Headshot of Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a KonMari consultant

In this series of posts on our members’ professional development, we are interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In this next post in the series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo about becoming a KonMari consultant.  

What is a KonMari consultant?

Marie Kondo is a Japanese tidying guru who’s written a number of books and has a Netflix show. She’s a sweet, nice and kind person. Her trademarked method of tidying is called The Marie Kondo Method™ and often referred to as KonMari.

KonMari consultants focus on what ‘sparks joy’. That means focussing on the positive rather than the negative, focussing on what you want to keep rather than on what to discard.

Generally, consultants follow the specific Marie Kondo Method™. First of all, we work with clients on their vision, which is what they want their life to look like. We then use this as a springboard for decluttering and the decluttering process.

We use categories of items to prevent looking at the same thing over and over again. We work on categories in a specific order, beginning with clothes, then books, paper and then komono which is everything else (although, obviously, we split this into sub-categories so that it is not too overwhelming). Finally, we work on sentimental items – it’s important to leave this to the end so that you are practised at knowing what sparks joy.

I haven’t found anyone who the Marie Kondo Method™ hasn’t suited. People aren’t robots, of course, and it can be a very flexible system if that’s needed to suit the client.

How did you get interested in the KonMari Method™?

I’ve been an expat for most of my life, having to move at very short notice. Leading a decluttered and organised life and being ready to move is a way of feeling less pressure in that situation.  And focussing positively on what to keep is so much better than thinking about what has to be discarded. We took this approach when my mother moved and it was rather fantastic fun!

What makes a good KonMari consultant?

Kindness and empathy. It’s probably the same for all professional organisers.

Also not pushing my own agenda. I’ve done my KonMari decluttering and my life is not the same as yours. If you struggle or find yourself in a muddle, I’m here to listen, show compassion and help.

A tidy kitchen

Tell us about the training

The training is a rigorous procedure to ensure that standards are maintained and that clients know what they are getting!

First of all, you have to read Marie Kondo’s books and apply the method to your own home, taking photographs to document the process.

Then you apply to go on a certification course. I attended the first European KonMari seminar in London in April 2018 which was three days long. Now they are mainly being run online, although there are still some in-person courses.

You then spend at least 30 hours with a practice client, submitting reports throughout the process. If this is up to standard, you then take an online exam. If you don’t pass then you do get a second chance at it. If you fail for a second time you are then mentored by a certified consultant.

After this, you have an informal interview, pay the certification fee and are then listed on the KonMari website.

There are a number of levels of certification from Green (newly certified) to Master, depending on the number of hours you’ve spent with clients. I’m currently Gold (600 hours) working towards Platinum level.

Of course, you’re learning all the time. Each client and situation is different.  There is a fantastic supportive community of consultants and you can always access help from KonMari Inc.

How much does the course cost?

Virtual certification courses that last ran in September 2020 cost US$2,000.

How is your business benefitting?

Training in the Marie Kondo Method™ gave me the confidence to start The Tidy Coo (I hadn’t heard about APDO training at that point) and it gives me a structure to help other people, whatever the situation.  Clients have often read Marie Kondo’s books and specifically want to work using the Marie Kondo Method™ and come to me for that reason.

What’s your advice to someone thinking about following this training?

Go for it! It’s worth knowing that consultants are encouraged to show the Method by example, by living lives that spark joy. We do this by looking for things that we love and focussing on things that spark joy!

Thank you Rosie for telling us about your KonMari journey and how it benefits both your clients and business.

If you would like to find out more about APDO members and their specialisms, take a look at the Find An Organiser directory.

 

 

an open laptop with hands typing productivity

6 tips to boost your productivity in 2021

“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker

How true this is! As we start a new year, Kate Galbally of Better Organised shares her top tips for better productivity and less stress.

Tip 1: Declutter your diary

Do you feel over-obligated, over-loaded and overwhelmed? Are you longing to reduce overwhelm and simplify your life? If so, I recommend starting with a review of your diary commitments so that you can approach your days with a calm energy and enjoy better balance and productivity.

Start by identifying the activities and commitments that are non-negotiable and those that you love such as work-related obligations, social engagements, children’s extra-curricular activities or volunteering responsibilities. Once you have fixed these in your calendar, look at all the other things you are spending your time on and make decisions on what can stay and what you can let go of or delegate. It is possible that some of the regular activities in your calendar are no longer either fulfilling or necessary; ditching them could open up some much-needed space.

If you’re hesitating about stopping something in order to reclaim some time, do bear in mind it doesn’t have to be forever – ‘no’ can mean ‘not now’ – and you can always revisit it at a later date.

Tip 2: Attach your “to-do’s” to “when’s”

Rather than using a traditional to-do list, try taking a diary-led approach where you schedule blocks of times for specific activities. This can really help you get a handle on how you spend your time. Using a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar, and plotting out realistic and reasonable blocks of time, can give you a visual overview of your commitments and, importantly, your capacity. I find this makes it so much easier for me to make informed decisions about taking on additional commitments, as I can simply see at a glance whether or not I have the time to take on anything else.

