Tag Archives: APDO Book Club

Clear for calm: It’s off to work I go

Living in a two bedroomed apartment with an open plan area can be challenging if you are not organised. Of course, there is no room for clutter, but there is plenty of scope for not getting the ‘areas’ zoned in the right way. 

If you are self-employed, you will know how hard it is to focus in a home environment, unless you are really organised and have a properly designated workspace. Too many distractions can lead to a lack of productivity and chronic disorganisation.     

I moved into my apartment in 2017 and for some strange reason thought that working from the chunky wood dining table made perfect sense. A kind of ‘have laptop will travel’ sort of vibe. However, what I found was that I was entirely disorganised.  My ‘work’ merged into dinner time, it was messy and did not make me very productive. I could not concentrate for starters. I came to realize that I had to change the way I styled my apartment and create a proper work/office area which, in turn, would help me focus. 


Firstly, I identified where an office desk and chair would work.  Once identified, it was a case of choosing materials. I opted for bronze, one of my favourite colours, with a glass desk. Housing the paperwork was key. No-one really likes a filing cabinet, but nowadays they have become much more stylish and colourful too. To blend rather than stand out, I opted for a small grey unit. 


A bronze filing tray set up gives a sense of old-school style along with the old-fashioned lamp in green.   


The finishing touches include two comfortable cushions, one made by my artist friend, which I use to support my back.    


I am convinced my productivity has increased as it reminds me of the old days when I used to be a secretary. I used to work with a neat desk with a pile of work.  


I was productive back then, my new desk set up helps me to be just as productive now. 


Elizabeth McPherson (The Lifestyle Concept)

#springclearingweek; #springclearingweek2022; #SCW2022; #apdoclearforcalm #apdoclearforcalmchallenge  






Clear for calm: My calm sleep-time Heaven


My bedroom is my sleep heaven. It is tranquil and organised, with everything in its place.   

Pastels dominate the colour palette; they bring a sense of calm.    

My chest of drawers, again in a pale grey, house everything from make-up to undies but there are no messy lipsticks or mascaras for me. All the make-up is stored in a clean Ikea make- up box which fits snuggly into the drawer.  Belts are neatly rolled in the bottom drawer, and sunglasses placed inside a neat basket. 

Jewellery is kept neat and tidy in a Stackers box on top of the dresser but there is no excess. 

My small white wardrobe houses exactly the clothes I love and wear. Nothing bobbled, over-washed or worn & no ill-fitting clothes. Everything fits perfectly. 

There are no wires or electricals in my bedroom, only an extension cord to house the plugs for delicate brushed metal bedside table lamps. My phone is left outside my bedroom.  

The warm white light is enough to read clearly but not too bright. I have just one book on my bedside table and once that is done, I move onto another. A lavender spray sits by my bed to spray onto my pillow. It’s a great way to induce a good night’s sleep. 

My bed linen is crisp and white, and my cushions throw out a splash of colour. Above my bed, an Angel print by local artist Sharon White, sits overlooking me as I sleep. It throws out a sense of peace.   

From time to time, I light a candle which gives the room a lovely fragrance. 

 As the evening draws to a close, I look forward to getting into bed. I really do love my bedroom that much. 


Elizabeth McPherson (The Lifestyle Concept)

#springclearingweek; #springclearingweek2022; #SCW2022; #apdoclearforcalm #apdoclearforcalmchallenge  






Chris Lovett

Discovery of Less: Interview with Chris Lovett

In October, the APDO Book Club hosted an online workshop led by Chris Lovett, the author of Discovery of Less (Less is Progress, 2021). In it, Chris not only read from his book, but shared his further adventures in minimalism. As well as being a lot of fun, this evening was a reminder to us that “having a minimalist mindset is only a tool, it’s not an outcome” (Discovery of Less, pp. 217-218). In this blog post by Book Club organisers, Nicola Austin (Life of Libra) and Anne Welsh (Tidy Beginnings), Chris answers five questions put to him by Nicola.

