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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.

A comfortable sofa in an organised room setting

Combating complacency

APDO member Marie Bateson, owner of Cut The Clutter in Lancashire, has been thinking about complacency, and the role it plays in our decluttering.  She shares her thoughts with us in this blog post.

Headshot of Marie Bateson

During a recent virtual organising session, my client showed me a clock which had been sitting on the floor of her spare room for about a year. It was too big for her new home, which has lower ceilings than her previous house. She said she didn’t want to part with it, but that she had got complacent about it living on the floor and didn’t really notice it anymore.

The short-term solution for this clock was storing it in the attic, but it got me thinking:

  • How many of us leave pictures, clocks and mirrors hanging in places where they don’t really look right or are not shown to their best advantage?
  • Do we have any that we don’t really like but we simply leave them up due to complacency?
  • As we are currently spending more time than ever in our homes, have we started to look at things a little more closely?

 

  • A single plant with pink flowers in a grey pot

 

Does complacent mean lazy? No, it means you are satisfied with your situation and you don’t feel that any change is necessary. But a change may not actually be a bad thing.

So, I started by looking around my own home and decided to move two pictures to different and better spots.

I asked friends if they had similar experiences to share – any sudden epiphanies – and was pleasantly surprised to learn that one had taken down two pictures and a chalkboard, moved a shelving unit and liked the feeling of space this had given him.

Another had removed some ornaments, admitting that they had never liked them but had stopped seeing them.

A fellow organiser had put a couple of bags of donations on the landing and had been stepping over them for ages. They have now been taken to the charity shop!

I know many of you have decluttered during lockdown, but have you also taken the time to investigate the things which live in a permanent spot and you never really consider? Look again at that pile of papers on the chair in the corner, notice the position of that plant, could you move the furniture around to get a more convenient layout?

Working with a professional organiser could help you look at your space with fresh eyes, and help you to overcome your complacency. You can find your nearest APDO professional organiser on our Find An Organiser database.

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.

 

 

Marie Kondo organised wall

Demystifying the Marie Kondo method

With the recent release of the Netflix show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, the Marie Kondo (or KonMari™) method of organising has become a hot topic in both the press and the professional organising world.  If you have read any news publication or looked at any social media so far this year, chances are you will have seen something about decluttering or the benefits of being tidy, both to your physical environment as well as your mental health.

The KonMari™ method differs from other decluttering methods because it advocates tidying by category rather than by room, and you choose what to keep based on what “sparks joy” for you.

In this post, certified KonMari™ consultant Jennifer Dudfield of Spark Serenity deals with some common misconceptions about the KonMari™ method.

APDO member Jen Dudfield of Spark Serenity

What is the KonMari™ method all about?

There are so many different approaches to decluttering, it can be as hard to figure out how to begin as it is to deal with the clutter itself!  Different methods deal with the clutter in different ways; each as individual as you and your needs.

There are methods to help up with decluttering your home, moving house, downsizing, house clearances, hoarding and those suffering with mental health issues. The list is endless; whatever can be organised has a method to help you along the way.

Along with this spotlight on the industry comes many misconceptions (and fears) about the KonMari™ method or what a professional organiser does.  What you can be sure of, however, no matter which method of decluttering you choose, a professional organiser will treat you with respect, empathy and compassion every step of the way.

You’ll make me bin all of my belongings

Currently trending is the fact that Marie states that you must discard all your books and that 30 is the optimal amount to keep.  Bibliophiles are not happy about this one, and quite rightly, books are sacred!  Luckily, this is entirely untrue; if the books bring you joy then Marie says keep them with confidence!  However, we all have our favourites and some that we will never read again, so do not feel obliged to keep those that do not ‘spark joy’.  You will be supported and coached in making your own decisions, no decision will be made for you and you will never be forced into discarding anything you don’t want to.

You’ll leave me with an overwhelming pile of mess

Professional organisers are there to support you every step of your journey to a more organised life.  KonMari™ consultants will not come into your home, pile all of your items in the middle of the room and leave you to tackle it on your own.  We will do what’s right for you as an individual. For some people confronting a large pile of their belongings is just what they need to see (the ‘power of the pile’), but for others, this is overwhelming (or there isn’t the space to do this). In these circumstances, we will break the overall category down into more manageable subcategories.

