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Headshot of APDO member Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy

An insight into hoarding behaviour

APDO member Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy is a leading expert on hoarding. She is Director of Hoarding Disorders UK CIC and author of the book “Understanding Hoarding“. In this post, Jo shares with us her insights into hoarding disorder.

Hoarding: is it a trait we all share?

Although hoarding is a relatively new diagnosed disorder, I believe that there is an inner hoarder in each one of us it’s just that some of us do it on a much larger scale than others.

My father was Polish, he grew up during the war and he remembers being hungry. In response to his upbringing he had his own hoarding behaviours, which my mother “managed” and were the backdrop to my own childhood. So it was a natural step when, a couple of years after my father died, I decided to set up my own business helping with hoarding issues.

Historical context

For centuries, as a result of deprivation and scarcity, both humans and animals have hoarded and accumulated not only foodstuffs but also objects. Just as squirrels hoard nuts to feed themselves through the winter months, and magpies collect objects for their nests, so do humans preserve and stockpile food, water and other essentials to see them through periods of shortage, recessions, war or natural disaster. Many of us were brought up by parents and grandparents who were wartime babies and who consequently hoarded to see them through periods of rationing and austerity.

Historically we have hoarded as a natural response to being unable to gain easy access to certain foods and essentials, or to being ‘stuck inside’ during bad weather. We stack and stock logs, tins of food, coffee, nappies, toiletries and medicines. There are generations of ‘just in case’ hoarders, hateful of waste and fearful of running out. Observe food shoppers panic buying just before bank holidays, at Easter and Christmas – loaves of bread and bags of potatoes fly off the shelves.

The throwaway generation

Nowadays we so easily and readily dispose of many items, abandoning clothes that are no longer in fashion, books we have read, household and technological items that are no longer cutting-edge, toys that our children have outgrown. With the ever-increasing urge to purge, and a growing culture of decluttering, there is a new throwaway generation.

Items can be so easily bought and accessed: shops are open on Sundays, buying online is easy and readily accessible. If we need a new winter coat, we don’t wait until Christmas, we can buy it here and now, at midnight, on our phone or our computer, and receive it in three or four days. We can even pay extra for next-day delivery. We have throwaway plates, disposable napkins, pre-chopped garlic, pre-peeled oranges, prefab houses, and electrical items that are not designed to be fixed or repaired. Invariably, if our washing machine, TV or dishwasher becomes faulty, we tend to replace it, not repair it.

Buy one, get one free – who can resist such a bargain offer? Shops in every high street sell products for a pound, charity shops are popping up everywhere – 50p an item. There are car boot and jumble sales every weekend. Stuff is readily accessible everywhere, and shopping and buying is steadily becoming a recreation, a social event. No wonder our homes, garages and sheds are crammed full.

Hoarding is a complex issue

In more recent times, it has been recognised that the reasons for hoarding are not just deprivation and the need to survive disaster, but are far broader, more complex. It is now widely acknowledged that hoarding can be linked to deep-seated psychological and emotional issues. We hoard as a way of seeking comfort and distraction from trauma and difficult life events, and hoarding is often connected with other mental health issues. Hoarding is a solution to a problem and can act as a comfort blanket, just as people may drink, gamble, exercise excessively or over-eat as a coping mechanism.

Possessions play an important part in people’s lives. They can define who we are as individuals, and provide us with pleasure, comfort, joy, convenience and opportunity. But accumulating possessions that impact adversely on our living spaces, put a strain on our finances, affect our physical and mental health, and challenge our relationships and our homes can cause significant distress. Hoarding can greatly affect a person’s ability to function and carries a high level of risk to those who hoard, the people they are living with and others. Excessive acquiring and saving, collecting items others have thrown away, and not throwing anything away ourselves, can all qualify as characteristics of hoarding.

Hoarding as a mental disorder

Hoarding is being increasingly recognised as a mental health disorder. The media has done much to bring hoarding into the limelight, but the subject is frequently portrayed in sensational terms. When the British Psychological Society (BPS) issued a perspective on hoarding, one of its recommendations was that ‘The national media should seek advice from experts including clinical psychologists about the portrayal of people with hoarding problems and desist from using mental health problems to entertain and shock the public.’

