Cleaning a fence

Sometimes renovation just means cleaning.

On the weekend, my partner and I tackled the back fence. It had clearly never been cleaned in a long time. There was an old trellis supporting some scrawny, nondescript plants, and the wood was covered in green mossy built up from years of neglect.

I snipped off the daggy old metal trellis with a pair of bolt cutters. The cutters made short work of the old plastic-coated metal. Bolt cutters are one of my favourite tools – I always feel like a superhero when I’m bolt-cutting something!

My other favourite tool is a sledgehammer 🙂

Usually I like to salvage materials where possible, but the trellis was probably 30 years old, and no good for anything except disposal, being plastic-coated. It has gone to landfill now.

I left the old fencing nails that had been used to attach the trellis in the fence. They were well nailed in, and pulling them out might damage the fence. Besides, they blended in and didn’t bother me too much once the trellis was gone.

Sometimes it’s better to leave old nails in place. If I’d desperately wanted to remove them, a quick snip at the elbow with bolt cutters before teasing the ends out with pliers would do the trick.

The old plants were snipped apart with a pair of secateurs (they weren’t very big plants!), and went into the compost, not being large enough to burn.

One of the plants was a rose, so I cut it down to the base, and will dig up the root stock and transplant it.

A job for another day!

The rose bush and other plants hadn’t been pruned in a long time and were no good. I’ve saved the rose root stock though, and will transplant it elsewhere.

The water blaster was the perfect tool for the job of fence-cleaning and removing all the green built-up.It was pretty filthy!

Half the back fence done. My partner Matt got a bit bored and started “drawing” with the water blaster in the moss build up. Could’ve been worse – at least it was just a number!

There! Two hours later it’s much better!

Looks like a new fence now! So much better!

Just one afternoon of work can make a huge difference.

Looking after a house and garden and keeping them in good order is often just a matter of easy jobs performed regularly.

It’s also a matter of having the right tools. A water blaster made this job really easy, but if we didn’t have one, we’d have used scrubbing brushes and soapy water – plus elbow grease.

Over the next year we have our work cut out for us. We’ll be painting the entire house, inside and out, and remodelling a bathroom that is truly antiquated. Plus we’ll be doing a lot of gardening, making our outdoors a lovely place to be.

I’m looking forward to all of it!

5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.

Decluttering before Christmas

One of the simplest and best habits to keep clutter under control during the holiday season – particularly kid clutter! – is to have a big clear out before Christmas.

My kids actually really enjoy clearing out their stuff prior to the Big Day. They associate getting rid of old belongings with making room for new, better items.

They see decluttering as a good thing, not a bad thing.

We set aside an entire day to do the job. Like most decluttering sessions, we work by category and give the process plenty of time. The kids themselves choose what is to go and what stays – although I’m there to help with suggestions and advice if they need it.

We set aside anything that is good enough to give to friends or to charity in a separate pile, and make sure it gets delivered right away.

Electronics and computer games go into a third pile, as they can be resold or traded for extra cash. The kids love this! So do I, as it’s an excellent lesson in how little things are worth once they become second-hand. The kids have become much wiser and now shop for their computer games in the “trade and save” section of the electronics store. They’ve wised up 🙂

We’re quite ruthless with the pre-Christmas clearout. My kids and I know, from experience, that once the new stuff arrives the old stuff would largely get ignored anyway. So it makes sense to pass it all on, so there’s plenty of room to appreciate the new stuff.

And you know what? We’ve never once regretted getting rid of anything. Not one thing.

So here’s my short list of tips for an effective pre-Christmas clearout:

    1. Give it plenty of time. Clearing out with my kids takes a whole day. Kids often take time to decide. Don’t push them.

    2. Work by category. An example of this is my daughter’s art supplies. Instead of sorting them where we find them, we gather everything together in one place, then sort them through, eliminating everything she doesn’t need or use. This sort of stuff sure piles up through the year!

    3. Suggest new owners. Help kids remember that their cast off items can be of genuine use to others. Their favourite shirt that no longer fits may make a friend very happy. A too-short jacket may keep another child warm through winter. Most children are kind by nature and love to know they are helping others.

    4. Remind them that new items are coming. If kids are wary about passing their old belongings on, remind them that Santa is on his way, and room will be needed for the new items!

    5. Teach them the value of trading and selling with high-priced items. Take the kids down with items to trade and sell and give them the money they earn from selling their items. They’ll soon want to get rid of more unused items, be sure of it!

    6. Bag up items right away and take the children to the charity drop-off with you. Kids need to feel that their generosity is doing others good. They should be a part of the whole process.

    7. Clean their rooms together, top to bottom, once the clearout is done. Teach your child to take pride in their personal space. There! Doesn’t that look terrific?!

Are you planning a pre-Christmas decluttering session? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, I’d love to hear them!


Three easy jobs to outsource to your kids

If you’re a busy parent like me, you’re always looking for ways to make life easier for yourself while teaching your kids valuable life skills.

