How to tackle overwhelming clutter

Clutter isn’t just a physical problem. When your possessions cover every surface in your home, spilling out of drawers and toppling out of cupboards, it affects us mentally. Moreover, our physical environment can have a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing. So it’s no surprise that when the clutter is bad, it’s overwhelming. You don’t know where to start. You can’t imagine a time without clutter – but at the same time, you can’t imagine willingly going on like this.

When the clutter is really overwhelming, you want to make a big impact. Decluttering one item a day isn’t going to have the immediate impact that you want it to. Instead, you want a big ‘push,’ to really tackle the overwhelming clutter.

Block out a day – or a full weekend

You need a good stretch of time for this. You need to block out a good stretch of time, ideally during the day, when you can do this. Personally, I’d try to do it alone – so if you have young children, get your partner to take them out for the day. If you desperately want company when you’re decluttering, or if you want your partner there, that’s fine, but make sure you keep focused on your purpose and don’t get distracted.

Decide on your vision

Spend some time beforehand thinking about what you want your home to look like. Give yourself a reason for the clear spaces that you will create: I want a clear space here so that I can prepare food easily. The floor will be clear so that we can play one game at a time. Try to imagine this in as much detail as possible.

Work out your exit strategy

Not for you – for the stuff you’re going to get rid of. Will you be able to take things to the tip/charity shop etc very quickly? Don’t have things lying around once you have decided to get rid of them – you will find them making their way back into your newly decluttered space.

Ideally, you want to get the decluttered items out of the house on the day you declutter them, before you start questioning your judgement!

Clear a working space and gather your equipment

You will also need bin bags and boxes. The boxes will be for putting away – things that have a home, but haven’t been put away. Work until the box is full, then put it ALL away. If you have several children, you probably will find it useful to have a box per person.

If paper clutter is a big issue for you, have a separate box for paper clutter. Put anything paper-related into that box.

Identify your biggest win

Choose a room downstairs – living room, kitchen, dining room – where the clutter is very noticeable. If it feels like it’s noticeable everywhere, start in the kitchen.

Start small: immediately throw away anything that obviously needs getting rid of. Then work from one side to another, clearing everything. Either put it away or declutter it. If you know you want to keep it, but don’t know where it should go, put it in your chosen space.

Be strict with yourself. Keep working until the space feels clear. Keep working until it’s done. I know it’s exhausting, but getting one room done will be absolutely motivating for you.

You will probably end up with several ‘putting away’ boxes, a paper clutter box and a lot of things to get rid of. Get rid of them as soon as possible.

Put the paper clutter to one side for now, and put away everything in the the tidying box.

Then move to the next room.

Once you’ve worked through the downstairs, you will have a group of things that you didn’t know where to store. Decide if you really need them, and then decide where to put them.

Tackle the paper clutter separately

Paper clutter is a very separate and distinct category, in my experience. Once you’ve tackled the main living areas, you’ll probably need a day to set up your filing system and to work through shredding and scanning the other bits and pieces.

Decluttering happens once – kind of

You will find yourself eventually really enjoying the decluttering results. You’ll feel lighter and happier. You’ll find you have more time, as you will be able to clean, find things and enjoy your home. Most importantly, you’ll no longer be overwhelmed by clutter.

But you might find you need to repeat this process a couple of times. The first time round, you’ll keep things that you don’t really love, but that you want to love. That’s fine. The second time around, you’ll be more aware of what you really do love and really need. The third time around, you’ll have refined your vision.

In HER Shoes: Anna

So we come to our final week on our New Testament heroines: Tabitha, Lydia, Priscilla, Lois and Eunice, and finally, Anna.

Anna’s story appears in Luke 2, when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to be presented to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

In our group this week, we really focused on Anna’s life. A few things really stood out:

The Life of a Widow

We’re told, in surprising detail, perhaps, that Anna was a widow who was married for only 7 years before her husband died. When she is mentioned, she is either 84 or has been widowed for 84 years. Many Bible scholars put her age at around 105, if she married at age 14. So she has lived as a widow for many, many years. We do not know if she had children – perhaps at this stage, she has outlived them.

So perhaps she has had a lonely life. Or perhaps it has allowed her the independence to really seek after God’s own heart.

