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Headshot of APDO member Lou Shaw of Clutter Freedom

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a Home Sweet Home consultant

In this series of posts, we’ll be interviewing professional organisers who’ve undertaken additional qualifications or training and finding out how their businesses have benefitted.

Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talked to Lou Shaw of Clutter Freedom in London about becoming part of the Home Sweet Home network of professional organisers.

Becoming part of the Home Sweet Home network of professional organisers

Lou runs Clutter Freedom which covers south-west, south-east and central London. Lou herself lives in Battersea in south-west London near the Thames. It’s a very densely populated area but with a villagey feel. There are old Battersea residents, people who’ve moved to the area to bring up children, and a lot of people moving in and out. With its good transport links to central London, easy access to open spaces, family-sized houses and good schools, it’s a popular choice for people moving to work in London for a few years.

What’s Home Sweet Home and how did you get interested in being one of their contractors?

When I did APDO’s introductory training I met Louise Muratori of Be Clutter Free and we hit it off straight away, supporting and mentoring one another. It was through her Lancashire network that I heard that Marie Bateson, of Cut the Clutter, the APDO Director of Volunteers and UK co-ordinator for Home Sweet Home, was looking to build up the network of professional organisers who are APDO members.

Home Sweet Home was set up in Los Angeles in 2004 to simplify corporate moves and save companies money. Originally helping with internal USA and Canada moves, Home Sweet Home now operates in seven countries, serving Fortune 500 companies and their employees. I’ve worked with people from companies like Amazon, Apple, Netflix and American Express, for example.

I’ve always been interested in homes and moving so I love this work! I also believe in recycling and reusing and I’m keen to help my local community, so that fits in too.

Home Sweet Home sponsor logo

Tell us a bit more about Home Sweet Home

There are two main programmes:

  • Discard and Donate is for people leaving the UK to relocate to another country. In normal times, pre-COVID, we would help them declutter their home, working out what they would take with them and what they would leave behind. These are usually pieces of furniture and items with UK plugs like lights, hairdryers and tower fans. But it could be anything and often includes children’s toys and equipment. I then decide where the items can go, to charity or elsewhere. I like the challenge of getting things out there into the local community.

 

  • Quick Start is an unpack and put away service for company executives moving to this country. We will work in a team, unpacking all their belongings quickly and efficiently and organising their new home. When the executive and family come to their new home to find it ready for them, they’re thrilled! It not only makes the move to a new country less stressful, it also saves them a lot of unpacking time.

 

Marie organised a team of three APDO members to complete a Quick Start service for a family relocating to London from Spain who had to quarantine on arrival. I worked with Susanna Drew of Home Review and Gill Ritchie of Declutter Dahling, unpacking for a family of five into a large central London apartment. It was hard work and a logistical challenge but, yes, it was good fun too and it gave me a chance to meet other organisers.

Home Sweet Home services are offered as part of the relocation package and paid for by the transferring company. The company benefits because staff are happier and less stressed. They also save money as the number of goods transported is reduced and the amount the company saves on shipment covers the cost of Home Sweet Home.

Helping others

The service also helps the environment as less is transported, less packing material is used and there are fewer fuel emissions. And for every tree saved, Home Sweet Home makes a donation to plant three trees. The aim is for as much as possible of the donated items of furniture, household equipment and clothing to make its way back into the community to be reused or recycled.

I worked with a couple who were moving from a fantastic ninth floor apartment near the American Embassy in London to Tokyo. Almost all the items they left behind were donated to a grassroots organisation working to help get homeless people into new homes and other vulnerable people.

What makes a good Home Sweet Home contractor?

  • Being helpful, friendly and efficient while keeping a professional edge. I’m there representing Home Sweet Home and not promoting my own business.
  • Being a hands-on kind of person.
  • Being able to supervise, if required – packing, cleaning and so on.
  • Having a car is very useful.

 

Having the ability to think on your feet and having a certain amount of flexibility. There might be a suddenly remembered or discovered item to be dealt with immediately. Like the forgotten bike shed – which very quickly went on NextDoor. Or the two storage boxes of shoes found under a very low bed that the packers had missed – definitely wanted and needed by the transferee, who was in Frankfurt by then – that I was able to drive up to the shipping company at very short notice to join the consignment heading for Frankfurt.

