National Organising Week 1-8 Nov: Q&A with Declutter Coach, Juliet Landau-Pope

(32 Posts)
LocalEditorBarnet Sat 01-Nov-14 10:32:18

Are you overwhelmed by too many toys, books, clothes or paperwork?

Struggling to manage a never-ending to-do list?

Declutter Coach Juliet Landau-Pope is here to help!

From 1-8 November, she will be answering your questions daily via this thread.

Juliet says: ‘I define clutter as whatever’s getting in your way – too much stuff in your space or in your schedule, or limiting stories that are holding you back. I help busy mums in North London to review routines, find practical solutions and shift habits that lead to clutter – in your home and in your head. I work with individuals in their homes and run clutter coaching workshops for groups.

I’m a certified coach and leading member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (Apdo). To mark Apdo’s 10-year anniversary, we’re launching National Organising Week from 1-8 November and the slogan is Do It NOW!

I’ll be sharing practical tips here to help you tackle specific clutter-clearing tasks and also to motivate other family members to get organised, too! So if you have queries or comments about how to manage your time or your space, post them there.

For more info about Juliet and the services she offers, see
For info about APDO, see:

Barnetbanter Sat 01-Nov-14 18:14:05

Hi, I hope you can help me! My house is gradually becoming over-run with my children's, ahem, artwork and 'junk' models! I've been told I'm not allowed to throw a single thing out, so I've stored as much as I can in plastic crates with lids. But there are currently five of those in one daughter's bedroom and they are taking up space where I could put a bookshelf!

Can you recommend a good way to deal with artwork, which won't cause upset? Thanks in advance :-)

Ginstern4 Sat 01-Nov-14 22:28:45

We have too many shoes and not enough space. Currently our shoes are kept in a hamper by the front door but this is not a good system as they end up in a pile one the floor as the kids take through looking for their shoes. With such limited space - 50cm by 20 cm max are there any better storage solutions? Or tips on how to train Kids under 10 to put school stuff away not dump it inside the front door. Many thanks

whatwillhappennext Sat 01-Nov-14 22:38:15

Hi, I am very interested in how to deal with head clutter. I am often completely overwhelmed by things I have to do, ought to do, would like to do - and then that all gets derailed by an emergency or a distractingly brilliant idea for something else to do. So nothing gets done. I would love to find a way to acquire the discipline to stick to some basic routines so that at least the basics get done. I have tried several approaches, but always forget them after a while when distracted by something else. Thanks!

jlpcoach Sat 01-Nov-14 23:39:58

Thanks Barnetbanter for starting discussioin with this great question about children's artwork. I’m sure many mums are familiar with the situation you describe.
I'll start with a question of my own: I'm curious when you write that you’re not allowed to discard anything. Are you sure that you yourself are ready to let go of things that your children have created? For many parents, this can be quite difficult for all sorts of reasons.
If you’re determined to declutter, let’s consider how to motivate your children to tackle the things stored in your daughter’s bedroom. Start by helping them visualise a positive change. What about ordering an unfinished wooden bookshelf that they could paint or decorate with stickers? It could become a fun art project for all the family. Describe how it could be used not just for books but also art materials and toys. Maybe one shelf could be a display area for their most recent models? If they’re excited about these positive goals, they'll have less objections to removing the storage crates.
Then it seems to me that you have 2 options: Option 1 is to involve the children. Ask them to help you select the ‘best’ or most meaningful drawings from a specific time period, say a term or a year. Take the lead and set clear limits on how much you can realistically store. Create a portfolio for each child by stapling together A2 pieces of cardboard and limit their collection to this one folder. If you point out how their work has progressed over time, they may be more willing to part from older drawings.
I wouldn’t put anything in a recycling bin while children are watching, nor would I talk about throwing things out because it sounds so harsh; I prefer to use the term ‘letting go.’ Focus on positive outcomes, use lots of praise, be sensitive but demonstrate your own confidence and resolve. Another suggestion is to take photos of artwork as a way of documenting your children’s development and validating their efforts.
Option 2 is to sort through the crates when the children are at school or nursery. Depending on their age and awareness, they may not even notice! If they do, explain in positive terms that you’ve created a portfolio - just like the ones artists have - for each of them.
Hope you found this helpful - do let me know how you get on. And if any other readers have dealt with similar issues, please do share your tips. Thanks.

