A Cupboard for all Occasions? Or Conservation Collecting gone wild?

When my first child started kindergarten, a note came home after a couple of weeks asking for
donations of household items for art and craft. Things like empty egg cartons, tissue boxes, yoghurt
containers, card board rolls from paper towels, bits of string and spare office paper.
That's where the trouble began.
Being a middle class parent wanting to do the best job of mothering my first-born I took to
this task with gusto. I knew you shouldn't do your child's homework but also that parents involved
and engaged with their child's education encouraged the best in school outcomes.
I proudly sent him to school with an egg carton. Then he told me that Lucy and Stevie* didn't have a carton
as they didn't eat eggs or their mother (shock horror) forgot. I started collecting things in anticipation of homework projects and the second child who would follow three years later.
But now I have a problem. My youngest child is now in year 6, admittedly the last year when home sourced
craft materials will be required, requested or indeed, desired. In fact the ubiquitous $2 shops
mean any manner of previously homemade items (cards, Easter egg collecting baskets, toy binoculars
- my own favorite from the Play School “Useful Box”) can be purchased with a minimum outlay of
time and money and the added cache of having something new and trendy to take to school.
“Emma's mum bought her shiny, sparkly poms poms! I don’t want to take the crooked ones you cut
from crepe paper even though you stayed up half the night cutting them.” You and I both know
that Emma’s mum probably spent less than I did - have you seen the price of crepe paper lately?
No more Easter hat parades or Book Week costumes or home-based projects of any magnitude (our
school heavily encouraged these items be made from "found" items - a nicely worded re-branding of
“rubbish”? )
I will have to start culling. But no, my inner conservation warrior protests, there are so many presents
I could make myself! Yes me. So I have started to collect recipes and articles on making jams and bath salts to fill
up my many glass jars, re-fashioned nice boxes and perfume packaging into holders of pencils and
make-up brushes. My boys have matching Lindt chocolate containers in the bathroom.
I now collect all sorts of packaging simply because it looks nice and/or useful.
But it’s getting out of control and taking over my kitchen. After long spilling out of the
kids crafts cupboard (where I’m still storing fabric scraps, cardboard, interesting plastic
tubs, origami paper and millions of stickers accumulated over the years), it's now
spread to the hard to reach cupboard above the range hood in the kitchen. Glass
bottles and jars of every size, ice cream containers, large yoghurt containers and
anything else that looks too useful to throw out. I can’t, and don’t want, to make jam
and bath salts all the time.
That's where I seem to have come unstuck. I see a use in just about everything now.
Well, if I'm not collecting for my own use then it's for others. For my niece’s daycare;
for the ladies at church and school who make craft items for fetes; for other people
making jam for fetes. Thank God for fetes!
I got addicted to that self-satisfied feeling when, at the last minute, I was able to
produce a small perfectly shaped plastic cap for Ned Kelly's helmet in a school project.
I had the perfect item. I was the perfect mother.
I think I might have a problem.
(*Names changed to protect the forgetful.)

Helena Tosello 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

How to time manage – cleaning your house

Nine ways to get it done! (if you have more, please share)
We might be living in the 21st century and have equal rights for men and women – but more than 50% of households I know don’t have a paid cleaner.
And I am sorry to say, it’s mostly the male partners in the equation that vote against that expense.
For different reasons, but one still is going along these lines:” my mum raised 5 kids and cooked everything from scratch, made jam and we had home baked goodies every day after school…. And she didn’t have a cleaner or any household help!”
That might be true, but lifestyle expectations have changed, for mums, dads and the kids. So let’s explore how you could manage to clean your house:
A: paid help:
1.       Hire a cleaner every week, tidy up beforehand so the cleaner just does the cleaning
2.       Hire a cleaner every second week, tidy up beforehand so the cleaner just does the cleaning
3.       Hire a cleaner to do the tidy and clean, every week, every day ???
4.       Have a concierge that organises the cleaning, tidying and shopping and runs errands.