Being resourceful with a good network. Covid has pushed us all to dig deeper and rethink our networks now charity shops are often closed. I’ve developed new contacts with Big Local SW11 and Wandsworth Mediation Services which supports very vulnerable families and gets homeless people off the street. There’s also Little Village, a children’s and babies’ clothes and equipment bank, which is great for children’s clothes, cots and buggies. I use my local NextDoor and a WhatsApp group and things go very quickly through them. I use a waste removal service for broken or damaged items, furniture without UK fire rating labels, mattresses and other items that charity outlets cannot take.

 

a room filled with packing boxes and a mirror standing against the wall

Tell us about training

Marie Bateson, our co-ordinator, trained with Home Sweet Home in Los Angeles so I was rather hoping that I could too! Unfortunately, I had to do it over Zoom…

The training is done by Jeff Heisler, Home Sweet Home’s President, and Marie. It’s free and takes a couple of hours. It’s very straightforward and there’s no commitment. There’s an introduction to Home Sweet Home and what it does, and then a description of the nuts and bolts of how it works.

When you join the network, you get all the help and support you need from Marie. Paperwork is straightforward. The Cost Saving Report, for example, is in an Excel spreadsheet which includes lists of household items, categorised by room/garden and their average weights. You simply list the number of items of a particular thing, for example, 1 three-seater sofa, 6 hand kitchen appliances, 3 large bags of clothing, and Excel calculates the overall shipping weight saving.

What are the benefits to your business of being a Home Sweet Home contractor?

It’s helping me to have a better knowledge of my own area and community and to build up a wider network of contacts. It’s really nice to get to know people. We’re all rubbing along together and are very loyal to the area. I’ve lived here for 20+ years. It’s like an extended family.

What’s your advice to someone thinking about joining the HSH network?

I’d say give it a go. You’re under no obligation, and you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any job you’re offered. It does help in quieter periods of your own business.

Clients are professionals who are friendly and appreciative of the service Home Sweet Home offers them. It does take a weight off their minds that the possessions they’re leaving behind are going to a good cause to help people in the area where they’ve lived for the last couple of years.

I’ve been to some amazing properties and recently it’s been nice to have an excuse to zip about London. I’m off to a house in Notting Hill next week. The transferee has provided a list of items so I can plan how to distribute them efficiently. There are always last-minute items, though, that the family decide to leave behind once the packers begin their job so there may be a few surprises.

Training is usually carried out twice a year but if you’re an APDO member and you’d like to get on the books, email Marie as she can often get you on board before the next training session.

Thank you Lou for sharing your work with us and explaining more about the Home Sweet Home network and its services. 

We are delighted to welcome Home Sweet Home as Key Sponsor of the APDO Conference 2021: The Future Is Re-Organised. For further details head to the Conference page!

A child running through water fountain

Letting go: Learning an essential life skill

So, you’ve decided it’s time to take action on your clutter.

A build-up of “things” can be a real burden. It’s not just the physical result of too much stuff, but also the emotional weight it puts on a person.

You’re aware of all the benefits that getting organised will bring – more space, easier to clean & maintain, quicker to find things, a clearer mind and just more pleasurable all round. Then just as you get cracking, wham, you’re hit with indecision and an inability to let go of a heap of things.

Letting go doesn’t just mean letting go of the past,

but letting go of an unknown future; and embracing NOW.”
Michelle Cruz-Rosado

In this post, organiser Jodi Sharpe of The 25th Hour contemplates a variety of issues surrounding the tricky topic of letting go.

Fortunately, letting go is a life skill that CAN be learnt.

Making room

“Letting go” makes more room for other stuff, and I don’t mean more things! When my teenage daughter shifted from a high sleeper to a regular double bed recently, she also had a pretty major declutter of her walls. Some of the pics, medals and “creations” had been around since she was in primary school. Yep, they are lovely but they’re not a reflection of who she is or the way she wants to be right now. Some bits we popped into a memory box, but most have been moved on. She’s now really enjoying flopping on her bed, reading and just chillin’ in there! There’s also plenty of SPACE to add meaningful bits and pieces as the next stage in her life unfolds.

Leo Babauta, author of “Zen Habits”, talks of letting go of possessions as “delicious and liberating”. He identifies a process that most of us follow in letting go:

  • Ask whether something is worthy of being in your life e.g. do you need ALL the artwork and crafts your child ever created in nursery?!
  • You realise it causes more problems than it’s worth.
  • You’re a tad concerned, but you manage to part with it.
  • You find that release and a touch of freedom.

