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Project Declutter: Family Room – Lessons Learned

Is the success of a project determined solely by the end results? If so then I could call my Family Room project a success. But I don’t view it as one.

You can see the video of my Family Room project on my YouTube channel.

Adopting some of the principles from work of doing a review at the end of a project, here are my lessons learned

  1. Prevention is better than cure. Obviously, it’s better not to let rooms get into a huge state in the first place. The bigger the task, the more overwhelming it can be to tackle.
  2. Find an incentive which will make you tackle the project. And for this I don’t necessarily mean a reward or sanction. For me, I am incentivised by deadlines, particularly if they’re externally imposed. I will procrastinate forever but tell me I have to achieve something by a set date and I am on it.
  3. A key lesson for me is being clear about the goal/objective. I set my goal as having an organised, functional and aesthetically pleasing room for my family. But that’s actually a vague overarching goal for my home. In this particular situation I had a short term goal which was to declutter the room before the floor was going to be replaced. The reality was I didn’t need to have anything organised before the floor was done, I just needed the space cleared. Decluttering should have been my priority at that stage and I was wasting time worrying about how everything was going to work after the new floor was in.
  4. From that lesson comes the obvious lesson, which I often forget, decluttering is not the same as organising. Decluttering can be a very quick task with immediate results. A very simple system of Prepare/Sort/Purge is enough for the decluttering process. If you can get your “sort” categories right then the later organisational stage could be made easier but it’s not essential. A room can stay decluttered forever but the organisation may need to be reviewed and redone on a regular basis (depending on how static your life is). I think lack of organisation can lead to clutter but decluttering in and of itself will not lead to organisation.
  5. When you do come to the organisation stage make sure you know the function of the room. This function can be for a limited time. Our room was originally a playroom so it housed all the children’s toys. I knew I wanted to create a craft area in the room but I hadn’t fully thought through what this meant or how it could work. I’ve ended up doing it piecemeal and the set-up shown in my video has already changed.
  6. Again, following from lesson 5, decide what’s good enough, and stop. I am far from a perfectionist but I do need to feel I’ve come to a conclusion. Since I didn’t have the proper end point in mind I am constantly tweaking the Family Room. This is having a knock-on effect on me completing other projects because I feel I have an unfinished project that still needs work.
  7. Finally, plan properly from the beginning. I didn’t plan this project at all. I said I did but in reality I’d made lots of notes about what the room was like, what was available and what I hoped for, I brainstormed ideas but I didn’t actually set a plan of action. Some wise person once said something like “he who fails to plan is planning to fail”.

There is a caveat to point 7 and that is, if your project or task is simply decluttering – just do it. Don’t waste time planning. If necessary, do that before the Purge stage. You can create categories while you’re in the Sort stage because you’ll instinctively group items together in a way that makes sense for you. Some people advocate a daily 15 minute declutter. Sounds like a good habit to cultivate.

Goals and Resolutions – Review


It’s probably quite telling that I’ve been procrastinating doing this review post. I meant to do quarterly reviews and it’s already mid-May so maybe I’ll claim I’m early for a mid-year review. Quite simply, and to no-one’s surprise, I haven’t made much progress.

By April 2015 I organise (including decluttering and setting up systems) and decorate my home

I am so far behind in my decluttering it’s beyond ridiculous. No reason for this, I just haven’t been in the mood. I’m therefore revising this goal to December 2015.

However something I did accomplish, which I’m very pleased about, is revamping my son’s bedroom. This is what it used to look like.IMG_0191

It’s been that way since he was 6 months old and, since he’s now almost 13, I’ve been promising him an update for ages. I finally completed this project in January and I’m planning a post on that at some point.

Future organisation projects will either be on this blog or on my YouTube channel.

By July 2016 I complete my LLM

Well I don’t actually have any choice about this deadline but I haven’t studied in about 6 months so I’m really going to have to pull out all the stops to meet this goal.

By December 2014 I submit a manuscript of at least 50000 words to publishers/agents

I’m still really hopeful I achieve this goal. Okay I haven’t started writing yet but I’ve been doing a lot of cogitating and made some notes on a potential YA/NA contemporary. I’ve got a writing getaway planned for the weekend so full steam ahead here.

By February 2014 I lose 14lbs

Yeah, epic fail. I may have actually gained a couple of pounds. I’m back on Slimming World and planning a health and wellbeing series on this blog to keep me accountable.

By December 2013 I exercise for at least 20 mins at least 3 times each week

Hah, see above

By July 2014 I complete the Interior Design Course at the Adult Learning Centre and the online Photography Course

I gave up on the Interior Design Course at the ALC but have registered for an online course. I’m going to revise the date here to October 2014.

By August 2016 I establish Project X

I’ve been thinking about Project X and I’m not sure it’s really a goer but until I’ve done more research I’m not going to call it just yet.

And a review on my resolutions? Well I’ve failed superlatively so it’s not worth going into details now. But I think I’m going to keep them as they are and see how I do by the end of the year.

