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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  






Clear for calm: Find serenity in your space, a guide on how to clear your way to a calm home

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”  

– Arthur Ashe 


While embracing the relaxation of Covid-related restrictive measures, our road to recovery is shadowed by clouds of war and the constant bad news…do you ever find it hard to relax, even in your own home? You’re not alone. A lot of of our clients find it difficult to cope with the anxiety and tension between family members due to the amount of clutter at home. Yes, when clutter is clogging up your space, it creates a mental muddle too. 


Decluttering not only gives you more physical space, it also lifts emotional load off your mind, and creates more clarity in your life.We, the professional organisers, are here to helpyou clear your clutter, so you can have the space you love, the life you enjoy. 


In this short guide, I hope to show you how you can clear your way to a calm space, and eventually create a sanctuary where you can wind down and relax, a place where you can “hide yourself” (when it’s all getting too much), to practice meditation or enjoy other relaxing hobbies or exercise. 


Step1:  Have a vision 

If you want to transform your space to a calm and relaxing one, start by giving it a nice name, imagine what it looks and feels like, use mood boards, images you see from magazines, or pictures from your favourite holiday destinations. Gather your inspiration in one place.   

Define you space, give it a purpose. While a single purpose room is easy to design and manage, a room of multiple purposes can be managed well with a bit of extra planning. Your colour choice is important too. If you want a calm and soothing space, green is a good choice. Whatever you do, don’t call it a spare room, or even worse, junk room. You know what will happen afterwards. 


Step 2: Be mindful about relaxing “hobbies” 

Image of Stairs 

A little bit of what you fancy does you good, too much and you might end up with the amount of stuff that’s beyond manageable.  


In practice, we find that many people struggle to keep on top of their hobbies. Something that is supposed to help you relax can become burdensome if you have ‘too much’ at a given time. For your mental well-being, we suggest that you select no more than three hobbies for any defined space and carefully consider whether they are the best fit for your current lifestyle (you can always rotate your hobbies later on). Once you have ‘narrowed down’ your hobbies, designate a particular spot for each hobby. Otherwise ‘hobby related clutter’ can easily manifest and take over a room (think of the amount of baking supplies you might have). 



Step 3: Be ready to be flexible if you share your home with someone else 

Image of cakes next to a cup cup

What if you have one unused room but more than one person’s needs to accommodate? The answer is flexibility and creativity. When planning your room layout, storage and decor, always ask this question: “Who’s going to use this room and for what purpose?” If you and other family member(s) have conflicting requirements for one space, it’s best to discuss whether you can occupy the space at different time of the day/week. 


Step 4: Clear the clutter 

Be ruthless with clutter, think of it as an enemy to your ideal calm space. Find your local APDO organiser to help you declutter your space.  


Step 5: Source your storage last 

Remember, always declutter first before you get more furniture for storage! In the process of decluttering, you’ll very likely find storage solutions in the existing space. If not, draft a storage plan before you go shopping (just like you would do with grocery shopping), a list always helps to keep you on track. One of our clients transformed her clutter-ridden spare room into a peaceful guest bedroom, and she only spent £30 on actual furniture (by using what was already there) and getting rid of the clutter.  

clear open space with water

Have fun creating and clearing your way to a calm home, and enjoy the spring sunshine when you can! 


Jane Zhang Rice (Serenity Organising & Decluttering Service)

Clear for calm: How do we deal with our bathrooms and can we sort it so it has a more environmentally friendly standard?

Hands up, who’s ever been in a bathroom with toiletries all over the place, towels strewn everywhere and cupboards full of random bathroom items (and the rest)??

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever set foot in a bathroom, whether it be their own or someone else’s, will have seen something along the lines of the above. 

Our modern-day bathroom is depicted on the likes of Instagram, Pinterest and every home organisation programme we come across, as this idyllic space with candles, beautifully labelled and organised toiletries, plants and no sign of a bin anywhere. The reality in most homes however is quite the opposite.  


With busy lives involving work (working from home being an even bigger factor), children, animals and other family members, it can be hard keeping on top of, and with the added worry for a lot of people about trying to be more eco-friendly and sustainable with the items their homes now house, the pressure is on!  


The question is: how do we deal with it and more importantly, can we sort it so it has a more environmentally friendly standard?  

For a long time, in fact, most of my life, I never really thought too much about saving the planet, being an eco-warrior, looking for ways to do things differently that weren’t damaging to our lovely green Earth. 