Tip 3: Schedule a weekly review

This activity can be a game-changer when it comes to productivity! Make an appointment with yourself and use that time to capture, evaluate and process any outstanding items, review your upcoming schedule and generally catch up with yourself. This is an opportunity to deal with any loose ends at work and home such as unanswered emails or phone calls, notes from meetings, texts and your in-tray. You can assess your calendar for next actions and get really clear on your current tasks and activities.

a watch laid across a productivity notepad

Tip 4: Set a timer

One scientifically proven tip for beating procrastination is to identify a micro-goal, set a timer for 5 minutes, and then spend those 5 minutes working towards that goal. Once you have started something, you’re much more likely to finish it. This is known as The Zeigarnik Effect.

Tip 5: The 2-minute Rule

If a task is going to take 2 minutes or less, just do it! In his book, Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen promotes this rule as a way of dealing with fiddly little tasks and simple actions that don’t ever need to go on a to-do list or in a calendar. I’ve found that this can be an effective way of keeping on top of messages, as well as little jobs around the house i.e. putting away some laundry.

Tip 6: The RAFT Technique – Refer, Act, File or Trash

I use this technique for emails, incoming tasks and mail, and find that applying RAFT thinking can make processing these items relatively swift and seamless. I highly recommend that you only have your email account open when you have time to process emails not just check them.

I find it can also be helpful to keep the number of folders you use down to the bare minimum. This reduces the thinking involved in working out where to put/find messages, but means there is no need for scrolling up and down a long list of possibilities.

Why not try these simple tips and see if you can start 2021 with your diary and emails in good shape? This will help you make the most of the year ahead.

If Kate’s tips have inspired you to get some help with your productivity and organising goals this year, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers and productivity experts on our Find An Organiser database.

 

 

A Christmas teddy bear toy

HO HO NO! It’s Christmas!

It’s Christmas! Carole Reed of HappySort has been revising Christmas plans… and shares her advice on keeping the clutter down this festive season.

So, it looks as though Christmas is back on!

If you are anything like me, you won’t even have thought about it yet, let alone started planning for it. When Christmas plans were all up in the air, it was easy to ignore it or justify your lack of action “because we just don’t know what’s happening.”  Like many others, I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes but I did secretly hope for a quieter and simpler celebration this year. I love seeing the family but maybe not all at once, and not at the end of the most frenetic month of the year.

As leaked stories made the press, it dawned on me that Christmas WAS probably back on… but I really didn’t feel ready. It’s not just the visitors, or the food preparation, it’s the stuff! After clearing out piles of junk from the garage, the cupboards and the bedrooms during lockdown (and there still being suspiciously little space!), I don’t want to fill them all back up again with things that I neither need nor want.

Have a pre-Christmas sort out

A lot of people see January as a time for having a clear out, AFTER the avalanche of stuff has arrived and found its way into wardrobes, under beds and into cupboards. I say yes, do have a mini sort then, but the main clear out should be in early December (or any time before Christmas).

If you have children, it is likely that they are going to have a huge number of presents arriving through the door. Maybe they will get even more than usual this year just because 2020 has been such a difficult year.

Lockdowns, travel restrictions and shielding have meant that some families have been separated for nine months or more. Even if you decide that you are not going to go overboard this year, you can bet that the grandparents probably will! If you know it’s a lost cause asking them to buy less (or smaller – many younger children already have enormous bulky toys), then you will need to make space in your home and it really is worth doing this now.

Children outgrow the bigger bulky toys quite quickly. That Playmobile fire station with all the broken fire engines and tiny pieces that sits in a box under the stairs? Well, it may have cost £100, which is why you find it difficult to part with it, but it needs to go. And the Barbie house too. And the whole shelf of Mr Men books (and, yes, I know you loved them when you were a child), the Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs, the Scalextric set with the broken track, the Orchard Toy games and the over-sized stuffed teddies that you never know where to put.

A child playing with a toy buggy next to a Christmas tree

Engage your children in the sort out

I’m not suggesting that you get rid of everything, just things that are damaged or genuinely no longer played with. If you are low on energy or time, it may be easier to do this by yourself or you can help your child to make decisions about their possessions. Depending on the age of the child you can explain that you just won’t have room for all the new Christmas presents – which should be an incentive! You can talk about your child’s age and how grown up they are getting (children love this, adults not so much) to justify getting rid of more babyish things.

I heard some great ideas on a podcast recently (“A Slob Comes Clean”). One suggestion was that Santa leaves behind a sack which needs to be filled with old toys to give to less fortunate children. The Elf on the Shelf gets involved too, only performing tricks if old toys are left out for him to take away. Older children could be encouraged to get money for items sold on their behalf or they may just see the logic in what you are saying about having a clear out.

 Avoiding unwanted presents

If you speak to your child(ren) about what they want for Christmas you can then tell family members what to get for them. It can be embarrassing when a child opens a present in front of the giver and it’s not something that they like because kids are not good at hiding their true feelings.

Perhaps sit down with your children and do Google searches together. This can be as basic as ‘presents for 13-year-old boys’. If you run out of ideas, perhaps agree with them that vouchers or experiences are good options and, better still, they take up no space at all!

A Christmas card with the message "Collect moments not things" with Christmas decorations on a table

Another method is to draw up a list of gift ideas over the year. My son would never tell me in December that he wanted khaki trousers, but he did come home from his friend’s party in the summer telling me all about the camouflage items his friend had got and asked if he could have some too.

I also buy things over the year too as this minimises last minute panics. If you do this too, remember to check the cupboard/drawer in which you have hidden things so that you know what you have already bought and you don’t duplicate anything. There’s been many a year when I’ve checked the stash a couple of days before Christmas and realized I had more than I thought in there or that there were some perfectly good items I’d kept for re-gifting to family, but had forgotten about and so had bought them something else. The stash in the present cupboard then gets bigger. It used to be a shelf in the cupboard but now it’s the whole cupboard!