Worship, prayer and fasting

We are told that she worshipped day and night, praying and fasting. In a time when God had been silent for 400 years, she did not lose sight of His promises. She is so focused on God and who He is.

This has made me think about worship, prayer and fasting. As you can imagine, I am all about routine and I believe regular worship, prayer and fasting can only help us grow closer to God. While I love sung worship, and play worship music a lot, and I’d say my prayer life is regular, I don’t often fast. I’d really like to develop a habit of fasting.

A prophet

Anna is the only female prophet named in the New Testament. She recognises immediately that Jesus is the Messiah whom she had been waiting for. She speaks out to those who were in the Temple at the time and told them about Jesus’ coming redemption.

Surely it was because of her devotion to prayer, worship and fasting that she was able to recognise the Messiah so quickly?

Despite her age, despite her widowhood, despite her possible eccentricity compared to other women, God used and blessed Anna greatly. In each of the women we have studied, we’ve seen how God has used them. They have been faithful, loving and obedient, and have been blessed as a result. For Anna, this took a long, long time, but surely, it is worth that time.

Our next heroine?

Next week, we’re moving on to look at Rahab, one of the Old Testament heroines. I really hope you can join us in the Mummy Meditations Community to discuss her actions and her impact.

We’ll be starting with Matthew 1:5 as our key verse, which is from the genealogy of Jesus:

…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse…

How to deep clean a kitchen

If you’re following the 10 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, be prepared: today is a big one – the kitchen.

I’m not going to apologise; there’s a lot to do here. But we use the kitchen a lot, it gets messy and sticky, and a good deep-clean is probably very welcome.

Remember to declutter as you go. Ask yourself if you need, use and love the objects enough to clean them regularly. If not, get rid of them!

What do I need?

Gather your supplies. Today, you’ll need:

  • Dusters (including a feather duster)
  • Several wet cloths
  • Kitchen/surface spray
  • Floor cleaner
  • Mop/cloth/bucket
  • Window cleaner
  • Window cleaning cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Bin bag
  • Towels/kitchen towel/hairdryer
  • Cool bag

Hall, Stairs and Landing Deep Clean: Step by Step

  1. Empty the freezer into a cool bag and put into a cold place. Switch off the freezer and leave the door open.
  2. Clean the oven – hopefully you put the oven cleaner in last night.
  3. Put the hob fixtures in to soak if they can be removed.
  4. Clean the light fittings.
  5. Work your way around the room focusing on the top units. Wipe them down (including the tops), wipe the doors. If you want to, empty them out, wipe down the shelves and re-stock.
  6. Clean the cooker hood. You may need to replace or clean the filters – find out more here.
  7. Clean the hob.
  8. Clean the windows and mirrors.
  9. Empty the fridge, wipe down and wash shelves.
  10. Use the hairdryer/hot water to melt any remaining ice from freezer. Wipe down and wash baskets/boxes.
  11. Switch freezer back on.
  12. Remove all objects from the surfaces and wipe them down.
  13. Wipe down surfaces really thoroughly.
  14. Work your way around the room focusing on the bottom units. Wipe them down and wipe the doors. If you want to, empty them out, wipe down the shelves and re-stock.
  15. Wipe down skirting boards and kick boards underneath cupboards.
  16. Wipe down door handles and light switches.
  17. Clean sink.
  18. Put all utensils from surfaces back into place.
  19. Empty bins, disinfect them and allow to dry.
  20. Vacuum or sweep floor.
  21. Mop floor.

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 16 – 20th April

Welcome to Week 16 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

We did fairly well at sticking to our meal plan last week, although it was a bit of an unpredictable week: both Tim and Samuel were ill, so we had grandparents with us on Monday night, I had parents’ evening on Tuesday night and we had several days of gloriously hot weather. I switched a few things around and it all worked out ok.

This week, I’m aware that we’ve got quite a few things stashed in the freezer – things like 2 chicken breasts leftover from a big pack, and some leftover portions of things. So I’m going to try very hard not to do any supermarket shopping – just for things that perish quickly or we get through a lot, like fruit and yoghurt. Does anyone else get through a lot of yoghurt? I think we could easily get through 15 in a week.

