What is minimalism?

People often misunderstand minimalism and see us, minimalists, as weirdos who own one plate, and two t-shirts and have empty rooms with white walls in their house. Minimalists in their minds also have a fixed prescribed number of items which they must not alter or increase. While I have white walls and many extreme minimalists have almost no furniture minimalism is not an instruction manual on how to live your life. We are not weird or saddos that deprive ourselves of life’s pleasures.

It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.

OK, we’re joking—obviously. (The Minimalists)

So, what exactly is minimalism and how do minimalists live their lives. As with many concepts and philosophies, there is not one minimalism, but many varieties. Below I will explain the basic concept of minimalism and what it means to be a minimalist in my book.

You might have heard about The Minimalists, who I have quoted above, alongside Marie Kondo are the most famous proponents of minimalism and define it as such:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Want to own a car or a house? Great, have at it! Want to raise a family and have a career? If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful. Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.

I see minimalism to live with fewer ‘things’ in your life, be they material possession, hobbies, projects, or people. Instead of amassing endless material possessions of low quality or being engaged in endless activities and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, decide what truly matters to you and what adds value to your life.

I am cautious about what I purchase and concentrate on quality rather than quantity. So, for example, I will buy one pair of high-quality shoes in a neutral colour that will last me for many years rather than have many pairs of low quality.

I also think about whether I really need something before I buy it. Do I need that electronic gadget or will what I have suffice? For instance, I do not own a smartwatch as my tablet and phone do the same things.

On the other hand, I have multiple teapots because I use them all and they add value to my life.

In terms of non-material possessions, I have started doing fewer things, but for those that I do, I devote all my energy to them.

In a nutshell, one can sum up minimalism as intentional living. Lead a life that fulfils and makes you happy and that does not make you stressed. Don’t chase after something that advertising or keeping up with the Joneses has made us want. To give a concrete example, how many people have jobs they dislike and find stressful? Many people then do retail therapy or get drunk at the end of the week. Buying all these things means they need more money, which means they will work, longer and harder. In minimalism, you are mindful of what you consume and how you spend your time so you can do more of what matters to you.

One criticism of minimalism is that it is something for the middle classes and not for ordinary people. While it is beyond the scope of this post to define class, loads of people would describe me as middle class, I do not think minimalism is a class issue. Everyone regardless of their economic status can reduce the number of items they possess and things they do in their lives. Minimalists come in all shapes and sizes. There is Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, who is married with kids and a big house. There is Cedric Waldburger, a rich entrepreneur who owns less than 55 things and travels the world.

Like what you read above and want to give minimalism a go, below are some tips on how you get started on your minimalism journey taken from Intut Mint Life:

  1. Shop Quality, Not Quantity
  2. Digitize Movies and Books
  3. Eliminate, Eliminate, Eliminate
  4. Invest In Reusables
  5. Give Everything a Place
  6. Invest in Experiences
  7. Cut Meaningless Expenses
  8. Appreciate What You Have

I hope the above has given you some ideas of what minimalism is and how you could start your minimalism journey. I will go deeper into this topic in future videos.

30 Day Minimalism Game

Last week I wrote a blog in which I introduced you to the concept of minimalism. Maybe my article has inspired you to downsize and become more minimalist, but you don’t quite know where to start. Your apprehension is quite understandable, after all discarding many of your possessions, even if you’re not a hoarder, will be hard and time-consuming. How about letting out the inner child in you and joining me in the minimalism game?

A game, you ask! How does this work? Read on to find out.

This game can be played solo, but who wants to do Solitaire when there is Monopoly, UNO, or Chess to be played? So, play along with me for the next 30 days or find a friend, family member or co-worker to compete against.

The rules of the Minimalism game are incredibly easy, and you will not need a PhD to get the hang of it. All you need is willpower, some black bin bags, and time for the charity shop.

So how do you play it? The game lasts for one month and you need some time each day, the exact amount will vary and a couple of hours at the end of the month to wrap up. Starting on day one, you will get rid of one item, on day two you get rid of two items, on day three you get rid of three items and so on. If you manage to play daily until the end of the month, you will get rid of 465 items in your house. Do the maths if you do not believe me.

What should I get rid of? What counts as an item? Well, you can make your own rules, but they need to be sensible. Don’t count out of date food as a discarded item or count every screw in a box. For me, a box of screws counts as one item, but several lipsticks in a drawer or box are separate in my book.

In the minimalism game, you can get rid of anything you like, books, CDs clothing, kitchen items or old newspapers, the more the better.

Every item that you decide to part with must leave your house, be they recycled, donated, or thrown in the bin, they cannot be in your house by the end of the 30 days.

The first few days will be extremely easy, everyone can find one or two things to discard, but the longer you go on the harder it will become.

If you want to play along with me comment below. Send your pictures of what you donate so everyone can see your progress. We are starting on the 9th of June. Whoever goes furthest shall be crowned the winner.

What to do if you fail? Do not worry this is just a bit of fun, getting to day 10, 15 or 20 is great. Think you will have already parted with many, many items and that is a good thing in my book.

Old Magazines and newspapers

Have old magazines and newspapers stacked away in your house? Of course, you do! That article that you read 10 years ago and thought you would need to keep for reference. What was this article again? Which issue of Country Life or the Guardian was it in? You most likely won’t remember and are not likely to locate it quickly even if you know where your pile of old newspapers is stacked in your house. There are reasons libraries and archives do detailed cataloguing of their contents.

Below I will give suggestions as to what you can do to avoid cluttering up your flat with old newspapers and how to find the articles that you do want to keep.

