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cardboard storage box for organising

Professional organisers share their Top 10 organising products

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

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

Top 10 organising products

 

10 – Shelf inserts

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

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

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

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

9 – Vacuum storage bags

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

8 – Command hooks

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

7 – iDesign clear bins

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

iDesign clear bins and baskets organising cleaning products

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

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

6 – Curver boxes

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

5 – Really Useful Boxes

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

a row of Really Useful Boxes in an attic

4 – Label maker

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

A label maker on a desk

3 – Velvet coat hangers

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

2 – IKEA SKUBB drawer dividers

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

And finally, in first place…

1 – Boxes you already have

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

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

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

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

 

Pens organised in pen pots on an organised office shelf

Show us your workspace!

Many of us are working from home at the moment. Some of us for the first time, most of us more than usual. So in this post for National Organising Week, we asked some of our APDO members to show us their workspaces, and give us some tips to make working from home work for you.

Show us your workspace!

Nicola Davie of TidyGirl

Nicky Davie's office

Nicky Davie’s office

At the beginning of lockdown, I was sharing an office workspace with my husband. Then, when our youngest child moved out to get married in the summer, we changed their old bedroom into an office space for my husband! I am very fortunate now to have a lovely space of my own – ready to re-decorate, organise and make mine!

Tilo Flache of ClutterMeister

Tilo Flache's desk

Tilo Flache works from his dining table

A lot of my work is done from home but, as I don’t have room for an office, I work in my living room. Since there is only one table here, at first I found it hard to separate work time from free time. I solved the problem by simply sitting at a one side of the table for work, and on the opposite side when it’s time to relax. Putting all my work stuff away after work is an additional reminder that the office is closed. I find my mind is much better able to make the switch through these two simple actions.

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms

Lynda Wylie at her desk

Lynda Wylie at her desk

I’ve seen all sorts of home working set ups since I’ve been back in client homes post lockdown. Necessity has produced creativity to establish the best arrangement, and there is a great deal of compromise going on. Our house is no different!

My husband has taken over my home office and after a few weeks’ sofa surfing, I settled on a desk in our living room. I’m out for a few hours every day with clients but, once the kids are back and the after-school TV starts, the headphones go on to zone everyone out! Whilst my work files are all still securely stored in the office, I have moved all the basics to have them at hand.  Plus, I have a great view of the comings and goings on my street which has been great fun as passers-by have been waving at me!

Jane Zhang Rice of Serenity Organising & Decluttering

Jane Zhang Rice's workspace

The office and relaxation room in Jane’s house

My workspace used to be our upstairs home office. Since both my husband and I work from home now, I have given him the upstairs office (because he needs space for two monitors) and I use the kitchen/diner as my workspace. I also added a few things to the home office in the past months, making it a relaxation room as well as a workspace. The relaxation room is where I do my reading, calligraphy and meditation at weekends.

Most of the time the space works well for both of us, although I now realise I need a space for my printer in the kitchen/diner, which means I need to declutter and make space in one of the kitchen cupboards!

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire

Sian Winslade's organised office

Sian Winslade’s office

When I realised that I would be working from home more I also realised that, as much as I valued the holistic meditation space I had set up in my home office, it was taking up too much space in the room. I removed it to add a second desk, so that my daughters had one desk and I had my own. I also added a second IKEA KALLAX unit which is perfect for storage, including business files. I also use portable drawers to store stationery, as I like to keep as much clutter off the desk as possible to reduce “mind clutter” and distractions.

Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home

Amanda in her office

I’m lucky to have a spare room as my office. I use a desk, set of drawers and two shelves of a bookcase for work-related matters. My husband has been home based for more than 20 years but we’re lucky to have a separate space for him to work in.

I clear my desk at the end of the week rather than every day, as often I’m mid-way through something and it would take longer to put it all away and bring it out again!  If I go into that room over the weekend it is purely a spare room at that time, not an office.

What works for me?

  • A clear distinction between personal paperwork (I keep this behind me) and work paperwork (I keep this on a bookcase and in drawers).
  • Creating a layout on the desk that I can stick to, so that I know where to find what I want, when I need it.
  • Having a consistent layout creates a habit for the brain with less ‘thinking time’ and more ‘automated actions’.