Hoarding disorder was recognised as a mental health disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V) in May 2013. The five diagnostic criteria it uses to identify a case of hoarding disorder are:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their monetary value.
  • This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and distress associated with discarding them.
  • The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas.
  • The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or to other important areas of functioning.
  • The hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another disorder (e.g. hoarding due to obsessions in obsessive–compulsive disorder or delusions in schizophrenia).

Working with people with hoarding behaviours

When working with people with hoarding behaviours it is very important to ensure that you work slowly and sensitively, be mindful of the language that you use, and work towards their agenda and not your own.

Hoarding is complex and it is possible that a home may well present as a hoarded home, but there may be underlying issues to understand. It may be that there is a lack of life skills, or they may be impacted by executive  functioning which involves being challenged by organisation, planning and prioritising which presents typically with people who are neurodiverse.

For help and support, you can find your nearest APDO-registered hoarding specialist on our Find An Organiser database.

 

 

 

 

APDO Lynda Wylie professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Lynda Wylie

We love to speak to our members and find out what a typical day looks like for them, to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview is with Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms in Surrey. Lynda tells us about her business, and the impact that getting organised can have on a home.

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

I love getting stuck into a kitchen declutter. It’s one of those places where I find small changes make a big impact. As the hub of most homes, there are a lot of comings and goings – people, post, food, paperwork and more. Whether you’re hungry, in a rush, or just looking for an important piece of paper, you usually need to lay your hands on something fast and easily.  Being organised in the kitchen reduces stress and frustration and makes it a pleasant environment in which to spend time with your family and friends.

NOW interview Lynda Wylie decluttered organised kitchen

What prompted you to set up your business?

I was looking to return to work after having children and, after lots of job interviews which didn’t come to anything, I decided to have a shot at running my own business – the question was, what? I was reading a book at the time where the main character helped her friend declutter her wardrobe and I thought, ‘I could do that, I wonder if anyone else does it?’. As soon as I googled decluttering, I came across APDO and couldn’t believe there was a whole professional industry blossoming in the UK. I jotted down a few ideas and Tidy Rooms was born! I even found a friend prepared to be a guinea pig, so I could try out my idea first. Nine years later and I’m still here and loving what I do!

Who has influenced you most in your organising business?

Julie Morgenstern is an American organiser who wrote “Organising from the Inside Out” in 1998. Her book was the first one I read after deciding to become a professional myself. Her SPACE formula is the basis of how I work with clients and formalised what I already did naturally. Her book really helped clarify my processes and procedures and I continue using it to this day.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced in your business?

One of the biggest challenges has been having the courage to give talks about decluttering. I get incredibly anxious about speaking to groups, but I’ve found that once I get started, I love the topic so much it flows very easily. The very first few talks I did alongside a colleague which helped my confidence immensely and since then I’ve given talks on my own and even enjoyed them!

What benefits do your clients experience through becoming more organised?

Clients often tell me how much quicker and easier it is to do day-to-day tidying once a room’s been decluttered. It’s much easier for them to find things and put them away again. Plus, it often saves them money: they can see how much they have of something so they don’t buy duplicates, they use up their supplies and they even sell things they discover they no longer need. They also mention a greater sense of calm because there’s less clutter and unmade decisions surrounding them. This helps them think more clearly, rest and enjoy spending time at home. It can impact the whole family and many clients have said it’s been a life changing experience for them.

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

I always take coloured bags to help us distinguish rubbish/recycling/charity, a labelling machine for neat sticky labels, wipes/duster to clean as we go, sticky notes and scissors. Oh, and a cereal bar to keep me going!

What’s the most memorable collection that you have ever seen? And what did you and your client do with it?

I had a client who collected brand new £5 notes. She had a big pile of them, but the clever thing was she would give one to her nephews whenever she saw them, so although it seemed strange to collect current notes, she had a purpose for them and was gradually working through them!

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

It’s fantastic when you have the opportunity to declutter and organise a whole house. The impact on the client can be so far reaching, it’s even life changing. I’ve been working with a client for the past 2 years who relocated to London and needed help deciding the purpose of her rooms and arranging their layouts as well as contents.  Everything from the kitchen, to part of the garden, to the basement and the library. Seeing the whole house gradually evolve to meet her family’s needs and her excitement and delight as rooms were transformed, has been such a privilege and a pleasure. She’s been able to redecorate, make money from the sale of furniture, have guests to stay, even plan an extension. She’s grown in confidence to organise on her own, thinks differently about her space and finds living at home much less stressful.