Firstly, do you need the whole newspaper or magazine, or will keeping just the article do? Think carefully before keeping endless copies of old magazines unless you are likely to read them again and again.

Before cutting out articles have a look as to whether the magazine or newspaper has a searchable online archive that allows for retrieval of old articles. If it does, no need to keep the article.

There will of course be articles or pictures from magazines or newspapers that are worth keeping as you might want to refer to them in the future.

You have two options on how to store articles and find them again. Scan the article and then name and date the digital file, so you can find it again. A suitable name would be the topic of the article. For example, German election October 2021 or Ukraine War 2022.

Don’t want to keep the article in an electronic format. Why not get a large binder with dividers and file the articles by topics? This way articles can be easily retrieved.

The above tips should help you with not keeping endless old newspapers and be able to find the stuff that you do want to keep.

Book Review – Tilo Flache Promise Broken. Moving On.

German-born professional organiser Tilo Flache has written a book entitled Promise Broken. Moving On which I want to review and discuss in this week’s blog post.

Promise Broken. Moving On is Tilo’s first book, published in 2019. He has since written a second book called Clutter Tides which I haven’t read yet.

The book is self-published through Amazon, is 170 pages long and has 20 chapters.

Author, Tilo Flache is based in Brighton and runs a professional organising business called Cluttermeister which helps people with decluttering their homes. He also has a YouTube channel where he posts short videos on all aspects of organising your house and life.

He is not alone in having written a book. Other professional organisers have also done so. What’s Your Excuse for not Clearing Your Clutter? by Juliet Landau-Pope of  JLP Coach or A Better Organised Home in 30 Days by Kate Galbally of Better Organised, to name just two.

I congratulate everyone who has managed to write a book and get it published, or self-publish it, I want to write a book also. Having said that I am also critical of some of the books published, especially books self-published and Promise Broken. Moving On. Is one of those.

What are my criticisms? What is the good? What is the bad?

The author himself states on Amazon:

This book is looking at a totally different angle: not so much what comes from within, but what is imposed upon us from the outside. While I strongly believe that internal forces drive our reluctance to let go, I am convinced that the external influences play an important part in making us accumulate things in the first place.

When Tilo says that this book is looking at a different angle from others written on the topic, I am not so sure. My main critique here is that it doesn’t really tell me anything that I haven’t heard many times before. Tilo doesn’t seem to say anything new or anything from a different angle to others who have written on the same topic.

So, what is this book about? In the authors own words:

…Promise Broken. Moving On…looks at the link between advertising, consumerism and the accumulation of things we possess and fill our homes with. It holds up a mirror and shows you how exactly this affects YOU.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the problem of consumerism, endless shopping, waste and built-in obsolescence. It talks about marketing and how companies make us deliberately buy more and crave for more through advertising and placement in shops, the right music and the layout of shopping centres.

The second and shorter part of the book deals with minimalism. He briefly outlines what minimalism is and discusses whether this is an option for our overfilled homes.

In the chapter What’s next? Tilo explains that we cannot go on the way we did and that we need to steer into a new direction if only to combat climate change and nothing else.

The direction of travel is pretty obvious: historically we started out with owning very little in terms of physical things. Over time, and increasingly more forceful over the last 100 years or so, things have reached fever pitch and it is now becoming clear that we can either continue the battered road of wanting more or choose a new path that leads us in a different direction.

Looking around us, we find that it has turned increasingly difficult to sustain how we go about leading our lives and using up whatever materials we can lay our hands on, this is to no small part a result of our drive towards owning more and consuming more and that does include consuming more experiences.

Although we still produce some things in a sustainable manner and there is a growing concern about the way we behave towards the very environment that sustains us, it is also becoming painfully clear that there is no simple way we can stop damaging our world in the short term. Unfortunately, even the hard way might lead us towards a future that is less than bright.

There isn’t much I would disagree with within the book. We must stop consuming and shopping, to conserve our environment and health and we should adopt a more minimalist lifestyle.

The book is written in an easy to understand and accessible way, but I feel at the time it is lacking facts and figures which would strengthen the argument that he makes. Others such as James Wallman Stuffocation, Living More with Less or Heather Rogers Gone Tomorrow. The Hidden Life of Garbage have written on the same topic, come to similar conclusions and said it

Reflections on the APDO conference

I am late in writing my blog post this week. Why? Have I been lazy? Not at all! I spent the week in Preston, Leeds and then Manchester at the APDO conference: A TIME FOR CHANGE.

APDO is the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, the trades organisation for professional organisers like me and this week we had our annual conference where we laughed, networked and listened to some fascinating talks. Below is a roundup of what happened, my impressions and the talks I attended.

I arrived at the conference venue, a hotel at just after 9 am on Wednesday morning and was greeted by the lovely organisers who made me feel welcome and directed me towards the coffee pot. Important for an addict like me!

After a short mingling opportunity, we were ushered into the main conference room to receive an official welcome and to listen to an excellent talk by Clarissa Krist Jansson on working with menopause, a topic close to my heart. The speaker was engaging and made the topic accessible to everyone, including men.

Following on from the keynote speaker we were divided into workshops. The one I attended was on social media by Jonathan Tilley. Jonathan explained in an engaging way the dos and don’ts of social media and how to get the most out of it. Alternatively, I could have attended one on selling successfully. Luckily, they are all filmed so we can watch the recording.

Lunch was another fabulous affair, I was expecting soggy sandwiches, but instead was given a choice of various hot and cold meals, salads and soups. I settled for soup and good company with a fellow organiser who lives around the corner from me in London. We chatted about our respective businesses and our first impressions of the conference.