Laura Williams of OrganisedWell

Laura Williams' desk

Laura Williams’ desk

When I started my business, I worked from the dining table and created an ‘office in a box’ with all the things I needed for my day-to-day work. It worked really well for a while, and I could pack it away when my working day was done so that we could carry on with family dinner and activities.

Later, however, I wanted my own space to spread out, display images, store more work equipment and have a standing desk, so I targeted our spare room. As many spare rooms do, it had become a space for storage and laundry. My first step was to look through everything, and I found that the things we had stored in there were no longer as important to us as they once were and we felt comfortable giving them up in favour of creating my office. I took photos of some items that held memories and donated, sold and disposed of anything we no longer wanted to keep. I was then able to organise the cupboard space for my work and to store some family items.

There isn’t a lot of space, but I have a home for everything, my stand-up desk fits perfectly and I can run workshops and video calls with clients in peace. I’m lucky to have this space because shortly afterwards the rest of my family moved in for lockdown!

Shelly Moss of Kewniek

Shelly Moss's office

Shelly Moss’s office

My husband works from home and so has his own office.  I have a dedicated space which we call my “Harry Potter cupboard” – we put a few shelves in the cupboard and made a fold down desk.  I only need it for occasional admin so it is perfect.

If you don’t have a dedicated space, it helps to put everything away at the end of the day or at the end of the week to ensure that you leave work at work.  If you are thinking longer term, then think about a small desk, perhaps converting an old dressing table, or using cupboard or wardrobe space.  When working from home, the most important thing is to go online and do your own mini work station assessment: ensure your laptop or PC screen is at the correct height, and invest in a supportive and moveable chair. And, of course, make it Zoom-friendly so you don’t have a dressing gown hanging in the background!

If you enjoyed this post, did you see Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo‘s advice on organising for these current times? And look out for our next National Organising Week post tomorrow, where we reveal our members’ Top 10 organising products!

organised slippers lined up in hallway

Organising your home for the current times

Rosie Barron is the owner of organising business The Tidy Coo, a Gold Certified KonMari Consultant and a Photo Manager. She lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband, four home educated children, eight ponies, five dogs, three cats, two rabbits, ten chickens, six ducks and several fish – and they all Spark Joy! In this post for National Organising Week, Rosie is sharing with us her thoughts on organising our homes for the current times.

Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo and family

Organising your home for the current times

Living, as I do, in deepest, darkest, rural Aberdeenshire, my motto is, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.  Even before the current COVID-19 crisis hit, preparing for winter here meant preparing for being snowed in and being unable to leave the house for a significant amount of time.  However, even winter storms usually come with a few days warning, so you get the chance to pop to the shops to top up if you need to and to make sure that everything is in place.  Being told to self-isolate on the other hand, or developing COVID-19 symptoms, is likely to come completely out of the blue: a sudden lockdown, without any chance to finesse those final preparations.

We discovered this ourselves a few weeks ago when my husband, suffering with a migraine, coughed a couple of times and decided to book himself a test – it’s hard to think straight when your head hurts.  I had no doubt that he didn’t have COVID-19 (and the excellent NHS Grampian had the negative results back to us within 24hrs), but we immediately had to self-isolate and, boy, was I pleased that I had the preparations done already.

So in this blog post, I am going to run through some of the things that you can do now in order to prepare for winter in general, and particularly a winter with COVID-19 restrictions.

Make a plan

First of all, it’s important to have a plan in place in case a member of the family has to self-isolate. Decisions such as how the infected person should isolate from the rest of the household are best taken when everyone is well.  My husband had to isolate from the rest of the household whilst waiting for his result.  I slept in our middle daughter’s room and he stayed in our bedroom.  He used the bathroom last and cleaned it when he was finished and had his meals in his room.

A Facebook follower of mine pointed out the importance of keeping enough fuel in your car (if you have one) to get to a testing centre and back.

Take stock

This is also a good time to take stock of your food.  Have a look through what you have, discard anything that is out of date and see where the gaps are.  If you were asked to self-isolate without warning, would you have enough food to last several days before you can get a delivery?  Of course, what you should absolutely NOT do is go out and panic buy food. You should make a list of meals that you enjoy eating and then ensure that you have enough of the ingredients to make them.  We don’t eat many pre-prepared meals, but we do have various soups and meals in the freezer and we probably have enough food to last us almost the entire two weeks if necessary.

organised pantry shelves

A medicine cabinet stocktake is also an important thing to do at this stage.  Again, no panic buying!  But do ensure that you have a couple of packets of paracetamol and make sure you don’t let any prescription medicines run right down. This is especially important as we face to a possible No Deal Brexit.

