Ultimately, I do it not so everything around me looks lovely and tidy, but so that I feel better on the inside, too — for my mental health, you could say, writes Stacey Solomon
Some days I can feel just a little bit out of place, angsty and not sure what I’m supposed to be doing.
I call it ‘trying to catch a breath’: those moments where I feel a little on edge like I can’t take a full breath of air.
And that’s when I like to sit down and focus on a task, because I find it takes my mind away from anything that I’m worrying about. I’ll open a messy cupboard or drawer.
Suddenly, all I can focus on is: where should that thing go? What could I use this for? What should I organise these bits into?
My mind focuses only on the task in front of me, rather than anything else that might be whizzing around in my head.
Feeling out of control can affect people in different ways — and recently, a lot of us have felt a loss of control much more than usual with the pandemic: not being able to plan ahead, or book a holiday, or arrange to see family and friends.
But what we can control still are the little things that make us happy in the safe little worlds we make inside our own homes.
Tidying, organising and crafting all help me to put my worries away.
And now, in the first of three exclusive extracts from my new book, Tap To Tidy, I will teach you how my philosophy can change your life, too.
Tidy up tweaks
When you take your clean clothes out of the washing machine, gather any that hang in your wardrobes, put them on hangers straight away, then put them on the washing line so that when they’re dry, they will be so much easier to put away.
It’s much less daunting than having a huge pile of clean, folded washing.
Ultimately, I do it not so everything around me looks lovely and tidy, but so that I feel better on the inside, too — for my mental health, you could say.
Why did I call my book Tap To Tidy? It all started on Instagram — letting my followers share my satisfaction by tapping between before and after photos of a huge mess that I’d turned into something beautifully tidy.
As a parent, sometimes you spend your days doing endless tasks which are thankless.
So sharing these Tap To Tidy wins became my medal, my ‘well done’ to myself, the praise that I needed and the proof of how much I’d done.
I never imagined that other people would enjoy it as much as me. But soon, people started sharing their tidying achievements, too.
They began tagging me in their own ‘Tap To Tidys’, and we started to create a lovely sense of community: a whole group of people who enjoy doing something that I enjoy — like we’re in a club. We motivate and inspire each other.
A lot of my anxiety probably comes from feeling out of control — which might be the case for you, too.
Feeling organised reminds us that we are in control of some things, and gives us a sense of achievement — even if it’s just from sorting out a messy cupboard or making something lovely out of an old perfume bottle or candle-holder. That kind of thing matters.
For me, tidying and organising has become my form of meditation — how I switch off. I have a busy life, with my three boys, my work as a presenter on Loose Women and a home to run; Tap To Tidy has become time for me.
I know that I’m far from alone in juggling children, friends, family, jobs, relationships and everything else in between. I don’t think I know anyone without piles on their plate. We’re all looking for ways to make life easier, and what I’ve learnt is that being organised is key to achieving that.
I get so much joy from crafting, tidying and organising. I love nothing better than to see a messy corner transform into a happy, tidy space, to know that the junk drawer is finally sorted, or to turn my old candle jars into beautiful vases.
I’ve always been quite scatty, so being organised is a necessity for my personality. I need to know where everything is.
I know that I’m far from alone in juggling children, friends, family, jobs, relationships and everything else in between
Feeling organised reminds us that we are in control of some things, and gives us a sense of achievement — even if it’s just from sorting out a messy cupboard or making something lovely out of an old perfume bottle or candle-holder
Today, as a working mum, especially the days when I’m on Loose Women, being tidy and organised definitely helps life to run that much more smoothly. If things are in a working system, my brain feels clearer, I feel as though I’m more on top of things
For me, tidying and organising has become my form of meditation — how I switch off. I have a busy life, with my three boys, my work as a presenter on Loose Women and a home to run; Tap To Tidy has become time for me
Easy steps to be a clutter-buster
Being organised doesn’t mean living in a bare house with nothing in it. That said, you go through phases of what you want around.
Sometimes, I’ll look at a shelf and there’s too much on there. I’ve taken it too far! So I’ll put stuff away.
When they reopen, you can take unwanted items to your local charity shop, or upcycle them into a gift for a friend; I’m going to give you some ideas.
Making the bed
Just making the bed in the morning makes me feel like the day is going OK. It may not seem a lot, but with a baby, two older boys, a job, a cat, a dog and a Joe, it feels like a massive achievement.
Don’t worry about your nails — this technique won’t wreck them. Just pull everything off, smooth out the sheet, waft the duvet over, put two sleep pillows flat at the top and then stand the other two, pretty pillows at the front. Then tuck in the duvet.
As I go along, I use a wooden hanger to tuck everything into the bed frame tightly, all the way around. I’ll stretch that blanket out as much as I can, that’s why my bedding looks smooth, like it’s been ironed!
My hanger hack means I don’t hurt my hands and it saves my nails! I’ll finish it all off with a spritz of pillow spray.