NOW interview Lynda Wylie decluttered organised cupboard

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

My dream client is someone who knows they need change but they’re not sure what or how to do it. Working together we look at how they live in their space and what changes will turn it into a home which meets their current needs. It’s a real honour to share this process with them and guide them through decision making, helping them reflect on how they live and what they have. Decluttering and organising is so much more than just the stuff, you really get to know your clients and often their families too. I think the clients who are open to trying new ways of living, whether that’s tackling their stuff, changing habits or developing systems, they are the ones who experience the most benefit from the journey and I love sharing it with them.

What’s your top tip to share?

There are so many, it’s really hard to pick just one! I’d say grouping similar items together is often a game changer for my clients.  This means storing all your similar items together. So for example, in the kitchen, it’s putting all your cleaning products in one place, all your cups in one cupboard, all your cookery books on one shelf. That way you can see what you have, what needs using up, what’s missing, how much storage you need and more. It’s a technique to use all over your home, in every room and will help define your spaces and rationalise your stuff so you can be more organised.

If you are considering a career in professional organising like Lynda, you can find out more about APDO’s training courses here – or sign up for the APDO Conference on 20 May 2021.
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

 

Headshot of APDO member Lou Shaw of Clutter Freedom

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

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

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

Becoming part of the Home Sweet Home network of professional organisers

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

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

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

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

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

Home Sweet Home sponsor logo

Tell us a bit more about Home Sweet Home

There are two main programmes:

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

 

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

 

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

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

Helping others

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

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

What makes a good Home Sweet Home contractor?

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

 

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

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

 

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

Tell us about training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A child running through water fountain

Letting go: Learning an essential life skill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making room

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

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

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

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

Decision making

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

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

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

colourful toys arranged on a white background

Untangling feelings

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing the present

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

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

Headshot of APDO member Diana Spellman of Serenly Sorted

A messy home is a stressy home

In this post, organiser Diana Spellman, Founder of Serenely Sorted, shares the results of her fascinating research into the connection between clutter and stress.

“Distracted.  Annoyed.  Anxious. Unhappy.  Can’t relax.  Irritated.  Stressful”

These are just some of the feelings evoked by mess stress.

Back in the Summer of 2019, my mess stress had reached a point where I knew something had to change.  I resented all the time I was spending tidying at the weekends.  Because nothing ever seemed to change – the house would be back to ‘mess town’ in what seemed like minutes.

This mess stress really affected me.  I worked from home, so I couldn’t get away from it, either because I could see it while I worked, or the nagging voice in my head was reminding me of all the piles I needed to sort.  Because I had a lot of piles!  I sometimes felt better if I merged several piles into one mega pile, but the problem was just getting bigger.

It may not affect you, or your clients, in an obvious way as it did me.  It may be just a niggle, or something you just can’t put your finger on, but it stops you being able to relax fully at home – the place that should be our haven.

APDO member Diana Spellman of Serenely Sorted organising a kitchen cupboard

Mess stress affects us all

My recent Kantar survey* found that the feelings I was having back then are not at all uncommon.  In fact, 82% of us have experienced ‘mess stress’ at some point in our lives, with nearly half (44%) at least weekly.  This figure is higher amongst women, and starkly, 98% of parents of young children have experienced mess stress, with 71% experiencing it at least weekly.  Even 72% of those who define themselves as ‘naturally tidy’ had experienced mess stress. Mess stress gets to us all.

“It makes me feel anxious and I can never rest as I am always thinking I need to tidy my home – never feel content fully” Male, 35-44

“It distracts me, I don’t feel happy at all when the house is messy” Female, 35-44

“I am bothered by the mess and even if I do not think actively about it at the time, my mood is low.” Male, 18-24

The survey also explored the impact of letting our mess get the better of us, and reveals that, inevitably perhaps, 62% of people do not love their homes as much as they did when they moved in, revealing that our day-to-day habits were leading us to not fully appreciate our homes as our havens.

Low take up of well-known systems: are the TV shows causing us to turn off?

Given that mess stress is pervasive, are we actually doing anything about it, or are we just accepting it as part of ‘our lot’?  From the research, it seems not many of us are using the well-known systems we see on TV.  Is this because of overwhelm as a response to Insta perfect homes and the expectations we have of such solutions?

Graph showing awareness and use of various organising methods

Thankfully, despite low uptake of the TV-worthy systems, there is high demand for practical solutions, with 76% saying that they are either very or somewhat likely to take up a realistic solution that isn’t intimidating and could be sustained over time.