Buddy up

Another important preparatory step is to buddy up with a friend to be their emergency shopper if needed.  Several friends here have my number; they know that they can call me if they are stuck and that I will go to the shops and get supplies for them. I also know that I can rely on them to do the same.

Sort out your working space

As we face a long winter of home working, it’s important to get your home working space sorted out. Whilst some people are lucky enough to have a spare room or home office already in place, others are not.  We have four children, so space in our home is at a premium. We have a desk in our bedroom which my husband has been working at.  Initially, he tried to work with just the desk and chair that were already there but he ended up with terrible, incapacitating, back pain so over the last seven months, we have made changes to this space: first he got a kneeler chair and, more recently, he invested in an add-on that becomes a standing desk – both significant improvements.

When lock down started, I took my entire organising business online! I had no desk to work at, so I had to hot desk around the house with my laptop and my headset. This worked for a while, but complaints from the children grew too loud, so I cleared out a linen cupboard and converted it into a very, very tiny office.  More recently, I have run electricity out to a shed, which I have insulated and painted, so now I have a functioning workspace away from the main bustle of the house.

Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo

Try to diversify

As a small business owner who has only been going for a couple of years and was not eligible for the government’s support system, I could see my business slipping away if I didn’t grab it with both hands.  As well as my KonMari online coaching, during lock down I have invested in a lot of extra training, including in photo management, so now I have a second string to my bow to help me through this time.  It has not been easy, but my investment in a space that I can work in and in extra skills is already proving its worth.

Get your home weather-ready

Winter takes its toll on the outside of our homes, but there are a few things you can go to reduce the risks. Make sure your gutters are clear, your pipes are lagged and that you have plenty of salt and grit in stock.  If applicable, make sure your chimneys are swept, and wood or oil on order.  Make sure you have fresh batteries in your torches and, if you are one of the homes in the UK that runs off a well as we do, have plenty of bottled water on standby in case your pump gives up!

Find your happy place

I’ve spoken a bit about physical resilience (being prepared with food) and business resilience (ensuring you have a workspace and trying to improve your skills), now I’d like to talk a bit about emotional resilience.

As the winter nights get longer and the weather gets colder and wetter, our homes become ever more important as a refuge.  As we are unable to get out as much as we are used to, we should think about how to make our home a happier place to be.  Obviously, as a professional declutterer and organiser, I’m going to suggest that you declutter and organise your house, but I’d also like to look at other things: perhaps get some cosy blankets that you can curl up in, look for some good viewing on TV, or some good books.  Even without clearing your entire house, is it possible to make a spot where you feel happiest.  Remember, it’s OK to find this time of year hard, especially with the added stress of a global pandemic! Christmas this year may not be what we usually expect it to be, so think about what you can do to make it special.

If you are inspired to organise your home for this strangest of winters to come, don’t miss yesterday’s National Organising Week post “Organising your home: Getting started“. And if you need help, you can find your nearest professional organiser in our Find An Organiser directory.

 

a mug on a table top with "begin" written on it

Organising your home: Getting started

Sometimes the hardest part of an organising project is getting started! So in this first of our daily posts for National Organising Week, we’ve gathered up some expert advice from our members to help inspire you to get started.

Mindset

“Mindset is everything”, says Sian Pelleschi of Sorted. “If you’re not emotionally ready to declutter and organise you will struggle to do so. It’s about getting your head and brain ready to take on the challenge. This is easy for some, but less so for others”.

Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space agrees with this approach. “Anytime you feel motivated or inspired is a good time to start, even if you have only ten minutes. The right headspace is the most important thing!”

Sian goes on to explain her method. She suggests that if you are easily overwhelmed, take a step back. Breathe. Then sit and write down everything you want to do, getting it all out of your head and onto paper.

Start small

Pick one area, preferably one that’s small and easy to work on. Once you’ve tackled this, pick another small space and gradually build up until you’re ready to work on the area that will take the longest and will potentially be the most difficult. Hopefully, by the time you’ve enjoyed success with some of the smaller spaces, your head will be ready to tackle the bigger space.