Our own particular route might raise a few more questions, some nagging doubts and possibly some procrastination too. Some will find getting past number 3 easier than others.

Decision making

At times we’re afraid of making the wrong decision. “What if I let it go and then I NEED it?” is such a common thought. There is usually no WRONG decision. From letting things go we might learn how to find an alternative solution, how to go without or simply accept that it’s just not that important.

Why not think of it as an opportunity for growth, as well as an unexpected surprise? It’s OK if you don’t get it quite right. In fact, that can be a pretty desirable outcome.

Getting back to Babauta, he goes on to explain that every possession gives us something more than just practicality. What he’s talking about are the things like comfort, security, love and even self-image. It is NOT the items which have these properties – it is within YOU. When we understand this, it can help us to make those really tricky decisions.

colourful toys arranged on a white background

Untangling feelings

Let’s think of another example. Last year I worked with a single mum and son (aged around 8). My client had recognised for some time that there was simply too much stuff in most of the rooms in their house but she couldn’t quite pin down why she struggled to part with things. Together we decided that her bedroom would be the first room to be tackled and tamed.

Once we started, we moved surprisingly swiftly. Over just a few sessions, she started to untangle the feelings she associated with the items. There was make up she had held onto for security in case she couldn’t afford to buy more, not because she was actually going to wear it. There were partly-completed craft projects which she felt she SHOULD be doing, projects which added to her self image but were no longer important enough to be on her ‘to do’ list.

Then there were mementos from a very different period in her life which she thought she gleaned love from but which were actually dragging her back into the past. When thinking about what to keep and what should stay, it became increasingly clear to her that she no longer needed to hold onto physical items to feel safe or loved, or to bolster her self-esteem. Her bedroom was transformed.

With this new-found energy and insight we were then able to move onto her son’s room. Whilst this was a slower process, we still made substantial progress to a warm, comfy, fun and pretty well organised space. We used some tools to aid the declutter – taking photos of special stuff which was going, transferring the REALLY precious items to a memory box and focusing on the benefit to others of the donations which would be made. At the end of our work together, both mother and son said that they felt refreshed and happy with their “new” rooms. This is the joy of letting go.

With this new-found energy and insight we were then able to move onto her son’s room. Whilst this was a slower process, we still made substantial progress to a warm, comfy, fun and pretty well organised space. We used some tools to aid the declutter – taking photos of special stuff which was going, transferring the REALLY precious items to a memory box and focusing on the benefit to others of the donations which would be made. At the end of our work together, both mother and son said that they felt refreshed and happy with their “new” rooms. This is the joy of letting go.

Embracing the present

In conclusion, we are sometimes AFRAID to let go. We often focus on the past rather than being in the moment. When we embrace the present, we can find the courage to let go. Establishing our honest response as to “why” we want to keep something is not easy to do, but with practice it really does get easier! This in turn, allows us to move forward in achieving our decluttering and organising desires.

If Jodi’s post has interested you in the connection between our belongings and our feelings, Dr Sheryl Ziegler will be speaking at the APDO Conference on “How chronic stress affects cognitive abilities”. Find out more and book your ticket on the conference page.

APDO Conference 2021: “The Future’s Re-Organised” – What’s it all about?

The APDO Conference 2021 “The Future’s Re-Organised” is on 20 May 2021, and booking is open! If you have been wondering whether you should attend the event, APDO member Mel Carruthers (More Organised) spoke to APDO’s volunteer Conference Director Sian Pelleschi (Sorted) to find out more about the annual event for anyone interested in decluttering and organising.

APDO member and volunteer Head of Conference Sian Pelleschi

Sian Pelleschi

Who is the APDO Conference for?

The APDO Conference isn’t just for members of APDO. It’s for anyone who has an interest in the decluttering and organising world. Whether you do it for a living, just for fun or don’t do it all but would like to try, the conference offers thoughts, ideas, interaction and learning all under one roof – or in this years’ case, on one platform.

How does the APDO Conference work?

Initially intended as a day to get together with other professionals to learn from each other, the APDO Conference has become a talking point and annual focus for many a professional organiser. The event has grown from 20 attendees to 120 in just a few years.


So how will it work this year, with the pandemic restrictions still in place?

While we had every intention of holding a conference last year, sadly COVID-19 had other ideas. With the world stepping up to go virtual, we decided APDO Conference would do just the same for 2021.