Graph showing the likelihood of adopting realistic home organisation methods

With so many homes across the UK experiencing mess stress, the challenge for APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers and its members is to communicate what’s available, and how we professional organisers  support our clients with practical, sustainable approaches

Back in the Summer of 2019, I couldn’t find exactly that route, so I solved both my mess stress and reduced/eliminated the dreaded tidying by building my own practical, realistic and sustainable system. Initially just for myself, I now teach people the Serenely Sorted System via online programmes and install it in people’s homes through my business Serenely Sorted, enabling people to remove the daily debris from the surfaces in their homes and address the piles for the long term.  The system utilises my corporate skills of system and process improvement, involves methods through which people can become more aware of how their behaviour creates mess, and techniques to break the mess/tidy loop they are in – and help them get tidy in less time than ever before.

With over 59% of households spending more than 30 minutes per day tidying, there is huge scope for helping people reduce and eliminate some of this drudgery by finding better ways of tidying.  Fascinatingly, those who claim to be naturally tidy are spending the most time actually tidying (63% spending more than 30 minutes), so it’s reassuring to the rest of us that perhaps the ‘naturally tidy’ image portrayed is just that – an image – and in fact the majority of us are not in control of our homes!

* Source: Nationally representative survey of 250 respondents conducted by Kantar on behalf of Serenely Sorted

If Diana’s article has prompted you to get some help with your own mess stress, you can find your local APDO professional organiser on our Find An Organiser database.

an open diary on a desk with piles of notebooks

Decluttering our lives as we emerge from lockdown

Karen Eyre-White of time management business Go Do gives her perspective on how we can declutter our lives after a challenging year.

When we think of decluttering, we typically think of physical things and reclaiming the spaces in our homes to create a greater sense of calm and order. But it’s also possible to declutter our lives; to reclaim our time and remove from our schedule those things which aren’t serving us anymore.

This can be hard to do. We have long-standing commitments in our diaries, we go to the same places and see the same people we’ve always seen, and our habits are deeply ingrained.

Or at least that used to be true.

The last year has turned everything on its head. The COVID lockdown measures have forced many unwelcome changes in our lives – our movement has been restricted, we’ve been isolated from friends and family and unable to do many of the things we love.

But as we emerge from our third COVID lockdown, how can we make use of what has changed over the last year to take stock of how we want to spend our time? How can we declutter what we don’t need and bring in new ways of spending time which make us happier?

Here are a few ideas and questions to ask ourselves over the coming months.

Socialising

Lockdown and the Rule of Six has meant our social lives have been dramatically transformed over the last year. We’re not meeting up with friends, going out for dinner or drinks, or taking group holidays.

As we’re gradually allowed to do these things again, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the last year and decide what you want to prioritise.

Have you enjoyed spending more time at home with those closest to you? Has it been a relief not to try to have a conversation in a loud restaurant or bar? Have you kept in touch virtually with a smaller group of close friends, and not missed others as much as you expected to?

Think about what this means for how you could rebuild your social life post-lockdown.

people socialising around a table full of coffee cups and cake

Activities and commitments

Whether it’s a group exercise class, a book club or being involved in a local community group, over the last year we’ve all spent less time on commitments outside of the home. We can’t go to group classes and activities, so we’ve become more home-based. Perhaps you’ve taken up gardening or started sewing your own clothes. Maybe you’ve connected with like-minded people virtually in a way you haven’t before.

When we’re forced to stop commitments, it can be an opportunity to reflect and take stock.

Did you feel ‘off the hook’ of saying yes to everything? Have you been happier with fewer commitments in your diary?

What activities are you raring to get back to? Focus on bringing those back in to your life first.

Commuting

For many, 23 March 2021 marked one year of working from home.

If that was you, how have you spent the time you used to spend commuting? Maybe you’ve cultivated an exercise habit, perhaps you’re reading more, or are able to spend more quality time with your children. Or, conversely, maybe you’ve realised that your commute was vital decompressing time between work and home and you’ve missed that clear boundary.

How will your job change as lockdown eases? Are you being given the option to work from home more, or perhaps even permanently? Would that be a positive or negative thing for you?