Claire Lawrence of Let’s Get Sorted also recommends starting small. She suggests breaking down each room into small areas/categories, either on a list or in your head and starting with the “easy wins”, e.g. the bookshelves, the linen cupboard or the bathroom shelves. Claire also suggests starting with  rooms you don’t go into very often, or categories of belongings which are not emotionally tricky.

A hallway or a single kitchen drawer are both good starting points, explains Nicola Davie of TidyGirl. “I recently had a client who was so overwhelmed that when we went into the kitchen she became really anxious. So, we just stopped, chatted for a short time and then just started with one drawer… and we were then able to complete the whole kitchen in three hours. She was absolutely delighted with the finished result!”

an organised, open kitchen drawer

Mel Carruthers of More Organised describes this as “warming up your organising muscles”.  “It’’s easier to tackle the big areas once you have warmed up with smaller, easier projects”, she explains. “And if it isn’t, get someone to help you. There’s plenty of help out there, all you have to do is ask!”

Change starts with a single step

Elizabeth Gresson of All Organised For You agrees. “All change starts with just one step”, she reminds us. “So I suggest starting small. I don’t advise turning out every drawer and cupboard because you’ll just create more mess. Clearing one room, or one type of item, at a time will produce better results”.

Elizabeth also recommends removing items as you go, whether it’s putting things in the recycling bin, or taking things to a charity shop or the tip at the end of the session. It’s also important to get rid of surplus containers; nature abhors a vacuum – if there are empty containers sitting around, the chances are they will get filled up again!

Declutter first, then organise

Most professional organisers suggest that you should declutter first, and then organise what you are keeping. This way you won’t waste time organising items you will later decide you don’t need and you will also avoid falling into the trap of buying “organising products” that you will never use… and which will become more clutter!

Just start!

Elizabeth starts by asking her clients which area is causing them the most anxiety. It could be that one room is so full of stuff that they can’t use it. It may be that their paperwork is out of control, causing them issues with missed payments and appointments. Or they may have lots of clothes in their wardrobe but still can’t find anything to wear.

“For me, the important thing is just to start. It can be one type of item, e.g. books or clothes. It can be one particular room. Wherever you start, every action you take will make a difference and you will feel the energy in that space lighten and, hopefully, you’ll be encouraged to continue”, she says.

organised bookshelves

Practical steps you can take now…

It may be that because of the pandemic you have a little less to do each week and a little more time to dedicate to you, says Amanda Terry of An Organised You. “So this week, declutter a commitment you felt you obliged to say ‘Yes’ to, and make space in your diary to invest in a little YOU time. This  will help you feel organised and ready for the future, and this will also benefit your loved ones”. Amanda recommends turning off the TV,  putting down your phone, cancelling the Zoom meetings and putting on some favourite music (or you might choose to use this time to be quiet and mindful instead).  She suggests trying to dedicate 1-2 hours decluttering a space that is cluttering your mind, then STOP.  Diarise this small slot every week and you will soon create the habit and feel stronger and able to do more.

Professional organisers tips for getting started:

  1. Switch off your phone and other distractions
  2. Write down your objectives
  3. Start small – a space at a time
  4. Declutter first, then organise
  5. Ask for help

This post is the first of a daily series for APDO’s 2020 National Organising Week. Come back tomorrow to read APDO member Rosie Barron‘s advice on organising your home in the current times.

If all this great advice has inspired you into getting started, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers in our Find An Organiser directory

ADHD Awareness Month logo

ADHD Awareness Month: APDO members share their experiences of ADHD

To mark ADHD Month, APDO professional organisers share their experiences of working with clients with ADHD. In this article, which follows Sarah Bickers’ article on ADHD published earlier this month, Cherry Rudge, Lisa Pantling and Anita Fortes each give their insight into ADHD from their own experiences.

Cherry Rudge

Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red – Professional Decluttering, Organising & Project Management Services is also a Trustee of the Fastminds Adult ADHD Support Group in Kingston-upon-Thames, having received her own ADHD diagnosis in November 2019.  She is an expert on hoarding behaviours and is proud to deliver regular training which develops the next generation of Professional Hoarding Practitioners, in association with Hoarding Disorders UK CIC and Clouds End CIC.

Cherry created the Hoarding Ice-Breaker Form, which has been recognised by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) and translated into various languages, for use around the World.

Headshot of Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red

What does ADHD mean?