Think about a present embargo

Why not have a chat with family members about whether or not you actually buy each other presents anymore? Do you really want another jokey apron or Christmas jumper? Does your husband need another pair of comedy socks or another mug? I did this with my sisters recently and we all agreed to carry on buying for each other but we don’t buy anything for the husbands. Similarly, we have stopped exchanging gifts with my brother and sister-in-law in New York and this year we are not buying gifts for my husband’s brother and his wife, who have three children. As we have three children too, it all gets too expensive and stressful trying to come up with original ideas.

A subtle Christmas Day cull

When my children have received age inappropriate gifts (say Tinkerbell pyjamas for a ten-year-old) or multiple Lego sets, I quietly whisk them to one side to put in the present cupboard. If you don’t do it as you go along, they will open the boxes or rip off labels so that things can’t be re-gifted or given to charity.

No pressure intended!

This article is not intended to put more pressure on people to prepare for what is already a hugely stressful event. It is to point out that with a targeted focus on toys and presents, you can make space and/or control what will be coming into your home. This will mean less clutter and less stress. If you feel that it is already too late for this year, then bear these ideas in mind for another year.

If Carole’s advice has inspired you to have a pre-Christmas declutter, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers in our Find An Organiser database.

 

 

a laptop keyboard

Decluttering and organising digital documents

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms has been decluttering and organising her digital documents. In this post she explains how she did it, and how she keeps her digital world organised. 

The Big Sort Out!

I recently sorted and organised every single digital document I own. I expected it to take me days of staring at my screen in mild agitation as I wrestled with thousands of little yellow folders. Surprisingly, it only took me about half a day to complete, and by the end of it I’d renamed, removed and reassigned almost all of the documents stored in my cloud.  I now know exactly what documents I own, which folders to find them in and where to allocate new files. It was a hugely satisfying achievement that still feels absolutely wonderful!

The process was worthy of a name so I called it, The Big Sort Out!

a laptop and computer screen on an organised desk

The motivation

The Big Sort Out was prompted by a renewal request from my existing file management provider. I knew there were free alternatives available but I just hadn’t got around to addressing the task until I was faced with a renewal bill.

Deadlines (especially ones involving payments) can be great motivators! I see this a lot when tackling physical clutter with my clients. The deadline of an impending house guest can be a fantastic motivator to clear out your spare room; a tea date with your children’s friends can be a catalyst to organise your toy cupboard; the builder starting your loft conversion may well get you sorting through dusty old boxes.

It’s the same with getting started on your digital clutter. Your motivator might be to stop paying for cloud storage, to eliminate the daily frustration of searching for missing files, or simply to reduce the volume of documents in storage.

If you’re ready to embrace your own Big Sort Out, here are three tips to help you get underway:

  1. Keep all your documents in one place. This will help you see what you’ve got and make it easier to spot what you no longer need. Gather together any floating documents from other devices and drives. You might simply create a folder on your desktop called Documents. Group similar topics together dividing them into sub folders. Keep your system simple, being consistent and specific with your document names so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
  2. Consider what you need to keep. Regularly delete any out-of-date, unused, or redundant documents and folders. It’s much easier to organise less so before filing every document you come across, consider whether you really need to keep it. Look at your directories and think about where you would look for it if you needed it.
  3. Make a plan to maintain your documents. When you go into a folder, develop a habit of getting rid of anything you spot that you no longer need. Whenever you create or receive a new document, make sure you file it quickly to prevent building up floating documents in random places. Think about choosing a regular interval, such as the end of the month or half yearly, to carry out a mini review. This will help ensure your system remains simple, ordered and clear, helping you avoid another Big Sort Out in the future.

If Lynda’s experience has encouraged you to get your digital world more organised, you can find APDO professional organisers who specialise in digital organising and photo management on our Find An Organiser database.

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

Why is Home so fundamental to our wellbeing?

Caroline Rogers set up Room to Think in 2013. She recently achieved a masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology where she completed research into the association between clutter and wellbeing. We hope to announce publication of her research in the coming months.

“I think that when you invite people to your home, you invite them to yourself” – Oprah Winfrey 

I believe that home could be given far more attention than it currently receives in its contribution to wellbeing. Psychologists continue to debate exactly what ‘wellbeing’ is, but they do agree it’s much more than just feeling a bit chipper. It’s about having meaning and purpose in life, good relationships, health and a sense of achievement and belonging. How – and where – we live is rarely a consideration.

Yet if you trawl through the scholarly literature on home, there are constant references to home as a place of sanctuary. It’s the one place where we can really be ourselves and – hopefully – feel safe. One scholar used words like ‘womb’, ‘nest’ and ‘cradle’1, almost as if home (could) provide a sense of being perfectly parented. Where else can we feel secure enough to dance like nobody’s watching, behave badly, get naked, be private or say things we wouldn’t put on Twitter?

