box of old family photos that need organising

Organising your precious photos

You may have noticed when you head to our website to find an organiser that you can now search by specialism. One of these specialisms is ‘Photo Organising’ – but what is it all about and how can it help you? Ian Killick from Photorganised explains all.

Why has photo organising become a profession and a hobby?

People have been taking digital photographs for more than 20 years and are starting to realise not just how many they have taken, but that maybe they don’t have time to sort through them and view them properly.  Add to that all the print or slide photos people have in cupboards and boxes which they now wish they had in a digital format to integrate with their born-digital photos, and you can see why people are looking for some help.  This is where a photo organiser comes in: to save people time or provide the skills needed to kick-start a photo sorting project or take the job through to completion.

Why are photo organisers linked to APDO?

Photos are one of the most important categories which people need decluttering and organising, because they can hold very important, happy memories for people, or they can hold memories which people do not want a physical reminder of.  People may wish simply to get their photos sorted and may ask a photo organiser for help with this.  APDO members are professional declutterers and organisers who, whilst sorting a home or office, might come across photos which need organising.  Some APDO members are trained in this specialist area and so will be able to help with the photos, or they can introduce their client to a specialist photo organiser.  Some photo organisers are also members of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) and have passed their Certification Programme.  We all work together to achieve the best solution for clients.

APDO member Ian Killick organising photos with a client

What kind of projects can photo organisers assist with?

Photo organisers can help with:

  • Scanning slides, negatives and prints
  • Photo editing
  • Identifying and removing duplicate photos
  • Photo storage and backups / archiving
  • Creating albums, photobooks and wall art
  • Integrating disparate photo sets together
  • Setting up digital cataloguing / display software such as Apple Photos or Lightroom.

What triggers people’s photo organising projects?

From experience, the following are common trigger points:

  • Upcoming milestones or events: Where photos are needed to create a personalised present. Examples are family yearbooks to surprise a spouse on their birthday or wedding photobooks to surprise the parents/in-laws at Christmas.
  • Relationship break-up: When couples split, they sometimes want to refresh their family photo wall art around their house and ask for help to organise / filter their photos first.
  • Businesses: Needing to find photos for an upcoming website refresh or publication, but their photos need organising first.
  • Death of a relative: Families may like short-term help sorting through photos for the funeral order of service and display board at the wake. Or they may like long-term help sifting through the inherited photo collection and deciding which photos to keep and how to display and store them.
  • Computer / phone failure: When someone’s electronic device crashes and they lose photos on them, it makes them think about how they could do things differently i.e. keep their photos backed up so if their device crashes again they won’t lose any precious memories.
  • Frustration: Sometimes there is no set trigger. People get so fed up with not being able to find or view their photos that they just have to do something about it. Finding a photo organiser to help can relieve the stress for them.

An open photobook of holiday photographs

Is there a particular photo organising setup you would suggest?

I have learnt over years of photo organising that there are many computer programs / apps, many platforms like Apple, Windows, Android and iOS, plus numerous combinations of these within each home and office.  Many people like to stick with what they know and just make sure that everything is organised and backed up within their existing setup.  Others are forced to change when software such as Picasa is not supported anymore and they have to migrate their photo collection to another program such as Lightroom.  Photo organisers do not force a particular system on to their clients but make suggestions and help them with any changes.

How about some top tips?

  1. Try to set aside a regular time to work on your photos: e.g. Transferring them from camera to computer, deleting duplicates or adding filenames/tags, etc. It certainly helps gain momentum with your project if you are tackling it yourself or doing prep work before handing over to a Photo Organiser.
  2. Even if all your digital photos are not named and organised, make sure you have another copy of them, especially in another location (e.g. family member’s house or on the Cloud so if anything happens to one set, you still have your other set and have not lost any precious memories.
  3. Aim to make your photos more tangible and viewed more often: Even children who have grown up in the digital era and have never taken their camera film to be developed into prints, still love to view photos away from the screen and in a printed format like photobooks. They are great fun to make, help ensure memories are not forgotten and make great gifts!

And finally…

Photos are so precious to most of us, they tell stories and help us remember important life events.  Let’s help protect them so we do not experience a lost generation of photo memories and also make sure we are enjoying seeing all of our photos to the max!  Thanks for reading this post!

If you have questions which haven’t been answered here, you can find your nearest photo organiser here.
Keep an eye out on the APDO blog in the future for more posts on photo organising.