However, this won’t be your average sitting on bottoms and having a zoom call. No! The APDO Conference Team has been working hard, and is taking virtual events up a notch.

Sounds interesting! What will the virtual event include?

Investing in the tech we are using, and utilising a new event platform founded here in the UK, we’ve focused on making sure legs are stretched, conversation flows, and connections are made.  We’ve put together a varied and interesting programme, covering topics that are relevant to anyone who is either in business, wants to be in business or has an interest in the decluttering and organising arena.

There will be the opportunity to network one-to-one, listen to speakers from the UK and around the world, and learn new ways to work and do business… all whilst having regular breaks and plenty of opportunities to step away from the screen when required.

Tell us more about the programme?

There is so much in this year’s conference! The team has worked hard to put together an exciting conference programme that has something for everyone. PR and how to get your business seen, diversity and inclusion, using digital tools to reach ideal clients and research on the link between clutter and wellbeing are just some of the topics we’ll be covering during the day.

Despite multiple workshops going on simultaneously, you won’t miss a thing from those you don’t attend, because all of the sessions will be recorded with the option to listen and watch back for up to six months following the conference.

We have a number of additional little surprises up our sleeves too that will help you forget that you’re sat at home or in an office and make you feel like you’re there in a room with a whole load of other people.

A graphic showing headshots and names of conference speakers, and the topics they are speaking on

One of the benefits of attending conferences is the networking. How will you be covering that in a virtual event?

If socialising is your thing, we’ve thought of that too! There will be an after conference ‘party’ and the opportunity to catch up and discuss the conference the following week in a special follow-up session.

Don’t worry if you’re an introvert – you can happily sit and watch it all happen without having to speak to a single person if you don’t want to.

There really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Thanks Sian – this all sounds like it will be a great event! Have you anything else to add?

I’d like to challenge readers to ask the question: Why shouldn’t I attend the APDO Conference 2021?

You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain, so come along and join us for what’s set to be an exciting adventure of fun, knowledge and learning for your future decluttering and organising, whatever that looks like for you.

If Sian has encouraged you to find out more about this year’s APDO conference, head to the conference page for more information and booking.
We hope to see you there!

APDO conference 2018 professional organisers

APDO Conference 2018: A review

It’s been an exciting four weeks for APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers. Not only was there the creation of Spring Clearing Week between 24-30 March (a brand new public awareness week focused on decluttering and streamlining home and life), but that came hot on the heels of the APDO annual conference, held on 15 & 16 March.

The conference was a sell-out and was wholeheartedly enjoyed by the attendees, who included national and international APDO members and professionals from international associations. There was a fantastic line-up of keynote speakers, lively workshops on diverse topics, a Q&A session with experienced professional organisers, networking opportunities and fun socials. In a nutshell, this was two days of learning and sharing with a vibrant community of organising experts, who have endless passion for their jobs.

Kate Galbally (Better Organised) provides this blog based on what she took away from the event and it sums up the ‘feel good factor’ of the event.

Your message needs to be bigger than your fear!

The headline above was the rallying call from visibility strategist Ruby McGuire (Rock Your Fabulous Biz) on day one of the annual conference for the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers in London. What followed was motivation and inspiration with keynote speeches, plenary sessions and workshops delivered by industry-leaders from across the globe.

Perhaps you’re wondering what professional organisers found to talk about for two days? Or maybe you’re thinking about starting up your own decluttering business but haven’t yet taken the leap. I’ve rounded up some of the main takeaways from the event.

The culture of positivity

On arrival at the venue, Resource for London, it was immediately apparent that the people that I’d only ever interacted with online were just as friendly, welcoming and supportive in person. The inclusive and collaborative nature of the members shone through and the place was soon buzzing with introductions and conversations. There is definitely a collective drive and enthusiasm to learn more about how we can enhance the offerings to clients, whilst developing professionally and nurturing our businesses. The positivity was infectious!

How the industry is growing

APDO was formed in 2004 and now has 281 accredited members, but the statistic that really stood out was that the membership has grown by a third in the last year alone. It is so exciting to be part of such a rapidly growing industry – it is particularly reassuring to be sharing the journey with a thriving community of such professional and supportive business owners.