After lunch we had more workshops, I attended the one on photo organising, which was a good introduction for anyone not familiar with what photo organisers do. As I had already binged on the photo managers training courses, I didn’t really learn too many new things, but hey ho. Still good to support my photo organising colleagues.

During the afternoon break, Caroline Rogers offered a meditation session that I naturally attended. It made me feel relaxed and got rid of some of my tiredness.

The final session of the day was by American Leslie Josel on how to create multiple streams of income. Really good to hear from someone who is successful and has been in business for a long time. Leslie Josel from Order out of Chaos specialises in coaching children and teenagers with ADH, lecturing on the topic and creating products, such as an academic planner, to help those affected.

In the evening I attended the official social. I chatted to a group of lovely women, ate delicious pie and enjoyed getting to know my fellow organisers in a relaxed setting.

On day two I woke up to the views of HMP Manchester, I was staying in a cheap Travelodge rather than the hotel where the conference was. I had breakfast, changed clothes and went back to the conference centre for more coffee, more networking and more talks.

First up we did a little dancing workshop which was a brilliant way to wake us up and get the juices flowing. What a fab idea!

After that we again had a choice of workshops, I chose one on turning your passion into a profitable business. I struggled slightly with staying awake, but that wasn’t a reflection on the speaker who likes all before her was engaging and had useful stuff to say.

The highlight of the conference was a panel discussion on hoarding that consisted of two hoarding experts and a woman who is a hoarder. I thought it was brave of her to come up on stage and talk about her experiences as a hoarder.

After another fabulous lunch, we had two more workshops to choose from: Wardrobe Decluttering and Defining Goals and Guided Visualisation. Both sounded interesting, impossible to choose. I went for the latter.

In the next break, we again had the option to attend a workshop, this time an introduction to the APDO book group. I again attend the workshop, again, to support my fellow book group attendees rather than learn anything new.

The final session of the day was another talk by Jonathan Tilley on niching down to brand up. He is a very engaging speaker due to his background in acting, it perked me up.

In addition to socialising, networking and listening to talks there were also stalls scattered throughout the conference venue. Stalls from commercial exhibitors who were selling their products and stalls from fellow organisers offering their services or their associations.

After the final session, there was another social, but I only managed to stay for one diet coke. I was well and truly exhausted and felt it was time to return home. But not before I had gravy and chips, my favourite comfort food.

What is a personal uniform, and should you adopt one?

alt= "Bettina in blue shirt"

Everyone knows what a uniform is. It is a set of clothing that people wear to work or school and that exists of the exact same set of pieces day in and day out. People, who have to wear a uniform for work will not stand in front of their wardrobe thinking to themselves: “What should I wear today?” The decision has been made for them.

A personal uniform is like a work uniform in that you wear the same or similar clothing every day. There is one big difference though between a corporate uniform and a personal one. A personal uniform as the name implies is personal to you. It considers your lifestyle and tastes in clothing and makes you look effortlessly stylish day in and day out.

Let us delve a bit deeper into the topic, let’s find out what exactly a personal uniform is and why it might be for you.

Jenifer in an article entitled ‘How to Create a Personal Uniform’ on the Simply & Fiercely blog defines a personal uniform as follows:

A personal uniform is a “go-to” style that you love wearing, and it is an easy way to take the stress out of choosing your outfits. Find a formula that works for you, and you can rest assured that you will be comfortable and confident every day.

People might think it’s a bit boring to wear exactly the same thing every day, in fact, there are two types of personal uniforms. There is the type where you wear exactly the same clothing every single day. A famous person doing this is Steve Jobs, if you look at photos of him you will see that he always wears a black turtle neck jumper, blue jeans and Nike trainers. Mark Zuckerberg is another example of a famous person in identical clothing.

Above I outlined the first type of personal uniform, below I will explain the second type of/ In the second type your dress follows a formula rather than an exact same set of clothing. An example of the second type might be wearing black jeans with a different coloured shirt every day or jeans, trainers and T-Shirts in different colours. It could be identical items of clothing in different colours, it could be different clothing in the same colour, or it could be the same types of clothing worn together but in different styles

The main thing here is that whatever type of personal uniform you adopt you should pick something that makes you feel good and makes you look effortlessly stylish.

Marissa Pomerance in her article How To Create A Daily Uniform So You Never Have To Think About Getting Dressed Again’ gives us practical reasons as to why adopting a personal uniform is a good idea:

  • “You can instantly simplify your morning routine, get dressed with ease, reduce decision fatigue / save brain energy for more important pursuits, and up-level your wardrobe by investing in fewer, better things.”

In light of the ongoing climate crisis and an increase in mental health issues that humans are experiencing, I think adopting a simpler wardrobe that doesn’t contribute to fast fashion is an excellent idea. I also think the fewer routine decision we have to make on a day-to-day basis the better as it preserves mental energy to focus on the things that truly matter in life. Whether a personal uniform is for you, or you find it too restrictive is a matter of personal choice.

I don’t quite do a personal uniform to the extent that Marx Zuckerberg and Co do, but I have pared down my wardrobe immensely from my days of working in print media. I used to match my socks with my shoes and my shirts would have just the right shade in whatever colour I was wearing to match the blazer and trousers. These days I am still massively into blazers, suits and brogues, but all my socks are one colour, my trousers are black or grey and my tops all fit my bottoms and blazers. This makes getting ready in the morning super easy and I feel stylish and confident whatever I wear.

Day in the Life of a Professional Organiser

Ever wondered what a professional organiser does day-to-day? Read on to find out more.

Below I will give you a day in the Life of a Professional Organiser. Well, obviously, I will give you a day in my life. I can’t speak for all my colleagues; we are not all clones.