When it comes to my make-up, I like to be able to see what I’ve got. I used to have drawer organisers — little storage tubs — but I couldn’t see what was inside.
Then I realised I had so many shelves in my oven that it was annoying me. I thought I could put them inside my drawer and stack my make-up. So I did!
I laid two oven shelves flat inside my drawer, then arranged my make-up between the wires, so it couldn’t roll around. It helps me keep my make-up arranged by type: lips, face, whatever.
Patio spring clean
I find the garden is the hardest space in the house to keep tidy.
The way I tackle it is everything has a place in the garden, and I will put it back every single day: the boys’ bikes, Rex’s toys, the glasses people leave lying about. The rest — sweeping up leaves, deadheading and watering plants — Joe and I do as and when.
My lawn is fake, so we never have to mow it. We jet wash the patio a few times through the summer.
Get a car bin
A lot of what gets left in the car doesn’t need to be in there. Sometimes Joe will leave a swimming bag in there for months!
Anything that does belong there, I put in separate bags in the boot.
Car bins are really useful. We got ours from eBay. It’s a little black bin that hangs on the back of a front seat. The built-in car bins are like an ash tray — far too small!
My mum is really organised and taught me to be the same way. Growing up, if I forgot to pack a piece of homework or a part of my PE kit for school, it would be my responsibility.
I quickly learnt that if I didn’t get myself together, I’d never have the right stuff for lessons and would end up in detention every day.
When I was little, I used to sort through all my toys and make sure they were in the right boxes, and at mealtimes I would separate my food into little sections on my plate. I still do it now!
And then, at a young age — I was just 17 when I became pregnant — I became a mum myself.
That meant there was me, my brother, my sister, my baby son, Zachary, and my mum all living in one small house, with no space to be messy.
As such a young mum, I felt completely out of control and out of my depth. I had no idea what the hell I was doing; it felt like all my decisions had been made for me and there was nothing I could do about that.
But there were small things that I could control, which might be, say, to make up the bottles, or to sort through the nappies and wet wipes.
So, I focused on taking care of the little things.
That, handily, kept my mind busy, because I didn’t know where I was or who I was for a long moment.
It was also a time in my life when I didn’t really have anything — as a teenage mum, I was surviving on working tax credits.
I had to be organised with my money to make sure that I could afford everything I needed.
That meant being vigilant about what I was spending. When I went to the shops, I couldn’t afford to buy anything I didn’t need.
I found it all difficult, because I was sad and struggling, asking myself: ‘What have I done?’
The only thing that kept me going was knowing I had no choice but to get myself together for this little human whom I loved so much.
That’s stayed with me. These days, I’m in a much happier place and life is busy in a different way, with a career, my boys Zachary, Leighton and Rex, and my partner Joe. But I still like my fridge organised, and I plan our meals. Otherwise, I’ll go shopping and think: ‘OK, we need bread or milk,’ and then find out we had both at home.
While I’m lucky enough that I don’t have those same worries now, I will never take it for granted, because who knows where life will take you?
Today, as a working mum, especially the days when I’m on Loose Women, being tidy and organised definitely helps life to run that much more smoothly.
If things are in a working system, my brain feels clearer, I feel as though I’m more on top of things.
But it’s more than that. Crafting, tidying and organising has become something that is both my hobby and my ‘me time’.
I can’t tell you how excited I get about making something new from bits and pieces I’ve cleared away. I call them my ‘Make Ups,’ and over the next few days I will be showing you things you can make up, too.
And then, when the tidying’s done, there’s that gratifying sense of achievement. So, you see, Tap To Tidy isn’t just a way of organising my home, it applies to my whole life. That’s why I’m so excited to share with you my method to organising absolutely everything.
From that space under the stairs that you’ve been chucking things into for years, to that drawer full of wires that you think you shouldn’t throw away, I can help you regain control. Storage jars. Glue guns. Labels. And don’t even get me started on my trusty tension rods!
Welcome to my world.
Work my magic on every room
Tidy up tweaks
I use lazy Susans — rotating trays — in my cupboards to store things such as cans. That way, you won’t struggle to reach a can hidden at the back; just give it a twirl and grab the one you want. You can buy lazy Susans from IKEA , Amazon and homeware stores.
Clear out your cluttered cupboards
By tackling one messy cupboard at a time, I can just about stay on top of my kitchen. It can still feel covered in stuff, but if I know where it all belongs and everything has a home, it’s so much less overwhelming when it comes to sorting it.
Then, every so often, I’ll go in there and go mad, putting everything back where it should be.
I will also deep-clean: wipe down the cupboard fronts, give the tiles on my splashback a good scrub and get in all the grout. Once it’s all done, it almost feels like a new kitchen.
And that’s the point of organising, be it a room, cupboard or drawer. Nothing’s perfect all the time. However, when it’s organised it’s maintainable.
Organise those herbs and spices
This is a great example of how the Tap To Tidy method can apply to anything, even the chaos of your herbs and spices cupboard. After getting everything out, check the dates, decide which ones are going, which are the maybes and which are definitely staying.