 

APDO Katherine Blackler meets Gretchen Rubin at the NAPO 2019 Annual Conference

Bigger in Texas: APDO at the NAPO 2019 Annual Conference

APDO’s President, Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd), and Head of Conference  Management, Sammy Ryan (Strictly Organised), have recently landed back on UK soil after attending the annual conference of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

Now in its 32nd year, the event drew over 514 attendees from 44 states of America and international delegates from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Michelle Prince

The conference kicked off on Thursday afternoon with best-selling author Michelle Prince as the first keynote speaker. In her 20s, Michelle had jump-started her career working for Zig Ziglar, the popular author and motivational speaker.  In her address, she encouraged us first to identify our story and then to brand ourselves consistently and authentically in our work and in our personal lives. This inspiring talk was followed by drinks and nibbles on the terrace where we were able to get to know our transatlantic counterparts.

Themed breakout sessions

The sessions started at 8.30am each day and ran through until late in the afternoon. There were six specific breakout sessions scheduled throughout the event which counted as Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for those working towards or maintaining, their Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) or Certified Professional Organizer – Chronic Disorganisation (CPO-CD) status.

For each breakout session, delegates needed to make a choice between five key themes: Business Productivity, Technology, Residential, Business Growth and Challenging Needs. Choosing between these five offerings every session was incredibly hard as they all sounded valuable and interesting. To maximise the learning opportunities, Sammy and Katherine divided the sessions between them and reported back the salient points!

Group of International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations representatives

Information sessions

Each day was supplemented with information sessions such as hearing the latest research into public perceptions of our industry, discussing possible future trends, meeting representatives from International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations (IFPOA) to compare cultural difference and similarities, or getting to know the conference partners exhibiting onsite.

Special Interest Groups

The conference also included scheduled opportunities for attendees to gather together for their Special Interest Groups (SIGs). These groups represent those NAPO members more experienced in specific areas ranging from services such as moving and relocation, holistic organising,  environmentally-conscious organising and include hoarding,  technology or business productivity specialists. The SIGSs also cover supplementary revenue streams for members who are published authors or professional speakers for the industry.

Gretchen Rubin

The Saturday afternoon gifted us with a second top-drawer keynote speaker, Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home.  Her new book Outer Calm, Inner Peace continued the theme of the importance of decluttering and designing your environment to improve your sense of wellbeing. Gretchen also expanded on four behavioural tendencies (upholder, obliger, rebel and questioner) which can help explain our own and our clients’ responses to the world. Sammy, having identified herself as a ‘questioner’ spent the rest of the weekend quizzing Katherine on anything and everything, while Katherine, an ‘obliger’ in Gretchen’s definitions, tried desperately to keep Sammy content with her responses!

Katherine Blacker and Sammy Ryan of APDO with author Gretchen Rubin

President’s Reception

The social highlight was the President’s Reception on Saturday evening at which we were actively encouraged to embrace the Texas location. After the intensity of so much stimulating food for thought during the days, everyone was delighted to don western attire and let their hair down. Some of us tried line dancing, with mixed success, but we’re pleased to report no previous (or future) APDO conference speakers were trampled in these attempts!

Bringing it all home

Leaving NAPO, Katherine said “We felt we’d been through the spin cycle of an industrial washing machine! It’s taken a good week or so to percolate all the information and ideas we absorbed over the five days, whether for our own businesses and clients, for our personal development or the great ideas and connections we made on behalf of APDO”.

“Next steps for both of us are to make time to review our notes and slides, implement the learnings, hold each other accountable for the goals we’ve set. Oh, and to make the APDO 2020 conference even BIGGER than Texas”, a bold statement from Sammy Ryan as APDO’s Head of Conference!

Watch this space!

You can find out more about Katherine and Sammy’s roles on the APDO Board, and the other Board members, here.

NAPO 2019 Annual Conference banner image

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Decluttering when someone has died

Sentimental items are without a doubt the most difficult things to deal with when decluttering. Emotions around objects can be incredibly strong, as we link feelings and memories to physical objects and this is especially true when someone has passed away. In this post, Zoe Berry of Life/Edit gives her advice on decluttering a lifetime of possessions after someone dies.

sentimental flowers

Decluttering when someone has died: How to deal with a lifetime of possessions

Recently I have worked with two clients for whom this is a huge issue: they are responsible for decluttering after someone has died, and they find themselves hanging on to far too much stuff because of an almost paralysing inability to make decisions on what to do with it all. There are varied reasons for this: in these particular cases, the sheer volume of it all was overwhelming. Where do you start with a whole house or the contents of someone’s entire life that’s ended up in boxes in your loft? But perhaps greater than this is the associated guilt. When someone has died it can be so hard to part with their belongings: knowing how hard the person worked for them, knowing what the items meant to the person, worrying that you are being disloyal or disrespectful by simply ‘getting rid’ of them, or not knowing who to give them to or where they should go if you do want to part with them. This post explores how you can respectfully and thoughtfully keep someone’s memory alive without having to be the keeper of all of their belongings.