When did you realise you wanted something different?

There wasn’t one eureka moment or flash of brilliance that led me to resetting my approach to living. It was lots of little things that stacked up and eventually led me to want to step off the treadmill of consuming and busyness. Once I reconnected with my aspirations to travel and find a career that fulfilled and energised me, I knew I had to do something different, otherwise they would only be dreams, hopes, what ifs. Being courageous and taking a career break right when I was at my ‘peak’ (aka busiest / most in demand) was scary but necessary. To travel, I needed to stop working – for a period, at least. So late 2016 was when I started to plan how to step off that treadmill and play an active and exciting part in life rather than watch it drift by outside an office window.

What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve had since you started discovering the power of less?

Realising how much stuff I thought I needed but really didn’t. 75% of the clothes I had, either I didn’t like, they didn’t fit or they’d been superseded by newer items. Most of the kitchenware I brought into my home was never used. I thought that by letting go of it I’d miss it, but I can’t even remember what most of it was, so it can’t have been that important. I was also surprised at how much ‘busy work’ I used to do that really didn’t add any value to anyone. Once I stopped doing pointless work or work that wasn’t important, I had so much more time to create and grow and focus on the important stuff.

Of all the places you travelled to and wrote about in Discovery of Less, where would the first place be that you’d return to?

Wow that’s a tough one. I think we went to 10 countries and maybe 70-odd different destinations. I’ll need to count them all again at some point.

We are starting to plan our next big escape for a few years’ time, and we would probably go back to Sedona or maybe California. There’s so much more to see, and I think we are more focused on exploring different destinations and maybe dipping back every now and then into places we’ve been before. Our desire is to explore more of the Americas and possibly Nordic countries next. We’re hoping we can do that in a sustainable way so our traveling experiences don’t come at the cost of a huge carbon footprint.

Is minimalism and travelling a forever lifestyle for you?

I have no idea. It feels right, right now. I love the freedom it gives and that it’s in line with our values. But I also know life can change – nothing is really ‘forever’. If we did stop traveling that would present a new challenge for a minimalist lifestyle but I hope we keep it up. I feel lighter without the clutter and ‘stuff’.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself during your journey to less?

I could achieve so much more with so much less. My physical and mental ‘stuff’ that I carried around was holding me back. It was keeping me safe. Once I let go of it, I unlocked the potential that has been buried underneath my decisions and stories of the past. I was able to write and publish a book, set up a business, say no more often, challenge back when something wasn’t right and use my resources (money, time, energy) only on things that enhanced my experience of life.
It was also a welcome and delightful surprise to find that my story became an inspiration and a motivation for others!

You can keep up with Chris’s latest publications, workshops and travels on his instagram,@christolovett.

If you are the author or agent of a new or forthcoming book on decluttering, organising and related activities and would like to come and share your book with the APDO Book Club, please contact Anne Welsh at info@beginningcataloguing.com and Nicola Austin at nicola@lifeoflibra.com in the first instance. Attendance is usually 5-25 APDO members (depending on interest in a particular book) from APDO’s 400-strong membership. A few of us are regular attenders, while most dip in and out according to subject-matter. In terms of marketing, we are small but targeted, since in working with our clients we recommend and use the books we find helpful.

The APDO Book Club is one of the many benefits of joining APDO. You can find out more about becoming a member here.



Sarah Gregg

Find Your Flow and Choose Happy: Interview with Sarah Gregg

In August, the APDO Book Club hosted an online workshop led by Sarah Gregg, the author of Find Your Flow (Rock Point, 2020) and Choose Happy (Rock Point, 2021). In it, Sarah shared her 1-2-3-Flow method and discussed how we can use positive psychology methods and her journaling system ourselves and with our clients. In this blog post, Sarah answers five questions put to her by Book Club Co-organiser Anne Welsh (Beginning Cataloguing – Tidy Beginnings).

Growing up in Belfast, how did you picture your adult life would be?

