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The January newsletter
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a clutter-free Christmas this year
Christmas divides people into those who love all the glitz and abundance
and those who dread it and fantasise about escaping onto a desert island
with a good book and a steady supply of cocktails. The build-up to the
festive season is certainly a time of stress, overload and overconsumption.
I was sitting the other day having a coffee in a busy shopping centre
and was struck by the grim determination on people's faces.
Living a clutter-free life is about upping the pleasure and reducing the
stress and excess that accompanies 21st century living. Before you hit
the shops again grab a piece of paper and spend 10 minutes thinking about
what would increase your pleasure this year. Divide the paper into 2 columns
- on one side write things you love about Xmas and on the other things
you loathe. Personally I love the smell of real Xmas trees - I'm thrilled
that my potted miniature tree from last year is alive and well, ready
to come in and be decorated. I love the Xmas decorations that I bought
in New York. I don't like turkey so I cook whatever is my favourite meal
each year. Or even better get my husband Nick to cook it!
Here are my top tips to ease your way this Christmas
Check your "party" clothes now. Make sure everything
fits, has been to the dry cleaners and your shoes are heeled. If nothing
has the wow factor or you need a new outfit head out to the shops now.
Last minute pressure purchases often end up gathering dust at the back
of the wardrobe.
Do an overall budget and then allocate an amount to spend on each
person's present. Then stick to it. No-one wants to wake up in the New
Year and fear the arrival of the credit card bill. If money is tight offer
your time instead of gifts - dogwalking, babysitting, gardening,teaching
someone a new skill - be creative. Or agree a set budget per person among
family or friends - say £10 per person. The work practice of drawing
names out of the hat and only giving to one person can also work in families
or groups of friends.
Don't be afraid to ask what people want or tell them what you'd like.
I do think Christmas is a time for abundance, celebration and fun. But
make sure the big presents are on target - if you're buying your partner
or daughter a mobile phone - double check the model they want. Otherwise
they'll end disappointed and you'll end up feeling miserable. Then get
a few little fun surprise gifts to add to the Christmas fun. For kids
make sure there are plenty of things for them to do once the present unwrapping
euphoria has died down. For adults think consumable - interesting beers,
unusual magazine, something exotic to eat. But personally I'd be cautious
about the joke socks, ties and jumpers. Just think about Bridget Jones
if you are in doubt.
Don't overorder food. This year I've booked my Christmas slot on
Ocado the online grocery. I'm thrilled not to have to plough my way round
the frenzied crowds in the week before Xmas. The urge to start adding
orange and lemon slices, packets of dates and nuts in their shells is
irresistible - whether you like them or not. I remember reading last year
that the average household threw out over £20 of food in the aftermath
of Xmas. So write your list and stick to it or like me shop online. In
turn I'll try and resist all the tempting last minute offers of mini-mince
pies and novelty cheese boards.
Be good to yourself. Take time out to relax and free yourself from
the pressure to have a perfect Christmas. In the era of TV chefs you might
feel obliged to be a Domestic god or goddess - but dump the guilt. Buy
your Xmas cake ready made and then have fun icing it. Or let the kids
do it. I'm going to book a company to spring clean my house before Xmas
and treat myself to a foot massage!
At the end of the day presents are hit and miss. No matter how
hard we try and how well we know people some of our gifts will miss the
target. As will some of the gifts we receive. I remember as a kid the
disappointment of opening yet another packet of handkerchiefs with the
initial S on them. But don't let unwanted gifts spoil your holiday. Smile
and take it in your stride. Pour yourself a glass of champagne and have
a great time.
Check out December's tip (here)
for more on staying focused this Christmas.
November's Competition results
Thank you so much to everyone who wrote in with your inspirational stories
about dealing with sentimental items. The prize of a set of Packmate's
household vacusac bags goes to Jane for her moving story. For more details
of packmate's products go to www.packmate.co.uk
"Sadly, both my 89 year old father and 91 year old mother died
this year. They had been married for 63 years, but had been apart for
six months due to ill health and I miss them terribly. When I cleared
out their bungalow, I found a lovely old suitcase, engraved with my Mother's
initials as they were before her marriage. The inside was fitted out with
pockets which would have held scent bottles, hairbrush etc. I felt I could
not dump such a personal item, but it was too large to take up valuable
space so I decided to use it as a 'memory case' and have filled it with
personal mementoes of both my parents - their favourite hat/cap, marriage
certificate, school photos and reports, cards they sent each other etc.
The case is now full and I am happy in the knowledge I can find solace
in there when I am missing them, and know these precious memories are
in a precious case."
competition this month as I think we're all acquiring enough stuff at
this time of year! But do send in your suggestions for topics I can feature
the newsletter in 2005. I'd love to hear from you.
do you declutter/organise a kitchen which is hardly big enough to swing
a cat in (no offence intended to cat lovers - I'm one myself!!)"
"I sympathise - the house I'm renting has a minuscule kitchen with
limited storage space. So probably like you I dream of a large kitchen
diner with endless well designed storage. In the real world we all have
to fit the stuff we own into the space we have so it's time to be ruthless.
You might want to leave this to after Christmas but when you're ready
get everything out of the cupboards and I mean everything. One way to
tell if something is clutter is to see how dusty and greasy it is. It's
a sign that it hasn't been used in a long while. Start by sorting out
your food and check everything is still in date. Then move to your gadgets
- I bet you don't use them all. Think about storing seasonal stuff like
the things you only use at Xmas or on summer picnics in the loft. Now
play the numbers game with your crockery and china. How many glasses and
mugs do you really need? Keep your favourite 12 and give the rest to charity.
Allocate a drawer for really useful things like batteries and spare keys.
Use a cutlery divider to keep everything organised."
There's much more I could say about kitchens and I plan to devote a whole
newsletter to the subject in the New Year so keep reading and good luck.
Sue Kay works with a wide range of clients to organise home offices, small
businesses, declutter before a house move, prepare your spare room for
a new baby and organise your wardrobe ready for the new season. If you're
selling your home, she can help you present it clutter-free for the market
to achieve a quick and profitable sale. For practical sympathetic help
call Sue on 07974 076 675 or 020 8444 5149 or check out the website at