So here is my short list of three easy jobs to outsource to your kids.

Kids are generally a lot more capable than you think. Give them an incentive, and they’ll not only start to pick up great habits from helping out around the house, they’ll make your life easier doing it! So here we go.

1. Maintain their own space.

Notice I could have said Tidy their rooms but I didn’t. Personal space maintenance is something quite different. It includes not only making their bed each morning and taking their dirty washing out to the laundry every night, but keeping their own belongings organised in the home, around the home. Wherever they are.

So if your daughter – like mine – likes to draw at the dining table, part of her task is to clean up and keep everything neat and tidy once she’s done. Every single time. If it helps, buy her a small crate to keep her belongings in that can be easily transported and put away once she’s done.

Make organisation easy for kids – but be aware that making organisation easy isn’t always about buying organisational products. Usually it’s a plain matter of having less stuff.

Maintaining their own space includes putting their school bags away when they get home, and taking their homework and lunch boxes out of their bags ready for late afternoon.

It includes ensuring their belongings aren’t strewn around the house. It includes teaching them how to care for their clothing, and how to throw things away that are no longer needed. Outsource this task, and you’ll make life lighter and easier for yourself for years to come.

Maintaining their own space is all about making the house liveable for everyone else in the home – and it’s especially important that kids learn this skill in large families, which can rapidly descend into chaos if they don’t take care.

2. Prepare their school lunches.

Children over the age of 6 or 7 are fully capable of preparing their own school lunches. You can make this task easier for them by keeping the school lunch food all in one place, in one part of the pantry where everything is reachable and easy to find.

Keep a set routine of what kids take for lunch, and soon they’ll know what goes in their lunchboxes and be able to fill them all by themselves.

In my case, my kids make a sandwich each (and put it in a sandwich bag), add a piece of fruit, a packet of potato chips and usually a muesli bar or similar. It’s not hard for them to do, and they get it done right before breakfast. Right before they…

3. Make their own breakfasts.

My kids (age 12 and 9) make their own breakfasts. They get everything out ready, make breakfast, east, and tidy everything up once they’re done.

I do nothing for them. This small outsourcing operation frees me up to get ready myself, and it makes breakfast times faster and easier. I can sit and have a cup of tea, knowing my kids are managing for themselves and learning how to be capable, while saving me time and energy. It’s a win-win.

Buttered toastImage by Nacho Rascon

Outsourcing to kids is a huge win-win!

With the three simple outsourcing jobs above, I save hours of time a week. Plus, my kids are learning how to manage for themselves. As time goes on and they become teens, they’ll learn to do more and more around the home, but these are basics practically any child can do.

I believe that, as members of the family, kids have a responsibility to contribute to keeping things running smoothly. While they cannot contribute financially yet, they’re still able to do small tasks that add up in a big way.

So…have you outsourced any jobs to your kids yet? 🙂

Teach kids to maintain their own personal space. It's a first step towards genuine adulthood.

Teach kids to maintain their own personal space. It’s a first step towards genuine adulthood.

3 simple rules for keeping flat surfaces clear

Do flat surfaces in your home just seem to attract every single piece of junk that is lying around?

If you’re anything like me, flat surfaces have been an ongoing problem that can be hard to resolve – unless you have the tools and knowhow to stop them becoming serious clutter-collectors.

So here’s the three simple rules I use to keep flat surfaces clear:

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!
2. No more than three items on any flat surface.
3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I’ll be honest – these rules require discipline, and it takes time to learn to have discipline. But they’re great rules to have in your pocket, and they will keep flat surfaces clear if you begin to practice them throughout your home.

I talk about the 3 simple rules in a bit more detail below.

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!

In short, nobody wants you to display your clutter, your child’s dirty underwear or your unpaid gas bills!

Flat surfaces are for displaying items of value or purpose. They’re also for occasional use – for items we’re currently using then we put away again afterwards.

An example might be a television remote – we use it, rest it on a coffee table while we’re watching TV at night, then put it away safely in a drawer in when we’re done with watching.

In wet areas such as the kitchen, flat surfaces are for working and preparing food. Not for keeping knick-knacks and junk mail.

In the bathroom, flat surfaces are for personal grooming. Once we’re done using the flat surface to put our grooming tools on, the items are stored away again. Exceptions are a bar of soap, and maybe a glass containing toothbrushes and paste. Individual personal items should be stored out of sight and away, or a family bathroom can get cluttered really quickly!

If your flat surfaces are covered in stuff that isn’t “display” items or of current actual use, bag the items in a plastic bag, then sort through them. Discard anything you don’t use and find appropriate places for items of value and purpose.

2. No more than 3 items on any flat surface.

This is what I call my “Enid Blyton” rule, and it’s a good one 😉 In Blyton’s “The Naughtiest Girl in the School”, the protagonist learns that each child may have three items on her nightstand.

