Tidy tips for tots

When you have young children it can be easy to let their toys and “stuff” take over the house. Here are some tips to tame toddler created disaster-zones.

1. Limit the amount of toys your kids have. I can’t stress this point enough. Small children do not need lots of toys. Pre-school children have limited concentration spans. When faced with an overwhelming amount of choice, many young children will find it difficult to settle at one task.

Discard any broken or inappropriate toys. Toys that are too young for your child can be donated to friends or charities. This also applies to any toys that your child does not enjoy playing with or has duplicates of.

Use the “one in, one out” rule. When a new toy is purchased or received, another must be donated. With babies and very small children it is best to make this decision for them, however as they get older children should be taught the rule and choose the toy to be discarded.

Rotating toys is a great way to limit the number of toys available for play at any one time. Less toys = less mess! Rotating also has the benefit of the kids feeling like they have brand new toys each time you change them.

2. Keep storage simple. Don’t make pack up time difficult for little ones. Keep toys in containers that can be easily moved around the house to make tidying up simple. Plastic tubs or baskets work well. Tubtrugs® (or similar) are a good choice.These type of containers are lightweight, flexible and highly portable, making them easy for little ones to use.

Make pack up time even simpler by labeling storage containers. Simple pictures or photos work best for littlies.

3. Show the way. Most of us are not born organised. Children need to be actively taught to be tidy.

Make pack up time a regular, predictable part of their daily routine. For example you might have pack up time before lunch, before dinner and again before bed. Several short sessions a day prevents the mess from getting out of control.

Be specific about what you want the children to do. An instruction of “Tidy up!” is not detailed enough for small children. You will have more success if you break the job down e.g. “Jack, pack up the pencils please. Milly, you can put away the cars.”

Make a game of it. Use an egg timer or kitchen timer and challenge the kids to finish before the timer goes off.

Reward kids for putting their toys away. Praise, hugs or even a small treat like a sticker, will motivate children to continue their tidy ways.

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Being organised isn’t always pretty…

When I tell people I am a Professional Organiser one of the common reactions I get is, “Oh my goodness don’t come to my house, you’ll have a fit! It’s so untidy.”

Let me tell you a secret… being tidy is not the same as being organised.

Often when we think about being organised we think about aesthetics. We equate beauty with order. A functioning orderly home can be beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be.

To me, being organised means structuring your environment in a way that makes life simple and stress free. If you can easily find your car keys, your kids are wearing clean clothes and you have fresh food in the fridge, congratulations! You’ve earned the right to call yourself organised (or at least somewhat organised!)

Recently I was working with a lovely client on her kids’ bedrooms. She’d done a great job of labelling her kids’ drawers so the children could find their clothes easily. She lamented that the clothes were somewhat jumbled up. Together we came up with a system for minimising the jumble. A few baskets and drawer dividers did the trick.  When it came to the pyjama drawer my advice was to leave it as it was. My client looked confused. “But it’s such a mess, ” she said.

I asked if her child could easily find what she wanted in the drawer.


“Can she easily put her PJs away?”

Again the answer was yes. Clearly the pyjama drawer was working, and therefore there was no need to “fix” it. The child in question was only three years old. If we’d made the system more complicated – like insisting on sets of PJs being placed together –  we may have confused or discouraged her. When she’s older her mum can build on the good habits she’s developing now and introduce more complicated systems if she wants. Or not.

When thinking about being organised in your home ask yourself these simple questions before making any changes:

 Is what I’m doing now working or not? If not, why not?

Will the change I’m considering make my life easier? Is it realistic, ie will I be able to maintain it in the long run?

And please, don’t ever be too afraid to invite me to your house. You’re probably more organised than you realise!

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Simple entertaining ideas

The festive season is entertaining season in my house. Over the course of the Christmas/New Year period we host several parties and also have several guests staying with us.

I love entertaining and having my friends and family around, but I really do not love cooking. Over the years I’ve discovered some very simple entertaining ideas that even those of us with very limited culinary skills can execute with ease.

Here are my favourites.

1. BBQs make for great, easy entertaining. (Especially if, like me, your partner is a wiz on the barbie!) No need to get fancy – we have often had sausage sizzles where we have offered different types of sausages and one other alternative, like barbequed chicken thighs.

2. If you are always the host for a particular event, ask others to share the load by bringing a plate of food to share. This cuts down the work considerably and allows everyone to enjoy the event.