B: do it yourself
5.       Tidy and clean one area of the house every day – one after the other
6.       Tidy and clean in one big go – all by yourself
7.       Tidy and clean in one day: get the family to do the tidying
8.       Tidy and clean in one go  – everyone in the household helps
C: mix it up
9.       Have a cleaner every second week and do one of B the other week

Have a look through all the options! Are there more? How do you do it?
And be aware that as your life changes, kids get bigger or more members of the family arrive, partners get promotions or need to work interstate – these arrangements have to be reviewed and should change.
This is what has happened in the LessMess household in the last 15 years.
With one child I did pretty much do No.5. Worked, but was a bit frustrating because you do end up cleaning every day!
When pregnant with child number 2, I was so sick, that we hired a cleaner to come every week.
That got reduced to every two weeks once the child was born and I felt better. Same happened for the third pregnancy.
10 years down the track, with the same lovely lady coming reliably every two weeks, she
just left us to learn English(!!!) and I decided that we would try to save that expense. As our kids are 15,13 and 10 we are doing it all together.
Everyone tidies up their area/mess.
Once that is done (and approved by me!!!!) everyone has to clean for a solid one hour in one week, ½ hour in the alternating.
With five of us in the house, that is a lot of cleaning done in a small timeframe. I actually sit down and make a list upfront, so I am prepared to give them new jobs when they come asking. I also make sure that tasks rotate, so if something doesn’t get cleaned that thoroughly by a 10 year old one week, an adult gets that job next and hopefully does a better job.
This is a good learning curve for the kids and a lesson in letting go for me!!

Why is this topic an organising one? Because any of the options above will be either less work or cheaper if you have an organised household, simple as that!!

Collaborative consumption

“…is a economic arrangements in which participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership. Often this model is enabled by technology and peer communities.” (Wikipedia)
I recently met with Lisa Fox, founder and co owner of renting website Open Shed and have since listed my own few items.
I am very happy to report that someone I already knew through the kid’s school picked up our fondue set the other day and I am communicating with a lady in my neighbourhood about the size of our stepladder and whether it would fit into her car.
Instead of buying an item that you may only use once you share it with your community.
It basically works on the idea of ‘what’s mine is yours’. Brilliant, when we’re all over-consuming!!
They just launched their new donate-to-charity feature, which means that users can now opt to donate a percentage or their entire rental fee to food rescue organization, OzHarvest. Every dollar raised provides two meals to vulnerable Australians.

More Colaborative consumption sites:
I use ebay, both for our family and for selling unwanted goods for customers. On a global scale Australia is fourth in rank of ebay sales – which is amazing considering the size of our population.

I freecycle regualry, again either our stuff, customers items from our front porch or bigger items from their home directly.
When all my worm farming worms died from an overindulgence of citrus peel, I got a new colony through freecycle by posting a ‘want’ item.
It makes sustainable sense and builds community.

We  used Happyhousesitter  on various occasions to find someone looking after garden and cat when we are away.

I personally never used AirBnB, but had a browse through their website. What a good read – who doesn’t want to dream about a holiday in a treehouse or check out the accommodations on offer in one’s native neighbourhood

I know the lady who runs Airtime or taskrunners: a website  to find some helping hand for odd jobs I can’t (or don’t want to) do yourself.

You can bake and cook up a storm at MamaBake and I have realised that my German community has been doing this for the last 5 years on Mondays after the kid’s German lessons – and a special one each year before Christmas to get all the traditional Christmas cookies out of the way

For the same German language project I gave someone in Syria through fiverr  the gig to design a logo and facebook banner for $5!

If this got you interested, here are more. Some also have fantastic Smartphone apps. Check with Playstore or AppStore
Hub Sydney
Pop up Brands

GoGet CarShare

Too many e mails!

Almost everyone I know stores too many e mails. It makes it harder to find something, your e mail programme will load and act slower or they might just bother you  – like any other clutter in your life.
Here are a couple of tips on how to have less in your inbox.
Just commit to doing one step a day – it shouldn’t take more then 10 min!

A. Declutter your inbox first – it’s easier then the ‘sent’ items

1. Sort your inbox by “subject”.
This way all emails concerning the same topic are automatically grouped together.
You will find

  • Whole topics that are no longer relevant. Click on the first item then Ctrl click on the last to highlight the whole block and delete in one go!

  • E mail threads that went on for a long time, but you can delete all but the most recent one – because that will have the whole thread in it.

2. Sort your inbox by ‘from’
You will find

  • Correspondence with people you don’t have dealing with any more or you don’t like.
  •  E mails from years ago that are not relevant any more – just keep the last month of correspondence or so!
  •  E mails form newsletters and mail outs you don’t read any more or normally delete but forgot here and there.

3. Make it a routine
Delete the deleted items folder at the end of every day. Just go into ‘Deleted items’ and press Ctrl a! All will be highlighted ready for your to press delete!!

