2006-01-04

Lists: Resolutions 2006

You know how it goes: odd socks in the drawer, piles of newspapers that never get thrown out, that letter to the gas board that's been sitting on the mantelpiece for a fortnight. We all lead lives a little more cluttered than we'd prefer and -- particularly after the festive season -- it's difficult to know where to start if you want to organise your life and home for the new year. With this in mind we have come up with a practical guide on how to solve five common household problems and embrace the new year (relatively) clutter-free... OVERFLOWING WARDROBE Time Needed: Two hours Equipment: Bin bags, good lighting, pen and paper Method: Haven't worn it in a year? Out it goes. Add to this anything that looks out of date, doesn't go with anything else, is in need of mending, and any items you suspect make you look fat. If there's a piece of clothing you're unsure about, try it on in front of a full-length mirror under bright lights and be brutally honest about how it makes you look and whether you feel good in it. As you're sorting things, make a list of what you're throwing away -- are there too many unsuccessful impulse buys in there? Do you buy more black tops than you need? When you're done, take your bin bags to the charity shop the same day. That way you won't be tempted to start raking through them for that little black top you swore you'd never throw out. Who to call: If you fancy doing it with friends and helping a charity at the same time, 'Shelter' are co-ordinating a Wardrobe Relief Appeal which can be set up in a workplace or club. Call 0207 490 6729 for details. What to read: For a guide to sorting out your wardrobe, and other parts of the house, try 'Life Laundry: How To De-Junk Your Life' by Ms.Dawna Walter and Mr.Mark Franks. STACK OF BILLS Time Needed: Two hours Equipment: Pen and paper, calculator, computer, stamps, envelopes Method: Sorting out your finances is like going to the dentist; it's vital yet all-too-easy to put off. If you've a pile of unpaid bills to sort and you're not sure if you've enough money left with which to pay them, the first thing to do is work out how much is coming in and going out each month. Look over old bank statements to work this out. This lets you see how much you're also spending on food, clothing or travel, and whether you have any extra cash left over you can put into savings. Once you've paid your bills, draw up a budget for the next month based on your sums -- you'll find it far easier to live within your means this way, and will gain a feeling of control over your finances. Who to call: If you're short of time, internet banking is a good way to keep all your finances in one place that's easily accessible. Try smile.co.uk, egg.com, or visit your own bank's website. HOUSEHOLD MAINTENANCE Time Needed: One day Equipment: Yellow Pages Method: If you're no dab-hand with a toolbox (and let's face it, how many of us are these days?) basic things such as a leaky tap can easily become a serious problem. Set aside a single day to get as many of these things sorted out as possible. Hit the phones, call the professionals, and start making appointments. Some tradesmen, such as joiners and fitters, will often visit the same day you call. If they won't , try and organise all the tradesmen you need to come on the same day (many companies will work evenings and weekends if you ask) and keep your diary free for it. If you really are too busy for all that, try Lookouts, a Strathaven-based company which will come to your home and, for a fee, wait for your boiler repairman or joiner while you head off to work. Who to call: Lookouts are at www.lookouts.co.uk or you can call them on 0135 752 1745. TOO MUCH HOUSEWORK Time Needed: One hour, then ten minutes per day Equipment: Pen and paper, usual cleaning equipment and materials Method: It's so easy to let the dust pile up. Just a couple of late evenings at work and, before you know it, the house resembles a neglected pigsty. This is what the rota was invented for. Go around the house making a list of every chore -- from cleaning 'the loo' to loading the dishwasher -- then assign a day and a family member to each job, noting how often each job needs done. Try to keep each chore to under ten minutes, which will cut out the 'dread' factor. If you live on your own, work out a rotational system, with some days lighter than others. And if things are really getting on top of you, you could always hire a cleaner. Who to call: 'Time For You' is a reputable cleaning agency with cleaners in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Ring 0800 781 7282 to make an appointment. What to read: For a guide to gutting and tidying every room in the house try 'The Declutter Workbook: 101 steps to transform your life' by Ms.Mary Lambert. CHAOTIC DESK Time Needed: Two hours Equipment: Computer Method: These days it's not so much paper that gets stacked up on desks, but too much digital information. Still not uploaded the Christmas photographs from your new digital camera? Still got a pile of CDs waiting to be ripped on to your computer and put on your MP3 player? A couple of hours of mouse-clicking will pay off in the long run, as you can then file the CDs away and clear your camera for the next big family event. Use the time to clear out any junk files from your computer as well: delete songs from your 'iPod' which you have never listened to, delete blurry photos -- and erase all those 'to do' lists you made with Microsoft Word for Christmas 1999. What to read: 'How To Do Everything With Your iPod and Your iPod Mini' by Mr.Guy Hart-Davis will give you handy hints on keeping your electronic files organised. 'Put your house in order', Emma Cowing, The Scotsman, 2006-01-03, Tu

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