Home and self-identity

There is one predominant, permeating component within all the home literature. Home’s connection with – and expression of – self-identity: who we are, what we do and where we’re going. That quote above attributed to Oprah Winfrey nailed it in a sentence. She’s absolutely right. Consider the background in our Zoom calls. Google is full of endless debate on what messages are being delivered and received about us. Such messages are interpreted based on choices to show things like bookshelves, ironing, clutter, or the use of virtual pictures and video off. There’s a reason that TV programme “Through the Keyhole” had such a long run. (The host Lloyd Grossman would invite panels to guess the celebrity owners of specific homes). We’re good at making those guesses – and more often than not we’re correct.

Whether it’s through the keyhole or on Zoom, the message that our homes portray us is backed up in scholarly study. Imagine how much fun it would have been to be one of researcher Sam Gosling’s study participants. You’d have been asked to make inferences about people’s personalities based on looking at photos of their rooms. It’s notable that Goslings’ participants not only made inferences consistent with each other, but that their inferences were “often accurate”.2

In the 1980s Russell Belk wrote a seminal academic paper about possessions being ‘extensions of the self’3. I’d join Oprah in going as far as saying that homes are extensions of the self – they represent who we are, where we’re going, what we’re like and, possibly most importantly, they deliver that message to the rest of the world – and to ourselves.

Whatever that message is, it’s either helpful or unhelpful to our wellbeing. And the good thing is that when it’s unhelpful, there’s something we can do about it. And if it’s too overwhelming to do it alone, then there are hundreds of APDO members out there who can help.

Caroline Rogers and family at home

Caroline and family at home (Photo by Nina Sprange)

A home that is “more me”

When we can look around our homes and feel they communicate who we are, chances are that our wellbeing will be higher than it is for people who feel their homes are “not me” or “not how I want to be”. A US research study about to be published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology4 backs this up. These researchers collected data from people at early stages of the pandemic lockdown and found ‘a clear relationship between an individual’s attachment to home and positive mental health’. Those who have created homes that express who they are exhibited higher wellbeing than those who haven’t.

I’m disturbed that the same researchers found “considerable variability” in home attachment among their respondents. It feels wrong when people don’t live in homes that express their identity, especially when curating a home in line with self-identity is so possible. In the professional organising industry, we witness change. And yes, the changes can be seen in clients’ homes being less cluttered and more organised. However, the more meaningful change is in the homeowners themselves. I’ve worked with people who start new careers, take up exercise, change their relationships, socialise more, communicate better with their housemates, eat better, sleep better and have richer, fuller lives. All of them would attribute this to having a home that’s more them.

Creating a home that is ‘more me’ is a fruitful – and essential – thing to do. And perhaps that’s more important than ever during this time when we’re at home more than usual. I know this in my heart, I see it in my work, and it’s verified in the research I carried out into the association between clutter and wellbeing. I hope to share these results soon (it’s in final stages of peer review). Meanwhile, please let me share the last sentence of my research with you:

Home is a platform for wellbeing.

Refs:

  1. Ginsberg, R. (1999). Mediations on homelessness and being at home: In the form of a dialogue. In G. J. M. Abbarno (Ed.), The Ethics of Homelessness: Philosophical Perspectives (Vol.86, pp. 29-40). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  2. Gosling, S. D., Ko, S. J., Mannarelli, T., & Morris, M. E. (2002). A room with a cue: Personality judgments based on offices and bedrooms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(3), 379–398.
  3. Belk, R. W. (1988). Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(2), 139–168.
  4. Meagher, B. R., Cheadle, A. D., College, H., & College, K. (2020, in press). Distant from others, but close to home: The relationship between home attachment and mental health during COVID-19. Journal of Environmental Psychology.

A look back at National Organising Week 2020

National Organising Week was always going to be a bit different this year. The pandemic meant that our usual flurry of organising activities, from workshops to get-togethers, advice clinics to parties, were unable to take place for NOW 2020. But that didn’t stop us focusing on a week of organising and encouraging the nation to help them be more organised!

More organised in the home

This year National Organising Week focused on how to be more organised in the home and how to make our home as functional as possible.

As we continue to live with COVID-19, our homes have become even more important.  Many of us are spending more time at home and likely to be using the space differently: as a shelter, a work or study location, a reduced socialising space and more. Being organised has become a key skill for everyone to develop and make the most of the current challenges.

The aim, as in other years, was that NOW will inspire people to think about the clutter they are living with and take action to do something about it. Of course, APDO members provide one-to-one support all year round.

a family gatherered around a cardboard box marked "donations"

Supporting charities through NOW

APDO members particularly missed getting stuck in to their usual Donate-A-Day volunteering projects that form a key part of our annual NOW campaign, although some members supported local charities in other ways:

  • Jo Forde of Harmonized Living UK donated a decluttering and organising session raffle prize to “Ella’s Fight”, a campaign to raise funds for life-saving cancer treatment for a young woman local to Jo’s business.
  • Kate Galbally of Better Organised is donating the profits from sales of her book “A Better Organised Home in 30 Days” to NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde during October and November.
  • Mel Carruthers of More Organised held her first Trustees meeting for Dumfries refugee action charity Massive Outpouring of Love. Mel first met MOOL with Kate Galbally of Better Organised when they participated in a Donate-A-Day for them in NOW 2017. Mel kept volunteering and was made a Trustee and Secretary of the charity during NOW. Great timing!

Sharing advice

APDO’s activities moved online this year, with many of our organisers running challenges in their Facebook groups, filling their social media full of organising advice (yes even more so than usual!) and running competitions.