We don’t always have control over how and where we work but thinking these things through in advance will put you in the best possible position if an opportunity arises.

clothes on a shop rail

Shopping

Remember last spring, when supermarkets were under huge pressure and you couldn’t get a delivery slot for love nor money? Now, online shopping and food deliveries are the norm. We aren’t spending our Saturdays at the local retail park or town centre, or in the supermarket aisles, and we’re doing a huge proportion of our shopping online.

Of course, this isn’t simply a time saver: researching purchases online takes time and returning items if they’re not suitable can often mean time spent queuing at the post office.

How have you found it? Has online food shopping been easier than you expected? Have you found it frustrating or liberating to shop for clothes online?

Our shopping habits can feel like a small part of our lives, but they can have a significant impact on how we spend our time day-to-day. Take a few moments to think intentionally about how you’ll shop as retail re-opens.

Our lives have changed dramatically over the last year. We can create something positive out of it by thinking through how we want to spend our time as lockdown eases.

We don’t have to resume old ways of doing things just because that’s what we used to do. We can, instead, seize the opportunity to reclaim our time and use what we’ve learned over the last year to create a happier and more fulfilled life.

 

someone packing charity donations

10 ways to donate your decluttered items that you may not have thought of!

With the usual avenues for donating decluttered things either closed or restricted, we’ve had to get creative and work a little harder at clearing out our clutter. In this post we look at interesting solutions from our APDO members for the more unusual items they’ve come across and the unexpected destinations they’ve discovered for their clients’ cast offs. Perhaps there is something here that already exists in your local area and would benefit from your Spring clearing clear out.

Donate to animal welfare

Many of us love to support animal welfare and Marie Bateson of Cut the Clutter is no exception. She takes any towels, dressing gowns, fleeces and sweatshirts to Chorley Hedgehog Rescue. Your local animal rescue centre, zoo or pet shop might have specific needs during the pandemic. However, it is best to check with them directly and find out the best way to support the animals in their care.

When Longleat Safari Park made a Christmas appeal for bedding for their chipmunk family., Amanda Terry of An Organised You seized the opportunity and donated a huge bag of client socks. The campaign was hugely successful, the park keepers were overwhelmed with donations so they’re no longer collecting, but one-off requests like this can be a fabulous opportunity for quickly clearing out of specific items in your home.

APDO member Di Kelly's organised dog

Repairing, re-using and borrowing

In Bath, Carole Reed of Happy Sort loves her local Share and Repair organisation. They run workshops manned by volunteers who mend broken items for free. You can also donate unwanted items to their ‘Library of Things’ which can then be hired out. The library has items such as power tools, camping equipment and event supplies. It’s very affordable to hire and they are always looking for more stock. Library of Things – Bath Share and Repair. There are similar organisations can all round the country.

Men’s Sheds are also a great place to donate all those bits in garages and sheds that you keep hold of, says Louise Simpson of Louise Simpson Coaching. ‘Things like old clocks, tools and lawnmowers will be fixed and sold on to raise vital funds to keep the charity going’.

Louise also suggests contacting your local children’s outdoor play or wilderness place. The one near her takes anything from bits of wood, kitchen utensils (broken or usable), bowls and much more to use for outdoor creative play.

Donate to people in need

In Surrey, Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms has been excited to discover the Save the World Club on her doorstep. It is a local charity which collects anything that can be redistributed to local people via their warehouse called The Circulatory. Keen to keep stuff out of landfill, they have an army of volunteers repairing bicycles, tools and electrical equipment for redistribution amongst local people. They even collect food from local supermarkets for families in need. The volunteers are very creative, even filling empty shipping containers to send to people in need in Uganda or creating art installations to highlight waste issues.

The Save The World Club van outside the depot with bags of donations

The Save The World Club in Surrey

Mel Carruthers of More Organised agrees with Lynda. Mel is a Trustee of her local refugee action charity Massive Outpouring of Love, (MOOL). MOOL collect clothing, camping equipment and luggage for refugees and asylum seekers in France, Greece and the Middle East, as well as clothing, furniture and household goods to support families in Scotland. Many towns and cities across the country have similar organisations, or you can check the Care 4 Calais map for your nearest drop off point.

Donate clothing

Clothing is one of the largest categories that we declutter. Anne Welsh of Tidy Beginnings is interested in what happens to our clothing and textiles once we donate them. “The most sustainable way to donate clothing is to give them to clothing banks”, Anne explains.  “I.e. those that collect clothes to be distributed to those in need, and where they will actually be reworn – as opposed to being sold as rags and pulped”. To find your nearest clothes bank (and other recycling facilities), Anne recommends checking out www.recyclenow.com, where you enter your postcode for a list of options in your community.