You might notice doubles of certain herbs. Can you pour one packet into the other? Might your mum or neighbour want some, because it’s still usable?
Try to think methodically about how you’ll get things out of the cupboard again. If you can’t see what’s in the cupboard, it’s never going to get used. And, if you’re going to spend hours looking for it, you’ll just get frustrated.
You can still use all the space: if you’ve got those deep corner cupboards, for example, put your refills in the back.
When I’ve run out of crisps or biscuits, I know exactly where the refills are — in that deep, dark nook of the cupboard, because I won’t put anything in there that I need to use every day.
My spice shelf hack
Your cupboard shelves are normally held up by little metal pins and you can lower or raise them, depending on where you place the pins in the holes drilled inside the cupboard.
So, I just took out two of the front pins of a shelf in my herbs and spices cupboard and left the back two where they were, so the shelf slanted down.
Then, I put a tension rod at the front of the shelf (pictured above) to act as a barrier. Now, my spices lie on that shelf at an angle, so I can see every single one instead of just rooting around.
Kitchen sink cupboard
This is where I keep my everyday cleaning stuff: a surface spray, dishwasher tablets, washing-up liquid and a window cleaner. I like to keep them in a white IKEA box (with a ‘cleaning’ label on it) that I arrange by the biggest product down to the smallest.
If I put the big bottles at the back, then the next level is the stuff that’s not so tall, I can see everything in there at a glance.
All my cleaning cloths go under the sink as well, clipped to a tension rod, along with anything else I can hang off it.
You can tie string through the hole in the bottom of something like a washing-up brush and clip that up as well.
Peg board under the stairs
In our house, under the stairs is the one space that’s always a bloomin’ mess — a mix of the mop bucket, the boys’ backpacks, shoes and brooms. What really helps in here is my peg board, with little elastic hooks to keep things like the broom off the floor.
Peg boards are simply big boards with lots of little holes in them that you can fix to the wall to create extra storage space.
You can get them from a pound shop, but IKEA’s come with all sorts of different clever attachments, so that’s what I’ve got under our stairs. There are little jars and trays you can easily fix on; hooks to hang things up; elastic cords where you put one end into the pegboard, loop the cord under your broom head and hook the other side around it to keep it in place.
I’ve drilled my peg board to the wall. Make sure you leave a space of about a centimetre between the board and the wall, so you can still make use of the peg board’s holes to hook things into them.
Swing bins for laundry
With my utility room, I needed a system: for everything to have a place.
I filled an empty cupboard with cleaning products.
As I’ve said, I keep the stuff I use every day under the sink in the kitchen, so this was my extras: spare sponges, cloths and sprays, as well as colour-catchers, stain removers, heavy floor cleaner — the things I don’t use all the time.
I also bought three big swing bins designed for rubbish and spray-painted them — now they are my laundry bins.
One is for lights, one for whites and one for darks. It means there’s now a proper system in my utility room, rather than one overflowing washing basket that means you have to separate all your colours before putting a load in the machine.
I’ve also got a rail attached to my utility room ceiling, and when the clothes come out of the machine, what doesn’t go in the tumble dryer can be hung on hangers on there.
Organise your pantry
Bulk buy and decant into jars
I’m a big fan of bulk-buying the things you use all the time and that won’t go off for ages.
For example, you can go online (I use wholefoodsmarket.co.uk) and buy a five-kilo bag of oats — that’s all the oats we need for the next six months.
I’ve got really useful plinth drawers underneath my kitchen cupboards, where I store all the stuff I buy in bulk. Then I just decant them into labelled jars in the pantry cupboard, as and when they are running low.
I know everyone doesn’t have spare drawers, but your bulk bags just need to be kept in a cool, dry place — perhaps your shed or the garage.
It will mean fewer trips to the shop, everything’s cheaper in bulk and it all looks organised, because you only have a jar of each item in your cupboard rather than scruffy bags leaking everywhere. It really does make life easier.
Shower hooks for your snacks
It caused a bit of a fuss when I said on Instagram that I hang up my crisp packets (pictured above right). But it keeps everything so neat and tidy.
I use tension rods, which are great — their spring action keeps them in place, so you don’t have to install any rod holders.
Slide on some shower-curtain clips — the little metals hoops with a clip hanging off each one — before you put the rod in place and clip them to anything you want to hang up.
I hang up my son Rex’s baby food pouches as well as my packets of crisps.
In love with labels to save waste
I love labels — in the kitchen they are essential, so you’re not getting mixed up and pouring salt in your tea. And they motivate you to keep things tidy.
For instance, if I have bought icing sugar, and I have a beautifully labelled glass jar with a nice wooden lid ready for it, I will pour it in and put that jar back neatly.
If not, I’ll just shove the new bag in the cupboard and could easily end up with five bags in there because I don’t know what I’ve got.
This post was first published on DailyMail.