I struggled to picture my life. The wrestling match between what I wanted and who I should be seemed to create a messy blur. I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d be almost forty, living out of a backpack and traveling the world as a published author. But that’s the beauty of life – sometimes you need the messy blur to create a brilliant masterpiece that surprises you.

When did you realise that you wanted something a little different?

The draw towards something different has always been there. It was something myself and others told me to ‘Get out of my system’. I kept the unconventional part of me entertained with travel, new hobbies, and experiences. But once I was married, had a house and a good job I tried to silence it. I wanted to fit in and to belong – so I paid more attention to who I ‘should be’ and not who I was. 

I remember going to bed at night just feeling that something was missing. I now realise that ‘something’ was me. In being everything to everyone else, I’d lost myself. 

In 2016 when we decided to sell our house, all our stuff, and quit our jobs -t hat was the moment I realised it wasn’t just about ‘wanting’ something different, I ‘needed’ it. 

What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve had since you ‘found your flow’?

I’ve realised that it’s really challenging to be yourself. But it’s also the most liberating and exciting. Finding your flow is about becoming who you are, fulfilling your potential and that will look different for each of us. The more we can shed who we think we should be, the closer we can get to the core of who we are.

Is minimalism and traveling a ‘forever lifestyle’ for you?

I have no idea. It feels right, right now. I love the freedom it gives and that it’s in line with our values. But I also know life can change, nothing is really ‘forever’. If we did stop traveling that would present a new challenge for a minimalist lifestyle but I’d hope we keep it up. I feel lighter without the clutter and ‘stuff’.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself in your journey to ‘choose happy’?

I’ve learned that I used to treat negative emotions as a sign that I was failing or as a form of punishment from the universe. Choosing happy has involved learning how to sit with negative emotions, to understand and value them as much as the positive emotions. After all the greatest ‘ah-ha’ moments in my life have come from negative emotions. They can act as a real clarifying force when we know how to work with them.

You can keep up with Sarah’s latest publications, workshops and travels on her instagram, @thepowertoreinvent.

We are also very grateful to Sarah and to her publisher for offering us three free books as member giveaways. Sarah made two random draws on the night, and we ran an instagram competition for APDO members. The winners were Lesley Gault (Declutter for Calm), Jo Lubbock (Perfect Order), and Victoria Nicholson (My Wardrobe Zen).

The APDO Book Club is one of the many benefits of joining APDO. You can find out more about becoming a member here.



Summer reads

APDO Book Club Reads 2021

One of our most popular blog posts has been Sarah Howley’s ‘Recommendations from the APDO Book Club’, which discussed Sarah Tierney’s Making Space (Sandstone Press, 2017), Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (Canongate, 2017), Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner (Text Publishing, 2017), James Clear’s Atomic Habits (Random House Business, 2018), Lisa Jewell’s The House We Grew Up In (Penguin, 2020), and Beth Kempton’s Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year (Piatkus, 2019).

In today’s blog post, book club founder Sarah (Organising Solutions) and new co-organisers Anne Welsh (Tidy Beginnings) and Nicola Austin (Life of Libra) highlight key themes from the books the club has been discussing in 2021.

It’s August already, so we’ve had 7 meetings so far, discussing:


APDO is a growing organisation, and our members work in a wide range of situations, using both general skills and diverse specialisms. In the APDO Book Club, we try to select from quite a broad pool, and you can see that in this list. Decluttering has featured in both our fiction selection (Nancy McGovern’s cozy crime) and one of our classic titles (Dana K. White’s account of how she won her “never-ending battle with stuff”, full of tips for how other people can too).

Other classics included Van Nieuwerburgh’s Introduction to Coaching Skills. Suggested by members of our training and development team, it provided not only a text but also video content on key techniques coaches use – all of them relevant to our work as professional organisers. We also read Cal Newport’s Deep Work, which provides a range of ways that we can change our habits from multi-tasking. As Newport advised: “Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus.”

