all natural ingredients, actually works, and will cost cents to make, as opposed to dollars to buy.

You’ll need:

  • bicarb soda
  • tea tree oil (or eucalyptus or lavender)
  • something to hold the bicarb mix – preferably with holes in the lid (a shaker is perfect, but you could use a pringles tube and punch some holes in the lid. Get creative!)

To Use:

1. Fill the container with your bicarb.

2. Add 10 drops of your chosen essential oil.

how to make your own carpet deodoriser

3. Shake well, to ensure the oil is distributed throughout the bicarb.

4. Sprinkle lightly over the carpet you wish to deodorise. Leave for 15 minutes or longer.

how to make your own carpet deodoriser

5. Vacuum the carpet as normal. Revel in the fresh smell!

6. Use as often as needed. I generally do this once a month to keep the carpets smelling…not smelly.


Do you have a dog? Does he pee everywhere? Can you give me some hints on toilet training?

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway?

Be Fearless -
{via Pinterest – Original Source Unknown}

Over the past two weeks I have received some truly wonderful emails from a handful of you gorgeous readers. Like, really wonderful. Make me cry, hug the closest person, twinkle in my eye all week kind of wonderful.

But after a few days, something weird started to happen. I suddenly realised that those emails came from people. Real people. Who read my words. Real people who are learning from my screw-ups life lessons.

And it scared the shit out of me.


I wanted to delete my blog. Run for the hills. Get on the first flight to a remote island in Thailand*. Forget I even had a blog.

(*But that’s normal here.)


What if I let you down?
What if I stop being funny/amusing/quirky/helpful?
What if I never was any of those things in the first place?
And all the kind comments, wonderful subscribers and members of this special community are really just the creation of a complex internet scam and tomorrow I wake up to find my bank accounts have been emptied by a friendly Nigerian lady named Caroline?


I was afraid. (And dramatic.) But mostly afraid.

Afraid to look silly. Afraid to disappoint you. Afraid to reveal too much.

But I have been afraid before. Fear has seen me close a business. Fear has seen me ignore emails and opportunities and phone calls. Fear has stopped me from improving myself.

So this time, Fear, I see you and I feel you, but I’m doing it anyway.

I’m not going anywhere. I have a ridiculous passion for writing, for helping people, for learning more about slowing our homes, simplifying our lives. I enjoy this too much to stop, particularly for a reason as flimsy as fear.

How about you?

  • You may be afraid of calling that long-lost friend, because she could hold you responsible for the breakdown of your relationship.
  • You may be afraid to start decluttering your home, because you could lose too much of yourself along the way.
  • You may be afraid to take care of your body, because you could give up, stumble or look silly.
  • You may be afraid to tell your partner that you need time to yourself, because he may not understand that it’s about you and not him.

But today, I say to you, feel the fear and do it anyway.

If you weren’t afraid, what would you do?

3 Super Simple Tips to Keep the Toys Organised

Messy house with toys

Ah, toys… The bane of my (reformed) perfectionist tendencies. There they are, strewn across the floor. Stabbing the soles of my feet. What’s that under my pillow? Oh, of course, 13 Megablocks and a Care Bear.

Most days I think our kids would be happy playing with a box of tampons and a bucket. But for the times that just won’t cut it, they have their toys. And while we have culled a lot, they still have more than enough to keep them occupied. The difficulty is keeping them organised.

So before you can worry about organising the toys, you do need to declutter them first. If nothing else, this step will help you rid your home of broken toys, multiples, toys missing vital pieces and toys your kids no longer play with.

This step alone will make the toy box(es) feel much more manageable, and the idea of getting organised much less daunting. Now you’re ready…

3 Super Simple Tips to Keep the Toys Organised

1. Keep Like with Like

Sort the toys into piles of similar type. For example we keep together:

  • cars
  • building blocks
  • musical instruments
  • Little People and dolls house furniture
  • Barbies, clothes, shoes, bikes, similar sized dolls
  • baby dolls, baby clothes, bottle, stroller
  • board games, card games, puzzles

Then for the things that don’t really fit in any particular category, have a pile for miscellaneous toys. In our miscellanous basket we have toys like the shape sorter, counting toy, etc.

Then decide what you will be storing each of the toy types in.

In terms of what to use, I am a big believer in using what you have on hand. Generally there’s no reason to go and buy a heap of “storage solutions” – just get creative in how you keep the toys. 

  • tin lunch boxes are great for cars, mighty beans, Little People
  • shoe boxes or gift boxes are usually sturdy and great for Barbies, dolls clothes
  • a promotional calico shopping bag hung on Isla’s wardrobe handle holds the baby dolls, dolls clothes, bottles, wraps
  • dress-ups are kept in a drawer in Isla’s wardrobe
  • an open-top basket holds our miscellaneous toys. (It limits the number of loose toys by limiting the size of the basket. If it gets too full I know it’s time to declutter/sort again.)

It doesn’t matter what you use to store the toys, only that they are sturdy, big enough to hold everything without resorting to the shove and easy for kids to identify. In theory, this makes it easier for them to help tidy away.

2. Everything in its Place. (Divide and Conquer!)

Once you have the toys in their boxes/baskets/bags, it is time to find a place for everything.

This will look different for every house – depending on where the kids play most frequently, where there is storage space and where is most accessible (or least accessible for certain things).

Some tips for the best storage:

  • Try to use a cupboard or bookshelves that are close to the play area – it makes tidying up much easier.
  • We use the cupboards underneath the TV as toy storage:
    • One cupboard holds the miscellaneous toy basket and large toys such as the Magna-Doodle, the timber hammer and pegs set, Buzz Lightyear and Woody dolls.
    • Another holds the building blocks (all stored in their original carry bags), dolls house, the Little People and their car.
    • One more holds the other large toys (a kid-sized guitar, boat, counting pig toy) as well as the boxes that hold the Barbies, the cars and the musical instruments.
  • Puzzles, board games and card games go on a shelf out of reach, otherwise they’re destined to be spread over the length of the house.
  • Colouring books are kept in an accessible drawer, along with the pencils and paper.
  • Books are on two shelves in the playroom – and this is by far the messiest part. The books come out daily (multiple times) and are consequently shoved back by me or the kids before bed.

By having a place for everything (and sticking with it) you will see three main benefits:

  1. The kids will eventually learn what belongs where…
  2. Meaning it will be easier (again, in theory) to teach the kids to pack away tidily.
  3. The space is likely to stay tidier for longer, as packing away is much more straightforward and you are less likely to just shove things anywhere.

3. Rotate! Rotate! Rotate!

I don’t know about your kids, but mine tend to play better (more engaged, less tossing, less boredom) when they have fewer toys to choose from. Maybe it’s not as overwhelming to their senses?

Regardless of the reason, I have found it helpful to rotate bulky toys and things you have a lot of (like books, puzzles, dolls clothes) seasonally.

Split the bulky/numerous toys in half, leaving out anything that is on high rotation. Store half in the playroom or toy storage area and half in a plastic tub out of sight. You can then rotate them in and out every few months, giving your kids the opportunity to play well with the toys they have, only to rediscover old toys when they are rotated back in to play.

The benefits:

  • the kids play better with what is on offer
  • it cuts down on the clutter, particularly for bulky toys
  • means tidying up will take less, simply because there is less to pack away


I know these tips are most useful to those of you with younger kids, but currently that is all I know! I’m hoping the lovely folk with older kids may chime in with a comment below, to share how they keep on top of the toy situation.

Do you have any go-to tips for keeping toys under control in your home? How about for your older children?