6 AM the alarm rings and I get up. I have a cold shower to get the energy flowing. After my shower, I meditate and journal for inner peace and clarity. I also have several cups of tea, always Japanese Green in the morning.

7 AM, I go for my morning walk. On rainy or snowy days, I simple cross Maybley Green, a small park across the road from me. Maybley Green literally only takes 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. On sunny days I walk across Hackney Marshes or along the river Lea for an hour. I often listen to podcasts about organising, decluttering and productivity, sometimes I also listen to the birds’ sing. Nature is so beautiful and healing. About once a fortnight I play naughty Bettina and treat myself to a Croissant or an egg sandwich from the local café.

8 AM and I am at my desk with another cuppa. There are two types of days. Days where I visit clients in their houses and days where I am at home doing admin such as writing blog posts, marketing my business, doing finances, or talking to clients about potential projects. I often listen to music while working, but I try to stay off social media and off my phone.

11 AM and it’s time for breakfast and a break from staring at the computer screen. I practice intermittent fasting, so only have two meals a day.

12 AM and it’s back to the grindstone for a little while longer. More paperwork, more admin, more promoting my business.

2 PM and I am out doing errands such as buying organising supplies, going to the post office, or promoting my business through flyers.

4 PM and I am back home to have a cuppa and read the news. I like to stay abreast of current affairs

5 PM and it’s back to the desk to finish off any final tasks that I haven’t completed yet.

There are also days on which I do client work. On client days I go to people’s houses and help them declutter or I work on photo organising projects from my own home. Sometimes I also see clients in Cyberspace via Zoom or Skype to help them remotely.

Today was one of my client days. Normally I work within London where I live, but today I was helping a woman in Oxford declutter her art supplies.

My day started early. At 8:30 AM I am on a train to Oxford. I drink tea and eat breakfast on the train and check my emails.

At 10 AM I am at my client’s house for a cuppa and an initial chat about today’s battle plan. After 20 or so minutes we start decluttering until 1 PM when it’s time for lunch. I take an hour for lunch and usually leave the client’s house to switch off and get some fresh air.

At 5:45 PM I leave my client’s house to travel back home.

How to declutter Facebook

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Declutter Facebook you will ask? How can you declutter Facebook other than deleting or disabling your account?

We all have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. We know we spend too much time on it for our own health, but we also know that in today’s interconnected world it is a requirement if you don’t want to be socially isolated.

So how can you declutter Facebook and what do I mean by this? Read on to find out.

Ever felt overwhelmed with the number of posts in your timeline, ever missed important updates or event notifications? I have on multiple occasions. Perhaps you have too much clutter on your wall, too many groups too many friends.

Start off by going through your groups and pages and leave all the ones that you don’t ever engage in or read. I was added to a Facebook group by a friend that was for PCS members in Carlisle. (For those not in the UK, PCS stands for Public and Commercial Service Union, a British trade union representing service workers). I left said group because neither do I live in Carlisle nor do I belong to PCS.

There were other groups that I once joined because I had an interest in, but perhaps they no longer represent my current life. We have all taken up a hobby and got super into it only to drop it a few months later.

If you really feel you can’t leave any groups or pages, you can unfollow them. Click on the link to find out how to do this. This ensures that you won’t see their updates in your newsfeed.

Next move on to your friend list. I officially have 744 Facebook friends. Of course, I don’t have that many in real life, no one has. I have acquired these friends over the years either because we have X number of friends in common or because we met once at a conference or event and exchanged five words with each other. Do they need to be my friends?

Real friends are precious, should be treasured, and cherished, but do you really need to see a random person’s dinner photos or updates about their kids and wife whom you never met?

Go through your friends’ list and think about whether any of them add value to your life? Does this person post interesting articles or have interesting insights into the state of the world? Do I know this person in real life and want to see how their little bundles of joy are growing up? If the answer is no to any of the above, unfriend them. Here is how to do this.

You might think the other person is offended; I can assure you nine out of 10 times they won’t even notice you unfriended them. Facebook does not notify you when this happens, so the other person won’t know. Further, if you are not friends in real life or chatting the night away on messenger, they won’t care either.

Once you have unfriended people and left groups and pages you will feel a whole lot lighter and will notice updates from people and causes that truly matter to you. Give it a try.

Feel you need further help with tips and tricks on how to declutter Facebook or other social media accounts and would like some help. Get in touch via my website or email me at Bettina@life-organised.co.uk.

Happy Holidays!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Holidays from everyone here at Life Organised!

Hope everyone is well despite the state of the world!

It’s that time of year already, frightening how quick it’s gone. We only just celebrated new year’s.

This week I am taking a break from blogging as I am off to the seaside for a well-earned mini-break.

Back to usual services from next week with more articles on personal productivity, organising tips and life hacks.

I’ve also got an exciting new project that I will share with you in due course, watch this space!

Until next week stay organised and clutter-free!

Bye for now!

Bettina @ Life Organised

How to tame your Emails and get to Inbox Zero

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Do you ever open your email program and feel slightly panicky at the sight of 200 or more unread emails? If you do, you are not alone. We get bombarded with email daily and for many, it seems impossible to ever read them all, never mind respond.

One option would be to just ignore them and hope they vanish just like the dirty dishes in the sink magically become clean. Doing that you’ll find that in no time 200 emails turn into 2000 and 2000 into 5000.

Most of us have an ambivalent view of emails, the days when receiving an email were exciting because it was a new medium and only a handful of our friends had an email account are well and truly over. Everyone now has at least one email address and the ability to fire off messages from their mobile or tablet while on the go. For some people, emails literally rule their life, but this shouldn’t be. There is more to life than the ping sound of a new email coming into our inbox.