Furs are often difficult to dispose of. Sue Spencer from A Life More Organised once came across a full fox stole (complete with head and feet) whilst working with a client. “Luckily the client had prewarned me that we’d find it somewhere” says Sue.  “We discussed several ways to pass this on to someone who would really love to own it.  My client wasn’t interested in getting any money from selling it, so it was donated to the costume section of a local amateur dramatic society. We knew that they would look after it well and make use of it in their productions”.

someone holding a pile of donated clothing

Solutions for paper

For your paper waste, Esme Fisher of Tidy Coaching recommends First Mile, an environmentally-conscious recycling and shredding company which is keen to keep all waste out of landfill. “If you are decluttering your papers and need a secure shredding service, you can sign up for shredding bags to be sent to your door” says Esme. “Fill them up with your confidential papers and they will be collected for free from your door by DBS-checked operatives (in low emission vehicles) and taken to the First Mile secure industrial shredder”.

And finally, The Great Diary Project is a wonderful initiative accepting diaries from ‘ordinary’ people at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. Anne explains, “There’s a simple deposit form to complete but it’s straightforward and the institute is a great final resting place for family diaries”.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas of places that you could donate your own decluttered items to, or similar organisations and projects in your own community. It’s always a good idea to contact them first to check what they need and can accept. And for more tips on how to declutter during lockdown, our recent post “Making clutter count: Decluttering during the pandemic” is packed full of advice from APDO experts!

 

If you’re ready to have a Spring clear out but not sure what to do with your items, maybe there’s a local initiative you could support or a national organisation ready to accept your donation. Your local Professional Organiser will be able to support you with your decision making and can be found at www.apdo.co.uk.

a pile of folded jeans being packed into a box

Making clutter count: Decluttering during the pandemic

The pandemic has forced us to spend more time at home, with many of us eating, working, studying and relaxing in the same space for the past year. Lots of us have been working alongside school science experiments, created hand sanitizer stations and squeezed loo rolls into cupboards unusually full of extra pasta, flour and beans.

Whatever pandemic living has looked like for you, the things and space around you have probably become much more noticeable and you may even have been inspired (or forced) to declutter your surroundings in order to live more comfortably indoors.

Decluttering advice from the experts

We asked our APDO members what tips and advice they had for decluttering during a pandemic and how to get rid of the stuff you no longer need.

Sue Spencer of A Life More Organised is a certified KonMari consultant and encourages people to understand first of all the reason they want to declutter and make a difference. “I know this isn’t anything new, but it’s always a useful reminder for people working on their own” says Sue. “Recognising your motivation and having a clear view of how you want your home to look and feel not only gives you the incentive to get going, but it also acts as a check back on whether to keep items. It provides useful incentive too if you get to a sticking point halfway through and it all feels a bit much”.

Carole Reed from HappySort acknowledges that, “it has been, and continues to be, difficult to declutter because charity shops are closed and most are not accepting donations”.

Where to donate your decluttered items

So, what can you do with your decluttered cast offs?

Carole suggests that you earmark a box or bag in which to put items that are no longer needed. It will be easier to dispose of the item when the time comes if you have already removed it from your living space. This will help you keep on top of your clutter until charity shops re- open.

Sue goes on to suggest that, if you are desperate to get the items out of your house, a number of charities are accepting postal donations. For example, many hospices are accepting donations online or at safe mobile sites which you can check out online.

Shelter, Air Ambulance and British Heart Foundation are all accepting donations of clothing via post-in boxes up to 10 kilograms, measuring up to 60cm x 50cm x 50cm.

Other organisations accepting donations by post include, Smalls for All, Re-Fashion.co.uk and Alzheimer’s Society.

And for further advice about donating, some of our APDO members have put together this post “10 ways to donate your decluttered items that you may not have thought of!” which is packed full of ideas and organisations where you can make your clutter count.

Planning your decluttering

Amanda Terry from An Organised Youhttps://www.anorganisedyou.co.uk/ says “Ask yourself, ‘If I don’t have a use for something anymore, is there someone I know or a cause that will benefit from my decluttering as well as benefiting my own space and wellbeing?'”.

