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Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson smiling

Interview with an organiser: Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson

Have you ever wondered what being a professional organiser is like beyond the Facebook page? You might wonder if their homes are spotless, why they started their business, and of course the ultimate question; how do they stay so organised? APDO sat down with Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson to talk home, business and top tips on what it’s like to be a professional organiser.

What does being organised mean to you? What does being organised look like?

Being organised has given me more time, better physical and mental health, improved productivity, and reduced anxiety. It really has changed my life. Having a home that is easy to maintain means I can concentrate on the things that really matter to me – my family, my business, and my well-being.

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

I love organising living rooms and playrooms. Helping a client create a welcoming and calm living space that they enjoy being in, and are happy to invite guests into, is really satisfying.

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

Having a goal! Setting goals for my home keeps me focused and disciplined in my organising. I’m always looking to find more time to spend with my daughters and myself; having an organised home helps me do that. Having a goal keeps me motivated and accountable.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

Ha! My home looks like any home that has two young children in it – there is Lego on the floor and there are clothes to put away.  But living with less and being organised means that it doesn’t take long to ‘reset’ our spaces. All items have a home so even when the house has become messy, it doesn’t take long to put it all away.  Our house is organised so that is functions well and my family can relax and enjoy being in it, but it certainly doesn’t look like a show home!

What benefits do your clients experience from becoming more organised?

The biggest benefit is that they no longer feel a sense of dread when they enter their homes. They describe feeling calmer and less anxious. Often clients say that they have gained extra time in their day as they can easily find things, and it’s quicker to tidy up. Most importantly, clients say that they are now able to move forward with other aspects of their lives that they have previously felt stuck in. Removing clutter and getting organised gives them the space (both physical and mental) to take the next steps in their lives.

When you are going to a client, what essentials are in your organising bag / toolkit?

Sticky labels and pens are useful to keep track of items that need to be taken to the charity shop; recycled; or re-homed elsewhere. I also take a folding board to fold clothes neatly and a label-maker to label boxes. Most importantly, I bring with me a calm demeanour and stacks of empathy. Clients need to be listened to without judgement and for me to hold space for them while they work through their organising challenges.

What’s the most memorable collection you’ve seen? (What did you / the client do with them)

I came across an impressive Harry Potter memorabilia collection. The reason the client wanted to organise their home in the first place, was to get rid of clutter so that their HP collection could take centre stage.

What’s the best outcome you’ve ever seen?

I’ve helped several families get on top of their clutter and get organised when they have been very close to their baby’s due date! It’s wonderful to instil a sense of calm in the client and their home before such a momentous occasion.

Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?

My dream clients are wonderful, creative, passionate people who are time-poor, overwhelmed and have become stuck. They often feel alone and anxious and are looking for a steady hand to help them. They are big-hearted and always have something to teach me too. All my clients have it in them to make change for themselves, they usually just need someone to motivate, empower, and most importantly, believe in them.

What’s your top tip to share?

Getting organised requires motivation and discipline. On the days you feel motivated, use that momentum to tackle an organising job you’ve been putting off and tackle it in small chunks so you don’t get overwhelmed. On the days you don’t feel motivated, try to be disciplined; you know you will feel better when you tackle that stack of post for example. Set yourself a timer, and reward yourself with a stroll around the park, or a coffee and a pastry when it’s done.

If you’d like to get in touch with Hannah about her services, you can do so by contacting her on her website here.

If you’re interested in becoming a professional organiser, and want to learn more about APDO, visit our Why Join APDO page.

National Hoarding Roadshow 2019 – Birmingham

This week in the UK it is National Hoarding Awareness Week and the week was launched with the National Hoarding Conference in Birmingham, which took place on Monday 20 May.

APDO was delighted to exhibit at this wonderful event, raising awareness and understanding around hoarding behaviours and the sort of help which is available.

Our President Katherine Blackler ( SortMySpace ) was joined by our Head of Membership Lisa Pantling (Clutter Free Living), Claire Birnie (The Tidy Life Project), who had come all the way from wonderful Scotland, and Lynsey Grundy (Tidy Homes Tidy Minds at Southway Housing) to field questions from delegates struggling with their stuff as well as those keen to join the industry and help. APDO was well represented at the event as a number of members attended as delegates and others were also exhibiting on neighbouring stands.

National Hoarding Awareness Week logo

Hoarding behaviour is a complex and emotive subject. Almost everyone you talk to has some experience of their own hoarding difficulties, or those of someone they know and love. Even a lawyer I met in the hotel lift on her way to check out of the hotel briefly shared her personal experience! As soon as I mention what I do, I am invariably met with the response ‘Oh, my mum/dad/auntie is a hoarder’.

The conference opened with with a real treat: a filmed excerpt from the play ‘Stuff’ by the Women’s Theatre group. This superbly captured the thought process that people go through when they are trying to let go of things in their home. Each item has a story, a memory or a purpose, it brings joy, sadness or potential and this is why it so often feels truly impossible to let it go.

APDO member Lisa Panting standing with APDO Banner

Professor Paul Salvoskis gave a powerful and uplifting presentation around showing empathy, understanding and, most of all, compassion. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution or treatment, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. By showing respect and genuine care, we can help and support people to improve their situations.

We also heard from Lee, a retired Fire Officer of 30 years, who now works closely with people who hoard. He talked us through the process of assessing the highest risks of fire, and stressed the importance of really getting to know the person you are working with so that they can make progress.