Productivity expert Merlin Mann came up with the concept of Inbox Zero where a person tries to keep their unread emails to zero or almost zero and spends as little time on emails as they can get away with. WhatIs.com defines Inbox Zero as follows:

“Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times.”

Mann himself defines it as follows:

“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.”

So how does this Inbox Zero concept work? Read on to find out tips and tricks on how to keep your email inbox under control.

Merlin Mann and those that follow him suggest the following best practices to tame your email inbox:

Keep your email program closed for most of the day and only check your email a couple of times, unless you are waiting for something urgent. That way emails won’t rule your life and dictate your to-do list. Far too many people spend all day in their email program responding to so-called ‘urgent stuff’. Productivity consultant Carl Pullein once did an experiment where he responded to every email 48 hours after receiving them. Everyone wrote back: ‘Thanks for your speedy reply!”

So, you open your inbox and find several unread emails, what do you do with them? We have learned above that ignoring those won’t make them go away. Follow the principle of delete, delegate, respond, defer or do. In practice this means the following:

Go through all your unread emails only once and decide what to do with them. Delete any email that is spam or contains nothing of importance. Consider unsubscribing from advertising emails, newsletters or anything else you don’t ever read.

Are there any emails that you could delegate to someone else? Would your PA, if you have one, colleague or husband be better placed to deal with the email? If so forward it to the right person.

Respond to any emails that require an immediate answer or take less than two minutes immediately. Any emails that need a longer response put them on your to-do list or pencil in time in your calendar if you can’t do them straight away. Any email that you can’t answer yet, perhaps because you are waiting to hear from someone else star so that you know to deal with it next time you are in your inbox.

There might be emails that have actionable items in them such as paying a bill, booking an event etc. Either do those tasks straight away or note them down to do later.

Now that you have dealt with all your unread emails it is time to physically get them out of your inbox. Some people think they need to create an elaborate folder structure and sort their emails into minute categories. Why waste time when most modern email systems have an excellent search function? I keep all my emails in an archive folder.

Okay, you say, I now know what I need to do moving forward. But how do I deal with the emails that I already acquired and haven’t read yet? Below are some tips to deal with your backlog of unread emails.

The first thing to do is sort your emails by read and unread. Leave the read emails to one side. For now, we just concentrate on unread emails.

Secondly, sort your emails by sender and then look at each sender in turn. Ask yourself the following. Is the sender a company or newsletter and could I permanently unsubscribe? Most emails of this nature have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Alternatively, you could use a program such as Unroll.Me that auto unrolls you from several subscriptions at once. Perhaps you don’t wish to unsubscribe as newsletters occasionally tell important news. Just delete all bar the last one.

If the sender is not a newsletter or company, but perhaps a friend or colleague, just delete them all or if you wish press the ‘mark as read’ button and transfer to your archive. Let’s get real if you received an email three months ago and you haven’t responded, either the email wasn’t important or if it was the sender would have pestered you in another way. It would also come across as rude to suddenly respond.

Now that you’ve tackled your unread emails let’s turn to the ones marked as ‘read’. Transfer all emails older than two weeks to your archive. This should leave you with a manageable number of emails in your inbox. With these follow the steps outlined in the first part: delete, delegate, respond, defer or do.

All the above shouldn’t take too long, but believe you me, you’ll feel like a big weight has lifted off your shoulders.

Feel you can’t cope and would like some help. Get in touch via my website or email me at Bettina@life-organised.co.uk.

5 ideas of what to do with unwanted books?


A few months back I wrote a blog post about how to part with books. Below is a blog post about what to do with books once you’ve decided you no longer wish to keep them.

Many people struggle to part with books but knowing they will go to a good home and not to a landfill will make it easier to part with books.


The first thing you could do with unwanted books is to sell them. This won’t make you rich but might give you a small amount of cash that you could invest in any future book purchases or donate to a charity of your choice.

One place to sell books is your local second-hand bookshop. They are always on the lookout for high-quality books in good condition. Beware, however, that they will only take what they can sell.

Another way to sell books could be through Facebook Marketplace, Amazon or eBay. When doing this keep in mind that it might take some work to upload the book information and to take books to the post office once sold. Think about whether it is worth the hassle?

A third way to sell books, especially if you have many, is markets or car boot sales. You might have to pay rent for a table or spot, but you will get loads of footfall and sell many in one day.

A further way to sell books is to use online services such as We Buy Books. We Buy books considers itself an ethical and environmentally friendly business and has an easy-to-use website for uploading books. According to their website all you have to do is input the book’s ISBN number into their online calculator. After scanning all the books request free postage and packaging from them and send your books off.

Ziffit is another online place to sell books. They state on their website: “Doing good through business is at our very core; it’s what drives us to grow.” Ziffit says it sends none of their products to landfills but resell or recycle everything. It works similar to We Buy books in that you just need to scan the barcode and send it to them for resell.

Little Free Library

If you don’t want to sell your books you could give them to a little free library. Little free libraries are scattered all over the towns and cities in the UK. I am sure they exist elsewhere in the world too. They can be found on the side of the road or in people’s front gardens and usually consist of small cabinets where anyone can leave books or take books they like.

Many of these free libraries, however, are quite small so it won’t work if you have masses of books.

Sometimes local libraries, cafes and pubs will also have places to leave books for people to take home or enjoy over a coffee.

Donating to charity

Donating your books to charity is a further option. Many of the UK’s charity shops are on the lookout for books in good condition. If you have many books, it might be sensible to ring your local charity shop to check whether they take books before carting them all there.