I don’t want to live in a stark minimalistic house

Decluttering is about making your homework for you and your family, it is not about living in an Instagram worthy show home which is always pristine (unless, of course, this is what you’re after!).  We will gently guide you into making those decisions that are right for you and will implement systems that really work in your home so you won’t revert to clutter again, and so that when your home does inevitably get messy (life happens!), everything will have a place so you can put it back easily, saving you so much time and stress.

organised sitting room with bookcase and grey sofa

I don’t know what “spark joy” means, nothing I have makes me happy

Don’t worry!  It’s really hard to identify what makes you happy, or ‘sparks joy’ when you start decluttering.  As you declutter you start to learn more about yourself and, in time, what makes you happy.  You learn to listen to, and trust, your decisions.  Remember, things don’t have to be beautiful to ‘spark joy’, they could make you happy for the practical purpose they provide, a phone charging cable may not ‘spark joy’, but a fully charged phone sure will!  When you are less distracted by clutter you will be able to identify what causes you stress and address it, so you can live a more relaxed life, freeing you up to do the things you’ve never managed to find time for before.

A lot of my belongings are sentimental to me

As part of the KonMari™ process, we leave sentimental belongings until last. This is to give you a chance to understand yourself, and the feelings you hold about your belongings, in more depth before you try to address the more emotional items.  Of course, it’s not as easy to just classify pictures and letters as sentimental, there are sentimental items mixed in with all other categories (your wedding outfit, an ex-partner’s jumper, your grandparents’ tea-set…) and it is ok to leave them until the end.  Don’t try and address them until you are ready.

Doing things in a particular order is too rigid

As with all approaches to decluttering, the KonMari™ method is client-led.  We tailor the philosophy to meet the needs of the individual, to make the most progress and spark the most joy.  We will not force you to do anything you do not want to do.

It seems like so much work

Dealing with your clutter and organising your home is a one-off exercise.  If done properly then you should never revert to clutter again.  Everything will be so much easier to maintain, folding your clothes will become a joy (not a chore!) and you will cherish your belongings.  If it feels too overwhelming then it can be broken down into further sub-categories, whatever makes it easiest for you.

Organised wall

Whichever approach you take to tackling your clutter needs to work for you.  Professional organisers are compassionate, caring, empathetic and will listen to you and your opinions, offering alternative solutions to help you get, and stay, organised.  Above all, we all love mess and can see the potential and opportunity in any home.

If you’re ready to start your decluttering journey, choose a method which inspires you, whether it’s watching ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ on Netflix, YouTube videos, joining supportive Facebook groups, buddying up with a friend or hiring a professional organiser from APDO, there is a person out there to help you with whatever you need.

If you want to find your local professional organiser, you can use the APDO Find An Organiser search tool here.

 

wool craft space declutter organise

Declutter your creative space

Do you love to create, but feel that your workspace is holding you back? Nadia Arbach, of Clear the decks! Professional Decluttering and Organizing and host of the ‘Declutter and Organize Your Sewing Space’ podcast gives us some tips to help clear the clutter and bring your creativity back into focus.

Decluttering your creative space

If you’ve ever experienced writer’s block, you’ll know what it feels like to stare at a blank page. Or perhaps you’re an artist feeling helpless before a blank canvas. Your mind feels devoid of ideas and inspiration. But look round your creative workspace – is it as empty as your mind feels?

Chances are that your workspace is full. REALLY full. Full of things which aren’t necessarily helping you in your creative endeavours. And this clutter is what’s blocking your creativity.

No matter what your practice – illustrator, quilter, poet, musician, woodworker, or any other kind of maker – if your workspace is in disarray, your mind will be too. Decluttering your workspace can help you overcome your creative blocks and unleash your creativity.

It can be daunting to take the first step when you’ve got an overwhelming amount of stuff to sort through, but if you start with the easier items you’ll see some immediate progress and will feel encouraged to keep going!

fabric craft space declutter organise

Here are a few categories of items to kick-start your decluttering:

Things which don’t belong in your creative workspace

Even if you do your creative work at the kitchen table, you won’t get far if it’s got unrelated items strewn all around. Make sure that you’ve cleared the following out of your creative area before you start working: bowls, glasses, and cutlery, children’s toys, letters and packages to post, other to-do items, and papers which belong elsewhere in your house. These mundane items hijack your attention and downgrade your creative capabilities. If they keep migrating back to your creative workspace, it means they don’t have an adequate ‘home’ of their own elsewhere in your house. Make a specific place for them outside of your creative area, and let your mind focus solely on your creative work.