APDO supported our colleagues by upping our blogging game for the week, and publishing daily posts, crammed full of advice, tips and guidance on organising your home in the current times. Here is a summary in case you missed them!

an overhead photo of a woman typing at her laptop

Teaming up with iDesign

We were delighted to work with storage innovators iDesign for our NOW giveaway which was run on Instagram. iDesign have always been popular with our members – their clear, stackable bins came in at number 7 on our Top 10 Organising Products list! – but with their recent partnership with US organising sensations The Home Edit, iDesign’s products are selling out across the UK.

Luckily, they saved a couple of sets of 6 of their versatile wire stacking baskets as prizes for two lucky winners. Congratulations to our two lucky winners!

iDesign clear bins and baskets organising cleaning products

Katherine Blackler of Sort My Space, APDO President, looks back at this year’s National Organising Week. “National Organising Week was a little different this year”, she says. “But we are delighted with the response that we had from the campaign, and we loved hearing how we’ve inspired you to change something for the better.”

“We’re always on a mission to make everyday life that little bit easier for individuals, families and organisations”, Katherine continues. “Coronavirus has undoubtedly shifted our focus and feelings about our home environments and we’re here to help anyone who’s been struggling on that front. Support is available via blog posts and social media tips, booking a virtual consultation with an organiser or indeed, teaming up for an onsite session. All our members are following regional advice to be able to work with clients in person as appropriate.”

National Organising Week may be finished for another year, but APDO and our members will continue to share advice, tips and inspiration across our social media accounts and websites. We’re already looking to Spring Clearing Week which will take place from 22 to 28 March 2021!

an overhead photo of a woman typing at her laptop

Virtual organising: What is it, and how does it work?

Since the start of the pandemic, virtual organising has become more and more popular and many of our APDO members are working with their clients in this way. But what is “virtual organising” exactly, and how does it work? In this National Organising Week post, five APDO professional organisers tell us about their virtual work with their clients.

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do

I help busy, overwhelmed people get back in control of their time and learn new habits to stay productive, both in their work and personal lives. At the moment I’m working with a lot of people who are working from home due to COVID-19 and struggling to focus and stay productive. We look at what’s stopping them from getting things done and put in place new routines, structures and techniques which help them to get the most out of their time. This can be a lifesaver, especially for those in busy, demanding jobs, perhaps with a team working for them and often an extremely high workload.

I work entirely virtually (via Zoom), and this works really well for productivity coaching. The client generally joins meetings from their normal workplace, at home or in the office, and they can share their screen when we discuss their inbox, diary, or other documents. We might also work together on screen to create a new daily or weekly schedule, or to brainstorm work objectives or priorities. The client will then go away to try out their new habits, and we’ll discuss how they got on at the next session, providing both support and accountability.

I love working virtually because it means I can work with clients across the UK (and the world!) and can be flexible with sessions depending on what the client needs.

 

Tilo Flache of ClutterMeister

These days it is challenging to meet clients at their homes, and I have shifted a good portion of my business to virtual organising. In the process I have found that there are great advantages to using the virtual method.

For one thing, I don’t consider decluttering and organising a client’s home ‘just an emergency measure’, but a necessary learning experience. My involvement with the client is no longer hands-on, and that makes any physical activity a little more time consuming – after all, there is one less pair of hands around to get things done! With virtual organising, the client is required to do all the work themselves, which allows us to use the tactile memory to reinforce the process and ingrain it in their body memory. This makes it much easier to remember and repeat the steps I guide them through in our sessions.

The fact that I can only ever see either the work site or my client’s face can make the work a little more challenging: part of my job is to keep my clients safe, both physically and mentally. Keeping an eye out for unusual reactions often requires a lot of creative camera work to stay connected with my client. The switch between work and face allows for bursts of productive work, followed by a short break with a different, more relaxed focus, before returning to the job at hand. On the plus side, separating the practical activities from the mental and emotional work can be a game-changer, especially if the client tends to be unfocused and easily distracted.

I firmly believe that there are a good number of typical organising projects that actually work better virtually than they do with in-person assistance. If the job does not require a second person to be in the space, or the client is worried about the state of their home and wants to show me only the space they are working on right now, virtual assistance can work wonders.

Tilo Flache's desk

Kate Galbally of Better Organised

I recently worked with a client who approached me about improving her time management and her productivity. She has a management role within the NHS with a very heavy workload and rapidly shifting priorities. Over the course of a few sessions, we explored how she can manage her priorities, minimise procrastination and avoid overwhelm. I introduced her to some tools and techniques that are simple to implement and easy to maintain. We also worked together on decluttering and organising her emails and her diary, so that both are manageable and work more effectively for her.

At our last session, she said that working together has definitely made a difference to how she manages her time, that her emails are the most manageable that they have been in a long time and that she feels confident in the way she has planned out her time going forward. This has reduced procrastination and meant that she is able to focus better on deep work and not have to bring work home with her.

 

Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living

Before the pandemic, I hadn’t particularly considered working online even though many people do so,  but I gave the option of working virtually to a new client whom I was going to visit at home, but had to cancel due to COVID-19. They were actually delighted with the possibility of still being able to address their difficulties with their ‘stuff’ and felt physically able to execute the actual decluttering and organising themselves.

My client had a recent diagnosis of Asperger’s and this had explained for them the reason why they struggled with sensory overload, and often felt ‘frozen’ in terms of working through some processes and seeing projects through to fruition. It also explained their feelings of being overwhelmed by all the decisions and options available.