First: ask for help

This is going to be hard. You probably can’t do it on your own, so allow the people who are offering help to work through it with you. Or if this isn’t an option, look up a professional declutterer here: https://www.apdo.co.uk/find-an-organiser/. We are trained to help you, and can help to guide you through the process.

Start with the ‘least difficult’

In the case of post-bereavement decluttering, there probably isn’t an ‘easy’ place to start, but whatever you do, don’t start with the most emotional things. You’ll know what these are. For some people it’s about their mum’s clothes, for some it’s their husband’s precious collection of books which were his pride and joy. For some people it’s about something that may seem entirely random but you will know what is going to be the most difficult for you. Leave that until the end.

Do I really want to keep this?

Look at the item and ask yourself: what precisely am I sentimental about? Chances are, it’s not the object itself but its association with a person, place, or time. You will retain that memory without a physical object to remind you. However if you look at the item and love it, then it’s not clutter.

pile of photographs letters and memories

Let go of guilt

Often people keep items not out of love or nostalgia, but guilt. It could be because it feels ‘bad’ to get rid of something, or it could be because you had a difficult relationship with the person who has died and you’re subconsciously trying to make it better. Allow yourself to realise that your complex relationship with your aunty will not be fixed if you keep hold of her hideous set of figurines now that she has passed away.

Take a photograph

If you have your grandparents’ table and chairs and you know you can’t keep them and won’t use them, take a photo of them as part of the process of letting them go. Use the same logic as you do with other parts of your decluttering life (you wouldn’t keep all your kids’ toys for example) and apply it to the post-bereavement decluttering.

Pass it on

Do some quality research before passing your items to charity. Some charities only take specific things (for example, no electrical goods) and you don’t want to be turned away after the difficult and emotional process of sorting through, loading your car and driving to the charity shop. Recently I donated a whole lifetime’s worth of clothes which had belonged to a client’s mum. Going through these clothes was so difficult for my client, she spent hours in tears remembering the stories that went with them: where her mum wore them and how they summed her up. I made sure these clothes went to a charity shop local to me which specialises in vintage clothing. For this client, the idea that the next generation of vintage-loving young women would be soon wearing them filled her with joy and pride.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Family

You may not want something or have room for it, but you can always offer it to others in the family. Remember to check with them first before packing an object off to somewhere outside the family.

Upcycle

To hold onto your connection with something, create something new that retains its sentimental value. An example of this recently was an antique chair belonging to a client’s beloved great aunty. I encouraged her to upcycle it so it fitted more in to her house décor and she covered it with some beautiful fabric bringing it right up to date whilst still retaining the nod to her family member.

Dealing with collections

It’s very difficult when dealing with the possessions of an avid collector. Your dad may have loved his thousands of model cars, your brother loved his rooms full of books, but it doesn’t mean you have to absorb them into your home. Choosing one or two keepsake items to represent a collection, person or era can allow you to let the rest go.

Memory Box

Just as you’d keep a memory box for your children with their precious school drawings, first shoes and other sentimental items, you can also do this for someone who has died. It doesn’t matter how off-the-wall these things are – if an empty margarine tub makes you chuckle thinking about your gran, then pop it in the box. This is a good way to preserve memories without taking up too much space. It also keeps the items all together, so you can choose when you want to look at them, particularly if grief is still very raw.

Most of all be kind to yourself. Take time, acknowledge that this is one of the hardest things to do, accept help and reward yourself when you make progress.

Open notebook and a pen next to a pot plant

Spring Clearing Week wrapped up!

Spring Clearing Week 2019 has been inspiring and informative! In case you missed any of our tips, blogs and interviews, here’s a round-up for you:

 

decluttered organised bedroom

We were delighted to guest post for:

 

organised boxes in a white room ready for unpacking

We shared these intriguing initiatives happening outside APDO:

  • You might think it odd that we interviewed an online sales platform but you’ll soon see why we wanted to bring you this very interesting interview with Tara Button, founder of BuyMeOnce.
  • If you’ve not used Library of Things we highly recommend watching this fascinating interview with Alys Penfold, Community Activator. Will you be inspired to set up a Library of Things in your community?!