Saturday: Chicken Fajitas

Sunday: Pasta carbonara

Monday: Beef Tagine (from the freezer)

Tuesday: Stuffed peppers with leftover pork mince

Wednesday: Fish fingers, chips and peas – it’s going to be really busy as Samuel has a medical appointment and we won’t get home until late

Thursday: Beef stir fry (beef in freezer)

Friday: I hardly ever say this, but either a takeaway or a pub dinner. It’ll be pay day and after a week of using up meals from the freezer, I think we’ll deserve it.




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How to clean your hall, stairs and landing

If you are following the 10 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, today is Day 5. Today may well be a fairly easy day. We’re doing the Hall, Stairs and Landing.

As you are cleaning, you will come across things you no longer need, use or love. Please take this opportunity to get rid of them. There is no point in keeping anything you are not prepared to clean, and it’s much easier to clean a decluttered room than one that is full of stuff you don’t really love.

What do I need?

Gather your supplies. Today, you’ll need:

  • Dusters (including a feather duster)
  • A wet cloth
  • Floor cleaner
  • Mop/cloth/bucket
  • Window cleaner
  • Window cleaning cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Bin bag

Hall, Stairs and Landing Deep Clean: Step by Step

  1. Dust the light, fixings and corners of the ceiling.
  2. Dust the walls.
  3. Remove the curtains and wash them, or shake them thoroughly.
  4. Clean the windows and mirrors.
  5. Remove all objects from flat surfaces and wipe them down.
  6. Dust all flat surfaces.
  7. Dust skirting boards.
  8. Wipe down door handles and light switches.
  9. Empty bins.
  10. Vacuum or sweep floor.
  11. Mop floor if appropriate.
  12. If you’re following the 10 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, put oven cleaner in your oven tonight.

How to Spring Clean Your House Exterior

If you’re following the Spring Cleaning Challenge, this is the final day.

Today,  we are going to clean the exterior of our homes. We’re not going to do it all – instead, we’re really going to focus on the most obvious aspects. You will need dry weather to do this, so pick a day when it’s not raining.

What do I need?

Gather your supplies. Today, you’ll need:

  • Broom
  • Dustpan and brush
  • A few cloths
  • Bin bag
  • Gardening tools

Exterior Deep Clean: Step by Step

  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Weed the front garden for 20 minutes. Cut back any shrubs that need cutting back.
  2. Sweep the front path or driveway.
  3. Using hot, soapy water, clean your windowsills. If you don’t have your windows cleaned regularly, clean the windows too.
  4. Set your timer for 20 minutes and tackle the back garden.
  5. Sweep paths.
  6. Mow the lawn if it’s growing – usually mid-April in the UK.
  7. Tidy the edges of the lawn, especially around paths.
  8. Shape the shrubs if they are out of shape. Just some gentle pruning to tidy things up.


Staying Motivated to Clean, Tidy and Organise

Since I’ve been writing The Organised Life Project, I’ve noticed the same question coming up over and over again. In a nutshell, how do you stay motivated to clean, tidy and organise?

The comments are always similar: “Great stuff – now I just need to find the motivation to do it.” “If only I was as energetic and motivated as you.” “I get going for a bit but then I get distracted and before I know it, it’s a mess again.” “I love these ideas, just need to get motivated.” And so on. Sound familiar?

The thing is, I’m definitely not naturally that organised. I’m over-ambitious, and think I can get more done than I really can. I’m an optimist, rather than a realist. But my life has been so busy that I needed to get organised. Now that I am fairly organised, things just run so much more smoothly. I’m less stressed. I enjoy my home more. I enjoy my family more. Perhaps surprisingly, I have more time for myself.

Have a vision

I am a real dreamer, so putting together a vision of a calm, uncluttered, peaceful home was very easy for me. However, I share that home with a husband who loves his projects and two boisterous boys. Plus, like everyone, we have a limited budget so there are some rooms which won’t be getting makeovers for a very long time.

Instead, now, my vision involves everyone: opportunities for lots of creative play; a calm environment for focused work; systems and routines that work so effectively it’s almost automatic; a relaxed, cosy and comfortable home. This also involves everyone being able to share the jobs and tasks, and everyone being able to feel that they are part of the home – including guests and visitors.

Take some time and put together your vision. You may like to work through a typical day, thinking about what your home would be like at each stage of the day. You may like to share this process with your family too.