Productivity and decluttering both feature in Marie Kondo’s latest publication, Joy at Work, co-authored with Scott Sonenshein. Each bestselling author took responsibility for separate chapters, so if you’re a fan of both of them, you will love this book. And finally for this update, there’s our first business book – Mary Portas’s Work Like a Woman. It highlights systemic sexism in big business and suggests ways of building a work life that works – not only for women, but for us all.

The APDO Book Club is one of the many benefits of joining APDO. You can find out more about becoming a member here.

The book "Making Space" by Sarah Tierney on a white background

APDO Book Club: “Making Space” by Sarah Tierney

APDO members chose Sarah Tierney‘s novel “Making Space” to discuss at a recent APDO Book Club meeting. APDO volunteer Mel Carruthers of More Organised caught up with the author after the book club meeting, to ask some of the questions that were raised by the group. 

“Making Space”

First, a brief synopsis of “Making Space”: Miriam is approaching 30 but her life hasn’t turned out how she expected it to, and she gives away all her belongings in an attempt to reimagine herself. Erik lives amongst a stifling hoard of books and magazines, a cocoon and protection from the parts of his life that he doesn’t want to remember. Fate throws these two main characters together, and Sarah has cleverly used their opposing relationships with their possessions to examine their personalities and lives. A diverse ensemble of secondary characters reinforce our relationships with our possessions… making this the perfect read for anyone interested in decluttering and organising

An interview with Sarah Tierney

I was delighted to catch up with Sarah Tierney to ask a few questions about “Making Space”, following a number of questions raised in our discussions of the book. Our industry isn’t often featured in novels and film, so it was interesting to see decluttering and organising portrayed in the novel.

Did you work with a professional organiser and what research did you do?

I didn’t have the opportunity to work with a professional organiser, though that would have been really useful. Instead I read some books about working with hoarders – including Digging Out by Michael A. Tompkins and Tamara L. Hartl, and Stuff by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. I also did quite a bit of research online – looking at websites of professional organisers and reading articles about the subject.

I also used my own experience of having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when describing some of the techniques Lisa uses, and when writing about Eric’s avoidance of confronting the past. I’ve known a few people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and this fed into his character too.

I also talked to people with experience of hoarding. I found that when you tell people you’re writing a book about hoarding, they inevitably have a story to tell you about someone they know who hoards, or they confide that they’re a low-level hoarder themselves. I think a lot of people struggle to keep on top of their possessions nowadays – it is hard to throw things away, and yet very easy to buy things.

What prior knowledge of the professional organising industry did you have and what prompted you to include it in the plot?

I wrote Making Space back in 2012/2013 when the industry was much more established in the US than it was here. I think the fact that it was a relatively new industry in the UK gave me the freedom to ‘make stuff up’ a little bit and imagine what a professional organiser might do. I’m really pleased to hear that real-life professional organisers can relate to it because I didn’t know whether I’d managed to make it convincing or not.

What role did the professional organiser play in the plot:

One reason I included a professional organiser, Lisa, in the plot was because I wanted to get Miriam out of the position of being Erik’s ‘therapist’ (because that’s not a good basis for a romantic relationship!) Primarily though, I wanted to give a sense that both Miriam and Erik had moved forwards in their lives by the end of the book.

I thought professional help would be the logical next step in tackling Erik’s hoarding. And when Miriam gets a job with Lisa, it showed she had grown as a person through the experience of working with him, by gaining confidence, skills, and a new career direction. I also liked the idea of having a professional organiser who wasn’t particularly organised herself.

What’s next for Sarah Tierney?

I’ve written a new novel about two sisters on holiday in a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve only just sent it to my agent so I don’t know yet what will happen to it from here but I’ll keep you posted!

Thank you Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved the book and can’t wait to read the next one!

If the novel or the interview with Sarah Tierney has inspired you to find out more about becoming a professional organiser, find out more about the benefits of joining APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers, or take a look at the available training.