That’s not to say I didn’t do my bit – I was brought up to believe you should recycle where possible, don’t drop litter and do what you can to use as little energy as possible. However, it wasn’t until I hit my 30’s that I really started to take note, to make small but achievable changes that, while they definitely don’t ‘save the Earth’, do help to make it a more sustainable and eco-friendly world.

Some of the clients I work with really struggle with the concept of letting go, not because they don’t want to, but because they hate the thought of items going unnecessarily to landfill or being wasted when they can still be used, but just not by them. It causes great pain that these items build up in their homes and yet they struggle to move them out, usually because there are no obvious places to send them or they just don’t have a way to get them out easily. 

However, the ability to recycle items, items that would have previously gone straight to landfill, is so much easier now. With the start-up of new recycling programmes and charities, it is becoming easier and easier to be able to let go of those items in our homes that we previously struggled to. 

So, I want to give you some ideas and easy options for changes that you can make within your homes, in particular your bathrooms, to be more eco-friendly and turn that clutter into an eco-oasis without too much trouble. 



Let’s start with the biggest item, as this is quite often part of the problem. Lots of cupboards and shelves means places to throw things on/in. When organising these spaces use baskets or boxes, anything you can to contain the items so they don’t become unruly. The most eco-friendly way to do this is utilise boxes you have around the house – shoe boxes, Amazon boxes (let’s face it, most houses have at least one or two of these) – these can be decorated using old wallpaper, or leftover wrapping paper, or simple brown craft paper, if you want to smarten them up. Or if you’re wanting a more uniformed and perfected look, opt for the recycled plastic, wicker, wooden or bamboo baskets you can now easily get on the market. Remember to label and keep like for like items together so you don’t overstock.





More often than not I come across bathrooms that seem to become the breeding ground for makeup.  

If you wear it, go through it every few months and take out all items that you no longer use or are past their best. Sadly, items like mascara use lots of plastic and toxic ingredients, meaning they’re not as eco-friendly as we’d probably like. However, through the recycling magic that is  www.terracycle.co.uk  there are more ways these previously unrecyclable items can now be recycled. Maybelline have partnered with Terracycle and you can now find drop boxes in most main supermarkets to deposit your mascara, eye liner, palettes and foundation. Hurrah! Alternatively there are more eco-friendly makeup options on the market such as this mascara from Ecovibe: https://ecovibe.co.uk/collections/mascara

When it comes to cleaning your makeup off your face, traditionally people tend to use cotton wool pads.  As they’re single use they’re a huge drain on the environment due to the chemicals, water and deforestation that goes into making and getting rid of them. Instead, opt for reusable makeup pads. They can be washed and used time and time again. I use these pads from Cheekywipes that work a treat (https://www.cheekywipes.com/reusable-makeup-removing-pad-kits.html), but you can also make your own using old towels or muslins. 


If you’re using single use plastic soap containers, shampoo and conditioner bottles or bubble bath consider swapping to an eco-friendly glass bottle, that’s refillable from a local refill shop. There are so many popping up that you’re never far from one.  

If you don’t feel you have the time to pop to a local shop, there are more and more companies offering refill items that can be sent in the post, cutting down on single-use bottles. You don’t have to swap them all either, just opt for the ones that you use the most to start and see how you get on. 



Toothbrushes – for as long as I’ve been able to brush my teeth (we’re talking quite a few years here) – have been the good old plastic, limited-lifetime toothbrushes, which don’t decompose well and stick around in the ground for many years.   

Instead, opt for a bamboo toothbrush. Bamboo is a sustainable source of material – as it grows at pretty much the same speed you can take it down. Usually, the bristles will still be nylon but they can be removed and the handle recycled. They even have options for electric toothbrushes too – so there’s really no excuse for not having one! 

Cotton Buds – As previously mentioned, these unfriendly single-use items have caused chaos in the past when it comes to eco-friendliness. Thankfully the government have stopped the sale of plastic-stemmed ones and you can now get bamboo-made buds instead. However, you could go one step further and get a reusable bud, like the ones sold here at Last Object https://lastobject.com/. Much more eco-friendly, cuts down on storage space and easy to clean! 


Deodorant – We all know that aerosols are not great for the environment. Not only that, but despite the fact that they have reduced the cans in size, they still take up lots of space and while they can be recycled, it’s much harder to do so. Instead, opt for an eco-friendly deodorant cream. It lasts a long time, smells great and is good on the environment too – win, win in my eyes! 