The next step for the client was to understand how they could manage their needs and put some systems in place that they can maintain going forward.

We talked through their priorities and where they felt ‘stuck’. Then we cracked on by just grabbing a pile of items piled on a dining chair. It was a total mixture of items:  bills, greetings cards, work documents, old receipts, leaflets, junk mail.

We addressed each category in turn, making decisions about how to deal with them in the moment and moving forward. The client took notes, including on any future actions they were going to take. Part of the success of this method involves agreeing ‘rules’ about how to deal with certain items, for example,  greetings cards. I generally ask questions such as what value does the card hold: is it a beautiful image, was it from a special person, does it hold a special message or memory? The client felt that most of the cards they had held on to did not feel important and that they did not want or need to keep them so many could be discarded. We continued with this method and the client was able to carry out lots of work independently in between our sessions as they now had a way to rationalise their decision making.

a hand using a laptop - keyboard

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire

The idea of being in my client’s home virtually, sitting on the side dresser on her device with me in Manchester, UK, and my client is in Memphis, Tennessee, is somewhat strange, but also brilliant.

I have spent several hours virtually sorting through my client’s belongings. I’ve guided her through the steps needed to make her closet space somewhere she loves going into, not a place where she feels uncomfortable.

Sorting through over 20+ years of clothing can be painful. Asking ourselves the questions of why we keep the clothes we do is often difficult. Are we clinging onto the memories of when we wore them last, or mourning the fact we no longer fit into dresses and jackets two sizes too small? Whatever the reasons, if dealt with in an understanding way, 4241 miles apart as the crow flies made no difference at all: the job got done.

We laughed, we shed the odd tear, we were productive, often silly. The end result, virtually or in person, was the same. We spoke the same language literally and figuratively. Although more physically challenging for her than me, the end result was an uncluttered organised space. A full 50% of the clothes were donated, as well as a multitude of belts, scarves, and accessories.

During all the hours I spent guiding and supporting my client, she continually said,

“It’s like you are here with me”.

And, ultimately, that was all that mattered.

If you are interested in finding out more about virtual organising, you can find our members who offer this service in our Find an Organiser directory.

a family gatherered around a cardboard box marked "donations"

Organising your home: Getting other householders on board

“It’s a case of the old, ‘You can lead a horse to water…’ problem!” says Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home.

Encouraging other household members to declutter and organise alongside you, or for themselves, can be a real challenge but help is at hand from our members who have some suggestions to help get everyone on board.

Follow my lead

Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space says, “The person who has committed to getting more organised needs to start with their own things”. Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms agrees. “Lead by example. When other people in the household see and experience first-hand the difference decluttering and organising makes to a family member, they often become interested in what the individual is doing, sparking positive conversations and feedback”. Laura continues, “They’ll notice how much happier and more relaxed the person doing the organising has become, thus opening themselves up to giving it a go”. Lynda is convinced this gentle, patient approach can be a real recipe for change.

For those of us with more people than usual working in our home, Karen Eyre-White of Go Do says, “If you’re finding it stressful that your partner or other family member isn’t keeping a good work schedule, or setting good boundaries when working from home, find small ways to show them what you’re doing. For example, pin your schedule to the fridge, or cover up your work area at the weekend. They’ll soon start wondering what it’s all about and you’ll find them asking you questions, or simply following your lead”.

A comfortable sofa in an organised room setting

Think of others

Involving others in your decluttering journey is a key part of success.  Laura Williams of OrganisedWell explains further: “Think about the reasons, benefits and vision for the space and really engage all parties in these. Also understand any concerns others might have and talk about boundaries. It may be necessary to leave items or areas that family members aren’t comfortable with organising until they’ve seen the results elsewhere and can follow the great example their family members have set”.

Decluttering coach Suzy Kell, who specialises in helping couples to work on their organising together, agrees. “After organising my own possessions, I waded into joint ownership territory and I hit a wall”, she remembers. “But then I realised it was unfair to force conversations and decisions on my husband without warning”. It was only when Suzy’s husband watched the documentary ‘Minimalism: a film about the important things’ about a year later that he was ready to have those conversations with her – and by that time he was all in! “We then did a mega clear out and we started changing our relationship with belongings forever”, Suzy recalls. “Together we were unstoppable!”

A newly renovated white kitchen

Involve young people

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire reminds us that children and young people need a positive role model to follow so they can develop habits they’ll take with them into adulthood. “My youngest daughter is 12 and is forever making changes to her bedroom and her drawers. She is aware that in order to keep her tiny room neat, everything needs a place. I am so proud of her.  Since I started organising professionally, she could see that the changes made in our own home were hugely beneficial to a smooth-running household. Getting her involved with tasks such as with making labels has made all the difference”.

Shelly Moss of Kewniek agrees. “With children and young people it’s important to get their buy-in from the start. Explain what you are doing and how they can help. For example, you might explain how somebody less fortunate would love to have some of their special toys”.

A pile of children's books

Keep talking

The presence of a professional organiser in your home can often help promote conversation where it might previously have been a difficult topic to broach. Amanda suggests highlighting the discretion of a professional organising service, emphasising the fact that they will never touch someone’s stuff without their permission. She says, “Speak to them and explain what is causing you an issue and why. Explain how things could change with their support and perhaps how much involvement, if any, you expect from them. Focus on the positive outcomes as a result and why this is important”.