I originally went along to the Fastminds ADHD Support Group about five years ago, to find out whether it was suitable to refer my clients to – which it most certainly was, and still is.

It’s common for my clients and members of the support group to have:

        received a late diagnosis of ADHD, Autism, or other neurological disorders

        a diagnosis of or exhibit symptoms of ADHD (or Autism), and/or other neurological disorders where Executive Dysfunction is present

        been treated for mental illnesses such as Anxiety and Depression, without getting to the root cause of their issues, which – in my experience – can often be explained by an underlying neurological disorder

        been incorrectly diagnosed with mental illnesses such as Borderline Personality Disorder, and later diagnosed with a neurological disorder (such as ADHD), which more accurately describes their symptoms.

 Often, they have low self-esteem, lack confidence, and can suffer with extreme anxiety, depression, and self-harming.  Many experience feelings of anger, grief and frustration for the difficulties and challenges they’ve faced throughout their life, and how different their life might have been if only their condition had been diagnosed sooner. 

Personal experience

When people ask me about the benefits of receiving a diagnosis, I can personally vouch for the fact that even without taking medication it improved my understanding of myself and why overdoing things too much sometimes lead to burn-out and stress-related illness over the years. 

I chose to go for a private ADHD assessment, as unfortunately NHS waiting lists are so long in some places that it can take between 2-3 years before some people get assessed by their local Neurodevelopmental ADHD service.

Medication has been great for me, as it’s not only suppressed my appetite and enabled me to lose over a stone in weight (in almost 11 months), it’s also helped me stay focused, become less easily distracted, and concentrate much more on self-care instead of focusing on helping others as much as I did before.  

Citizen Advocacy work

What I especially love about being involved with an ADHD support group is that it’s full of wonderfully creative neurodiverse people who can all empathise with the difficulties each other experience on a daily basis.  Sadly, many of the members experience so many problems with Executive Functioning and mental/physical health issues that they’re extremely vulnerable to abuse, have employment issues, or struggle to get support from social care. 

So the founder of the support group and I do a lot of Citizen Advocacy work – accompanying members to virtual and in-person appointments (medical, employment, Citizen’s Advice, social care, etc), helping them fill in forms, encouraging them to be really mindful about their strengths and weaknesses in terms of Executive Functioning (for example, for PIP claims or Care Needs Assessments, to explain in detail what works for them and what doesn’t), appealing benefits decisions, and so on. Otherwise these experiences can be overwhelming and confusing for them, and they’re likely to forget what was discussed or agreed.  Especially if they have what I describe as the multiple ingredients for a “Cocktail of Clutter Chaos”, i.e. a variety of conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism, mental health issues, physical health issues, or carer responsibilities, and so on.

 

Lisa Pantling

Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living also works regularly with clients with ADHD.

Headshot of Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living

Whether a client has known they have ADHD since childhood or are newly diagnosed in their 40’s (or even 70’s for some!) they can still often describe feelings of failure and low confidence around their abilities and their presentation to others.

The benefits of working with a professional organiser

Working with a professional organiser can help in many ways. On a practical level it means there is 1:1 physical support available to sort, declutter and organise items around the home, positive psychological effects in the form of a listening ear, a ‘cheerleader’ who is on your side, encouragement to stay focused and finish tasks and someone to help notice and celebrate your wins!

Decluttering and organising are all about making life easier and less complex, and this can be an amazing support for people with ADHD. Less stuff to sort, organise, tidy up, lose…. and find again.

We help our clients with ADHD to find homes for their important items, as well as suggesting ways to help them maintain the system. For example, open shelving, transparent storage boxes, labels, and schedules/ images to encourage routine. We can also work with family members as a team effort.

 

Anita Fortes

Anita Fortes of A Neater Life works with clients with ADHD too, and shares her thoughts.

Professional organiser Anita Fortes of A Neater Life organising a wardrobe

Anita considers her clients with ADHD to be some of her most creative, energetic, and passionate clients. But they often struggle to maintain attention when we are decluttering. To help with this, I find  it works really well to define small areas at a time that have to be completed before moving on.

Anita suggests strategies such as separating the project into rooms, then areas within the room, then parts of each piece of furniture, like the shelf on a bookcase. It helps if it’s an area where the client can see an immediate difference before moving on.