If you’re after a bathroom cleaner that isn’t full of nasty chemicals there are lots on the market (you can buy from the refill shops or online as mentioned before) and you can also make your own. 

Bicarbonate of soda, lemon and vinegar all have cleaning properties that work a treat and can leave a room or surface sparkling clean. Add a splash of essential oil and you’ll be left with a lasting lovely smell. Simply look online for homemade cleaning products and you’ll find an abundance of recipes. 



Ok, I know you’ll be thinking ‘what on earth is she going to say about this?’, but hear me out, if you’re wanting to go down the eco-friendly route then you need to look at where your items are disposed. Having one bin in a bathroom doesn’t work as you’ll inevitably throw everything into the one and not sift it out into the correct bins when the time comes. Make your life easy and organise it by type, in the first instance, by getting a multi-space bin. There are more on the market than you may think, but you can easily just get two smaller containers (from your house) or use wicker baskets (with a liner) and use those instead. Something like this Joseph bin from Argos doesn’t break the bank and looks smart. (https://www.argos.co.uk/product/8475967) 


Having said all that, if you’ve worked down the list above and made all those changes, you’ll find there won’t be anywhere near as much waste as before so the simple single bin may suffice after all! 

Whatever you do, don’t put pressure on yourself to do it all in one go. If you want to be more eco-friendly and have an oasis of a bathroom, it can be done but as the sayings go; Rome wasn’t built in a day; & small steps lead to great things! 


Siân Pelleschi (Sorted) APDO, Conference Director

Clear for calm: Laura Pearson, Professional Declutterer and Organiser, Intentional Life Coach and Meditation Teacher

Laura Pearson is a Professional Declutterer and Organiser, Intentional Life Coach and Meditation Teacher. She created her business Intentional with Laura to help people to declutter and simplify their lives, minds and space, so that they can consciously create and live their own version of an intentional, joyful, self-connected life. Her mission is to help people to reclaim their calm. 

Connect with her on Instagram or Facebook @intentionalwithlaura and download her free guide at www.intentionalwithlaura.com/5-steps-to-start-decluttering-freebie  

When we think about clutter, we tend to think of physical stuff and usually, excess, in our space. We picture things like overflowing wardrobes, heaps of shoes and mail in the hallway, piles of stuff on our surfaces and sideboards and drawers packed to the brim. 

But clutter is so much more than physical stuff. We can have cluttered minds and lives too! By taking a holistic approach to decluttering and considering three important areas of our lives – our space, our minds and our lifestyles, we can reclaim our calm and create a more intentional life. This is what I help my clients to achieve. 

I’ve experienced the benefits of physically decluttering first-hand and I’ve witnessed them time and time again with my clients. Back in 2015, I started my own personal journey to letting go of clutter and simplifying my life. At the time, I was in a busy corporate job, working 70+ hours a week, and I was feeling extremely cluttered, disconnected from myself and burnt out. Something needed to change and I decided to start with decluttering my space to welcome some calm into my life. 

One of the first things that I decluttered was my wardrobe. The immediate feeling of lightness from letting go of clothes that I didn’t wear, didn’t feel good in and had no intention of ever wearing again felt amazing! I will never tire of hearing people speak about how light they feel after physically decluttering. I’m a big believer that our physical space impacts our mental and emotional space. In other words, our external world impacts our internal world. So, if our physical space is cluttered and disorganised, it is highly likely that we will feel cluttered mentally and will probably suffer from having cluttered minds and lives too. 

This feeling of lightness prompted me to continue to declutter my space, until no area was left untouched. Some part of me felt compelled to continue on this path, to simplifying my life, moving into alignment with my values and feeling even more calm and self-connected, so I moved on to declutter my mind and my lifestyle. 

At the time, my mind was extremely cluttered. I was your typical over-thinker. I struggled to switch off and relax. I found it almost impossible to allow myself to just be in the present. Other things like limiting beliefs, worrying about the future and never-ending mental To-Do Lists, occupied my precious headspace.  

Meditation was something that I’d heard a lot about in the media and saw posts about on social media, so in search for calm, I decided to give it a go. I tried all kinds of meditations – guided meditations, meditation apps and practising sitting in silence unguided. At first, like most newbie meditators, I felt like ‘I wasn’t doing it right’. Thoughts would pop into my head. Sometimes they’d race around. I’d get distracted by my To-Do List or start thinking about what I was going to have for tea. The list went on.  