Focus on the benefits

There are fantastic benefits to getting everyone in your household on board so keeping these in mind will encourage you to keep going. Not only can being organised reduce arguments over lost things or increased spending on duplicates that can’t be found, it can get everyone working together on a shared goal. Living in a more organised space can really ease the pressure on family dynamics, reducing stress and giving everyone more time with each other. Tidying and cleaning routines become easier to manage as a team, so it helps to share the load with everyone in your household.

If this post has encouraged you to talk to your family about organising your home, why not show them Monday’s post on getting started on your organising project to kick off the conversation. 

a yellow organising bag

What’s in an organiser’s tool kit?

When your professional organiser arrives at your home, they will have our bag of trusted tools with them, as well as a skillset built up over their years of experience. Both are personal to each of them and the way that they approach their work. In this post, our members give a sneak peek into their toolkits. 

What’s in your bag?

Nicky Davie of TidyGirl lists out the contents of her toolkit:

  • Marker pen for labels. They’re not always used but some clients like to label items.
  • Pen and diary to schedule further appointments and follow-up phone calls.
  • Mobile phone for taking project photos and showing my clients ideas and inspiration.
  • Phone charger and power pack so I can be organised, even when my phone runs low.
  • Re-usable boxes for sorting items in a systematic and environmentally conscious way.
  • Biodegradable bags to remove donations, recycling, and rubbish.
  • Business cards to leave with the client if they want to recommend me to family and friends.
  • Marie Kondo’s children’s book “Kiki & Jax” to help parents understand how to help their children organise their rooms.
  • A snack and drink to maintain momentum and help me keep my energy levels up!

 

Shelly Moss of Kewniek has a similar list. “My good old Mary Poppins bag has everything you would expect”, she says. “It is a proper bag of tricks!”:

  • Label maker
  • Sellotape
  • Packing tape
  • Mini toolbox
  • Clean indoor shoes
  • A candle to help wooden drawers run more smoothly
  • A pair of socks to slip on my hands for wiping over blinds

 

A label maker on a desk

Marie Bateson of Cut the Clutter includes a small step ladder in her list of essentials, to help reach higher areas, and to sit on if sorting on the floor.

Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home adds to the list:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie pens
  • Plastic wallets
  • Scissors
  • Elastic bands & bulldog clips

The power of Post-its

“I couldn’t live without Post-it notes!”, says Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space. “They remind us which piles are which when doing the first run-through of decluttering (keep, mend, donate, sell, recycle, and so on)”. Laura also used Post-it notes as temporary labels while her clients make sure that their new, tailored organisation system works for them, and can be easily maintained and enjoyed. “Quick to make, easy to use, and guilt-free to scrap if the system needs tweaking!”

APDO member Laura Williams decluttering signs

OrganisedWell’s customised sorting cards

Custom signs

Laura Williams of OrganisedWell has a fun way of labelling sorting piles. “My customised signs travel everywhere with me”, she says. “They make it super-easy to allocate the things we’ve sorted through into For Sale, Recycling, Shredding, Bin, and so on”.

Timer

Laura also recognises how helpful it can be to have a deadline to complete a task. She uses a kitchen timer to help her clients work in bursts to focus, or to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Sian Pelleschi of Sorted adds to the list. “I bring a number of things with me when I’m working with clients: my physical toolkit and my mental toolkit”, explains Sian. “My physical kit has everything from my screwdriver set to bin bags, cleaning cloths to my favourite tool – my label maker!”

APDO member Sian Pelleschi's organisers toolkit

Sian Pelleschi’s work bag

Mental toolkit

Sian’s mental toolkit includes bringing a calm but positive mindset, a practical approach, and an eagerness to help. “It’s so important to have this mindset”, she says, “as a lot of my clients are either nervous, worried, feeling a little down in the dumps and have generally hit rock bottom before calling me. They need me to help pick them up and get them going and if I’m not in the right mindset, how can I help them?”

Claire Lawrence of Let’s Get Sorted! agrees. “In terms of mindset and skills, it’s all about keeping clients positive and feeling that they are making progress. So, mini goals, lots of encouragement, a list to tick things off as we go, and rewards for getting through the list. Well, a cup of tea and a biscuit anyway!”

Privileged position

“A professional organiser must be non-judgemental, patient and an active listener”, says Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms. A large part of being an organiser involves working alongside someone in their personal space, helping them make decisions about things which may be deeply sensitive or never previously shared or expressed. “It’s a very privileged position”, explains Lynda. “As for physical tools, I wouldn’t be without my labelling machine, coloured bin bags or polish!”

APDO member Lynda Wylie's organisers toolkit

Lynda Wylie’s organising kit

Flexibility

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do is a productivity coach who helps her clients to be more productive when they work from home. “I bring flexibility and adaptability with me when I work with my clients”, explains Karen. “I make sure my solutions are bespoke for each client. It’s vital that we find new habits and work patterns which work specifically for the personality and preferences of each client”.

If you enjoyed this insight into our organisers’ toolkit, did you see yesterday’s post outlining our members’ Top 10 organising products?

cardboard storage box for organising

Professional organisers share their Top 10 organising products

You’ll often hear us professional organisers tell you that the best organising products are the things you already have in your home. And you definitely don’t need to buy lots of fancy equipment to get more organised.

However, most professional organisers will agree that there are some items that make organising your home easier. So, for National Organising Week, we asked our members to share their favourite organising products. This is what they came up with.