Libraries, schools, nursing homes or prisons are other places that might take your unwanted books, but again check before making a trip out. I’ve found that libraries are very picky as to what they accept.

Also, make sure books are appropriate to where you are donating. A nursing home is not likely to want children’s books, and neither will a prison.

Give Away

If you don’t want your books to go to strangers, you could think about giving books to family and friends. Books in good condition make great, low impact presents. Perhaps your cousin is going to university and could go with your old history books or your nephew has started cooking and needs books on baking.

Why not create a list of your books and send round via email or WhatsApp and let friends pick what they want?

You could also swap books with someone you know. Why do we all need to own an individual copy of everything we read when we can share them with friends. Also, a fun way to discuss the book after both of you have read it.


As a last resort when you can’t sell books or donate them take them to your local tip, they will know how to recycle them. Unfortunately, books can’t just be put in household recycling.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

Spring Clearing – Hallway


As part of Spring Clearing Week 2022, I am going to guide you through decluttering and cleaning the main areas in your house.

Today I am going to talk about the Hallway.

To declutter and clean your hallway begin by taking everything out of the hallway that is not furniture of fixed to the wall. Empty any cabinets, shelves and take clothes off the hangers. I suggest using plastic boxes to store the content of your hallway. This ensures that it’s easy to put stuff in and take stuff out, and it will aid in sorting.

Once you have emptied the hallway, whip down everything thoroughly. Mop and hoover the floor and go into all the nooks and crannies to make sure everything is cleaned from top to bottom.

While you wait for the surfaces to dry go through your hallway’s content and sort into what to keep and what to donate or recycle. Check whether any shoes or coats need cleaning. Do this straight away if you can or put it on a pile to take to the dry cleaners. Make sure anything that does not belong in the hallway goes to its rightful place.

There are several things you can do with items that you no longer wish to keep.

  • Donate to a charity shop
  • Advertise on Freecycle
  • Give furniture to someone who has just moved house and is in need of furniture. Perhaps a student or anyone else on a low income

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

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Spring Clearing – Bedroom

Almost everyone will have at least one bedroom. So today I will give you tips on how to discard of things in the bedroom. While again some people have the luxury of a study, a walk-in closet, an arts and crafts room, a fitness study or whatever else people might be interested in, most won’t so the bedroom will serve as a multi-function space. However, I will concentrate on the main items and pieces of furniture one would find in a bedroom.

Let’s start with the wardrobe. Go through your clothing and check for any garments that are damaged or anything that no longer fits. Be honest with yourself and if in doubt try things on. Check everything else in your wardrobe or drawers and make sure you still need it.

When putting clothing back think about how you store them to make the most out of your space. T-Shirts and jeans could be rolled to save space.

Clear the clutter under the bed and give the floor a good clean. Do you still need all the things stored under the bed or are they just shoved there to be out of sight out of mind? It is okay to store stuff that you don’t need under the bed. I have my suitcases, hiking gear and tent there. But it should not be a storage ground for everything that you don’t have a place for.

Once you have cleared everything, cleaned everything and put everything back you need to decide what to do with unwanted items.

Any clothing or bedlinen still in good order you can donate to a charity shop, take to a refugee project or donate to one of the many cloth donation bins scattered throughout the towns and cities. Children’s clothing could be given to friends or relatives with younger children.

Items of clothing that are no longer wearable could get a new lease of life as cleaning rags or arts and crafts materials.

Tomorrow we will tackle the hallway.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

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Spring Clearing – Living Room

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Unless you live in a studio or a flatshare you are likely to have a lounge or living room in your house.

Depending on the size or the amount of clutter in your sitting room, it might be an idea to carry out decluttering in chunks rather than one go. So, for instance, you might want to tackle your bookshelf, have a break and tackle the CD rack after. Obviously, the things you have in your lounge are very individual, and you may not possess any of the above-mentioned. But you get my drift, unlike the kitchen or bathroom, they won’t fall neatly into one category.

I am going to use my living room as an example of things you could spring clear.

Let’s start with books. If you want a detailed article on how to part with books, check out my earlier blog post here. Go through your bookshelf and check whether there are any books you no longer want to read and put them on the donate pile. Check that all books are still in order, in the way you intend to sort them. Check my article on sorting books here. Take the books off the shelf and dust both the books and shelves and put them back.

CDs, if you still got them can be decluttered in the same way. I store my CDs, yes, I still have them, in folders with archival sleeves rather than on the shelves to save space and create a more minimalist look.

Because I eat in my lounge, I also have a cabinet with plates and other crockery. As part of a spring clear, I would empty the cabinet, clean it thoroughly, check whether any of the plates and cups need washing and put them back.

My lounge also has a coffee table which is the ideal place to just dump random stuff such as newspapers, magazines etc. Clear that and recycle anything you don’t need. Wipe the surfaces and legs.

After cleaning and decluttering all surfaces and floors, it is time to decide what to do with the things you removed from the living room.

Old books and CDs can be taken to the charity shop or thrift store as they are known in the US. In the UK there are charity shops on every high street. Pick a charity you like and donate your unwanted items. Books can also be taken to the many free libraries scattered all over the towns.

If you decided to redecorate or replace items of furniture there are multiple ways to get rid of furniture other than selling it. For one, you could advertise your furniture on freecycle, a website where you can donate unwanted stuff for free. Some London councils also offer a service where they pick up furniture in good working condition to give to poor families. Perhaps you know a young person moving into their first flatshare in need of furniture or household items, why not consider giving it to them.