But I stuck with it. I showed up for myself and my meditation practice – the key word is practise by the way – every single day. Whether it was two minutes or ten minutes, I made a daily commitment to get myself comfortable, tune inwards and declutter my mind. Within weeks I felt calmer, clearer and more connected to myself and my values.  

Seven years later and I am more dedicated than ever to my meditation practise. I choose to meditate daily in order to declutter my mind, come back to the present moment, connect with myself, and most significantly – feel calm and clear.  

As a meditation teacher, I also teach and guide other people through meditation – in my recordings, programmes and classes. I truly believe that meditation is something that everybody can do. If you can breathe, you can meditate. 

Learning to meditate is like learning any new skill – the more you do it, the more comfortable and familiar it becomes. At first it might feel weird or uncomfortable, and resistance might come up, but a big part of meditating is about practising awareness, acceptance and allowing things – and yourself – to just be. 

Meditation is just one way that I believe you can declutter your mind and there are so many benefits that you can enjoy. Some of the key benefits include feeling calmer and more relaxed, increasing focus, reducing stress, managing anxiety, enhancing self-awareness, increasing productivity, improving sleep and generating kindness (towards yourself and others!). There are so many science-based benefits which you can easily find by having a quick Google.   

If we consider the theme ‘Clear for Calm’, which is the theme for APDO’s Spring Clearing Week, we must ask ourselves what is preventing us from experiencing calm right now? And more significantly, what can we do to welcome calm into our lives? 

The answer will look different for each of us. Some of us may feel the urge to physically declutter our space. Some of us may feel called to explore how we can declutter our minds. Some of us may want to do a life audit – and consider where we are spending our time and if we are clear about our priorities – and declutter our lives accordingly. 

There is no right or wrong answer. But, regardless of what you choose, we can all benefit from doing a little Spring Clear (of our space, minds and lives), in order to welcome in, and feel, calm. 


Laura Pearson (Laura Pearson Coaching and Decluttering)

Clear for calm: How to find a little bit of calm among life’s challenge

There is no denying that the past few years have felt anything but calm. The world has been a weird and anxious place, with ever-changing rules and regulations to adapt to and everything that we took for granted as normal thrown up in the air.  

So, how can we possibly feel calm when so much is out of our control? By only focusing on those things we can at least partly control; our time and our homes. And by making space for the things that make us happy.  

Find your happy    

What makes you happy? Like really happy. As in you forget what the time is because you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing, and after you’ve done it you feel lighter and brighter? It could be: yoga, walking, sewing, writing, singing – whatever it is, if it makes you happy it will also help you feel calm and balanced.  


Put yourself on your to do list 

I know what you’ll say – “I haven’t got time for that! My life is already over-crowded with things to try and get done!”.  I get it: we’re all juggling a million roles and responsibilities, but if a loved one called you telling you they were stressed out and needed some help, chances are you’d find the time for them by pushing something less important off your to do list. Well, it’s time to put yourself on your to do list. Put an actual date and time in your diary for your ‘happiness practice’ and treat it like you would an appointment – no cancelling on yourself! 


Little and often 

You don’t have to carve out hours and hours to do what makes you happy (wouldn’t that be nice?!), even just five or ten minutes spent on yourself can give you the energy and resilience to help deal with everything else that life throws at you. You might even find that in giving yourself that time off from your usual responsibilities, you’re more productive and efficient at working through all the other stuff that needs doing. Potentially giving you more time to do what makes you happy – result! 


Create the space you need 

“Ok, great, but I haven’t got space to think, let alone space to do yoga!” No problem. Start by being realistic – you only need the essentials for your five-minute happiness practice, so for example if drawing is your thing, then a single pencil and pad might be all you need.  

And you don’t need the perfect environment either; if your home is cluttered and busy then try and clear just a small corner for what you need, or create a permanent space for the equipment required, so you know exactly where to find it when it’s needed.  


Protect your investment 

Then the tricky bit – protect that physical space and the space in your time with all you’ve got. Remember how important your happiness practices are, how they can help create a feeling of clarity and calm, and how they can build your resilience to the stresses and strains of life. And if you find those spaces start getting lost or forgotten about, remember how important you are and the need to invest in yourself, and keep digging them back out again until you create a regular happiness habit.  



