Stuff vs Memories – What’s the difference?

September 2020 is Save Your Photos Month and I was asked to present my thoughts in a webinar for The Photo Managers USA.  Just for a bit of fun, I asked Matt Paxton to join me between film days on his latest seasons of A&E’s Hoarders (USA) and Legacy List (USA).  This video has gone viral so I would love to hear your feedback too!  We are joining forces again on Facebook Live in October so like my Facebook page and I will update you all on the details.  Enjoy!







Banish Clutter Forever in 5 Really Challenging Steps

Yup, getting organised is not easy.  If you think my job is a dream, please leave the room.  If you are curious to know how my brain operates on a day to day level with my clients, read on.  And then get your photos in order: Stuff is stuff, whatever.  Memories are memories, forever.

  1. Put ‘like with like’. Start your journey to staying organised by putting every pen you find in your home with all the other pens. Then notebooks with notebooks.  Ditto batteries, dinner sets, unopened mail, photos, staplers, light bulbs, batteries, travel plugs, foreign money, unused plastic boxes, winter boots, summer hats, gym equipment – you get the idea.  And gosh, haven’t you got a lot of each item!
  2. Plan your home like a department store.  Choose a specific area in the loft, kitchen, utility room for each type of item you own: Xmas dept, toy dept, gym dept, travel dept, tool dept, gift dept, cleaning dept. Then every item in your home can be placed in its correct department.  NB – there is no Miscellaneous Department so don’t create one
  3. Stop repurchasing what you already have.  When you have followed points 1 and 2 above, then that is easy to do.  If you know where it is and how many you have, you don’t have to buy it again. Controlling your repurchasing of existing items saves money, space and stress.
  4. There is no place on Earth called ‘away’ – you can’t put it ‘away’ nor throw/chuck/toss it ‘away’.  Every thing has to have its place.  Or be repurposed, rehomed, reused or recycled responsibly.   Recently I forgot to buy clingfilm – forever. Hmm, nothing happened apart from washing an extra couple of plates and beeswax liners.
  5. Prioritise your photos. Stuff is stuff, whatever.  Memories are memories, forever.  Repeat.  Then seek help with your photo organising if you have let the dusty boxes, stuffed drawers and digital libraries swell and spill out of control.  Ensure that you can share and preserve them for generations to come.  As any survivor of a house fire, flood or disaster would tell you, it is only the photos that really matter.

With thousands of direct 1-to-1 hours with clients and countless more hours behind the scenes, Sarah has delivered incredible downsizing projects and unimagined results for clients and their families across the the UK, USA and Australia.  Get in touch with Sarah at or if your needs are specific to photo organising, then email



Trying to cash in on your clutter?



I was asked to give the UK’s Daily Mail money editor a run through of how to make some money from her unwanted clutter.

Read the article and get in touch if you want some top tips too!




Sarah Macnaught is a leading Professional Organiser of Things and Photos and runs Rightsize from London.  Email her

How to declutter your kitchen (by getting real!)

Spiralizer. Smoothie maker. Pasta maker. Bread maker. Rice cooker. Slow cooker. Fruit dehydrator. Water filter. Meat smoker. Granny’s rusting egg slicer. Multiple wooden carved salad servers gathered from long forgotten travels. Do you have any of these? How about your grandmother’s soup tureen sitting pretty atop a cupboard or four differently sized gravy boats? Do you use them regularly and swear by them? If so, well done. But I imagine there are a lot of us who have at least one of the above which never gets used. Ever. Maybe it sits on a high up shelf gathering dust. Perhaps it’s been taking up valuable counter space for the past decade. You might even keep it in a totally unrelated place like the garage. These are the things you need to focus on when you do your kitchen clear out.