Many APDO members have a wealth of experience of supporting people with hoarding behaviour. A growing number of members have been attending specialist training and developing their skills so that they are able to support people exhibiting hoarding behaviour. You can search for members with this specialism on www.findanorganiser.co.uk. In addition, you can find more information on hoarding support at www.helpforhoarders.co.uk and www.hoardersuk.org.

To read more about APDO and hoarding, please visit https://www.apdo.co.uk/what-is-hoarding/.

A match made in organising heaven

In a first for both APDO and IKEA UK, a line up of professional organisers and declutterers were on hand to help shoppers at IKEA Greenwich make the most of their home environment. Covering a range of topics, the speakers ran sessions throughout the day using the room sets on the shop floor at IKEA UK’s newest, and most sustainable store. Emily Wapples (Simply Sorted) was onsite to see the day unfold and report back on this landmark event.

Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House) kicked off the event with a professional organiser’s guide to storage and organisation, in which she showcased some of her favourite IKEA products to a large audience of interested shoppers. Working room-by-room, Ingrid offered practical suggestions for keeping the home organised and highlighted the versatility of popular IKEA products.

Next up was Isabelle Lamy (IDea for Your Space) with her guide to kitchen and meal planning. As people gathered around the kitchen counter, Isabelle discussed how the kitchen is much more than simply a place to cook, and offered advice on the best way to keep this multi-functional area organised. When it came to meal planning, Isabelle’s time-saving suggestion of creating a set of recipe cards to work from was a real hit.

The lunchtime crowd of shoppers were treated to a talk by APDO President Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) on how to organise their bedrooms and closets. Katherine encouraged people to be realistic about which clothes they want to keep when embarking on a wardrobe decluttering exercise, and offered tips on how to make the most of the prime space in their closet.

Rounding off the day was Filipa do Carmo (Khôra – Space . Sorted) and her guide to sustainable living, which featured an interactive discussion with shoppers about how to maintain a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. They shared stories of the difficulties they faced when trying to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and offered each other ideas for ways to deal with them. This was a fitting way to end the day in IKEA UK’s leading sustainable store.

 

A beautiful kitchen in the Ikea showroom

The presenters were supported by a team of fellow APDO members, who helped to make the event a great success, including Sarah Bickers (Free Your Space), Karen Storey (Homespace), Emily Wapples (Simply Sorted) Eszter Csurgo (Erase Chaos) and Catherine Carrad (Organise Your House).

After the event, Katherine Blackler, APDO President commented, “I’ve been dreaming of teaming up APDO and IKEA for a number of years so it was wonderful to see us come together especially in a store they’ve just built in my neighbourhood! The day itself flew by but I know APDO members are excited to team up for more events here in Greenwich, at IKEA stores across the UK and even beyond like Dubai or Hong Kong”.

Manuel Recalde, Local Community Specialist IKEA Greenwich added, “We were delighted when Katherine reached out to us whilst we were still building our new store. The synergies between IKEA’s ethos and what APDO members do daily was clear and this collaboration a long time in the making! We enjoyed hosting the APDO team, and seeing them engaging with our customers and community on the shop floor. We’re already in discussions about when we can collaborate again”.

And of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without some goofing around in the business hub before the store opened!

Smiling APDO members looking through a fake Ikea window

Looking for some help sorting your own Ikea storage? Use our Find an Organiser tool to find a professional near you.

box of old family photos that need organising

Organising your precious photos

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

Why has photo organising become a profession and a hobby?

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

Why are photo organisers linked to APDO?

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

APDO member Ian Killick organising photos with a client

What kind of projects can photo organisers assist with?

Photo organisers can help with:

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

What triggers people’s photo organising projects?

From experience, the following are common trigger points:

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

An open photobook of holiday photographs

Is there a particular photo organising setup you would suggest?

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

How about some top tips?

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

And finally…

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

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

 

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

Bigger in Texas: APDO at the NAPO 2019 Annual Conference

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

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

Michelle Prince

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

Themed breakout sessions

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

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

Group of International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations representatives

Information sessions

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

Special Interest Groups

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

Gretchen Rubin

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

Katherine Blacker and Sammy Ryan of APDO with author Gretchen Rubin

President’s Reception

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

Bringing it all home

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

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

Watch this space!

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

NAPO 2019 Annual Conference banner image

Open notebook and a pen next to a pot plant

Spring Clearing Week wrapped up!

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

 

decluttered organised bedroom

We were delighted to guest post for:

 

organised boxes in a white room ready for unpacking

We shared these intriguing initiatives happening outside APDO:

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

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

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

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

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

In conversation with BuyMeOnce

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

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

 

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

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

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

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

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

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

Clearing clutter at home

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

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

Clearing calendar commitments

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

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

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

Creating clearer thinking

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

Spring Clearing Week Resources

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

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

Small succulent plant in a white pot signifying organised recycling

7 steps to create your own home recycling system

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

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

Here are some steps to make it happen:

1. Do your research

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

2. Know your trash

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

Row of organised coloured recycling bins

3. Make it easy

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

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

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

4. Compost

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

5. Bathroom recycling

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

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

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

6. Battery recycling

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

7. Donation box

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

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

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

A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

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

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

Headshot of Claire de Boursac APDO member standing under a tree

Is self-criticism stopping you?

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

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

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

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

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

The organisation myth

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

Recognising your own critical voice

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

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

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

The role of the professional organiser

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

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

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