Jemma Solomon – Stacey and I swap tidying tips all the time
As a society, we’re into home organisation like never before. And it’s thanks, in part, to a new wave of ‘cleanfluencers’, like Jemma Solomon, sister of TV personality Stacey, and a social media sensation in her own right with nearly 700,000 followers on Instagram. “The pandemic really contributed to our love of decluttering because people were at home,” says Jemma, 35, who lives in Essex, with husband Lee, 38, and their children Darcy, 10, Mila, eight, and five-year-old Hudson. A former paediatric nurse, she started a label-making business – The Label Lady – during lockdown in 2020 at her kitchen table, which took off overnight.
“There was only so much you could do – you couldn’t go out or see people. When you looked around your house and began to analyse what was there, you realised that having order in the place you’re in every single day makes sense.
“It’s easy to chuck something over there, or put something in a cupboard. But by staying a bit more organised, and staying on top of the simple things, you can create a sense of order and calm that resonates with everything you do.”
There were 18 months between Jemma and younger sister Stacey, and along with brother Matthew, space was tight in the family’s two-bedroom home.
This sparked creativity and a love of organisation for Jemma.
“I always remember Lego and sorting it all out. It was so well sorted, to the point the leaves were pulled apart and put in separate little containers. All three of us shared a bedroom, and the desks would have all the stationery sorted out too,” she says.
These days, Stacey, 33, has her own decluttering show, Sort Your Life Out, on BBC1. But Jemma insists it was her who was the tidiest growing up.
“We’re both going to debate this, but I’m always going to say me,” she laughs. “We get it from our parents. We had quite a small kitchen in the family home we grew up in and I remember our floor-to-ceiling cupboard organised into sections with pasta, dry goods, that sort of thing.”
She and Stacey were typical teenagers who argued from time to time.
“Order was important in our house. Dad built a partition between me and my sister in our bedroom. Once he did that, you couldn’t blame the other person.
“If your room was messy, you couldn’t say it was her – it was you,” she says.
Now, however, their love of tidying is something that bonds them together.
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“Stacey’s turned Pickle Cottage into her dream home herself,” says Jemma, of the sprawling Essex home her sister shares with husband Joe Swash.
“But I’ve loved helping be a part of the organisational side of it. I’ve got my own range of jars and labels, so if there’s something to fill them, I’ll swoop in.
“I just go in, find a space, and say let’s clear it out. We do it together, we like it, it’s fun. For me, organised all about distraction, it’s a mechanism “We swap ideas and hacks, and bounce off each other constantly. One of us will say: ‘I found this on TikTok, or this little thing to label’. The other will be like: ‘I’m going to do it too’. It’s collaborative.
“We pitch in and help each other. And of course we’re constantly tidying up after the kids.” Organisation has brought solace for Jemma who has suffered from anxiety.
“I’ll always tell people that organising is good for mind, body and soul. For me it’s about distraction – a coping mechanism.
“When I’m feeling sad or anxious, being able to organise is great,” says Jemma.
to be is “I sort the cupboards. It gives me a task and when it’s completed, it’s satisfying. It inspires you to want to do some more, and also to not think about the thing that was making you sad or anxious in the first place.”
KEEP CALM AND TIDY ON
Jemma shares her top tips for an organised life
BE REALISTIC It’s all too easy to believe in the myth that everyone you know is more organised than you are. I can guarantee that’s not the case. Yes, I might sometimes show my house looking clean and tidy, but it is never going to be like that 24/7. I look at influencers with these super clean houses and think, that’s amazing, but how? Social media can leave you feeling like you can’t achieve that yourself. You just think your house is never going to be that tidy, and end up putting unrealistic pressure on yourself.
MAKE A LIST Think of all the information you have flying around your brain. It can be hard to make sense of it all, let alone remember all the many things you need. But when you write it down, suddenly you have an instant visual aid right in front of you. Not only a visual of what you have to do, but also a visual of what you will have accomplished once you’ve ticked everything off.
START SMALL Don’t think about blitzing the entire house in one go. Prioritise the areas you use the most (or that are stressing you out because they’re all over the place). Even organising just one thing is a great start. Depending on the size of the room or area, it might take a bit of time to do but it will save much more time in the long run, as well as creating order and satisfaction.
ORGANISE YOUR FRIDGE We waste a lot of food because we stuff everything into the fridge, meaning we’re unable to see what we have. When you get home from the shops, don’t rush to unpack everything and chuck it all in so it’s put away as quickly as you can. That’s a guaranteed way to ensure you won’t know where anything is. Labelled fridge trays and tubs are great to make the most of your space. Organise your fridge with day-by-day containers. Prep your meals and put the ingredients you need for each meal in tubs. You’ll know exactly where you’re at for the week. This will save waste, time, and energy.
BRILLIANT BASKETS I’ve always been a big fan of using baskets in drawers to give everything its place. Not just in bedrooms, they’re ideal in kitchens, bathrooms and offices too. You don’t need to spend a fortune on matching baskets and tubs. Shallow boxes do the job perfectly. I’ve used ones from toiletry gift sets or fancy chocolates – the ones made of thick card are perfect. So many household things can be repurposed when it comes to organisation. The cardboard tube from inside a kitchen roll? Thread hair ties and scrunchies over it. Not only does it keep them tidy – and these things have a habit of getting everywhere – but you can also see what you need at a glance. And it’s free too.
ASK FOR HELP If you have children, enlist their help. It doesn’t matter how old they are – you’re teaching them to respect things, love things and look after things. Putting their shoes on the shoe rack is not a job. It should just be an action. So when you walk in and they’ve chucked their shoes all over the floor, don’t feel guilty about calling them back to do something about it. Then that becomes a habit for them and it saves you time as you don’t have to run around after them and tidy them all away.
BRAIN UNSCRAMBLE Sometimes our thoughts can overwhelm us. So having a pen and paper nearby can help, providing what I call a brain unscramble. You literally write down everything in your brain at that moment in time. This makes space, taking the mounting thoughts off your mind and on to paper. You can put it away and come back to it, or go through it one by one and see which are most important.
*Love, Lists & Labels: My Tips For An Organised Life and Calm Mind by Jemma Solomon (Ebury Spotlight, £16.99) is out now
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