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

Thank you for reading, sharing and liking our Spring Clearing Week tips!

And, finally, thank you to the APDO Social Media volunteer team: Simon Wizgell, Nichola Skedgel, Claire Birnie, Cory Cook, Tilo Flache, Mel Carruthers and Kate Ibbotson, for working tirelessly behind the scenes this week.

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

In conversation with BuyMeOnce

Tara Button, CEO & Founder of BuyMeOnce, is at the forefront of the global movement to change the way we shop and live forever, championing the longest-lasting and most sustainable products on Earth. 

In the spirit of Spring Clearing Week 2019, professional organiser and APDO member Caroline Rogers spoke to Tara, to find out more about the movement, the website and how we can all benefit. 

 

You can find out more about Spring Clearing Week 2019 here!

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

This is no April fool: it’s Spring Clearing Week!

Yes, you read that right, APDO is encouraging you to Spring cleaR before you Spring cleaN!

Life is often busy. Our homes, our heads and our calendars can end up pretty full.

A survey by Money Magpie found that less than half of Brits now bother with Spring cleaning. However, 60 per cent seize Springtime to declutter, so, in 2018, APDO introduced #SpringClearingWeek to encourage this great ritual of a Spring Clear.

Clearing clutter at home

We rarely take time to plan what we bring into our homes; gifts, freebies and impulse purchases sneak their way in, even when we have the best of intentions. This is a great time of year to consider if you have any unwanted items that sneak in too often and for you to consider strategies that could stem the flow.

By reducing the number of unwanted items that arrive into your front door, you begin to set a good baseline from which to clear items out the back door, so to speak. Not sure where to start? A fun game to start at the beginning of a month is The Mins Game, which you can play with a friend or others in your household and helps you to slowly build up the number items to let go.

Clearing calendar commitments

Demands are made on us from work, children, friends, family, media…. The list is almost endless and we can end up feeling pulled in dozens of different directions.

Maybe you pretty happy with your physical space but you’re feeling thinly spread when it comes to the number of commitments in your week. Take some time this week to consider what is important to you and what you can put to one side, even if only temporarily; do you need to enlist help with something, learn to delegate a task or simply say “no” to something or someone?

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Creating clearer thinking

Often clearing your physical space or diary can help to increase mental clarity. Removing distractions from our environment or reducing activities that drain our energy frees up just enough space in our heads to allow us to process our thoughts more easily.

Spring Clearing Week Resources

APDO professional organisers will be sharing motivational tips and clever hacks on our blog and social media this week.

Many APDO members know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by clutter, and have become professional organisers in order to share their decluttering experience and knowledge with their clients. If you would like a helping hand this Spring Clearing Week, you can find your local organiser on the APDO website.

Small succulent plant in a white pot signifying organised recycling

7 steps to create your own home recycling system

Reducing the use of plastics, building sustainable houses, repurposing discarded materials – the media is full of information about the problems consumerism can cause and articles about how much we can do to help the situation. Some of the facts are truly mind-blowing… For example, did you know that the energy saved from recycling just one glass bottle is enough to power a light bulb for four hours? When we recycle we are decreasing the need for landfills and incinerators, therefore reducing ground and air pollution as well as land usage. In this post, Filipa do Carmo of Khora Space Sorted explains how to organise your own recycling system at home.

If you want to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, start with the simple act of recycling. Having a simple system in place is a great way to guarantee your commitment. And by simple, I mean, a system that works specifically for you (and your family or co-workers).

Here are some steps to make it happen:

1. Do your research

Start by checking online for recycling options in your community. You can easily find this information on your local council’s website. As you know, the rules vary enormously depending on location, so do check. This information will serve as a guide to help you with the steps below and provide you with a quick reference guide to check. This is especially useful if you need to separate the different types of waste.

2. Know your trash

If you know the type of waste you create and how often it’s collected it will be easier to decide which bins to get, if you need this extra storage, and where to place your bins. Take time to observe the quantity and type of waste you produce before you decide what to get.

Row of organised coloured recycling bins

3. Make it easy

This is a really important step. If it doesn’t make sense, or is dysfunctional, we will be less likely to commit.

Placing the recycling bin next to the non-recycling one will increase the chances of recycling more. When this is not possible in the space we have available, try to find the nearest location.