Expired materials

Gather up all your materials which are past their use-by date. Crusted-up tubes of paint, dried-out markers and pens, broken tools, faded fabric, expired rolls of film, broken reeds for musical instruments – you don’t need them taking up valuable space. Toss them without a second thought.

Loose notes

If you’re in the habit of writing notes for your projects on scraps of paper and then putting them down in different places, gather them up and put them all together. My suggestion is a small concertina folder which has different sections you can label to sort your notes. You could also buy a notebook and carry it with you to jot down your ideas as you go.

art craft space declutter organise

Bits of paper

You may have other small paper items lying around your creative workspace. Gather up the following:  product packaging, product brochures, instruction manuals, business cards, flyers advertising exhibitions or shows, old tickets for shows you’ve already attended, competition entry forms, receipts, and any other small bits of paper. How many of these are usable? How many will truly help you in your creative practice? Keep only the ones which you really need and file them. If you must save receipts for tax purposes, get another small concertina folder and add them in as they build up.

Scraps and remnants

When you’ve finished with a project, do you toss the remnants of your materials, or do you hang on to them hoping they might come in handy one day? If you tend to keep them, you might have a build-up of bits which aren’t serving you: half-used skeins of yarn in colours you’ll never knit with again, paint samples, leather offcuts, bits of metal from jewellery-making, fabric scraps. Gather up and examine all the items which fit into this category. If you can use an item right away for a project you’re currently working on, great. If not, let it go.

Items which are a pain to use

Sometimes we hang onto items which require a ‘workaround’ or which are a real pain to use, without even realizing that they’re causing us stress or discomfort. Go round your workspace again and assess whether any of these are holding you back: tools which hurt your hands, tools which don’t do the job correctly, bad lighting, digital equipment which crashes constantly, programs which run slowly, and uncomfortable seating. You might need all these things to pursue your creative work, but their poor quality is hampering you. Think about upgrading them. Sometimes it’s worth the cost to have a seat that doesn’t cause you back pain, and tools you can rely on.

sewing craft space declutter organise

And now… declutter your fear

Clutter is often the physical manifestation of mind-set issues which haven’t been resolved. One huge mental block which can affect creativity is FEAR – fear of judgement, fear of rejection, fear of not being ‘good enough’ to accomplish your creative goal. Sometimes we use clutter as an excuse NOT to pursue our creative practice, and not to face our fears. In fact, we unconsciously create the clutter to conveniently explain why our creative practice is stagnating. It takes courage to face that clutter straight on and decide to conquer it, and to address your fears at the same time.

Here’s the simplest way to start addressing your fears as you declutter your workspace: every day, take three minutes to remind yourself that you love your craft, be grateful that you’re able to enjoy this creative practice, list three projects you’re proud to have accomplished so far in your creative journey, and remind yourself of what excites you about your current project. With this simple three-minute reminder you’ll put yourself into a positive mindset and the fears will seem less daunting. Your decluttering will soon lead to a clear, inspiring, ready-to-use workspace.

If Nadia’s advice has inspired you to get some assistance with your decluttering, you can find your local professional organiser here.

 

 

spring cleaning week logo

National Spring Cleaning Week 6-12 March 2017

 

Cleaning conept - hand cleaning with cleaning brush. Isolated on white background

APDO have secured an exciting collaboration with Relations Group, a PR company that promote National Spring Cleaning Week from 6-12 March 2017.  We recognise this is a popular time of year for the UK to declutter, clean and organise your spaces in order to create a more functional and uplifting environment.  APDO members will demonstrate their expertise giving advice on how to successfully clear before cleaning as well as how to store and organise for longer term benefits of a spring clean.

This is a first for APDO and, with coverage nationwide using Relations Group’s established radio, online and print connections, should be a great opportunity for us to reach and inspire more people to tackle their physical environments.