Like Amanda, Esme Fisher of Tidy Coaching suggests identifying charities or companies which are taking donations or selling items during the pandemic, and then specifically decluttering the items they are accepting.

Esme also suggests that you set yourself manageable goals. “Declutter one category of items at a time, for example, clothing and make sure the items have left your home before you start on the next decluttering task. If you don’t work in this methodical way, your donation bags will build up and become even more overwhelming than the clutter!”

clothes rails and shelves in an organised charity shop

Using social media

Facebook community groups have worked well for many. They are a way for local people to give things away during lockdown as they may otherwise not have been able to pass things on until shops reopen.

For example, Bibi Rodley and Kate Curtis-Evans at Simply Organised Essex say that one of their clients has recently relocated from America. Some of her furniture is too big for her new home in Essex because American-style houses can be larger and more open plan. As they explain, “She had to get rid of her very large bookcases quickly before her new ones arrived. This was at Christmas, during lockdown and she didn’t know what to do. We suggested she tried the local community Facebook group and the bookcases sold within a day. She has used Facebook again to dispose of larger items that her children had outgrown, both through giving things away and by selling them”.

Louise Simpson of Louise Simpson Coaching agrees. “Facebook community groups are a great way to find your local charities and you can start by putting up a post asking for details. Most charities have a Facebook page and often post details of the items they are most in need of, but they usually welcome a call to check too”.

Louise goes on to explain that, throughout the pandemic, her local women’s refuge and homeless charities have needed donations more than ever as they have been faced with an increasing number of people needing their support. “You can help by donating lots of items, from food to clothing”, she says.  “They also need items such as furniture and kitchen items to help people get set up in new homes. You can help someone start over with the things taking up space in your home which you no longer have a use for. Due to infection controls they have even been asking for carrier bags to hand out items – no better excuse to clear out that growing stash in your cupboard and why not fill them with items to donate?”

Mel Carruthers of More Organised agrees. As a Trustee for her local refugee action charity, Mel has seen the pandemic’s effect on our decluttering from both sides, both as a professional organiser and as a charity volunteer. “Our depot has been closed throughout the pandemic”, she explains. “But that hasn’t stopped us being able to provide support where we can, usually by issuing requests for help through our social media pages. For example, last weekend we collected unwanted luggage and camping equipment to send to asylum seekers in London. When we heard of the acute need, we were able to tell our followers, ask them to declutter those items, and arrange for them to be safely dropped off at our depot”.

So keep an eye on your favourite charity’s social media. Their shops may be closed, but their work continues, and they need your support at the moment more than ever. And they may be able to give you a solution for your decluttered items.

Upcycling

If you can’t find anywhere to take your donations, maybe you could turn your hand to an upcycling project.

Stephanie Rough of The Organised Zone recommends reusing bottles to make a terrarium. She explains, “A lovely bottle of local gin from some friends now sits on the windowsill providing lots of lovely memories of our former home and, best of all, it’s very low maintenance! If you are green fingered, you can create these yourself or find a producer such as Gin Garden”.  She adds, “Another popular idea is for you to fill empty bottles with string lights to add sparkle to any entertaining area inside or out”.

a bottle upcycled into a terrarium

Anabel Morte Rodenas from Make Room With Anabel says, “If you are a bit like me and don’t like to throw away bags, I’ve found a clever way to upcycle them, reducing clutter and improving organisation, win, win!! Use them as containers, for drawer organisation, for snacks, you name it. For paper bags, just cut them across – I use zig-zag scissors for a fun touch. You can also fold them to the right height. For the plastic ones, I find folding them gives them strength”.

If these suggestions have sparked an interest in upcycling, APDO member Linda Cavallini interviewed interior designer and upcycling expert Lynne Lambourne for Spring Clearing Week recently in this post “Upcycling: Design that won’t cost the earth“.

a photo grid showing bags being cut up into drawer dividers

If you’ve decided to declutter during the pandemic but are stuck about what to do with your unwanted things, your local declutterer and organiser will be able to help. Check out the Find an Organiser database to find your nearest professional.

 

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

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

APDO member and volunteer Head of Conference Sian Pelleschi

Sian Pelleschi

Who is the APDO Conference for?

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

How does the APDO Conference work?

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


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

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

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

Sounds interesting! What will the virtual event include?

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

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

Tell us more about the programme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There really is something for everyone to enjoy.