Kate Yiannacou, Declutter Coach (Tidy Happy Calm) 


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.

White flowers

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a bereavement volunteer

In this new series of posts, we’ll be interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In the first of this new series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living about becoming a bereavement volunteer.

What is a bereavement volunteer?

Bereavement happens to everybody. We all lose people. And there’s a huge demand for support.

I’m a volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care, a national charity which offers free confidential bereavement support to anybody. No formal referral is needed – clients can just refer themselves. It’s a lovely charity to be involved with. (Cruse Bereavement Care also provides support in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man).

Cruse usually offers introductory sessions on understanding your grief and then one-to-one support or bereavement group support. During the COVID-19 pandemic we’re mainly offering telephone and email support although some areas are providing 1:1 Zoom sessions.

It is very humbling to hear some of the difficult situations that our clients have endured. It feels such a privilege to be able to help in some way.

How did you get interested in this area of work?

I’m a registered independent social worker and I work mainly with people with hoarding behaviours. My clients are often people with disabilities or mental health challenges that lead to an accumulation of clutter.

When you start chatting to clients you can feel their distress. So many seem to have unresolved grief and might have experienced multiple or complicated bereavements. Many have never had any formal support. It all seems to make sense as to why they have difficulties with clutter.

I saw that Cruse were advertising for volunteers and I thought I would love to volunteer, and it would also help so much with my hoarding clients.

hands held in support

Tell us about the training

It’s a great course! You learn so much!

It’s five days, spread over several weeks. It’s often on a Saturday as some volunteers are at work in the week. On completion you get a foundation certificate from the National Counselling Society.

There are some really complex issues around grief. On the course we cover:

  • theories about grief and bereavement
  • practical listening skills
  • group work with lots of role playing (participants take turns to play different roles, listen or observe other people using an assessment tool)
  • different cultural beliefs around funeral traditions, bereavement and grief.


There’s homework too as a portfolio is required and this is assessed as part of your foundation certification. It incorporates a reflective journal for the duration of the course, and various pieces of work to demonstrate your understanding of the theories and information you have learnt.

Volunteers also undertake continuing professional development (CPD) by attending a number of study days a year. These include ‘sudden and traumatic death’, ‘death by suicide’ and various other elements such as safeguarding, as part of your volunteer induction. Last year I ran a session on the connection between bereavement and clutter.

How much does the course cost?

The course usually costs a few hundred pounds and is held face-to-face. During the COVID-19 pandemic though, Cruse has moved it online and if you sign up to be a volunteer, it’s free – which is an amazing opportunity.

Being a Cruse bereavement volunteer can be quite flexible. You could volunteer for as little as an hour a week, typically spending six sessions with each client.

What makes a good bereavement volunteer?

Compassion and empathy.

The client needs to feel that they are being listened to, that you are genuine and that you care.

A good rapport is important, and it’s essential that they feel they can trust you and that you will maintain confidentiality – similar skills to supporting people to declutter!

close up of hands holding a mug

How are your clients and business benefitting?

The roles of professional organiser and bereavement volunteer are very well matched. Undertaking the Cruse volunteer training has really enhanced my professional practice and my business. Since completing the course, I’ve drawn on it with almost all of the clients I’ve worked with.

Everyone goes through bereavement at some time in their life and it affects us differently, depending on the relationship with the person who died, and how we remember them. It’s also important to understand that we grieve over more than just people. It might be a relationship, a job or a previous home. We even feel grief about getting older and our lives changing in ways that we can’t control or reverse.

Even the most straightforward declutter and organise or packing and unpacking job can bring up many deeply buried feelings, when a client comes across an item that once belonged to a grandparent or something that reminds them of a special day or event. Having an understanding of this and the theoretical background, as well as the practical skills and counselling techniques, has been invaluable.

Being there to support a client through this process, giving them a safe place to talk, reassuring them that what they are feeling is perfectly understandable and giving them confidence to make choices for their future is a very special part of our job.

Finally, I feel that volunteer work is a wonderful way to build great connections and enhance my own wellbeing. When we give time to others, we get so much more than we give.

Thank you, Lisa, for explaining how beneficial your bereavement volunteer work has been for your clients and business.

If this is a topic that interests you, Margaret Ginger of Cruse Bereavement Care will be speaking at the APDO Conference on 20 May 2021.