If you would like to find out more about ADHD, you can find your nearest APDO professional organiser with experience of working with people with ADHD on the Find An Organiser directory, or in Sarah Bickers’ blog post on ADHD published earlier in ADHD Awareness Month.

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

APDO Book Club: “Making Space” by Sarah Tierney

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

“Making Space”

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

An interview with Sarah Tierney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What role did the professional organiser play in the plot:

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

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

What’s next for Sarah Tierney?

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

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

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

October 2020 - ADHD Awarness Month

ADHD Awareness Month (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

October is ADHD Awareness month, but what does this have to do with decluttering and organising your home? APDO member Sarah Bickers of Free Your Space explains in this insightful post.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

You probably already know something about ADHD. Most people immediately think of the ‘naughty boy’ who couldn’t sit still in class. You might also think of ADHD as a recent diagnosis. But descriptions fitting ADHD are found in medical literature from the early 1900’s onwards, and many people recognise ADHD in historical accounts of famous people such as Leonardo Da Vinci (who is believed to have had ADHD & dyslexia).

We often believe ADHD is over-diagnosed and an excuse for poor parenting, diet, not enough exercise or too much TV. However, in the UK and mainland Europe, around 90% of adults with ADHD are underdiagnosed, especially girls and women. In England only 0.35% of girls and 1.5% of boys are receiving treatment, compared with a global average of 5.3% of children. This may explain why we professional organisers often get calls from adults who describe long-term difficulties with organisation.

Sarah Bickers

My own experience

I only realised I might have ADHD when my 15-year-old son was diagnosed with the condition. During his assessment I realised we shared many of the same challenges: difficulty focusing consistently, a high level of distractibility and a poor memory. Things had to stay out to remind me to do it – if it was out of sight it no longer existed in my mind. My husband’s well-intentioned tidying away could be disastrous!

On the plus side, I had spent 30+ years developing some pretty effective strategies to deal with those symptoms. Learning to be organised from scratch, I then started working as a professional organiser, so that I could help others get organised. My ADHD means I still drop the odd ball – and because of that I put off starting my dream job for far too long! Now I work mainly with clients with ADHD and find that my ‘lived experience’ of ADHD reassures my clients, as well as equipping me be more ADHD-friendly!

So what is ADHD exactly?

The main three traits of ADHD are:

  1. Inattention (difficulty focussing)
  2. Hyperactivity (including both physical hyperactivity and mind-wandering/daydreaming)
  3. Impulsivity (including risk-taking behaviours).

People with ADHD usually also have difficulties regulating their (often strongly-felt) emotions, taking criticism especially hard, as well as empathising deeply with others. All these factors may result in under-functioning at school, home and work, and difficulties getting organised, often despite others recognising their obvious potential. Undiagnosed children and adults may often struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and may even develop addictive behaviours – from over-eating to misuse of alcohol/ drugs.*

a scultpure of a head representing ADHD

A brain-based condition

Rather than being a modern invention to excuse bad behaviour, ADHD is actually a brain-based condition. A brain scan of an ADHD brain actually shows differences in structure, as well as function, compared to the average. Neurotransmitters (the chemicals which pass on messages in our brain) help us get motivated and stay motivated to complete a task. In ADHD they don’t work effectively. The stakes need to be much higher for us to get started on something. This is why we may often leave things to the last minute… we need that kick of fear to get started. It’s also why we’ll manage pretty well if we’re really interested in something, as our motivation is high enough to get activated. And indeed, once activated, we may find it hard to stop to eat meals or sleep!

ADHD is therefore not so much about difficulties paying attention, so much as finding it much harder to moderate attention and manage priorities in time. People with ADHD may often be thought of as lazy, messy, disorganised and chaotic. However, some with ADHD compensate by working really hard to manage their internal chaos. Outwardly these people appear ‘hyper-organised’. Everything has a place, and often (somewhat quirky) systems are developed. These systems may seem rather inflexible and even military to others, but they are an attempt to stay in control of things. This organisational perfectionism comes at quite a price: the extra unseen effort needed to stay in control may result in burn out, and those around them may suffer due to those often inflexible standards.

“Living with ADHD is like walking up a down escalator. You can get there eventually, but the journey is exhausting.” – Kathleen Ely, Helena, Montana

So now you can see why getting organised might be quite a challenge if you have ADHD.  Standard organisational approaches often won’t work for you. You may have pored over countless books hoping for that ‘silver bullet’ which fixes the problem. You may even have had help from super organised and well-meaning friends, but this has left you feeling even worse when you don’t manage to maintain the new ‘system’. You may even have judged yourself harshly for not managing life as well as you think you ought.