651493Hel Sun 02-Nov-14 08:27:03

How do I keep inside my wardrobes neat & tidy. They always end up with me pushing everything back in & quickly closing the doors. I especially have trouble storing all my hats neatly & they end up in a heap at the bottom of my wardrobe.

jlpcoach Sun 02-Nov-14 09:40:10

Thrilled to see so many posts and will do my best to answer them today!
First, Ginstern4, the answer to your query probably lies in the first line of your question - you and your family may well have too many shoes! Kids outgrow their shoes so quickly and you may also be holding onto items that have seen better days. I suggest you start by emptying the hamper and taking a long, hard look at all your footwear. Be honest, how many feet do you each have? And how many shoes do each of you really wear? Any that you no longer wear could be donated to charity - ask at your local shoe shop if they accept donations. You'll also find shoe banks at local recycling centres, often next to large supermarkets.
Only aim to keep in the hall the shoes that fit comfortably and are worn in this particular season. Those that you only wear occasionally such as sandals, snow shoes, party shoes, etc, could be stored elsewhere such as in your bedroom wardrobe.
As for the shoes that you DO need to keep in the hall, it sounds as if you need to store them more visibly rather than inside a hamper. You might find a stackable mesh shelf helpful such as this:
Finally, to train your kids to stop leaving things in the hall, you need to designate another place, preferably downstairs and easily accessible. Do you want them to hang up their bags on a hook or to put them in a basket? Give them clear, positive and simple directions - it's better to tell them what to do rather than what not to do! Competition, rewards, and lots of praise can help reinforce the message.
Hope that helps. With best wishes, Juliet

jlpcoach Sun 02-Nov-14 13:13:34

Thanks for your question, whatwillhappennext. You seem to be struggling with a number of issues that are really common with busy mums - defining specific goals, clarifying priorities, and staying focused on particular tasks. I discuss these sort of issues with my coaching clients and encourage them to practice new strategies. For now, I can suggest a few quick tips:
1. The main reason that people get distracted in the way you describe is that they don't have time to reflect on what really matters. It sounds bizarre but sometimes when you're rushing around and feeling overloaded by too much to do, the best thing to do is... nothing. Take a few moments to stop, breathe, unwind and regain your focus. Meditation - even just a minute or two of quiet, uninterrupted thought - can help you to build concentration. It can also help you to become more mindful of what you value most. This is a great way to learn to prioritise and plan your time.
2. Try writing down all the things that you want to do in a specific time such as a day or a week. Don't use scraps of paper that are likely to get lost - stick to just one notepad. If you prefer to do this electronically, check out this free app:
3. Making a to-do list is a way of collecting the clutter in your head but, as you probably know, it's not enough. The next step is to take a closer look at the list and highlight or circle the 3 main things that matter most. Check your priority list regularly and resolve to tackle these tasks before starting new ones.
Hope you find this useful,. Even small shifts can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with clutter in your home and in your head. Talking to others and getting professional help from a coach can also help.
With best wishes, Juliet

LocalEditorBarnet Sun 02-Nov-14 20:05:37

Some great questions here, and brilliant answers from Juliet here, thank you Juliet!

And remember, Juliet is only here until Saturday 8th November, so ask all those burning questions while you have this fantastic opportunity!

jlpcoach Mon 03-Nov-14 09:22:28

Hello 651493Hel and thanks, too for the great question. This might sound obvious but it's simply impossible to keep wardrobes neat and tidy when you have too much stuff! In other words, before you even start thinking about how to organise your belongings, you'll need to declutter.
When did you last have a proper sort-out? This would involve taking absolutely everything out of the wardrobe, looking at each item in turn and making some practical decisions. Rather than thinking of throwing things out, I work alongside clients, motivating them to make positive choices -- which clothes, shoes, hats, etc are comfortable, flattering and suit your current lifestyle? What makes you feel wonderful? If, like most people, you're holding onto things that don't lift your spirits and express who you really are, maybe you can let them go. I help clients find purposeful ways to part from things such as donating to specific charities and recycling. In any case, decluttering on your own can be daunting but with company - either a supportive friend or professional organiser - the process can be fun and liberating.
Part of the solution could be find alternative places to store some of your clothes or accessories. Do you have space under the bed, for example, or in other areas of your home for the clothes that you're not wearing this season?
Do let me know how you get on! With best wishes, Juliet

LocalEditorBarnet Mon 03-Nov-14 10:22:27

Some more useful tips, Juliet, thank you!

Is the Ed allowed to answer a question??

I think I'm a fairly organised person (I think!) and try to tidy up as a go along. However, the other family members are not and do not! As a result, 'debris', as I call it, accumulates on every surface in the house and when I know I have people coming over I sweep all the mess into a tub or basket, to deal with later. But later never comes and I currently have pockets of 'stuff' to sort out, which causes me stress because I'm always thinking, I wonder if there's something important in there!

