no more clutter logo no more clutter newsletter for December 2004

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Enjoy 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

"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."

There's no 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.

The Clutter Clinic

Cindy asks

"How 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!!)"

Sue replies

"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


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