Desperately seeking motivation

I’m starting to resent my dishwasher.

I am definitely not a creature of habit but I did have a list of daily tasks, and top of the list was doing the dishes.

But since February I haven’t really been doing my daily tasks. I haven’t really been doing much of anything. And the growing pile of dishes was just a reminder of that.

Everywhere I look there are piles of stuff, some are waiting to be donated or recycled but most is just clutter. I’m so tempted just to throw all the clutter away. No sorting or organising, just chucking it out.

And I like to feel I’m organised because I have my project plans for what I want to accomplish before April (you can watch this video if you want to see a before tour of this quarter’s projects; they start at around 2.4m). But I’m still exactly in the same place I was as at the end of January only somehow there seems to be even more mess and more stuff accumulated. How did that happen?

But I’m not overwhelmed by the mass of clutter. I just feel meh.

I know where to start but I don’t know how to get myself to start. I’ve always been aware that I veer to the lazy side so I need some external motivation.

Rewards? They don’t really work for me as an incentive. I occasionally treat myself for having finished a project but I find it hard to decide on a “treat” in advance. Delayed gratification isn’t really me.

Sanctions? Really, I’m 40. What kind of sanctions am I supposed to impose on myself?

The satisfaction of a job well done? That’s funny.

At the same time my house functions pretty well. It’s very clean and my husband and I can find what we need when we need it (not so much my kids). I don’t really have a problem with having people over because I am the master of tidying the rooms that will be used and hiding mess in other places.

And I think that makes it harder to get motivated. If we spent everyday looking for things or constantly having to buy new things then I would probably feel the time and effort to declutter was worth it. At the moment I think it looks unpleasant but that’s just not enough to motivate me away from the lazy side.

My Resolutions for 2014

Not goals or objectives, just some things I’d like to do in 2014 (some may seem familiar from my Goals post here)

  • Cook at least one new recipe each week
  • Learn new crafts
  • Blog/use social media regularly
  • Regularly comment on other blogs I enjoy reading/videos I enjoy watching
  • Read for at least 30 minutes 4 days a week
  • Write at least 500 words 4 days a week
  • Do Project Life 2014
  • Make an effort with clothes and makeup at least 4 days a week
  • Brush up on my German
  • Use my planner each day

So, nothing too outlandish or unachievable but, at the same time, nothing I’m going to get upset about if I don’t “keep” to my resolutions.

Review: July, August, September 2013

Can I be one of those really annoying people who comment on how fast the year is going by?

I’ve decided to do a quick review each quarter to see whether I’m making progress against my goals or just wasting my time off. And although it’s already November, I’m going to ignore that so this post doesn’t seem so late.

July and August were wonderful months for me. Getting to spend time with my children on their holidays was incredible. I really missed my playmates when they went back to school.

And I managed to complete one of my large home projects. My Family Room, aka the room all clutter went to die


I had an externally imposed deadline because we were putting in new flooring and it really helped concentrate my efforts.

Yes I ate my frog but it went downhill from there. In September I did nothing productive. I like to justify it by saying that was my first real “down time” when I really had time just for myself.

Okay, I did sort out my wardrobe, doing a major purge and donation. But that’s something I do every six months as a matter of routine and was more of a procrastination exercise than a planned project. I also swapped out the hangers in this wardrobe to huggable hangers and bought a shoe organiser.


Since my husband is 5ft 11 and I’m 5ft nothing we divide our wardrobes horizontally so only the bottom section is mine. In the interests of full disclosure these aren’t all my clothes, and, although I did sort through them all, I didn’t organise the other wardrobes.

And that’s really it. No studying, no writing, no exercise. So no progress against my goals but then, I didn’t actually finalise my goals until October.

Many people, especially ex-colleagues, have asked me whether I’m bored yet. And honestly I’m not. Partly because watching YouTube and Netflix are still interesting to me. I may not have been the most productive but I’ve been so happy and that’s something I haven’t said in a long time.

I do know that I need to start being more productive if I want to continue being happy, otherwise I’ll get annoyed with myself.  So let’s see how I go…

As a bit of a new venture I decided to make a brief video diary of each quarter. Obviously I need to learn to keep my hand still but I enjoyed making and editing so I’m going to try making more YouTube videos.


IMG_0113Setting goals is a lot more complicated than I thought. Or perhaps I just make it more complicated. What makes something a goal rather than a resolution and does it really matter what it’s called? Will I set myself up for failure if I don’t phrase my goals in an acceptable way? At this stage I don’t care.

Rather than spend any longer “researching” how to set achievable goals I decided it’s time to just write some down, so what I’ve done is imagined how I would like to see my life in September 2016 (when my career break ends).