This isn’t something to dread, far from it. After all there are the big clear out jobs which we can put off forever, like tackling the bulging attic or making order out of the chaos of paperwork we never got round to filing. But there are smaller jobs which are so easy to tackle even in a five-minute blitz and leave you feeling oh-so-virtuous at the end, because not only do you have a lot more space in your kitchen but you get the warm glow of knowing you can donate your things to charity or make a few bob by selling them on eBay or through auction houses if you believe you have particularly high value items (real silver fish knives and forks spring to mind as do leather, velvet lined boxes with dated contents such as silver grapefruit spoons…)

The key to this being successful is to start off with a dose of good old fashioned realism. Ditch your fantasy life. Forget who you aspire to be. Even if you long to be an all-glowing, all-‘clean eating’, all-yoga-practising vegan goddess, if you’re a crisps-and-ready-meal kind of gal/guy, a spiralizer and a cauliflower ricer probably aren’t going to change that. And if you do absolutely zilch cooking pretty much all of the time you can probably ditch the Nigella-style fantasy about whipping up a meal for 20 close friends and neighbours. You need to kit your kitchen out for the life you lead not the life you want to have nor the person you wish you were.

Same goes for sentimental stuff. Do you really need to keep your grandmother’s old black-stained, crusted muffin tins when you use the new shiny ones every time? Sure her old wooden butter pats look quite heritagey sitting there by the stove but are they worth the space, it’s not like you’ll ever use them? Though they do come in handy when the Play Doh comes out…

Thing is, you’ll find it’s such a relief to have drawers you can see the bottom of and shelves which aren’t groaning under towers of precariously placed clutter, you won’t want to stop at the initial 5 mins or 5 things you promised yourself. And next time you’re browsing the latest Lakeland catalogue or tempted by something in your High Street sales, think about whether you’re really going to use it or whether you’re buying for your fantasy self. Invaluable kitchen time saver or next years’ clutter clear out?  The realists will just unsubscribe from all this fantasy – but don’t get me started on digital decluttering just yet!

©2019 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught is a leading declutterer and rightsizing specialist in the UK and internationally.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers and an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers



It’s time to rethink Christmas gifts

Let’s talk about Christmas. Yes, we must. Okay so maybe you dread all the ‘Whose house shall we have it at this year?’ or ‘Do we really need to have turkey shouldn’t we have a change?’ discussions and so on. But you’ve probably started thinking about presents and what you’ll get for who. The more organised among us are probably working their way well down THE LIST.

What do you mean the thought of buying all the Christmas presents doesn’t fill you with tingles of excitement and anticipation? Not filled with the joy of giving? Or the pleasure of receiving? Well to be honest if you feel that way you’re not alone. The buying of gifts can be highly stressful, knowing who to buy for, what to buy, when to find time to buy it, the guilt over buying endless stuff that may or may not end up going to waste, the packaging, the budgeting, the panic over what if I buy them this shower gel and it turns out they’re allergic to normal soaps so they won’t be able to use it and they end up getting me something four times the price?

The never knowing who will spring surprise gifts on you, the colleague who suddenly produces homemade chutney for the whole team, the neighbour who pops round with a bottle… so you need the backup presents too. Not to mention your nearest and dearest, their birthday present was a bit of a damp squib so you’d better get them something amazing this time round. The pressure, the pressure.

Then there’s the receiving. If you’re struggling to buy yourself nice things, good clothes, meals out, stuff for the house, it can be lovely to receive these things for a gift. But more often than not the things we’re given are definitely NOT the things we would have bought ourselves. Galling to find someone has spent a fair whack on buying you a fancy oil burner you’re never going to use when you would have loved that amount of cash to spend on something you wanted AND needed. And now you’re faced with the dilemma of do you keep the gift you’re never going to use taking up valuable cupboard space or do you get rid of it straightaway and risk being found out by the giver?

But there is another way. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Have a gift amnesty. Chances are, there are countless others in your circle who think the same as you do. of being guilted into giving 30 gifts this Christmas and receiving 30 back, why don’t you talk to people you know and decide between you to have a no-gift Christmas. The gift can be freeing each other from the burden of gift giving. Imagine how relaxing Christmas would be? Someone needs to break the cycle of obligation. Why not you?