Another option is to have different containers which let you separate as you dispose, to avoid having to sort everything twice.

4. Compost

The benefits of composting are endless; it makes total sense to use organic matter to nourish our soil. Some councils offer compost bins and bags which they collect on specific days. Otherwise, you can donate it to local gardeners or allotment holders, or use it for your own garden, if you are lucky to have one.

5. Bathroom recycling

Whilst most households are getting better at sorting their kitchen waste, the same rarely happens in the bathroom. A good solution here is to have two bins in the bathroom too and use one to collect empty plastic bottles and paper which can be recycled.

If you want to push it a bit further, start thinking about using plastic-free alternatives – such as soap, solid shampoo –  or making your own face cream. There are a lot of options out there.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

6. Battery recycling

Set aside a small box or can in which you can place used batteries and other small electrics. These are highly toxic and need to be recycling in specialised containers. Most supermarkets now have bins for batteries, so keeping your battery box close to your shopping bags will remind you to take them with you when you go shopping.

7. Donation box

Another good idea is to have a donation box into which you can place clothes, electronics and other items you no longer need, but which could be useful to others. It’s always better to keep everything in one place, instead of different piles around your home. In this way, whenever you know you are going to pass by your local charity shop, you can take everything with you in one go. Or perhaps contact a charity to book a collection.

In our recent blog post “What to do with your unwanted stuff” there are some further suggestions of how to recycle the items that you are decluttering from your home.

If Filipa’s post has inspired you to declutter and get organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

white house frontage against blue sky depicting an organised home renovation

Surviving the chaos of home renovations

With so much uncertainty in the housing market at the moment, it seems more of us than ever are undertaking home renovations instead of moving, and many of us are having to live on site to save on costs. Nancy Jones of Serene Spaces has been there… so what better person to give us some guidance on how to organise your home and life in readiness for a renovation!

paint pots and ladder against pale blue wall in an organised home redecoration project

Having lived through two major home renovations, what have I learnt?

Declutter well before building work starts: 

Sort your possessions into three categories:

  • Keep – limit items to the essentials for everyday living. Store items you think you might need in a dry garage or perhaps a room which will remain untouched during the build.  Do remember, though, to keep items accessible – avoid having to climb over a mountain of things to find batteries, for example!  Have a designated area for daily essentials such as keys, mobile phones, wallet, etc. and keep valuables safe, ideally off-site.
  • Store – put items you know you won’t use or need for the duration of the build into storage. Despite the cost, this is especially true of bulky items as it will save you the time and effort of having to lug things from one room to another, not to mention avoiding the dust which finds its way into everything! The less you have on your building site the better.
  • Donate/sell/discard – when looking through your items, consider your current and future space. If you are having a modern renovation, it is likely that some of your current possessions will not work in the new space/s and you may decide to donate or sell them instead. (You can find useful information on where to donate your edited items in this recent post!)

Basic living is key:

Get your kids (and yourself!) excited about indoor camping. It is best if you can plan your build over the warmer months as the BBQ will become your best friend.  Picnics become the daily norm.  With limited storage and space, meal planning is crucial.  Plan a weekly menu.  Remember, it will not be forever so don’t feel guilty if you need to resort to some microwaved meals.

Keep calm and carry on:

Expecting to keep a tidy clean house during a build project is not feasible and trying to do so will put unnecessary pressure on you. As long as the house is safe, a bit of dirt never harmed anyone!

Keep your remaining rooms multi-functional:

The more you can keep your usable rooms flexible, the better. Go with the flow – you may find that at certain times of the renovation, bedroom and living room merge and furniture (or a well-placed sheet) may need to become a divider for your space.

paint swatches and renovation plans laid out on a table in an organised home renovation

Consider future storage needs:

Many of us struggle with a lack of storage in our homes. Renovating is the perfect opportunity to be clever with storage and make sure that you are getting the most out of your space.  This will help ensure that everything has a place and there is a place for everything.

Consider your current and future possessions (for example, when we finish the renovation, we are planning to get bigger bikes for the kids) and plan your storage accordingly.  Think about items which you only need now and then (for example suitcases, Christmas decorations, etc.) and plan how these might be stored in some of those awkward spaces which don’t need to be accessible every day such as under-stairs cupboard, spaces in the eves if you are having a loft conversion, and so on.

Keep the end goal in sight:

It is normal for your enthusiasm and momentum to wane during renovations. Collect pictures from Pinterest, Houzz, home magazines, etc. of how you would like your space to look and keep them in the forefront of your mind.  You will get there, and it will be worth it in the end!

