virtual waste

Points – credit card points, loyalty points, rewards points
Now these are really hidden and can be incredibly valuable. Do a quick stocktake of all the accounts or memberships you have which earn you points – start with cards in your wallets, apps on your phone and statements mailed or emailed to you. Put them in spreadsheet – much easier to manage and track.

See if you’re close to getting enough points for something you’ve always wanted AND really need. Otherwise just use them for gift cards and movie vouchers which make great presents, can be used to buy presents or will save you time and money when Christmas and holidays come around.

If you can’t stand closing an account with a small number of points or throwing away the coffee card, check if there’s an expiry date and if so, when. Decide to make an effort to build up the balance then close the account after all the points are used. If it’s too much effort or not important or will cost too much, then decide to throw it out and don’t think about it anymore. Otherwise you’ll be wasting more time J Sometimes you can redeem small amounts (such as $5 iTunes voucher) or donate to charity.

If it’s something you want to keep such as frequent flyer points or credit card points then do a bit of research, sit down and check your points balance, review your spend to see how much you earn every month. Look at the catalogue and identify what you want to use the points for. Be realistic and aim for something you’re close to earning. Otherwise redeem regularly every time you get to a $20 or $50 gift card for a retailer you always use eg supermarket or department store. That way, the $20 you save on groceries just paid for your lunch and coffee with the girls.

Do you know what waste looks like?

by Helena Tosello

Rotting smelly food scraps, discoloured bits of building materials, crumpled paper and broken glass. Is this what you picture when you think of waste? But what about that silk top you bought on holidays two years which you’ve only worn once, the glass decanter wedding present you think is too snobby, or the designer handbag you consider too good to use? Aren’t these all just another form of waste? They may be nicer looking and smelling, but they are waste just the same. A waste of money, time, energy and storage. Could they be put to better use?

In our fast-paced, disposable society we are accustomed to the Reduce Re-use Recycle motto and campaigns to reduce waste in the office (print on both sides, email, don’t print at all); when eating out (restaurants which charge you more if you don’t finish your meal, bringing your own mug to the café for a discount) and shopping (say no to plastic). But have you thought about “hidden waste”, waste masquerading as clothes you’ll wear to a future job you might have one day or art supplies for the painter inside you which has not emerged since you were in school?

How many areas of hidden waste can you uncover in your life?

1. Keeping items for ‘Ron (contraction of “keeping items for later on”)
Did you know bone china which is not used and washed regularly becomes brittle and more likely to break? It’s true, so get those wedding dishes out and use them every day. Breakfast will never feel so glamorous. Wine in a fancy decanter tastes better and adds to your $10 bottle of red. Money saved and mood boosted. Think about items you have bought or been given which are seldom used because you think they are “too good”. What are you saving them for? The Queen? Use them. You are good enough. If you don’t want them or don’t have a genuine need, sell them or give them away.

Keeping things and not using is same as waste. Anything you have and don’t use is wasted. Why would you have waste sitting around your house? A use does not have to be tangible or practical. If an item such as artwork or jewellery gives you pleasure just by looking at it then put it on display.

2. Extra food served and/or eaten
If you don’t need it because you or the family have had sufficient sized portions then eating it is not only bad for your weight but a waste of leftovers which could have been tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. When serving a meal, place extra portions straight in containers into the fridge. You’ll be less likely to overeat.

3. Freebies
We all have things which come into the house unbidden. Rubber bands around newspapers, paper clips, envelopes, gift bags, pens, mail which is only printed on one side (!). Keep and use these items to save you money. They can all be re-used but only if you keep them stored in a logical place (where you use), know where they are and remember to use them.

Samples from magazines and shops are the same. If you don’t think you’ll use it, give it to someone who will. Or toss it, don’t keep it.

4. Time
Everyone has their time wasters – mine are called Sam and Max. Seriously, you’ll feel better if you can use this time, usually spent waiting on other people, doing something useful.

Here are some ideas:
* Waiting in your car for kids to finish sport or any activity – take a book or have an eBook on your phone as well and you’ll discover reading time you never knew you had, write in your diary or a shopping list, call a friend mum sister, clean out your handbag/glove box/wallet
* Waiting in waiting rooms – read (see above), catch up on trash, check Facebook, organise coffee, meals and other appointments, close your eyes and meditate
* Waiting in line – if you’re standing up you can do anything on your phone. Otherwise take the time to concentrate on your breathing and think of nothing at all. They say even 5 minutes of meditation daily is good for your health.

6. Unwanted Gifts
Two words: Gift Cupboard. I admit to keeping anything which comes into our home which could be regifted. They may have been given as gifts to you or your family, be duplicates, extras in a sale, anything. As long as original packaging is intact and any food items will not expire too soon, keep these items for those last minute birthday invitations and Kris Kringles. However a warning: these gifts will not save you time, money or energy if you forget about them and do not use them.

Look through all the items and decide if any can be used in the next few weeks. List what you have. Keep the list on your phone or in your handbag. There’s nothing worse than buying something only to find something similar at home.

See if anything just needs a couple of extra items to make it into a decent present. Think about when and what they can be used for. Eg upcoming kids birthdays, Christmas presents for teachers, coaches, neighbours.

Do a big clean out two months before Christmas and note when your local schools and churches are taking donations for presents and fetes. Anything unused by Christmas could go under a wishing tree in Kmart.

I would love to write about wasted opportunities but don’t feel qualified, being an advanced procrastinator myself. Though I did hear an interesting quote the other day:

“Good luck happens when opportunity meets preparation.”

Here’s to all of us being better prepared and less wasteful.

Helena is a mum in the middle of everything trying to regain the centre stage of her own life. She lives in inner west Sydney with two boys and a fly in-fly out husband. She enjoys coffee with friends, being organised, researching, sharing, and working on her fledging blog. You can follow her at

The Four Stages of Moving

Moving on from talking about moving… here are some tips that should save you some serious money

  1. De clutter and organise as soon as you know the date of moving. (or even if you are not moving, always a good idea in my books!)

This is the most cost saving tip I can think of – every item you decide to de clutter now will not be packed into boxes and will not cost you any further money!
De clutter: get rid of everything you don’t need any more or won’t need in the new house. Store like with like and label like crazy!

  1. Everything you don’t need in the next 6 month

Start packing everything you won’t need in the next 6 month: seasonal decorating, unseasonal clothing, sentimental value, kids toys and clothes for the future, Christmas crockery, rarely used board games…
number your boxes, clearly state the content, clearly state which room/area of the new house they will be going into. Store in the front of the garage till you feel you are done with that part of the move.
If you have the space, store them in the front of the garage, if not hire a storage space for 6 month. (When filling that space be aware, that what you put in first will come out last!)

  1. This should leave everything you need in the next 6 month in your house.

Keep sorting and purging, putting like with like. The more organised you live now, the more organised your move will be – because it will be easy for the removalist to pack your categories. Leave stickers and notes around the house, specifically on furniture, stating where they are going in the new house or if they are coming with you at all. This should leave a clear playing field for the removalist come moving day… You could even book a day at the spa or treat the family to a night in a hotel! You deserve it after all that preparation you have done; you can afford it with all the clutter you got rid off that you don’t have to pay being packed and moved!

  1. Everything you need on the moving day and first day in the new home

Think of it like a holiday; pack a suitcase with your most important documents  (Grab and Run File) some snacks and treats, something for the kids to do on their own when parents get stressed and busy, important phone numbers, chargers, two or three changes of clothes, bed linen…
Place it in a designated area and communicate to everyone what this is and that its NOT going to be packed under any circumstances. The car works well for this!
A friend of mine moved the whole family overseas, with two kids under six. The removalist accidently packed the bag with very important documents, including the passport! We tried to get emergency passport parallel to unpacking the whole container at the depot. The bag was found in the end, but the stress was huge!

Kitchen de clutter – continuing

de cluttered your  kitchen? Retrofitting idea

This is a good option to utilize the full depth of your cupboards. Once you organise like with like: pasta with pasta, spices with spices, ready made meal ingredients…  Store them in these longish containers and when you look for something just take the whole container out onto the kitchen bench or rest on the ledge of the shelf!
(Also available in a wide version.)

Howard’s Storage
Amalie Pullout Organiser – Narrow

$9.95pull out drawer

I get the Shits!!

I personally organise when I get the shits!!

How often should I….go through my pantry… de clutter my wardrobe?
How much … memorabilia…office supplies… pots should I keep?
It s a simple question, but there is no simple answer. Everyone is different and everyone has to set their own standards.
I personally work like this: I do it when it gives me the shits!
We are having guests tonight and I am seeing a client this afternoon, so I dedicated the morning to cooking.  When I opened my pantry, it looked like this… too messy for me.
 I get the shits and just start; pull everything out, give the cupboard a wipe, de clutter, de canter and re organise.
Took me half an hour and now I am off to cooking Osso Bucco with homemade German egg noodles (Spaetzle).