Someone who feels strongly about this is Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert. He launched his campaign against giving unneccessary Christmas presents nine years ago and it’s going strong. He isn’t saying ‘don’t give your grandmother any presents and let the kids cradle a piece of coal’. He’s railing against the ever widening number of people for whom we feel obliged to buy for. Neighbours, friends, kids’ friends, the lady in the playground we don’t like but she’s just handed us a ribbon wrapped package (‘It’s just a little something, you don’t need to get me anything…’).

In a nutshell, his argument goes thus: by giving so many Christmas presents we’re mis-prioritising our finances, spending money we can’t afford to spend and worse, we’re creating an often stressful obligation on those we’re giving to, as they’re forced into a situation where they feel they need to reciprocate. So I give you a £20 sequinned clutch bag. In return you give me a £20 picture frame. So we spent the same amount but if I had the choice would I have spent £20 on buying myself a picture frame? Probably not. So we’re all quids down. Here’s his updated blog post on the subject.

And remember, reigning in present buying among your wider circles is very different to banning all gift buying and ending up empty handed on Christmas morning. Nobody wants that. But think about biting the bullet and having an amnesty among friends. When you mention it, chances are they’ll be mighty relieved and back you up all the way.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers and an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers




The secret of why you have clutter and how to sort it

Clutter bug. Clutter magnet. Bit of a hoarder. Not great descriptions are they. Maybe that’s how you’ve described yourself. Or someone you know. You may be directly affected by someone else’s clutter habit. Like a partner, a child or even your boss. Mess, clutter, piles of stuff can tire us out, bog us down and stop us moving forward in life. So why is it so common? Why doesn’t everyone with an overflowing desk and piles of paperwork on the kitchen table just have a good tidy up?

Clutter comes from a good place…

Because it’s not always that simple. First of all, if it’s YOUR life that had more clutter than clear space, don’t beat yourself up about it. It comes from a good place. We hold onto stuff because we hate to throw it away, hate the idea of waste.  It’s just that instead of making us feel virtuous, it can quickly become overwhelming and lead to us feeling anxious that it’s out of control. Anxious that we’ll never be able to use it all. That there’s nowhere to put it. That we won’t be able to find anything. So we get stuck.

It’s often a sign of anxiety…

People are usually more cluttered when they’re anxious because their minds are full and they prefer to keep sight of where everything is because if they put it away, they’re scared they may never be able to find it. When you’re anxious you often don’t trust your instincts and methodologies any more. You’re not functioning normally so you keep everything out, you can’t put it away because you don’t know what you’re doing with it. You’re not feeling in control and keeping everything in sight is your way of feeling less overwhelmed.

Perfectionism can lead to more mess…

It’s true. Anxiety and clutter are all about perfectionism. People who can’t reorganise their workspace, create systems to run their home life more efficiently, fill in a form to kick start their divorce and so on are usually perfectionists. They want to do it all in one go, to make sure it’s the best thing they’ve ever done/organised/written in their life.

Perfectionism, anxiety and clutter all go together…

But remember this – done is perfect. So said Sarah Cottman, founder of the Institute of Professional Organisers. What did she mean? She meant don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Don’t get strung up on doing the whole thing, making it amazing, doing the best job ever – just start it and see how you go. Do it.

So how do we start on the clutter?

For a start, don’t do this: *surveys the bedroom and thinks…* ‘My wardrobe’s out of control. I need to try on every single thing and get rid of half of it and make back all the money I’ve wasted on unworn impulse buys by selling it on eBay. Then I’ll paint the wardrobe, oh and I could switch the cupboard handles for those nice vintage ones I’ve had sitting in the garage for 5 years if I can ever find them in the mess there, it’ll look gorgeous…’ Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Not today. That’s one big job.

But. If you’d said: ‘I’m going to fill one Tesco bag for the charity shop and clear the bank statements out of the fruit bowl’, then it will happen, as that’s a much easier goal that you can pull off in 10 minutes if you crack on.

So when it comes to clutter don’t think big. 