Lastly, deep breaths and relaxation time help too. And if you need some help, you can find your local professional organiser here.

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Help is on hand, and it’s OK to take it

‘I should be able to do it on my own.’ As professional organisers we hear this, or a much harsher variation, on a regular basis as we work with people to transform their spaces. Claire de Boursac, psychotherapist and professional organiser at The Art of Clearing, examines our self-critical voices and discusses some ways to dispel them in this helpful and sensitive guest post.

Headshot of Claire de Boursac APDO member standing under a tree

Is self-criticism stopping you?

It always saddens me to hear people speak unkindly to themselves, often reflecting impossibly high expectations which usually don’t take into account the reality of their lives. It’s something I also hear a lot in my work as a psychotherapist, where clients feel they should be able to face challenges alone. Why? Humans are social beings. We live in community, we’re programmed to work together and support each other. We each have our unique skills and ways of being in the world. I don’t believe anyone masters every area of their life – and more importantly, I don’t think they need to. It’s a responsible and courageous thing to know our strengths and our weaknesses and to enlist support where we need it. There is no shame in asking for help.

Although these self-criticisms are as varied as the people who live with them, there are some common threads.

I hear clients make their clutter a character flaw, as if it is central to their personality. They might call themselves ‘messy’. No, the space is messy.  You are human.

I also often work with people who tell themselves they are ‘lazy’ because they haven’t tidied or haven’t unpacked those boxes from the move several years ago. I then discover they have very full lives, investing huge amounts of time and energy in work or family and quite rightly choose to spend their weekends resting and enjoying hard-earned time off.

bright decluttered organised sitting room with the letters HOME mounted on a brick feature wall

The organisation myth

There is a myth that it is easy to be organised and to keep a tidy home. It may be for some people.  But there are many more for whom it is challenging. There may be a number of reasons for this: physical or mental challenges or an emotional element to the items to be managed. ‘Stuff’ is often more than just ‘stuff.’ Objects can come into our lives through choice, gift and obligation. It can be complicated and emotionally charged to deal with them. That vase you hate but was given by a friend you love, the belongings of a loved one who has died, an object or clothes that are past their usefulness but are so deeply connected to a joyous time in your life that saying goodbye to them feels like saying goodbye to those delicious memories. Sometimes there is simply so much stuff that the thought of decluttering is overwhelming, seemingly impossible to know where to start.

Recognising your own critical voice

Whatever someone’s particular challenge is, there are doubtless hundreds, if not thousands of people thinking the same unkind thoughts and criticising themselves and their homes. A nasty inner critic is incredibly common, so much so that most people think it’s just part of them, something they need to put up with. I disagree.

You might recognise your own critical voice by its harsh tone. We typically speak to ourselves in a manner that we would never speak to someone else. What do you say to yourself from that place? Would you speak to your friend or loved one in that tone, with those words? The critical voice usually attacks us in an area we are already tender about, in this case our clutter or keeping our home a particular way. Because of this vulnerable quality, it can be helpful to ask ourselves ‘Would you speak to a child in that way?’ The answer is inevitably ‘No.’ We might then ask, if a child you care about was facing the feelings you’re dealing with right now – embarrassment, fear, overwhelm, whatever it is – how would you respond to them? I’m guessing with something like compassion, understanding, reassurance. You deserve the same.

Open notebook and pen next to a mug and plant on a white desk

The role of the professional organiser

Although I suspect it may be true for my fellow declutterers, I can only speak for myself. I have never felt critical of a client for how their home is. In truth, I am actually not so interested in the physical appearance of the home and whether it is tidy or messy. What matters to me is how my client is impacted by living there and how near or far it is from their wishes for the space. I see my role as being a skilled and supportive guide along that path and it matters not a jot to me what that path is – be it reorganising a tidy house or creating order from utter chaos.

I said I’m saddened when I hear the harsh self-criticism of my clearing clients and I am, but I am saddened even more by the realisation that there are probably clients I work alongside who have that critical voice running wild but don’t share it with me, and therefore don’t give me the chance to challenge it with them, and that there are doubtless many more people for whom the strength of this voice stops them even booking a session. If that is you, please know that it is absolutely OK that you want some support with this. You don’t have to do it alone. Now take a deep breath and drop me or one of my APDO colleagues a line. We’d be delighted to help you.

If Claire’s post has encouraged you to seek guidance from a professional organiser, you can find your nearest APDO member here.