What advice would you give me?

jlpcoach Tue 04-Nov-14 10:38:20

Thanks for your question, Ed. Again, this sounds like quite a familiar scenario! To prevent clutter accumulating on surfaces, it's vital to allocate specific spaces for things such as incoming mail, school newsletters, shopping vouchers. Let family members know where things are stored and use praise, bribes and rewards to encourage them to put things away rather than leave them lying around. To minimise paper clutter, try to open post daily and recycle junk mail as soon as it arrives, or better still, unsubscribe from mailing lists and catalogues that you don't need.
As for sorting out 'stuff', you're right - 'later' never comes. Neither does 'some day'! If you put away important things BEFORE guests arrive, you won't have to worry about losing anything vital. Looking at the broader picture, why tidy up just for visitors when you and your family could enjoy more clarity everyday? I'm not promoting minimalism but would encourage you to think about how you and your family could benefit from less clutter. You deserve it as much as your guests.
Hope that makes sense and you'll find it helpful.
All the best,

LocalEditorBarnet Tue 04-Nov-14 11:11:01

That's really helpful, Juliet, thank you! I'm off to order some in/action/out trays for our family paperwork, right #NOW2014UK!

Waterhouk Wed 05-Nov-14 08:19:49

Hi, I'm in the process of making a big house move which is both an exciting and scary concept. I seem to have gone through all my cupboards and storage countless times and still have so many things to pack and move. I'm worried that I will pack superfluous items just because 'I've had this for ages and as soon as I get rid of it I'm sure to need it' but then find in three years times I have the same items sitting in the new house having not used them. Do you have any advice of how to declutter a packing box?! Thank you.

Cathamp Wed 05-Nov-14 16:18:00

My parents live in a large house and have probably not thrown anything away in all the years they have lived there. Every drawer, cupboard, loft is full to bursting. It's come to a time where they really need to sort, throw /give away, or sell a huge amount of things. It's too daunting a task for them on their own so they are relying on me and my sister to do most of it.

My question to you is... where do we start? Neither of us live that close and so have limited time and resources. Also, there are so many memories wrapped up in everything so sorting takes a long time. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

LocalEditorBarnet Thu 06-Nov-14 10:31:07

Two more brilliant questions for Juliet! I look forward to hearing Juliet's replies.

And posters, don't forget to pop back here and let Juliet know how you're getting on and to post any follow up questions. Only two days left to do so!

Happy decluttering everyone! smile

LERichmond Thu 06-Nov-14 11:44:58

My husband is self-employed and finds it really hard to keep his paperwork and filing in order. Not only because he hates filing but also because he says he doesn't have time (the latter excuse isn't true).

So every few weeks (or when we have people coming over) - I end up going in there and just shoving everything into neat piles. By the next day there is paper everywhere again.

How can I convince him to be more tidy and organised? I really do think it would save him time, help his business and make him happier! He likes to be tidy, he just "can't" do it himself and doesn't want to employ anyone to help him either.

jlpcoach Thu 06-Nov-14 13:20:42

Hi Waterhouk and thanks for your question about preparing for a house move. You're right to be concerned about moving with surplus stuff - decluttering now before the move will save you time, money and energy. You don't mention whether you're moving into a larger or smaller property but whatever the situation, chances are that this represents a change in lifestyle as well as location. I often work with clients during this pre-packing stage which can be overwhelming because it involves so many decisions. My coaching approach focuses less on getting rid of things and more on making positive choices about what to take with you. I suggest sorting through your belongings and taking a hard, critical look, bearing in mind that you're making a fresh start. Try to be realistic about how much storage you will have and celebrate the fact that this is a fantastic opportunity to select the belongings that you cherish and to create the kind of living space that you really want. Bear in mind that once you're settled in your new place, you may want to buy new things and people may give you housewarming gifts so it's also a chance to update certain things.
There's no question that moving house is one of the most stressful events n life so asking for help, either from a friend of from a professional organiser could be very useful, too.
Wishing you all the best with the packing and good luck in your new home, Juliet

jlpcoach Thu 06-Nov-14 14:00:22

Dear Cathamp, the situation you describe can be really tough, for you and your sister and for your parents. It's not clear why you need to tackle their home right now but it's likely linked to changing circumstances, such as health issues or maybe preparing to move. In any case, the first step, in my opinion, is to define some positive goals in order to motivate your parents and help them to deal with the upheaval. As I've mentioned in previous posts, very few people enjoy the idea of throwing things away so I rarely talk about getting rid of stuff. I prefer to focus on what you're creating - space, order, clarity, peace of mind. When it comes to sorting belongings, I often suggest starting in an area of the house that poses the least challenge emotionally. For many people, this can be a bathroom or kitchen. Break down the project into small tasks that you can accomplish systematically, step by step and celebrate every success. It can also be quite gratifying to focus on larger items such as pieces of furniture because you'll see results fairly soon. Since you and your sister have limited availability, it's worth thinking about who else might be enlisted to help - perhaps a friendly neighbor or other relative. I'm based in North London but wherever your parents are in the UK, they can find a professional help via APDO-UK, the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers.
Wishing you and your family well, best wishes, Juliet

LocalEditorBarnet Thu 06-Nov-14 23:31:04

More fantastic advice! smile

Due to the popularity of this thread, Juliet has kindly agreed to extend her time with us for an extra week, meaning you can now ask your questions up to next Saturday, 15 November.