Break it up. Think small. Chip away. Baby steps. That way you’ll break through the clutter curse, get started on those piles and begin to move forward.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers and an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers

A Declutterer’s Secret to successful downsizing – this eco clearance company

It’s the decisions that make downsizing – and decluttering in general – so difficult. When do I start? How do I tackle it? Which things should I keep? And crucially, what do I do with the stuff I’ve decided to get rid of? Most of my job is helping people make decisions about their belongings, so I get it.

You start out with good intentions. This is good stuff I’m getting rid of, you think. I won’t take it to the nearest tip. I’ll do my bit for the environment. Take clothes to the charity shop.

Sell unwanted family heirlooms on eBay. Research which homeless charities take furniture. But life is busy and after a few weeks of driving around with a boot full of donations, posting stuff on eBay and wondering what on earth to do with meters of old kitchen cabinet offcuts, you’re less keen. Then you get a parking ticket when you dash into your local charity shop and… enough. Life’s too short to spend weeks depositing your collections of stuff around town.

But what if there was someone you could call? Someone who would come and take everything you didn’t want. With the promise that they’d recycle 100% of it, however obscure. And recycle as in recycle here in the UK, rather than ‘recycle’ in some far off unknown destination. Sounds too good to be true but amazingly, they do exist. They’re called Just Clear, I’ve worked with them on many a job and they’re pros.

Just Clear operates across the UK and is all about eco-friendly junk removal. Because waste, and getting rid of it, is a massive issue. We throw out around 1,600,000 tons of bulky waste (large items too large to fit into a standard dustbin) according to the RSA – and more than half of this could be reused.

When I work with Just Clear on a job it makes the process much easier. It’s a big comfort to the client if they know their belongings are being disposed of in a thoughtful, ethical way. Rather than just seeing it all slung in a skip and sent to landfill.

Just Clear founder Brendan O’Shea (who started out in commercial banking) agrees. “It’s a hard job for people to get rid of stuff”, he says. “But when people know we’re getting rid of everything ethically it makes the process easier for them. And it’s even easier when we’re working with a declutterer like Sarah. Even though our crews are very professional, it can still leave clients with an emotional scar when we remove their stuff. But Sarah will work with them before, during and after the removal process. We really rely on her to support the client.”

The company has invested solidly and it shows. No corners are cut. O’Shea explains, “Our competitors’ strategy is very short lived. Their target market is more suited to builder’s waste.” Whereas Just Clear has eco-friendly processes and solutions for every single item.

It’s not just big jobs, they’ll do a job for a sofa and a few boxes too. And seeing how they operate, and working with them, I’ve found it’s absolutely worth every (found down the back of the sofa) penny.


If you need help with home productivity and organisation, you can call Sarah on 07792298595 or email or 0203 131 6940

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers


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The biggest Clutter-Magnet mistake we make

Maybe it starts when one painful back episode too many eventually convinces you to take up yoga. Everyone does it. How hard can it be? You find a class, book yourself in, then… wait. What if you can’t do it. What if you can’t get the moves. Everyone else in that place looks so yoga-cool. Maybe you should look more the part. You trade in your saggy old leggings for some bamboo yoga pants. Get yourself a yoga mat. A yoga towel [yes it’s basically just a towel]. Hey, that strappy mat carrying sling thing looks good.  If you get it you won’t have to carry the mat. Well actually you will, but click click get it anyway. Oh and the foam brick thing, get your own cork brick. Namaste brass singing bowl anyone?

Or, perhaps still dizzy from ogling freshly baked cakes and breads on your favourite cookery show, you decide to channel your inner Mary Berry. First stop, buy up half of Lakeland to fill your kitchen with 10 different sizes of loaf tin. Icing bag and accessories. Gelato mixer. A jam funnel, a flan dish and even a nice retro tin of ceramic baking beans. Oh and is that a cupcake corer, that looks fun. Click click.