How to De Clutter your Kitchen – 5 min at a time

A step-by-step guide to de cluttering the most used room in the house.
by Helena Tosello

You’re always in there waiting for something boil, cool down, or deciding what to feed the kids. Use those snatches of time to do a bit of de cluttering and give yourself a lift.

Day 1 – baby steps – Cutlery drawer
can’t find something? Take a few minutes to put everything where it should be and quickly (this is the key) remove the items you never use quickly (that word again) decide whether to keep the removed items in a more practical place or throw/donate them.

Day 2 – that’s not so hard – Utensil drawer
same as above but should be quicker as it should be more obvious which tools are used more than others. Are the spatulas getting tangled with the whisks and wooden spoons? Consider moving serving utensils to the cutlery drawer as you mostly use them for meals or moving the baking items to a compartment in the cupboard with the baking trays and pans. Or place some items the opposite way to others so they get caught on each other.

Day 3 – getting the hang of it-  Pantry
when you’re next preparing a meal and have a few minutes while something simmers take a look at the condiments, oils, herbs and spices. Quickly take out all the bottles and jars and toss items past their use by date unless you have a plan to use it that day. Wipe the bottom of everything and wipe out the shelf where they live. Put everything back where they are easy to reach.

Day 4 – do a little bit every day – Fridge
this will probably take a few bursts but you never know, you might get carried away and do the whole thing in one go! This is easiest to manage when a shelf becomes bare or has only a few items. Just before the big grocery shop or after an event are good opportunities. As soon as you can see half a shelf or rack empty in the fridge, take a moment to remove the rest of the items from the area. Toss out expired items; wipe the top and bottom of the shelf and the bottom of anything you return to the fridge. Plan when you are going to use up anything close to its expiry date.

When do I find these 5 minute bursts you ask?
While the kids are finishing breakfast and getting ready to leave for school.
While you wait for something to start boiling or finish simmering.
When you check which items need to be purchased on a trip to the supermarket (though you should keep a running list of items as they run out. Will save you time when making your shopping list)
Waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee plunger to plunge or the coffee machine to warm up
Waiting for the tea bag/leaves to steep. (Twinings recommend 3-5 minutes.)
Helena  is a mum in the middle of everything trying to regain the center stage of her own life. She lives in inner west Sydney with two boys and a fly in-fly out husband. She enjoys coffee with friends, being organised, researching, sharing, and working on her fledging blog. You can follow her at   or

Angel Gowns

Not everyone is a mother, not everyone wants to be.
But there are far too many out there that have lost a baby. Angle Gown is a charity that collects your donated wedding gown and has volunteer seamstresses craft tiny little Angel gowns out of them – for “little Angels that grew their wings”. Check out their website and consider letting go of your wedding dress or if you love sewing, become one of their seamstresses.

Happy Mother’s Day

Duplicate Finder

Peter Walsh always says, that de cluttering is not about the stuff. It’s about you changing your attitude. Every item you own is a point on your to do list and occupies a space in your mind!
This applies to non physical stuff,too. All the things we have on our computers!
I have written about de cluttering your e mails, but this is better and bigger; it’s about de cluttering your whole computer.

A colleague of mine found this online program and posted it on our Facebook group  (an AAPO members only group on Facebook). Lots of POs tried it and because we are all into de cluttering we all got a real buzz out of it.
I started the search at night – it took a good 45 min to get the list with results. The next morning, I started deleting files, still in my PJs and didn’t stop till lunch… that’s how exciting it is!
Give it a go:
This is is a screenshot of my results and rather than just pressing ‘delete’ I went over it and found whole folders that could be deleted, some of them so big, the recycling bin didn’t have space in it.
Don’t forget to empty your recycling bin afterwards (or even in between)
I got so inspired I went through my whole private inbox and deleted another 1200 e mails.

There is something similar for devices and mobiles, like Duplicate manager (android).
The whole exercise inspired not just me, but hubby had a go at all the German movies we have downloaded over the last 5 years.
He took a different approach and moved all movies to one external hard drive and then I had the privilege to run the duplicate finder and deleted all doubles , and a fair bit of crap– now we are down to just one hard drive for our videos.