This is where working with an ADHD-friendly organiser can really help. Working alongside you as your non-judgemental ally, we’ll help you find the best approach and systems for you. We’ll help you ‘re-boot’ your home, so reducing that sense of overwhelm. We won’t expect perfection and will explore strategies with you to keep more on top of things as you move forwards.  And should you need further help, at any point down the line you’ll know you can come back for a top-up.

For more resources on managing ADHD:

https://www.additudemag.com

www.freeyourspace.co.uk-ADHD resources

*If you think you might have ADHD, try this simple screening test. If you get a high score it doesn’t prove you have ADHD but does indicate that assessment may be worthwhile. You may want to take the results to your GP and ask to be referred for an ADHD assessment. https://add.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/adhd-questionnaire-ASRS111.pdf

A number of APDO’s members are experienced in working with clients with ADHD. You can find them by searching our Find An Organiser database, and selecting “ADHD” under specialisms.

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

clothes rails and shelves in an organised charity shop

Top tips to clear out the clutter after lockdown

Many of us spent some time during the pandemic-inflicted lockdown to declutter our homes. Due to the restrictions though, it has been harder to find places to take our donations and recycling. So in this post, Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms in Surrey looks at the options, and explains how she has been managing her decluttering in these unusual times. Read on and get inspired!

Decluttering after lockdown

If you had a bit of a clear out during lockdown, you are not alone. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) recently published a report which found that two in five UK citizens (41%) had a textile clear out during lockdown. They also estimate that as many as 22 million pairs of shoes and 67 million clothing items will soon need to be disposed of.

My own street frequently resembled a jumble sale during lockdown. All kinds of delightful things appeared outside my neighbours’ homes with ‘Please Take’ signs stuck to trees and walls.

A hand drawn for sale sign pinned to a tree

Not only did I acquire a rake and a shovel, but I also shifted books and kids’ toys from my own front drive.  I loved seeing everyday things being upcycled and getting a new lease of life from passers-by.

The closure of charity shops, refuse sites, and clothing banks, led to some of our clutter spilling out onto the streets. The re-opening of these much-missed services last month brought a renewed appreciation of them and an excitement about getting rid of our backlogs.

However, charity shops have had to significantly adapt their premises and procedures in order to prevent contamination and, with a generally older volunteer base, they haven’t had their usual workforce in place to operate as before. Some remain closed or unable to process donations, while some council refuse sites have restrictions and booking procedures in place.

So, how do you clear your clutter quickly and easily after lock down? I think the answer is found in the creativity and perseverance I’ve witnessed in my street in recent months. It’s not necessarily about spreading your possessions out on the pavement, but about being open to doing things a bit differently.

 

Organise your charity shop drop off

  • Call the charity shop before you turn up with a boot load of stuff. Anything left outside often has to be cleared at cost by the council or charity and cannot be used or sold because of health and safety issues. To avoid the temptation to drop and go, check first whether they are accepting donations.
  • Plan your day with an early drop off. Shops are currently required to store items for 72 hours before processing them and they don’t tend to have large storage areas. Once they’ve reached capacity, they can’t take any more.
  • Identify a ‘To Go’ area in your home where you can gather your donations before calling to check when and what you can deliver. This will help you feel you are making progress and give you an idea of volume before setting off.

Investigate postal and courier donation services

There are some great organisations offering free collection services for donations. To name a few:

  • Re-fashion, an online preloved clothing store, provides postal bags to donate female clothing for free
  • Smalls for All accepts new or gently worn bras
  • For your vintage treasures, Vintage Cash Cow accepts all kinds of glorious items by free post – and you can earn some money through them too!
  • Recycling for Good Causes takes outdated technology and devices

With a little perseverance you may find a more creative way to dispose of your stuff.

a box of donated books

Reuse your carrier bags

Many online supermarkets aren’t currently recycling used carrier bags so if you’ve got a plastic stash nestled in a corner of your kitchen, here are some handy tips:

  • Put a handful into the bottom of a small bin, perhaps in your bathroom or bedrooms. Line the bin with a bag. Next time you empty the bin, simply tie up the bag and re-line the bin with one of the bags stored underneath.
  • Invest in a carrier bag holder to contain and dispense of your bags more easily.
  • Donate bags to your local charity shop who may be able to use them for customer purchases.
  • Store them in your car boot ready to reuse on shopping trips or for in-car rubbish.
  • Pop a handful into your PE, swimming and beach bags for wet or muddy kit.