3. Keep it simple. Most people over cater. There’s no need to offer several choices for each course. Don’t attempt difficult dishes that you haven’t made before. Here are a couple of simple dessert recipes that have gone down very well at our house:

Fruit skewers – strawberries/watermelon/marshmallows threaded onto wooden skewers. If you want to get fancy, melt some high quality chocolate, which can be poured over individual skewers. Easy, peasy!

Pavola nests – buy from the supermarket. Fill with freshly whipped cream and an assortment of berries. These look great on the table and are incredibly simple.

Have fun!



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Christmas shopping online

This Christmas my friends and I have been talking lots about online retailers and just how much shopping you can do online these days. After polling my friends I’ve compiled a list of links to our favourite online retailers. I haven’t personally used all of them, but those that I haven’t come recommended by friends.

I frequently use Fishpond and StrawberryNet and so far have had no issues with delivery. Both these retailers offer free shipping much of the time, which makes purchasing from them very attractive.

Feel free to add your own favourites in the comments.



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Christmas shopping tips to save you time

Today I was talking to a retailer about Christmas Carols. He said that he had noticed that the earlier the stores started playing Carols the more stressed his customers became. He believes many shoppers worry about how they will manage to get everything done in time for the big day.

With this in mind I thought I’d run through my top time-saving Christmas tips.

1. Have a plan for your Christmas shopping. Write a list of who you are buying for and perhaps some ideas of what to get. Using catalogues or browsing online can help you decide on appropriate gifts. Then (this is the critical bit!) decide which stores you will visit and in what order.  A little planning will prevent backtracking and save you time. I like to write a store by store list

  • Myer  – towels for K, t-shirt for D
  • K-mart – chocolates for gran, hairdresser and Mrs J. gift tags, wrapping paper
  • Kikki K – diary for P
  • Fishpond (online) – books for L, T and C.

2. Shop online. Many online retailers will provide free wrapping and delivery, saving you precious time.

3. Ask stores to gift wrap for you. Even if you have to pay a fee it can be worth having your gifts wrapped. They’ll look great and you can save hours if you give lots of gifts. Many stores will wrap gifts while you shop elsewhere, saving you even more time.

4. Get the Salvos to do the work for you! In my local shopping centre the Salvation Army have a gift wrapping stall where they will wrap gifts for a donation. This is a great way to contribute to a local charity while saving time. Check your local centre for similar services.

5. Shop locally. Save travel time and support local businesses at the same time.

6. Call ahead. Many stores will hold items for you if you do this. Even if they won’t hold goods, you can save time by finding out before you leave home if what you want is in stock.

Good luck!

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Christmas Mail

I’m sitting at home tonight wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards. I’ve just looked up the Australia Post website to check on the posting dates for overseas cards and found they have a wealth of information there, including estimated delivery times for mail going overseas, postage costs and even an official address for letters to Santa – reply guaranteed. I thought I would share the link with you.

Back to the wrapping for me…

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Clutter-free Christmas

The Christmas countdown is on! For most of us Christmas will mean the accumulation of extra “stuff”, especially for those of us with kids. While present giving and receiving in some form is almost inevitable at this time of year, there are ways to help minimise extra clutter coming into the house. Here are my tips for a Clutter-Free Christmas.

1. Declutter kids’ rooms now. This is very important if you think Santa will be bringing lots of new toys or if the kids have super generous grandparents, aunties, uncles or Godparents! Make room for all the new things coming in by clearing out unused items now. Donate any suitable toys to local charities. At this time of year especially they will be gratefully received.

2. Encourage relatives to give children consumable gifts: itunes cards, movie tickets, a special day out at a museum/sporting event/rock concert.

3. If you have a large family and receive many gifts, consider having a Kris Kringle with family members, where an amount to spend is decided on and only one gift per person is purchased.

4. If relatives or friends ask you what you would like, consider asking them to donate to your favourite charity instead of a gift. I personally love to give and receive gifts from Oxfam Unwrapped. The Charity Gifts website has lots of great ideas too.

5. Buy one colour wrapping paper (red, green, silver, white or gold.) Buy contrasting ribbon and wrap all gifts using these. This will same time (no decision to be made!) and space, and will also look stylish under your Christmas tree.

I’d love to hear your tips for a clutter-free Christmas.

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