By April 2015 I organise (including decluttering and setting up systems) and decorate my home

By July 2016 I complete my LLM

By December 2014 I submit a manuscript of at least 50000 words to publishers/agents

By February 2014 I lose 14lbs

By December 2013 I exercise for at least 20 mins at least 3 times each week

By July 2014 I complete the Interior Design Course at the Adult Learning Centre and the online Photography Course

By August 2016 I establish Project X (I’m not trying to be coy in calling something Project X but it’s been a goal of mine for a long time. At the moment it’s in too embryonic a phase for me to want to share much detail though)

Then I have a few things I’d like to happen but if I’m not successful it won’t be like I wasted my career break. So maybe I’ll think of these as my resolutions.

Eat less than 3 takeaways each month
Cook at least one new recipe each week
Learn new crafts
Blog and use social media regularly
Learn a new language
Do Project Life for 2014
Complete a 5k run for charity

My next step is to take each goal and break it down into smaller projects and/or tasks and set some deadlines for those…

Wish me luck!

Hello July

So 1st July was the first day of the rest of my life. Sounds a bit dramatic, but after a lot of thinking, talking, drawing up pros and cons lists and tossing coins I’m taking a 3 year break from my job. The career break scheme is offered by my work and they should find a post for me in the organization when I’m ready to return in September 2016.


My career break is on the basis I have care responsibilities for children under the age of 16. And here’s the thing really. My children are 12 and 8, so during term time they’ll be at school between 8.30am and 3.30pm five days a week. (There are lots of reasons I decided to take a career break when my children are already school-aged but I don’t plan on going into those reasons now.)

Possibly inevitably, when people hear about my career break they ask what I plan to do with my time. And of course I have loads of ideas about what I could do, like…

  • Learn a language
  • Find a book club
  • Finish my Masters
  • Write a novel
  • Take up a “creative/crafty” hobby
  • Start healthier living
  • Find voluntary opportunities

and of course, take care of my home and get it decluttered and organised

But, although I have all these ideas in my head, I haven’t done anything about them yet. So what have I done with my first week at home? I spent it reading organisation/productivity books and blogs and watching as many YouTube organisation channels as I can find. All these are wonderful for a procrastination maestro like me but won’t help me achieve my goals.

I’m going to have around 30 hours a week extra to “get things done” and I want to make sure I start with good time management. What I have learnt from all my research (as I shall henceforth refer to blog-reading and YouTube-watching) is the first step to being organised is setting goals.


So that’s what I’m going to work on. Long-term and short-term goals. And I hope to share those goals here soon.

Crate Clutter Challenge Update #3

At the start of the year I set myself the challenge of decluttering my home by crating up the clutter before sorting through it.

Yeah, I’m not doing that anymore. What was I thinking?


IMG_0583These boxes have been sitting in my bedroom since February. Because they were stacked out of the way and there was no general clutter anywhere else in the room I felt no urge to sort through. Now part of me thinks if I haven’t needed any of the stuff for four months I probably won’t need it in the future, but it’s not like I can simply throw it out. I need to go through to see whether I can re-home, re-purpose or recycle the contents. And I will get round to it. Someday.

But this challenge hasn’t been a complete failure. I have learnt that

  • decluttering and organising are not the same thing
  • putting things in boxes is neither organising nor decluttering
  • just because you have room doesn’t mean you need to accumulate stuff to fill it
  • I shouldn’t make up silly challenges which don’t help towards an organised life.

I am still searching for tips, systems and methods for an organised life. Very soon I’ll have more time to work on decluttering AND organising my home so perhaps I need to look for a different challenge. Any suggestions?

In which I feel overwhelmed

I know many many people can look after a family, run a household and hold down an outside job without blinking an eye. Not me. Not at the moment.

And I know I bring this on myself. I over-complicate my life. For example, at the start of the year I had this many Filofax in use (and this doesn’t include my work Filo).


I have one Filofax I use as my main planner – my purple A5 Finchley. I carry my compact Luxe  in my handbag and use it as a diary (since I don’t trust technology like Smartphones). The others are more binders but do I really need them?


mustard A5 Finchley – for household projects, I jot down all the odd bits and pieces that need to be tackled but intend to use this more once I’ve settled on my main organisational project.

crimson A5 Luxe – this used to be for Book and Film reviews but now it’s my Filofabulous which I use for beauty and fashion stuff. Occasionally. But probably not enough to justify keeping it up.

purple A5 Malden – this is now for Book and Film Reviews but I started this before I had my book blog so I’m not sure how much I’ll need it going forward. I have some thoughts on how I may adapt it but need to ponder some more.

teal personal Chameleon – for writing stuff, plot ideas, characters, world development etc. Not been used this year.

jade personal Finchley – I set this up as a blog Filo to schedule posts, write down ideas for posts and content etc but for some reason it’s not quite working. If you keep a notebook or organiser for blogs/social media how have you set it up?

So I just add things to my life which are unnecessary and overwhelm me. I think I need to strip things back to basics.

I’m going to watch some organisational videos on YouTube. That’s the same as doing, right?

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