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

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

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

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

a client looking at phone during virtual organising session

Virtual organising sessions are a great motivator

Almost a year ago, professional organiser Lynda Wylie‘s diary was wiped clean as every decluttering session she had booked in for her business Tidy Rooms was postponed. She wasn’t the only one. For the first time ever, the UK entered a national lock down. Overnight business owners were forced to think creatively about how to operate in a world that had closed its doors. Enter virtual organising!

In this post, Lynda explains the benefits of virtual organising, and how they can be a great motivator to get decluttered and organised.

Adapting to a new reality

As we wrestled with the impact of the COVID pandemic, we looked for ways to stay connected with our friends, family and work colleagues. Zoom became our constant companion and suddenly there was a new way to work and live.

The decluttering and organising industry was no exception. Pre COVID, I worked alongside my clients in their homes. Mid COVID, I had to find another way of safely supporting my clients and still contributing to the family finances. Thankfully, many of my APDO colleagues were already ahead of the game and working successfully online. In fact, it’s thanks to a training course run by a foresighted and resourceful colleague that I gained the confidence to dip my toe into the virtual waters of online decluttering.

I struggled at first to imagine how a virtual session would work. I’m used to providing practical, hands on support in my clients’ homes. I love nothing more than being in the thick of sorting and organising alongside my client, usually crawling around on my hands and knees, or in the back of a cupboard or at the bottom of a bag! Peering at a screen didn’t seem to offer the same level of personal or practical service I had become used to, but the last year has proved me wrong!

It was a huge surprise to discover that remote sessions were a massive hit with my clients – and with me! Together we discovered that these were a convenient, accessible, productive, personal and fun way of getting things done. Clients who’ve taken the plunge have been impressed at what can be achieved from behind a camera, and they’ve come back for more. We’ve tackled kitchen cupboards, craft rooms, photo organising, routine planning, bedroom drawers and paperwork backlogs.

a phone held up in front of a shelf in a virtual organising session

Virtual organising and motivation

So, what makes remote working a viable option for decluttering and organising your home? Here are three reasons I’ve found it to be a great motivator during a pandemic:

1 Home visits are no longer essential

There’s no need to worry about spreading germs, wearing masks or social distancing. Simply connect to a FaceTime call, set your camera so your Professional Organiser can communicate effectively with you and you’re away! This can relieve any anxiety you might be feeling about having someone in your home and it can allow you and your Professional Organiser to focus on the job in hand without fear or distraction.

2 Location is irrelevant

Your Professional Organiser could live 100 miles away or even in another country. This gives you more choice about who you work with as you can choose from the whole decluttering profession rather than being limited to who’s on your doorstep. Concerns about travel costs, journey time and special parking arrangements are completely removed for all parties. This can make it a more cost, time and effort effective option for you both.

3 You can declutter with or without a professional present

Remote sessions are very flexible.

For example, once you’ve spent time talking together to decide on a goal, the steps needed to achieve it and any possible challenges, you can then agree a time for a return time. You then declutter off camera until the call is resumed at the agreed time.

This approach allows you to focus on one clearly defined task at a time, knowing that you will have a review with your Professional Organiser go over what you’ve done. The check-in slot provides a thinking space in which to reflect on how the decluttering went. You might wish to repeat the exercise until you come to the end of the booking. If you are nervous about revealing the extent of your clutter, this can be a great way to ease yourself gently into the decluttering process. It also allows you time to develop a relationship with your Professional Organiser before tackling further challenges and it increases your confidence.

a client at a laptop during a virtual organising session

Sessions in which you and your Professional Organiser remain on the call together also work really well, just like an in-home session when you work alongside each other to reach the desired goal.

With this approach, you may find that sometimes what you’re doing can’t be seen, so you have to describe what you’re doing. Your Professional Organiser may ask you questions so they can understand what’s happening and how you’re finding things. You might encounter a bit more silence than during a home visit, but this can be really helpful for focusing and processing what you’re experiencing.

Give virtual organising a try!

Finding positive outcomes in a pandemic may not have been your experience or expectation during COVID 19, but I can say with absolute certainty that virtual decluttering sessions have been a most surprising and joyful result of this difficult time. As you can probably tell, I’m now a total convert and I hope you might also step out and give this special type of decluttering session a try.

If you’d like to find someone to declutter with you remotely, take a look at APDO’s Find an Organiser database. You can search under each organiser’s specialisms to find those offering virtual organising services.