At one point this weekend, I looked around. There were toys pretty much everywhere (the Hot Wheels tracks were being tested by Lego Ninjago villains, who were being fought by the Go Jetters while Peter Rabbit made tea), I was cooking dinner according to our meal plan, the laundry was completely under control, the cleaning was done and the house had a busy but productive feel to it. The key thing for me was that I knew where every single toy, every single ingredient and piece of equipment belonged when we had finished with it – and so did everyone else. Tonight, Ben tidied up before dinner and Tim helped him with the last few pieces before bed. That’s pretty close to my vision

Take responsibility

I think this is going to be slightly controversial, but if you want your home to be organised, you have to take responsibility for it. I know that in an ideal world, everything would be split equally with our partners, but in the first instance, if you want to get organised, you need to make the effort.

The first stages to getting organised are decluttering and then establishing routines. The initial decluttering should really only happen once, and then you may need to seasonally declutter. The routines can be shared really easily by specifying who is responsible, once you have cleared the clutter.

No-one else is going to get you organised. You need to do it for yourself. If you take your family along with you, so much the better. But you need to take responsibility for yourself here. Similarly, children will not organise themselves – you need to teach them how to do it.

Know what to prioritise

When I’m feeling low on motivation, I do the things which have the biggest impact. I grab boxes and tidy all the surfaces. You would not believe the difference that makes!

Learn to walk into a room and identify the biggest problem. Is it the laundry mountain? Or the stack of library books? What is making you feel stressed and guilty? Tackle it, quickly, and take note of the impact on how you feel. I’ll bet you feel a lot better after just 10 minutes.

Similarly, identify the things that are stopping you getting organised. Most of the time, this will be unnecessary clutter. Once you identify the problem, you will start to look for solutions.

Don’t over-think: Just do it

I’m a huge fan of a timer. You can accomplish a huge amount in 10 minutes, and double that in 20 minutes. If you’re feeling low on motivation and energy, promise yourself that you’ll stop in 10 minutes – I’ll spend 10 minutes cleaning, then I’ll stop. Most of the time, you’ll get the job done in 10 minutes.

So much of our lack of motivation and focus comes from internally. We tell ourselves that we’re too tired, or that it’s not worth it. This is the time to return to your vision and know that it will be worth it.

I think these are the things that have really helped me to stay motivated – plus having the external accountability of the blog and regular visitors to our home! There are some things I’m still working on, and it’s definitely an ongoing process, but I do now really love my home and feel calm, organised and purposeful here.

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 14 – 6th April

Welcome to Week 15 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead


Despite doing a meal plan last week, it went completely out of the window when my husband said he would pop to the shops to pick up a few things for lunch. I had planned to do a food shop on Monday – I usually pick it up on my way home from work – so we didn’t have very much in. Well, when he was in Aldi, Tim decided to take advantage of the offers he saw and pick up several packets of fish. So we didn’t actually eat from our meal plan at all last week. By the time we’d had cod and salmon on Monday and Tuesday, I didn’t think I could do Kedgeree or Fishcakes at the end of the week. So I ended up going completely off plan.

It’s a bit frustrating when that happens, because I like to plan our meals both for variety and cooking time. As I’ve said before, on my working days I like to have really simple, easy meals that take little attention and little time. However, it is a good reminder that sometimes I can control things too much and I need to be able to let my husband make choices for our dinners too.

As a result, we’re having very similar meals this week to what I had planned for last week!

Saturday: Roast Pork

Sunday: Leftover Pork, Rigatoni and Tomato Bake

Monday: Frittata

Tuesday: Prawn stir fry

Wednesday: Lamb steaks, new potatoes, salsa verde and vegetables

Thursday: Kedgeree with smoked haddock

Friday: Fishcakes




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How to get your kids to tidy up

Like many parents, I find it really difficult when the toys are all over the floor at the end of the day. When the children are small, it’s much more understandable – they often cannot put their toys away. But once they get into toddlerhood, they are definitely capable of learning! After 14 years of teaching and nearly 6 years of parenthood, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. So, here’s how to get your kids to tidy up!

Make it the routine

In my home, we have set times for clearing up after play. These are usually before meal times and before we go out. I don’t like to be too strict and structured about putting toys away as soon as they have been finished with as one form of play often blends with the next. Octonauts figures can often be found in Duplo houses, for example. As my children get older – and can concentrate for longer on one form of play – I will encourage them to tidy up once they’ve finished playing with each choice.