Great news and thank you Juliet!

Cathamp Fri 07-Nov-14 20:32:26

Thanks very much for your advice Juliet. We will try starting with an easy room and sell / give away big items and go from there. I'll also check out the website. Many thanks

jlpcoach Sat 08-Nov-14 08:54:15

Dear LERichmond, thanks for your question about how to help your husband manage his paperwork. It sounds like an impossible conundrum - he doesn't have time to deal with it but won't employ an assistant. The question I'd pose, however, is how much it really bothers HIM? You seem convinced that he'd work more efficiently in a tidy environment but I wonder how he feels? If the clutter doesn't get in the way of how he runs his business, maybe it would be better for you to close the door to his office and let him get on with it! If, however, he does want to get more organised, I can offer a few suggestions:
1. Cut down on the amount of paper he accumulates by devising an efficient system for opening the post -it's amazing how many people don't open their mail daily or do open it but don't recycle the unwanted envelopes and letters immediately. Make sure there's a box for recycling in the office so unwanted paper doesn't pile up.
2.. Go paperless! Check whether bank statements, invoices and newsletters can be received electronically instead of adding to the paper mountain. (Yes, your husband will have to figure out how to manage his email but at least you won't see the clutter!)
3. Try to establish a regular routine, say at the end of the day or weekly, on a Friday afternoon, when he sorts paperwork rather than leaving it to build up over longer periods.
Good luck to both of you - do let me know whether this was helpful.
All the best, Juliet

Localeditorshropshire Sun 09-Nov-14 10:25:43

Hi Juliet,

I'm a real hoarder but occasionally I can have a big clear out and recognise how satisfying that feels. However, I seem to find it really difficult to clear out old clothes which my children have worn, ( kids are 17, 11 and 5), yet I still have baby clothes which my 17 year old wore.... I do give the nice things to friends and I know logically that it is far better for someone to wear the clothes rather than them languishing in a bin bag somewhere. Have you got any tips? I still have many, many things that my third child wore and for some bizarre reason I cannot bring myself to get rid of the things she had when I was suffering from PND. I can't bear to sort through the things at all and so they are all zipped up in a storage bag. lots of storage bags I obviously don't want to be reminded of this time and yet I can't bring myself to send it all to the charity shop. Any ideas please? Many thanks.

jlpcoach Tue 11-Nov-14 13:51:29

Hi Localeditorshropshire, thanks for writing about the difficulty you're facing. It's not unusual for parents to hold onto clothes that children have grown out of - it can be hard to face up to the fact that our little ones are no longer so little. The fact that you suffered from PND makes the situation more complex because the memories you associate with those early years are obviously so difficult.
In order to declutter, I'd suggest focusing on some positive goals: what do you want to achieve by reducing the stuff you keep (more space, perhaps or more clarity, freedom to enjoy the present and to make room for the future...)? I'd invite you to locate the bin bags and maybe take just one into a room in the house that you feel relaxed and comfortable. Don't try to tackle them all at once. Start with just one bag, open it up and see if you can find one item (yes, just one!) that someone else could use. Don't pressure yourself to 'get rid' of things but see if you can commit in advance to parting with just one item. It sounds minimal but making a start is often the hardest obstacle and taking small steps can be the most useful strategy. You may surprise yourself and find that you're willing to put aside more than one item. But if not, it's fine, you've taken a huge step forward. In addition, I'd suggest locating a specific charity in your area that could use the clothes. Knowing that they are going to be worn by children in need can help to motivate you more than just taking them to a charity shop. I often takes donations from my decluttering clients to a charity that helps refugees and asylum seekers, or to a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Finally, in this kind of situation, it really can help to have the support of an experienced and empathetic professional so I would encourage you to check out the website of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers to find a local member:
Many of us offer free consultations so it might help to discuss your situation with someone who understands what you're facing. Wishing you all the best. Remember that even small shifts can really make a difference. Juliet

jlpcoach Tue 11-Nov-14 13:58:33

Dear Barnet mums, I'm really enjoying your questions and hope you're finding my answers helpful. Please keep your queries coming till the end of this week.
I also wanted to let you know about some clutter coaching workshops that I'm running this month at the Clissold Arms, East Finchley for anyone that needs more time or space. The sessions all take place at 8pm and are fun and friendly, with an emphasis on sharing practical strategies and boosting motivations. The topics covered are:
- Overcoming Procrastination (18 Nov)
- How to make time and space for what matters (25 Nov)
- Getting organised before the holidays (2 Dec)
For more details and to book, please see:
Thanks and best wishes to all,

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