Tomorrow we will look at decluttering your bedroom.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

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Spring Clearing – Bathroom

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As part of Spring Clearing Week 2022, I am going to guide you through decluttering and cleaning the main areas in your house.

I am starting off with the bathroom.

To declutter and clean your bathroom begin by taking everything out of the bathroom. Empty all the cabinets, drawers and remove bottles and tubes from your bath, shower and sink. I suggest using plastic boxes to store your bathroom content. This ensures that A it’s easy to put stuff in and take stuff out, and B it aids sorting.

Once you have emptied your bathroom, whip down everything thoroughly. Mop and hoover the floor and go into all the nooks and crannies to make sure everything is cleaned from top to bottom.

While you wait for the surfaces to dry go through your bathroom’s content and sort it by type, putting all the shampoos in one spot, all the soaps, all the lipsticks etc. You get the gist. Putting like and like together allows you to evaluate which items you have multiples off and possibly what you have missing.

Discard everything that is out of date, broken or empty. Keep an heir and a spare, but anything more is not needed.

There are several things you can do if you have more than your heir and spare of anything.

  • Donate unopened items in good conditions to your local food bank or refuge charity
  • Keep the item and instead of buying new toiletries donate the money that you would have spent to a refuge charity such as Refugee Action UK or the Red Cross
  • Give high-quality toiletries such as shower gels, perfumes or soaps that you don’t use and haven’t opened as second-hand presents to friends or keep for secret Santas

Any items that you don’t need any more recycle or throw if it can’t be recycled if it’s totally unusable. Any opened bottles with only a little of their content left, put somewhere prominent to ensure you use them quickly.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

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What is Photo Organising and why might you need professional help?

In addition to general decluttering, I also offer photo organising services. Most people have some idea of what decluttering means, but what is photo organising? What does it involve? Read on to find out.

According to the Guardian newspaper in 2014 Americans took more photographs every two minutes than were taken worldwide in the entire 19th century. In 2021 1.4 trillion photos were taken across the globe.

Before the advent of digital photography, most of us took far fewer photos, roles of film came in 24 or 36 and one would not carry a camera around everywhere.

While it is amazing that we have a camera in our pocket that allows us to take endless photos and aids our creativity, this also has pitfalls.

With so many photos taken, how can we wade through the clutter and find the good from the bad?

Where did I save that photo of my cat playing with that ball again? Was it Facebook, Instagram or my external hard drive?

Are the photos backed up to the cloud or a hard drive when we upgrade our devices or are they left on the devices never to be looked at again?

Would we like to do something with our photos, but have too many to print them all?

Perhaps we have old prints from our parents, grandparents or ourselves as a child that we would like to show off on Facebook but don’t know how?

The above demonstrates why some of us might need the help of a professional photo organiser.

So, in short, a photo organiser is a person that helps individuals tidy up their photo collection so that they can find any photo easily to look at it, display it or share it with others.

Below I will outline in a bit more detail the many varied things photo organisers do.

One job of a photo organiser is to sort photos into recognizable categories, often by date or by subject. After completion the owner can locate any photo, they want quickly. Holiday snaps from the Denmark Vacation will be in one spot, holiday snaps from Israel in another. Photos of you at university will be placed in the middle between photos of you as a child and you on your wedding day. There are of course other ways to sort photos, but chronologically and thematic are the most popular ones.

Another job of a photo organiser is to rehouse photos into archival acid-free photo boxes or folders. This ensures the long-term preservation of photos and a more uniform photo collection as opposed to photos in different locations stored in a variety of ways. Often photo albums bought in the past are not very suitable for storing photos long term as the materials may cause damage. A particular culprit is the magnetic photo album of the 80s. Further many photo albums, while they look pretty are bulky and take up more space than storage in archival boxes.

Many photo organisers also offer scanning services so that old photos, slides or negatives can be saved digitally and shared on social media. This work, while not difficult is time-consuming, a tad tedious and requires specialist equipment, so hiring it out to a professional makes sense. Your mobile phone scanning app may be okay for the odd receipt or printed document, it won’t however do for photos. Photo scanners vary in price but are not worse the investment if not used frequently.

Photo organisers also look after your digital photos. They amalgamate photos from multiple devices into one location. They add metadata and captions to your photos so that they can be found easily. Metadata according to Harvard Law School is defined thus:

Metadata is information stored within a document that is not evident by just looking at the file. It is an electronic “fingerprint” that automatically adds identifying characteristics, such as the creator or author of the file, the name of individuals who have accessed or edited the file, the location from which the file was accessed, and the amount of time spent editing the file.  In addition to data that is automatically added to a document, there is user-introduced metadata, such as tracked changes, versions, hidden text and embedded objects.

Captions are simply words that describe your photo. So, a photo of you, your kids and your dog on the beach in Hawaii might contain the words: Vacation, holiday, Hawaii, beach, children, kids, dog, pet, family name of kids, name of the dog. If in 5 years you want to look for photos that you have of your dog, just search for dog and or the name of your dog and all relevant photos come up.

Photo organisers prune your photo collection to ensure that photos that are blurry, dark, duplicates, or badly composed get taken out. Photo Organisers will only suggest what to discard off, never actually destroy or delete anything. The final decision is always yours. But having fewer photos ensures that you might look at them, show them to others rather than waste time finding the one amongst all screenshots and duplicates of yesterday’s dinner.

Photo organisers also help with creating photo books, slides shows or other curation of photos. Presenting curated photos is an excellent way of showing off your nice photos and creating a story.

Photo organisers also teach clients on how to use photo organising software, cameras and other equipment to enable clients to work by themselves in the future and build confidence.