Try online sites

Donating or selling online can be wonderfully satisfying. I became such a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace during lockdown that it became a bit of a family talking point:

  • I sourced three desks so each member of my family could have a suitable workspace at home
  • I bought and upcycled a wrought iron bench for impromptu lockdown conversations
  • I sold my bike and bought another to get more exercise
  • I even disposed of a single bed and replaced it with a double.

This all enabled me to declutter and organise my son’s bedroom, garage, living room and even my front garden. I surprised myself!

Neighbourhood sites such as Nextdoor, Freegle and Freecycle can be great for disposing of your things locally.

Like  me you will find your favourite routes.

However you manage to get rid of your clutter, don’t let the extra effort stall your decluttering project. The benefits of living in a clutter-free home will far outweigh any extra creativity or time required to dispose of your things.  The new-found appreciation I’ve gained during lockdown for simpler and slower living has made this time a brilliant season for me and my family to get creative and get clutter-free. How about you?

If you’ve been inspired to declutter over the past few months you can find more advice on decluttering your home here.

 

 

Professional organiser Anita Fortes of A Neater Life organising a wardrobe

A day in the life of a professional organiser: Anita Fortes

Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a professional organiser? In this post, Anita Fortes of A Neater Life takes us behind the scenes of her business and guides us through a typical day in her life as a professional organiser.

Anita’s day

One of the things I love about running my own business is choosing my working hours. That said, I’m an early riser, usually up before 6 a.m., when my Labrador Retriever takes me for a walk on Overstrand beach.

After showering and breakfast, it’s time to deal with admin tasks.  After moving to a new house last year, I’ve progressed from using the kitchen table to an office on the first floor. I check emails and add a little more to a feature on organising which I’m writing for a local magazine.

Then I prepare for my in-person work with my client, Eva*. I look through the notes from my last visit, make lunch for later and pack up a few resources. I see my job as supporting people to make a change in their lives. It just happens to be focused on belongings and clutter.

Living in rural Norfolk invariably means a long drive, but it’s a good opportunity to think about how I will support my client. When I arrive, I unpack storage boxes, stationery and a labelling machine and, after a quick cuppa, we get started.

Open notebook and a pen next to a pot plant

Eva is a young woman with a busy family life and a demanding job. She’s accomplished, intelligent, and hoards paperwork…lots of it.  Documents, magazines, newspapers and notebooks are in piles everywhere.  The sheer volume had become overwhelming, so she asked for help. We’ve been working together regularly for several months and she’s made amazing progress. Our agreed aim is to reduce the paperwork sufficiently to create a contained filing system of documents, stored in one place. To make progress with this, it’s important to work to a structure.

I help her to prioritise and organise her thinking by sorting documents into categories. To encourage decluttering I offer new perspectives: Is it essential to keep that? How will keeping it benefit you? I check that she is not becoming too absorbed reading each document. This keeps the momentum going and makes the best use of the time we have.

I’m aware of Eva’s rising anxiety levels, so we take regular short breaks to diffuse.  If it becomes tricky, I mention her ‘clutter free’ ambition – she would love to set up a business consultancy. I’ll definitely help her to achieve this.

Five hours of decluttering is enough because it’s quite intense.  We finish the session with a cup of tea, highlight our achievements and chat about the aims for next time. I give her a small task to focus on until then, for example, clearing her desk daily.

An organised white desk with a plant, vases and gold A ornament against a wire grid noticeboard and white wall

On the drive home, I call in to see a new client. She wants to declutter and reorganise rooms to create a spare bedroom. She tells me that she is taking medication for depression. We arrange a session for the following week.

Once home I feed and walk the dog. Later, I check emails and catch up with invoicing. If I can cope with the frustration, I might do some social media marketing.

Or I might just enjoy a large glass of wine.

* Names have been changed to protect clients’ confidentiality. All APDO-registered organisers adhere to the APDO Code of Ethics.

If Anita’s post has inspired you to start your own professional organising business, APDO offers regular training and support for organisers. Visit the training page to find out more!