Revision 2 as of 2009-04-14 10:46:54

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Vicky's Bus Box

Vicky Radtke sent in this idea - stunningly simple & very effective!

"I hate tidying, hate the waste of time, hate the fact that I just cannot get my place to look even remotely habitable most of the time. I hate shouting at my husband and children about that simple fact that if they could just pick up the things they strew and then step over for days on end and give them a home then I would have all the time in the world to do all the things they want me to - and undoubtedly I would be transformed into a swingy-haired smiling advert Mummy!

I have four children between 11months and 13, a husband, a labrador, a cat and 3 lodgers. I was forced to develop a workable system when we decided to do a holiday home swap with a retired couple from Denmark last year. We had moved into our house (which we converted from an old people's home) 18 months before and most of our stuff was still in bin liners and boxes. I decided to do the house swap partly to spur me and the rest of the family on to get the place sorted. It really worked because there was a goal at the end, something pleasant for us all on a specific date. I did have to nag a lot but it was worth it because on the day we left for Denmark I was able to close the door on my house knowing that our guests would arrive and be able to poke their noses into every nook and cranny and not find a spot of mess! (I have to tell you that it is far from like that now but I don't dread repeating the task nearly as much as the initial clear up).

To begin with I made lots of lists - 1 for each room or cupboard about what I expected from it and how long it would take me to make it that way. I allowed up to a week for some rooms, a couple of days for others and a day or so for a cupboard. I didn't set myself too many tasks in one day because I wanted to be able to achieve what I set out to do each day and I had to build in the daily family life which frankly takes up all my time anyway.

I bought loads of white labels and a thick silver pen, lots of sets of the Ikea 'Moben' drawers which I painted white, pretty floral cardboard storage boxes from Ikea for the tops of wardrobes, plastic storage boxes for toys etc, a sort of garden tool holder from Habitat which is now in the entrance hall with each compartment labelled with our names for mail sorting as it drops through the door. Our coat hooks are all labelled, all the little 'Moben' drawers have labels for things ranging from batteries to fuses to sellotape to tape measures and calculators and all the hundreds of other things that end up in piles in fruit bowls otherwise. From Ikea I also bought cheap (£8) shoe racks for the hall and everyone's bedrooms. I bought lots of cheap zip-up underbed storage bags from Argos to store winter clothes and blankets in. I also went round the house on one day with a bowl of persil in water to clean fingermarks off doors, light switches and windowsills, the next day a dabbed a little white paint onto chipped cills and skirting boards. I paid one of my children to wipe over all the skirting boards in the house - and there is nothing like a babywipe round the loo seat and along the nearest skirting board when pushed for time.

I also have a 'bus box' system which means that we each have a named plastic box (mid sized so it can't get too full) and I also have one big box (laundry basked sized). Whenever someone calls to say they'll be round for tea in an hour I hurl all the accumulated clutter and junk from the rooms they are likely to see into the big bus box and rush it up to the laundry room to be sorted later (usually about 2 weeks later). When I sort I just divide it all up into the little personal bus boxes and dump them on beds or sort them at source if I'm feeling kind. The only other thing I have done is to sacrifice a spare bedroom for a laundry room. I love my laundry room although I loathe doing laundry with a vengeance. It is a sunny room with a radio, a sink for handwashing, slatted shelves along one wall for towels and sheets (all labelled of course according to duvet and sheet size!...What a domestic goddess those Danes must have thought I was - and oh! how wrong!), a barely used ironing board, a plant spray bottle and 'old-fashioned ironing essence' - gorgeous!

I am a terrible hoarder and cannot bear to get rid of anything for fear that it might come into use again one day. Our clutter is usually covering every shelf but this spring I am going to spring clean and put all all sorts of stuff away in labelled boxes with a reminder on my calender to unearth some of it this time next year to ring the changes. That way I will get the change without buying anything new."

Please can you come & sort out my place next, Vicky!...

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