Top 10 organising products

 

10 – Shelf inserts

When your kitchen cupboard has lots of wasted vertical space, and you don’t want to go to the effort of installing extra shelves, shelf inserts are a quick and easy solution. By adding a shelf insert, you can double your space and more easily see what is in your cupboard.

They also work well in pantries, craft cupboards, bathroom cabinets. Anywhere you need to double your space quickly. As Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms says, shelf inserts are “fantastic for making the best use of high or deep kitchen shelves”.

Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to wipe down, there is a reason why many professional organisers will have a stock of these ready and waiting to double your cupboard space.

Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to wipe down, there is a reason why many professional organisers will have a stock of these ready and waiting to double your cupboard space!

9 – Vacuum storage bags

Use vacuum bags to store away bedding and out-of-season clothing when space is at a premium. The space-saving powers of vacuum bags also make them perfect for packing bulky bedding, towels and clothing for a house move, as well as doubling the space in your suitcase when you are travelling.

8 – Command hooks

Hanging items makes use of otherwise unused vertical space, and a good solid hook is part of the solution. Command hooks are a favourite for their staying power, ease of use (no nails required!) and simple, clean removal. Laura Williams of OrganisedWell is a fan. “I love Command hooks and picture hanging strips for those items that you haven’t got around to hanging yet.”, she says. “They are fantastic for quickly and securely hanging pictures and other items that need to be stored hanging up. No drilling or DIY needed, and they can be taken down with no damage.”

7 – iDesign clear bins

Clear containers have been made more popular than ever by the success of US celebrity organisers The Home Edit, and it seems our APDO members agree. iDesign were already known for their wide range of clear acrylic organising products, and now they produce The Home Edit range, as seen in the TV show.

iDesign clear bins and baskets organising cleaning products

Our organisers tell us that they hardwearing and versatile, making them the perfect solution for kitchen, pantry, bathroom and craft storage. The clear acrylic means that you can see exactly what is inside each container, meaning better organisation and less wastage. Lynda Wylie sums them up, “Clear, handled storage is perfect for kitchens, especially larders. Stackable, durable and you can see exactly what’s inside.”

Visit the APDO Instagram page to enter our giveaway to win a set of 6 of the popular iDesign stacking wire baskets!

6 – Curver boxes

Versatile and inexpensive, Curver baskets and boxes are also a favourite with our APDO members. Amanda Manson of Orderly Home & Office explains why. “Curver storage boxes, with or without lids, can be used all over the house. You can easily wipe them down, so they work well for food, makeup and bathroom items.”

5 – Really Useful Boxes

Containers really are popular. The clear, lidded Really Useful Boxes come in at number 5. Our members recommend them because they are strong, durable, and stackable, which makes them a go-to for many of our members when working on garage, attic, and playroom projects. Ingrid Jansen of Organise My House agrees. “They are sturdy, stack really well, have particularly good lids that close properly and come in a variety of sizes. We use them regularly for loft, basement and garage projects”.

a row of Really Useful Boxes in an attic

4 – Label maker

Once you have organised, labelling your boxes, baskets and bins is an easy way to keep on top of your home. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is so much easier when all household members know where that place is. As Mel Carruthers of More Organised explains, “a label turns a box or a shelf into a dedicated home for your possessions, whether in children’s bedrooms, pantries or tool sheds”. There are many ways to make labels, but a label maker has to be the easiest and quickest way. They are loved by our professional organisers for a reason.

A label maker on a desk

3 – Velvet coat hangers

In third place, our members ranked velvet hangers. When you need more space in your wardrobe, consider swapping out your coat hangers for the slim, velvet ones beloved by professional organisers. “Use skinny or velvet hangers – and give yourself more room”, advises Shelly Moss of Kewniek. “I still use wooden ones for winter coats, but for everything else, change to velvet ones and give your old ones to a charity shop”, she recommends.

2 – IKEA SKUBB drawer dividers

In second place are IKEA’s SKUBB drawer organisers. These canvas square and rectangular boxes come in different sizes and are perfect for organising clothing, linens, toys, and craft items. In fact, anywhere where you need to split a larger space into smaller compartments. Monica Puntarello of I Sort You Out “I use them for literally everything! I love the different sizes they have and how well they fit into drawers or cabinets”, Monica explains. “I use them for underwear and socks for the all family, in the bathroom cabinet where I store creams and shampoos, in our media storage to contain wires and power cables, and finally in the kitchen for storing pasta and flours”.

And finally, in first place…

1 – Boxes you already have

We may be decluttering experts, but that doesn’t mean that we get rid of everything! Professional organisers recognise the value of a good box as much, if not more, than anyone. From shoe boxes to smart phone boxes, plastic fruit containers to re-used envelopes, we look at the storage potential of everything. Nicky Davie of TidyGirl even suggests that you cover your old boxes in pretty paper to give them a new lease of life.

Like most of us, Nicky recognises the allure of a new organising product, but she recommends buying new products only after you have thoroughly decluttered your space and know exactly how much stuff you need to store, and how you want to store it. After a good declutter, you can often find new ways of using your space and find items around the home to use as storage.

But as our members have explained in this Top 10 list, the right organising product in the right place can make a big difference to storage, efficiency and aesthetics.

If you enjoyed reading this post about organising products, you will love tomorrow’s post where we delve into our organisers’ toolkits and find out what they always take with them when going to help their clients declutter and organise.