APDO Conference 2018 professional organisers

The breadth and depth of professional skills and services available to clients

Life coaching, counselling, interior design, social work, housing, law, PAs – one theme that struck me was that the organisers I spoke to all seem to have spent their working lives in roles that have primarily been about supporting other people. Now they use their expertise to help clients on a practical and emotional level by assisting them to get better organised.

From empathetic and long-term assistance for people with ADHD or hoarding tendencies, to hands-on help for people who are clearing out a loved one’s belongings after a bereavement, the ways in which organisers help their clients are many and varied. It was so fascinating to hear others’ stories of what has led them into this field of work.

How perfectly the content was tailored to the audience

Leslie Josel (Order Out of Chaos) delivered a powerful keynote speech about demystifying executive functions and ADHD. One key point she made was that understanding how your clients think is the only way to instill change. Well, the voluntary board at APDO had clearly understood the way their members think, as they had identified topics that are at the forefront of their members’ minds. We were spoiled for choice when it came to workshops, with topics including how to film and edit compelling footage on smartphones, the development of business workshops and webinars, supercharging social media content, readiness for GDPR and how to declutter your business ideas to avoid burnout.

What I’ll do next

I’ve already done it! I’ve cleared my diary to make sure that I will be attending next year’s conference.

APDO conference 2019

I love being part of this industry and seeing the growth that my business has achieved already. Working alongside my clients is satisfying and rewarding and as Cassie Tillett (Working Order) the founder of APDO has said, ‘When you know you’ve made a positive difference in someone else’s life, there’s no other feeling like it!’

 

If you’re not an APDO member but are interested in being part of the community, you can find out more here. Also keep an eye on the events page for upcoming campaigns.

NAPO Conference 2017

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This April, APDO president Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House) and APDO head of international liaison Isabelle Lamy (IDea for your Space) travelled to Pittsburgh in the US to attend the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) Conference!

The 4-day conference attracts over 550 organisers, with delegates from 11 countries worldwide. It’s a completely packed conference with 6 workshops, meetings, panel discussions, annual member meeting and awards presentation, networking lunch and dinner, international attendee round table and a Presidents reception.

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Ingrid says:
I’ve been thrilled to meet such a fabulous group of people. NAPO welcomed us with open arms and not only did we learn a lot, networked with friends old and new, we also had a great time! It’s so special to be in a room with 550 professional organisers who share the same passion for our industry. We are grateful to all NAPO members for sharing their knowledge and giving us their time. I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to share all my news with APDO members in the UK”.

Isabelle says:
I’ve been amazed by the size of the NAPO conference, from the number of attendees, the the many, quality workshops to attend. From breakfast, to late into the evening we had lots of opportunities to meet like-minded professional organisers. Like our very own APDO conference NAPO 2017 is the perfect place to network, to learn and to have fun (on the dance floor). What impressed me the most is that even in the US one of the main concerns for the NAPO members was how the association could help to raise the awareness of the industry… just like here in the UK. Being able to connect with other international delegates and to meet again some of our previous speakers (Anne Blumer, Ellen Faye) really made me realise how internationally connected APDO is now”.

Both Ingrid and Isabelle are delighted to have been able to attend the NAPO 2017 Conference and can’t emphasize enough to other professionals to go and learn at other professional organiser conferences. The learning and sharing made the experience super special!


If this post has sparked your interest and you would like to become part of the growing industry of accredited professional organisers in the UK, why not think about joining APDO? If you could benefit from support to declutter and organise your home or work-space, find a local organiser here.

Lady talking at podium and presenting to group

Countdown to the Conference has started!

 

The countdown has started and the conference committee are working through the checklists in preparation for what is proving to be a sell-out for APDO  Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, “Life simplified” conference on 21 & 22 March 2017”.

In fact, demand for this event is so high that we have had to revisit the conference venue, Resource for London, and book extra space!  If you haven’t bought a ticket yet – do not delay!  There are a couple of two-day and day 1 tickets still available and a few additional on day two.   We will also be running a waiting list once these tickets have been sold so if you would like to put your name down then please contact Sammy Ryan at the email address below.

And why would you want to miss this amazing event? APDO has a superb line-up of keynote speakers, a wide variety of workshops to choose from, a brilliant Q&A panel and great evening social events – and all topped off with some fantastic auction and raffle prizes, not to mention an eclectic goody bag selection to take away with you!!

We look forward to welcoming you all!

For any queries please contact: Sammy Ryan of the conference team via the enquiry form.

apdo conference

Talking to the Press