Photo organisers are connected with each other in the Photo Managers, an American trade’s association set up by Cathi Nelson in 2009 but working with professionals throughout the world. The Photo Managers offer training CPD courses, seminars and zoom calls where we chat with each other about our business. But the photo managers also offer help and advice to ordinary people as well as a list of professional organisers in your local area.

The Photo Managers is a community of professionals who are passionate about helping their clients manage photo collections and tell their stories. Whether you need help with organizing, scanning, converting old media, or creative ways to share, we can help!

So, if you need help with your photos, why not send me an email and I’ll talk through with you how I or one of my colleagues can help.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.

What to do with unwanted Christmas gifts?

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It’s January, Christmas is well and truly over. We have discarded our tree, packed away the decoration for another year and eaten the last of our seasonal chocolates.

But what about the gifts? That ugly floral blouse that mum bought me, the bottle of gin from aunty Melanie. Does she not know I gave up booze 10 years ago! Not to speak of that teapot from the in-laws!

We all know the presents I am talking about. But what do we do with unwanted Christmas gifts? Keep and let them clutter up your house? Not an option for a minimalist like me. Get rid and risk offending the person who gave it to us? Sell? Donate? Recycle? Regift?

Let’s go through all the options and talk about the pros and cons of each. The below suggestions, of course, work equally well for Birthday presents, Mother’s Day presents or presents for any other occasion.

Most of us have qualms about parting with presents, even those we truly don’t like. We feel guilty because someone took the time and effort to buy it for us, wrap and send it. I still hold on to a birthday gift I got for my 30th that so wasn’t me. In the beginning, I kept the item because the friend who gave it to me didn’t have a lot of money and I knew she saved up for it. Now I just keep it as an example of why it is so difficult to part with presents.

But think about it, it’s not the actual gift that’s important, but the thought that counts. Rachel Hoffman, author of Unf*ck Your Habitat says that the real value is the giving and receiving, rather than the present itself:

‘The real value of a gift is in the giving and receiving of it. The actual item itself is far less important.’

So yes, it is perfectly fine to get rid of presents, don’t hold on to stuff and let it turn into clutter. On the website Unwanted gifts, it clearly states in big bold letters:


Nobody needs more clutter in their lives.’

There are several options for how to part with unwanted gifts. If you feel you can do so, just politely decline a gift upon receiving it. This will work well with people you are close to, such as your mum or best friend. Find ways of saying that you appreciate the thought of the item, but that the jumper is not the right colour for you or that you already have a coffee grinder and no space for a second. Many of your nearest and dearest will understand and take the item back to exchange it for something you may need or value more.

Including the receipt with your gift is something that many people do and that you could also do when gifting to others. This way presents can be taken back to the shop and exchanged for something else. You might argue that including the receipt allows you to find out how much someone paid for your present, but really in the age of Google, we can find this out quickly, receipt or no receipt.

Alternatively, you could donate the unwanted items to charity shops. There are charity shops all over the high streets supporting a wide range of causes. Oxfam, Red Cross, Mind to name but a few. Most of these shops are always on the lookout for good quality items. They further have excellent recycling facilities so if you donate something they can’t use, you can rest assured that it won’t end up in a landfill. There are several things, such as electrical equipment, bicycles, weapons or prescription glasses that charity shops in the UK won’t take. You can always ring up the store before going there to donate to see whether they will take what you have on offer.

Of course, you can also donate clothing, art material, food and more to homeless shelters, refugee hostels, community centres or food banks. Most of these places are always on the lookout for donations. I am sure there will be someone glad to take that unloved Christmas present of you.

Advertising in local Facebook groups, list on Freecycle or your local Buy Nothing association is a further option of parting with unwanted gifts and giving them a new lease of life.

A third option is regifting. Maybe that pair of shoes that you found too feminine or the wine glasses that you wouldn’t use as a whiskey connoisseur might be just the thing for aunty Nelly. However, beware of a few pitfalls. Make sure you are regifting your item to someone not associated with the original gift bearer. Don’t give that pair of shoes from your mother to your aunty for example. Additionally, it is worth making sure that the gift is in its original packing and that the person receiving it doesn’t know it’s a regift. You don’t want to appear to be a cheapskate.

A further way to regift according to This Simple Balance website is to regift less formally:

‘Re-gifting doesn’t need to look like wrapping the present and giving it for a birthday or Christmas present, although you certainly can do that if you’re comfortable doing so. Re-gifting can look like giving it directly to a friend who you know will use and love it.’

January is often a bit dreary we are all skint and it is cold. Why not brighten it up by organising a swap party? Make some food, ask friends to bring a bottle and an unwanted Christmas present or two and swap with each other. Your friend’s worst nightmare might be just the thing for you.

Don’t want to pass on the gift for free, you could try selling it. Places such as eBay, Gumtree or Facebook marketplace are good options. Be aware however that unless you are selling something rare or valuable you are probably not going to get rich from it. Think, is the £5 profit really worth the hassle of uploading an image, writing some text and taking the parcel to the post office?

Can’t sell, regift or donate the item, as a last resort consider recycling, at least the bits that can.

Now there may be situations where it would just be plain rude to get rid of an item as it would impact on your relationship with the gift bearer. Perhaps keep the item for a year or two to show your appreciation and at your next clear out or spring clean put it on the to donate pile.

I have in the past also worn or used certain presents for a bit to not offend an elderly relative before parting with them.

Of course, what we should be doing is avoiding unwanted gifts coming to your house in the first place, but I think that is a discussion for a future blog post.

To get further ideas on how to get organised and more productive check out my other posts here.

Need help with getting organised, contact me here and I’d be delighted to work with you.