Santa’s little helpers

iStock_000014976387SmallI’ve been enjoying the Netmums chatter on Twitter about the do’s and don’ts of decorating the Christmas tree. The theory is of course that you get the whole family involved, pop Phil Spector’s Christmas album on a continuous loop, crack open the first mince pies and eggnog of the season and recreate the final scenes of It’s a Wonderful Life. In our house, half the family will still be in bed until early afternoon, the other half won’t be able to tear themselves from their wonderful virtual life to join in, and the last time anyone in the UK drank eggnog it was probably made with powdered egg.

So this year, as is becoming traditional, it was left me and Katy to decorate the tree – and a fine job we did too. Of course it didn’t stay like that long. As the Netmums flurry of tinselly tweets revealed, all over the country were agonising over whether to give their kids a free rein in the decorating and preserve the fantasy of the festive family tradition while forcing a rictus grin or taking charge to ensure that good taste prevailed. The consensus seemed to be that you let them express themselves creatively, but as soon as the kids have crashed out for the night you invoke Santa’s elves and make sure the tinsel is twirled horizontally not vertically and the Disney Princess baubles are mysteriously slipped to the back and replaced with all things more tasteful.

In my case I don’t have to wait for Santa’s elves, I just have to wait for Ella to get off the train from uni. I picked her up the night before last and by the time I’d made her a cup of tea the baubles had leapt into line, the gold beading had rearranged itself into symmetrical swags and the whole tree had stopped lurching drunkenly to the left.

When I came down in the morning the kitchen sink, which is usually groaning under a collection of last night’s dirty dishes and old tea bags, was empty and gleaming. It’s a tiny thing, but it makes such a difference – and coincidentally a shiny sink is the mantra of one of my favourite declutterers (I have at least four). is run by Marla Cilley, a self-styled Sidelined Home Executive, and started off as a motivational decluttering blog and is now a successful mentoring and shopping site. She urges her “Flybabies” to start their journey to a clean uncluttered house at the kitchen sink. Her approach is simple but effective – start small and get into a routine. Based on the idea that anyone can do anything for 15 minutes, she cures people from living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) by dividing the house into zones and spending 15 minutes at a time tackling one thing – sorting out the medicine cabinet or cleaning the loo – and then building from there. It works a treat and I realise that I have been actually practising what she preaches. The result is that 90% of the house is habitable and a good 50% of the Christmas jobs are done – now I have to tackle the horror of the bedroom and the paperwork. Wish me luck…

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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