Model it

You’re probably doing this already, but your children need to see how you tidy up. Are you focused, fast and efficient? Or do you get distracted and then it becomes an endless chore? In the same way, if you put everything back into the place where it belongs, you will model to them the idea of tidying up effectively.

Make it a challenge

Put a timer on and see if you can get the space tidied before the buzzer goes. An upbeat song or music will also work well.

An alternative might be to see how many toys each person can put away, and make it a bit of a competition. This is really useful when you have lots of bigger toys but can get annoying when you’ve been playing with Lego!

Give a prize

My eldest son’s teacher has a ‘secret object’ which she picks out before they tidy up. It’s usually a really tiny piece of paper or something similar. She watches to see who gets the secret object, and then rewards them with a sticker. I usually won’t let the children have screen time until it’s tidy.

Use the box method

If you’ve got a home that is really looking chaotic, give everyone a box. Stick together and tackle one room at a time. Everyone has to pick up things that need putting away. After a certain amount of time, challenge each other to put the objects in their box away. This is brilliant with older children too – to be honest, it’s the tidying method I use for myself when things have got out of order!

Keep decluttering your toys

Toy clutter can feel absolutely overwhelming. Keep on top of the clutter by regularly going through the toys – monthly at first and then seasonally – and getting rid of any your children don’t play with regularly. For more ideas on decluttering toys, read this post.

Invest in the right storage

Make it easier for your children to tidy up by making sure you use storage that is accessible for them. If it’s clearly labelled – either with words or pictures – it’ll be easier for them to put the right toy in the right box. For more storage ideas for toys, read this post.

In HER Shoes: Priscilla

This week, we’ve been looking at a woman who is mentioned a few times in the New Testament: Priscilla. I know Rachel found our study of Lydia very inspiring last week, and I’ve found Priscilla to be similarly inspiring.

The verse we focused on was from Romans 16:3-5:

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.

So who was Priscilla?

Priscilla is mentioned six times in the New Testament, and always with her husband, Aquila. So she was Aquila’s wife. Interestingly, though, she is very much Aquila’s equal and partner in ministry. His name is mentioned first three times, and her name is mentioned first three times.

They were Jewish tent-makers who lived in Rome and converted to Christianity. We don’t really know when this was, but they travelled with Paul and were missionaries with him.


In the verse we have studied, we see that Paul says, “They risked their lives for me.” This was a time when it was incredibly dangerous to be a Christian, and tradition does actually say that Priscilla and Aquila were later martyred, although we have no proof of this. So Priscilla’s faith was strong; she was brave and dependent on Christ.

This not only challenged my own faith – would I risk my life for Christ? but also made me think about persecuted Christians around the world. I’ve spent some time praying for Open Doors this week and for those who are persecuted for their faith.

Church leader

There is a church that meets in their home. It’s very likely that Priscilla and Aquila established this church and led people to Christ there. In one of the stories about them, in Acts 18, they gently correct Apollos, taking him to one side to explain to him fully about the coming of Christ. So Priscilla is a teacher and church leader.

I find this very, very encouraging. In the UK, in some churches, there are still whispers about women in the church. We’ve only had women bishops for a few years. In so many churches, the leadership tends to be male. We know Jesus saw women as equals: Priscilla is also seen as an equal in her church.

Ministry with her husband

In our Facebook group, I asked about having a joint ministry with your husband, if you have a husband and if he is a believer. Did we think it was an essential? Did we think it was important? Desirable? Something we should strive for?

The women in our Facebook group shared openly and honestly. Some people felt they had a very clear ministry with their husband and that they complemented each other effectively. Others felt that it was something that would be nice, but that certainly wasn’t essential. Their own area of ministry was quite different to their husbands’. Others felt that their husbands – while perhaps not sharing their ministry – really supported that ministry.

Many of us have small children, and raising those children is a big part of our ministry. I’ve felt challenged this week to pray for how I can minister with my husband while juggling two small children – not an easy challenge.

Next week, we move on to look at Lois and Eunice in 2 Timothy 1:5: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Don’t forget, you can also join in with the discussion in our Mummy Meditations Community over on Facebook.