4. If you create sub folders in your inbox, don’t forget to do all the above for them, too. Just because you once filed it, doesn’t mean it has to be kept for eternity!

by telling everyone how many emails you just deleted and how great it feels!

B. do 1-5 for ‘sent’ items

C. Beware, there is more
(your email program  is bottomless pit!)

1.Open the ‘search Folder’ on the left side.
Click on unread emails. Chances are there is a lot of stuff in there you didn’t even bother opening. Now is the time to delete them bar the one’s form last week!

2. Be aware of sub folders
in your ‘deleted items’ folder. You might have created them and then forgotten – mine get created by the system and I don’t know what to do about it – so I just open and delete content every so often.

3. Also of interest might be RSS feeds
I never subscribe to any, but used to get heaps and didn’t notice. You can unsubscribe but don’t forget to delete the one’s you don’t like!

4. For Outlook, there is actually a tool for cleaning up your system.
Go to: tools-mailbox cleanup and check out some of the options.
I find the option to find ‘big’ mail very tempting. This might make a real difference to the speed of your computer if you can identify and delete those choking big files!!

This is it, at least from me. If you happen to find more ways to get on top of your emails, please don’t hesitate to let me know with a comment here!

Home Alone

kids sheduleA couple of weeks ago, again, my kids had to stay home alone. This time all three of them and I didn’t even come home at night.
We discussed it with the kids and they unanimously opted for home alone versus home with a motherly friend. They are too old for babysitters – they are babysitters, but with the youngest just 10 and still in primary school it was a bit of a journey.
As it was their choice they where nothing but positive about it. They could see the endless time on the computer and extra hours of watching TV at night. And although I put rules in place and wrote an extensive to do list, I wasn’t actually worried with these rules not being followed. What’s the worst that can happen… they had the very strict instructions to have no friends over, don’t open the front (or the back) door and grab the cat and leave the house if there is a fire. They where the only strict rules and I made it known.
We came up with a schedule for the three days based on what they do anyway: Don’t try this at home if your kids have never had to take the bins out, make their own lunches or taken public transport!
We did sit down to discuss the extras… things they don’t do on a regular basis. They worked out who would clean the toilet, wipe the hand basin and wash the floors, switch the dishwasher on… but apart from that all fine.
They did very well – I think they even went to bed closely to the recommended time.
Two out of three where really happy to see me back on the Friday night. Nothing like a 1.85 m high 15 year old awkwardly bending down to hug his mum!!!

Organising Tip

scarf storagea simple solution to store your scarves in your wardrobe – and  you don’t have to go out shopping, because most would have a coat hanger and some shower curtain rings at home.

My conference take away

Two weeks ago, I spent half the week at our Industry Association’s annual Conference. For anyone who follows me on Facebook, this is a big deal for the industry and for individual Organisers. There are fantastic speakers, you learn a lot and get inspired to take your business to the next level and there is an Award night. Once you are an ‘oldie’ like I am, you get to meet lots of friends and renew relationships on a personal and business level. My head is full of ideas for the next 12 month but I want to share a couple of insights:

  • I now have my ABC of Counseling certificate- a course designed for people like me that come across situations in their line of work that makes them an accidental councilor. I learned heaps, confirmed most of my practices, but realised that there is nothing wrong with applying the same techniques of active listening, reflecting, exploring and problem solving to my family, especially my kids!! (John Littleton, Uniting Care Mental Health)
  • We heard about Collaborative Consumption, a worldwide movement that makes conscious consumption and sharing possible though the internet. I will pick up that thought in one of the next newsletter when I have tried a couple of the platforms on offer. So far I have listed my fruit punch dish on the site and am waiting for someone to throw a party and borrowing it from me (Lisa Fox, founder of Open Shed)
  • We had one of our own, Tanya Lewis form Victoria, speak about the difference we as Organisers can make to our clients by being informed about recycling possibilities and offering sound and practical advice.
  • Jill Chivers talked about her year without cloth shopping and pointed out that shopping is a very serious addiction nobody takes serious – and that the males in our society tend to call themselves collectors if they suffer from this.
  • Judith Kolberg, our Keynote speaker from the US, stated the obvious that Organisers have to evolve with time as clutter moves from physical to electronic, from too many clothes to too many apps!

I finished off my three days by winning an Officworks voucher over $200 for submitting the best reduce rethink reorganise tip: “if you don’t have a shredder try soaking your sensitive paperwork in a big tub of water for a week and then mulch your garden with it.