Three items should be enough for anyone on any flat surface. Having a set number of items for flat surfaces makes them easy to dust and keep clean, because you don’t have to move a host of items to wipe the surface down. It’s also safer in earthquakes or fires.

Some people choose to rotate their items, and others keep their items the same year after year. But the 3 item rule will help keep your flat surfaces clear.

flat surfaces clean

The top of my tallboy. Two perfume bottles and an antique horse that I’ve had for 30 years now. It’s easy to keep uncluttered surfaces clean 🙂

3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces about twice a week. My mother would be shocked at this – she wipes hers down every morning and night! 😉

Wiping down working surfaces helps keep things tidy. As you wipe, put away anything that shouldn’t be out on display, and bin anything that is post date. I’ve a habit of leaving cleaning products out after I’ve done with them, so wiping reminds me to put everything away.

For kitchens sponges and plugs, I keep a plastic container under the sink. I wring out anything that is wet, and store it out of sight. Because we have a dishwasher, there is no need to keep our plug and dishwashing liquid on the sink the whole time.

Items I keep on the kitchen bench all the time include: handwashing soap and the kettle. Sometimes the loaf of bread that is currently being eaten, as we go through a LOT of bread!

Why these rules? Why bother?

I like living in a relaxed, peaceful haven of a home. I don’t feel like I can ever truly relax when I’m looking around at piles of junk, washing to be sorted and put away, or clutter on flat surfaces.

Living in an uncluttered home is healthier, especially for people with allergies and disabilities. Clutter-free homes are easier to keep clean, and have lower levels of dust and dirt. It’s well-known that people who live in clutter-free homes are also relaxed and less stressed.

Then there’s the issue of health and safety. People have been trapped in homes and died in fires and earthquakes because their homes were too cluttered, especially in hallways and corridors. If nothing else, keep these narrow spaces absolutely clear.

Then there’s the cleaning. Anyone who is the principal cleaner in their home (*waves*) probably feels like they do enough of that already! Reducing the clutter makes cleaning easier and less time-consuming.

Give 3 simple rules for flat surfaces a try. Let me know how you get on! 🙂

What are you afraid of? It’s time to let go!

So much of our stuff we hang on to through fear.

Here are 17 reasons why we might be afraid to let go of all our clutter. Do some of these sound familiar?

  1. Fear we might need the thing tomorrow.
  2. Fear that old table of grandpa’s we always hated “might suddenly be worth something.”
  3. Fear the person who gave us our stuff might be upset if we get rid of it.
  4. Fear we might miss our old belongings, because they give us comfort.
  5. Fear we might change our mind and want the whatever-it-was back.
  6. Fear that we’ll fall on hard times and really need to sell the cheap jewellery our first boyfriend gave us.
  7. Fear that we wasted lots of money on stuff we didn’t need and we’re actually a bit of a fool.
  8. Fear granddad’s soul will rise from the grave if we sell his old, dilapidated chair.
  9. Fear the zombies will come and we really will need those hundreds of sachets of salt and pepper from McDonalds!
  10. Fear our children will hate us if we clean their rooms and throw away their forgotten toys, rubbish, and outgrown clothing.
  11. Fear that we’re a failure because we really were going to lose the weight and get into that old dress again someday.
  12. Fear that if we throw out our teenage clothes we actually are growing old after all!
  13. Fear that if we get rid of all those expensive hair tonics we really are bald, and the comb-over isn’t fooling anyone!
  14. Fear that throwing out expensive mistakes in our closets confirms that we actually did make mistakes. We’re human! Oh no!
  15. Fear that maybe we’re not the quilter / seamstress / mosaic artist we hoped we’d be when we bought all those craft supplies.
  16. Fear that grandma’s ghost will come back and haunt us if we sell her old china!
  17. Fear that our babies really have grown up and they don’t need their bunny rugs any more.


Let it go.
Let it all go.
It’s just stuff.

Own less: the key to kids and minimalism

Just when you think you have life sorted, you struggle. 

Kids make minimalism hard. The amount of stuff they have, they own, they dump everywhere. I feel like I’m in a never-ending process of washing, tidying, cleaning up. Do you ever feel the same way?

The only way to sanity is to own less. You can get organised all you like, but the junk will start to crawl its way across surfaces, across the floors, making everything a shambles, unless you own less.

My eight year old daughter is an artist. She produces new work daily, and I love seeing her growth and development in creativity. But unless I take a photo and share it quickly, then bin the results once I’m done, I soon end up with an uncontrollable pile of artworks, covering everything.

I need to remind myself continually that the process is what’s important for her, not the end result.

Kids need to learn that happiness doesn’t come from owning stuff. So don’t buy them things to make them happy. Cull regularly. Keep only a few special toys, and the rest are “very negotiable, may disappear at anytime, toys”.

Teach them that happiness comes from within, from friendships, from family, from love. Not from stuff.

Own less. Organising clutter is pointless, and will just delay the moment when your home becomes cluttered again. The key to sanity is owning less in the first place.