Not into yoga or baking? Maybe you’re getting a new pup. Everyone else seems to be. Remember when you got a dog when you were a kid? Bowl. Lead. Maybe a bed if it was lucky. Not so today. Before you know it you’ll be in some pet wonder world faced with a wall of paraphernalia you ever knew existed. Personalised collar with inbuilt light sensor. Automatic ball launcher. A dog bandana, what’s that for? Nevermind, it looks cute. Gosh is that a temperature controlled bed, do you need one of those too?

No you don’t. You really don’t. But you’re not alone in trying to buoy up a new hobby or project by buying a whole raft of paraphernalia to help you succeed with it. The trouble is, all the stuff you’ve bought to support you in your new pastime won’t actually make you any more likely to enjoy or stick at it. But it will be a bitter reminder if you don’t end up sticking with it.

Because too often, even though we take up something with real enthusiasm, real life takes over. You miss the yoga because a work meeting runs over. Again. And you’re tired. And the boxset is way more appealing on a cold November night. Or it turns out you don’t want to get down with the cake batter of a busy workday evening or be rolling pastry on a Saturday morning plus you’re trying to stay on the right side of trim before Christmas. Or the dog isn’t interested in any of the toys, he’d far rather chew the chair leg than the swish tug of war toy you got and why lie on the temperature controlled bed when he can sneak onto the sofa?

But here’s the thing. It’s not really about the stuff, is it? It’s about our doubts and fears and the lack of confidence we sometimes have when embarking on something new. So how do we deal with this crisis of confidence? We buy stuff. We buy so much stuff because we hope our kit, accessories, garb, will help us nail it. Get it right. Make a good go of it. But it doesn’t really change anything. Take all the shiny stuff away and it’s just us. Whether we succeed or not is really down to our dedication, ability and maybe a little bit of luck.

All of this is why so many of us have sheds, attics and under-stairs cupboards full of redundant kit we used for a month and then no more. It’s why we have ankle weights under our beds, weird pasta making contraptions in the kitchen cupboards and collections of gardening tools sitting unused in the garage. True, the colossal machine that is retail and marketing is also to blame, telling us we can’t shake a stick without having an endless raft of equipment to help us do it. But if nothing else we still have our common sense.

So next time you take up something new try giving it a go without spending a fortune on pretty but unessential products first. See how you like it and if you stick with it, maybe you can go and buy yourself some kit. As a reward. And if you don’t you won’t have wasted your money and filled your house with unwanted clutter. Clutter that only serves to remind you of your failure to stick it.


©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers

How to teach a teenager good decluttering habits

‘I will buy you a whole new range of make-up,’ I told my teenage daughter. ‘But… [of course there was going to be a but] first you need to completely declutter your current make-up supplies.’ We’ll go through all your cosmetics I said, in drawers, make-up bags, in the bathroom and get rid of everything old or that didn’t work out and you’ll never use.bedroom clutter Copyright Rightsize 2017

It was a good way to get my daughter to clear out her makeup. I mean, most of us could do with clearing out our make-up… you may have old compacts with only a thin rim of 5 year old powder round the edge, perfumes someone gave you but aren’t your thing, and creams you don’t recognise and have no idea why you bought them.

But it was also important for me to do this with my daughter because it’s good practice to start a young person off with in life. If they see it as automatic that when they go out and buy new make-up, they first need to have a sort out, a declutter, a cull, they’ll do this whenever they’re thinking about buying new cosmetics in the future. Rather than simply adding to the collection and ignoring the deep dark drawers full of nasty old decaying products. Beautifully packaged ones bought on a whim that they’ll never end up using. Eyeshadow pallets which were the wrong colour but seem too wasteful to throw away. Old hotel freebies. You get the picture.

And what better incentive can there be than the promise of mum taking you out and buying you new make-up that works for you now and that you’re going to use? This principle could be used in other areas, whether it’s wardrobe (if you declutter your wardrobe, make up a bag to give to charity and tidy everything, I’ll take you shopping and buy you some clothes). Or with toys.

Most important of all you’re ingraining in your young people the principle that in life, whenever you buy new things, you should be prepared to let other things go. The one in, one out rule. It should stand them in good stead.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers