Why do we buy presents? 

We received our Riverford box this week and the message from Guy was about waste veg.  Having been responsible for the waste contract of a large restaurant and pub chain I’m always interested in what’s next and how we can reduce waste as it’s scary what volume is thrown away on a regular basis.

This then got me thinking about gifts (tenuous link I know) and how gifts can be wasted.  Why do we buy gifts?

It’s Easter which means chocolate.  I know Easter doesn’t mean just chocolate but unfortunately that’s the first thing that the commercialised world thinks about.  Back in the day I was given a CD from someone instead of chocolate and now my tiny human is given cash.  Don’t get me wrong, this is lovely but how has it got to this, why do we feel the need to buy presents.

Birthdays and Christmas are difficult.  How often do you get too close to the date and panic about what to buy people.  There are some people who you will find easy to buy for – everyone thinks they are easy to buy for but they are wrong, some of the time anyway!

When you have that panic, what do you buy?  How much thought goes into it? Maybe you resort to a voucher?  To me a voucher is a bit last minute and to some of my friends, thoughtless but just think you can literally buy anything with an Amazon voucher and when I say anything, something you actually want.

This is the problem with gifts, some of them become clutter straight away in your home.  I’m not ungrateful but, think back to what gifts you have received which you don’t like or have never used.  I come across this so often when working with someone, they want to keep something just because they were given it – they don’t even like it but feel guilty about throwing it away.

My suggestion to this is to try and sell said item and use the money to buy something you love then, there’s less guilt as technically they have bought you something you would use and enjoy and you have less clutter in your home.

My advice to the gift buyer, if you’re not sure what to buy someone should you be buying them a present?  Controversial question?  Not really.  When I spend time with my friends and talk to them – face to face or facetime to facetime I get an understanding of where they are, what they’re up to and what they need.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not the perfect gift buyer (I’m envious of those people) but I like to buy people what I think would be useful to them.  If you’re buying for the sake of buying then would a card or other gesture be fine instead?  What would you like to receive?

Alternatively, buy someone an experience.  We’ve started this in our family and we are off gliding in the Summer – when would you have ever done that?!

It’s not to late to get Christmas organised!

It’s only 1st December and for some it feels like everyone else is far more organised for the 25th this year!

Don’t despair, there is still time (23 days to be exact!) and to help I have created a different kind of advent calendar free for you to download, print and put somewhere you can cross off as each job is complete!

Use the link below to download to your computer to help with your decorations, gifts, food and reminders of what to do to have a fantastic Christmas this year!

Organise Christmas Calendar

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Never able to find that piece of paper you need?

Organising your office or, household admin is never the most interesting task to do but is necessary to avoid losing time or even money.

  • How much time do you spend looking for a key piece of paper, envelope, bill?
  • How often have you missed the deadline for a payment or replying to an invitation?
  • Have you ever overpaid for something purely because you’ve forgotten the renewal date?

If any of the above sounds familiar then you need to start to organise your paperwork-life, it doesn’t take long (even if you have a house rather than a desk-full) as you do not need to hold on to as much as you think you might.

I purchased a new file from Paperchase which holds all the important documents and is not a huge file so doesn’t take up a lot of room and you can add additional tabs if required. The standard labels are for the most obvious things but, everyone is different and has varying needs.

It is tempting to keep every piece of paper which looks vaguely important or has account details on or you feel you may need it ‘just in case’ but you definitely don’t.  There are certain dates you need certain copies of paperwork for (personally, look here for HMRC) and in business it is 5 years after the tax year – most companies recommend 7 years to be sure.

Most things can now be kept digitally with online accounts – electricity, gas, however, it would be wise to always keep backups so I would recommend always keeping your most current copies of any bills in case of errors – need I comment here about checking each of them through thoroughly, mistakes are made! So, why not make a start today…..

  1. Find a space, a big space! Dining room table, kitchen worktop, living room floor
  2. Have a diary or calendar to hand, the one you use the most phone or old-school paper
  3. Get everything out! All the paperwork, unopened post, files you may already have
  4. Start some piles, work, personal, house, sentimental and have a bin at the end
  5. Go through methodically, throwing away any rubbish – empty envelopes etc – yes it sounds obvious but there is no need to keep rubbish
  6. Divide into your chosen piles, only keeping the most recent 2 personal bills after checking them and last year of household bills
  7. Make a note of dates for insurance renewals, contract dates with a reminder 2 weeks before to review and obtain quotes
  8. Once the big pile to sort has been sorted, start labelling and putting away into suitable folders
  9. Find a place to store the folders, where you can update and access as required, everyone is different – kitchen cupboards, office, under seat storage….you choose!

Now you have everything in place, keep on top of the pieces of paper.  As post arrives, open it, deal with it and remember to check your reminders to keep on top of your paperwork.  Then, you will always know where that piece of paper you were looking for is.

Feel like you can relate to this and need some organisation help, get in touch via phone – 07772 773992 or e-mail – sarah@starfishorganisers.com If I am unable to help, I can find someone who can.

We provide an initial free consultation via phone or Skype or, visit for an hour for £25 + mileage which is redeemable against your first booking.

Stop buying stuff, do you really need it?

We all like to spend money and buy stuff whether it is because it makes us happy or we need it, I mean, really need it or is a distraction from something else.  However, if we only spent money on things we actually needed and had a purpose how much would be saved every year.

Every house could do with decluttering in some way.  Whether it is stuff, paperwork or even food, there will be a drawer, cupboard or room even that will need organising – even Monica in Friends had a cupboard full of stuff!

I have to admit I’m not a great shopper and cannot wander rounds shops all day.  I go in, buy what I need and leave.  That’s not to say that my house doesn’t need decluttering sometimes.

When looking around the house or even the room you are sat in now, have a think about what you may have which you either don’t like, use or have any sentimental feelings about.  There may be other reasons why those items are in the room but, if not, how do you feel about them?  Do they bother you? If so, they could be zapping your energy.  If not, then no worries – carry on!

Where you do have energy zappers they need to be addressed to make you feel better about life.  Mainly because life will be so much simpler without them.  Sounds crazy?  Imagine that feeling when you’ve sorted the washing pile or dishes and cleaned up, it’s the same feeling when you’ve cleared items that bring nothing to each day.

The simplest way is to not buy stuff but where is the fun in that? Another way is to sort through what you have already (possibly finding things you forgot you had along the way – I met someone who forgot they had a 20ft yacht, true story!) go through everything in the house, breaking the house down room by room and getting rid of things which do not meet one of the 3 criteria mentioned above.  If you are unsure about anything then box it up to put in the loft to think about it again in 6 months time.

When getting rid of things, have a think about where stuff can go.  Can you sell them? Should they go to charity or are there things that just need to go in the bin.  Obviously anything that can be sold is a bonus as it is money you don’t have!

Once you’ve gone through everything which could be from kitchen utensils to clothes then work out where the gaps are, what you need, what are you missing?  Or, if you have managed to sell something, use the money to treat yourself!  Don’t go out and buy mindless stuff as this will lead to cluttering again.

I’ve found that thinking about purchases and deciding how much they are actually needed has saved us money.  We have either not purchased something as actually we didn’t need it in the first place or, found a substitute in something we already owned.  So many purchases are not thought about or, bought on a whim – yes, we own a drone.  No idea why and it’s been used twice in a year so is now cluttering up the spare room and bothers me every time I go in there.

Have a think, look around and I promise, if you got rid of things that are not useful, sentimental or not liked you will feel so much better about your home.

Don’t run out of coffee on a Monday morning

There’s a lot of stigma around the food shop still which always surprises me as the weekly food shop at Tesco on a Saturday morning is a thing of the past in our house.  There is so much variety now in terms of shops, food, opening times, ways to shop – you don’t even have to step foot in a shop anymore!

It’s changed but many peoples habits haven’t.  I grew up with a weekly shop at the local Co-op. (who have interestingly changed their marketing strategy to not be a full shop but I digress) Then, every 4 weeks there were the bigger items, washing powder, toilet roll, tea bags and coffee.  This is fine as we had storage space but some people don’t, nor do they drive to be able to bring a massive shop home.

You don’t want the above to happen though, running out of coffee – or tea if you are a tea drinker, that’s the worst!  When I visited a house and they had run out of coffee it made me think about this post. Also, when you’ve put the kids to bed, the other half is out and you have the sofa and TV to yourself, bliss, until you fancy some chocolate / ice cream / family bag of crisps, but there’s none in the house and the baby monitor doesn’t reach as far as the shops! Bad times.

This is where organising your shop comes in.  I’m not talking the weekly shop, same food, same list so you find yourself having spaghetti bolognaise again for the 4th time in 2 weeks because it’s just easy and that’s what you buy I’m talking being slightly more organised and creative than that.  Plus the more organised you are the more money you save! Win-win!

So, how do you do it?  It depends how organised you want to be and how far you want to go so tailor and adapt the below to what works for you.

  • What are your shopping priorities?  Being quick / cheap / on a diet / no time at all or, being fresh / local / having lots of storage space?  This gives you where and how you should shop – examples as below :
No time to shop? Order online, yes, the first time takes a while but after that favourites remembered – bonus!
Quick or no storage? Local shop like the Co-op, Tesco express or shop on your way home from work as and when you need bits
On a diet / meal planning or prep? One place, online or visit but with a full list and weekly meal plan done first
Save money / cheapest Aldi, Lidl, market and then local shop for the bits they don’t stock
  • Then, organise your cupboards.  Everyone has that tin / box of custard in the back dated 2010, if you know where everything is and use it regularly you will not waste food or space in the back.
  • When you put your food shop away, think of where the products need to be, don’t hide anything new as you’ll soon forget it is there, back to the above.
  • Keep a list going, we have a chalk board as we get near the end of things – or, add to your online account even better!!
  • Keep a meal plan, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy or for a specific diet but it means you can work out how much you need to avoid wasted food and money.
  • Overcook and freeze portions for those nights you just can’t be bothered – just remember to label them as no matter what you think you will forget what it is and freezer roulette is not as exciting as it sounds.
  • Buy in bulk if you have storage and what is on offer if you will use it – any offers on things which go out of date before you use them is a rubbish offer!

So the main thing is plan and be organised, Yes I would say that and yes you do have the time – remember that “lost” hour on Facebook?? I can help get you started from an hour just that one time to monthly or even weekly, if you don’t do any of the above you may find you even save more than you expect with my time!


What is a personal organiser?

My business is split into 2, organising for home and business.  The business side is sort of easier as I explain and sell myself as a virtual assistant which most people have now heard of but then need a little more explanation of what I do.  The home side always requires a little more explaining.

There are still many people who are unaware that personal organisers exist and we do, there is even an Association of us – check out APDO UK to see just how many, where they are and who does it.  In the main we do the same thing – help you get organised but each person is slightly different in what they help with or specialise in.   I’ll leave you to have a google and research the site to see what everyone else does as they will tell you better than me but what I do is below.

Most people get in contact through my website or social media.  From there I arrange to visit them or Skype depending on what they require.  I specialise in moving house and bereavement.  I can help organise things from the kitchen drawer (you know the one!) where you can never find what you’re looking for but it’s always full to a whole house or garage.  I can also help organise the household paperwork including diarising and working with people to ensure they are not over paying for anything.

When I make the initial visit which is normally 30-45minutes we discuss what is needed help with, how long I think it will take or, how long the client wants help for and how much it will cost.  I am not there to judge and have even shared pictures of my house and rooms before and after I organised them – this, in the main has been due to inheriting collections and items following bereavement.  We decide what the end goal is and how the client would like the area to look after I have visited to ensure I can meet expectations.

When I visit which is normally in blocks of 3 hours, I can work longer but normally people feel that this is enough for one day, we make a start on the drawer or room which needs sorting.  Yes, the client has to be there so they can tell me what needs keeping, binning, donating to charity or an “other” pile.  There is always an “other” pile depending on the room, things which belong to someone else, things which need repair……

Just because we are decluttering and organising the room does not mean that we throw everything away, I am not there to turn you into a minimalist, I’m not, and do not expect anyone else to be unless they want to and that is their end goal.  It is going through things quickly and effectively to decide where they should live – if everything has a home you will find it easier next time – remember that drawer??

I specialise in bereavement as going through inheritance or a someone else house is never easy.  I can take an outside view on it without the emotion but having done it 4 times myself over the past year I fully understand what the client is going through and work with them as they need it.  The same as moving house, it is such a big life event that doing it alone or alongside others in the same situation can be a bit too stressful, I work with you to remove that stress.

It is a team effort between myself and the client, it isn’t just for celebrities or the rich, you can have a personal assistant too and that can be me.  You don’t need to tell anyone, you can be that organised person who seems to have every plate spinning perfectly at the same time – we definitely all have too many plates!

So get in touch, by social media, e-mail, text, phone call or quickly complete the below and I’ll call you! Even if you just want more information or advice, I am here to help make your life easier.


Getting Organised, easy right?

When someone talks about getting organised, what do you think of?  Planning the next day ahead?  Sorting through THAT spare room?  Packing for a holiday?  Getting the packed lunches done the day before rather than the morning?  Whichever it is when we are a bit more organised and get things done or prepare in advance we feel better about life.

There will always be something which needs doing around the house but you can lessen that list by making your life easier.  Those “chores” you see as you walk around the house or on your to do list if you write one use up energy – negative energy as you think about what you haven’t done, the more there are, the more the list goes on which can end up being quite stressful.

Then there is that feeling. The one when you accomplish that one chore / job which has been on your list for a while.  Mine was a sweep around the house, not cleaning but tidying.  I actually didn’t mind doing it and once I got going I would start tidying random things in detail like the key hooks (which never get touched because no one knows what most of the keys are actually for!)  It is getting started which is the problem though…..I’d randomly start tidying and have to be in the mood, but when is the right mood?  Now I love it and will organise and re-organise things so everything has a place in the house with the most used items closest to hand.

It has taken me a long time but I now realise that my most productive time is in the mornings, I find it difficult to lie in so will happily get up and get going.  Evenings are for relaxing – once I sit down I know I will only get up again to go to bed.  This means that I now plan all my most difficult tasks and chores for first thing in the morning, I can’t prepare the lunches the night before but can get up early to do them before work.

Have a think, what is your most productive time of day?  When it is not a mammoth effort to get things done?  Plan your day around this and you will soon find you get more done off your to do list.

The other option is to ask for help.  I will be the first to admit that I’m not great as asking for help but I will when it’s something I can’t or really do not enjoy doing like cleaning, I have a cleaner because I just do not enjoy it and will procrastinate around it although I obviously prefer a clean house so it is less stress for me to have someone else do it.

This is where organisers are very helpful – whether it is that drawer or key hook or a whole spare room, garage or house! There are people out there to help with the to do list or that pile of things which may be ignored and take your energy up!

Have a look at www.apdo-uk.co.uk and see what organisers do and find an organiser to help you! Get that spare room organised and have that feeling of accomplishment.

Organising and decluttering can feel like a new home which then turns that negative energy into positive.