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A vase of daffodils on an organised coffee table

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

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

Headshot of Claire de Boursac APDO member standing under a tree

Is self-criticism stopping you?

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

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

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

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

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

The organisation myth

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

Recognising your own critical voice

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

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

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

The role of the professional organiser

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

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

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

APDO blog - organised travel

The Holiday Afterglow

Imagine this: you are returning from a wonderful time away from home. Whether you have been relaxing on the beach or hiking on some distant mountain, on your own or with family, there are certain things you’ll REALLY need to do before you start enjoying the afterglow. Tilo Flache, founder of Brighton-based professional organising company ClutterMeister, explains…

Your luggage

Whatever type of trip you return from, near or far, you’ll be faced with a luggage which holds a mixed mess of clothing, books, phone chargers, souvenirs, papers, pens and, depending of your holiday destination, a quantity of mud and sand. What you won’t find in there, though, is joy! Even if you are someone who loves packing before a trip, nobody likes to handle the mess you return with.

However, there is something to be said for taking care of the luggage right away! I hear you say “but I want to enjoy that holiday feeling some more! I’ll take care of that later”, and I would answer “I hear you.” Sadly, one of the most annoying things in the world is stuff sitting around for longer than necessary. Sooner rather than later you’ll need something in that luggage. The question is simple: would you rather find your phone charger in its proper spot or dig for it inside your disorganised luggage, creating even more mess in the process?

laundry unpacking organising

It only takes a moment to put all your clothes in the washing basket and you’ll find you are left with just a couple of items that can be quickly returned to their regular spot. Once that’s done, you’ll have one more reason to enjoy that holiday feeling.

Your car

If you’ve spent an extended amount of time in your car, a lot of things may have accumulated: the passenger space alone will now suddenly contain Tupperware, plastic bottles and packaging, rubbish in a bag, stuff that fell to the floor, wayward toys, and stray pieces of clothing. And that is without considering all the dust, mud or sand everyone has dragged in during the trip. Any constricted space we live inevitably fills up with the debris of life.

Do you want to be reminded of that task every time you step into your car? Probably not. There’s something to be said about making enough time to clear the mess before you start using your car again for regular runs.

Here’s a simple recipe to make your car ship-shape again:

  • bring a rubbish bag and a box for items to take into the house
  • extract the surplus contents from car
  • separate into the bag or the box
  • do NOT put the box down until you have returned everything to its rightful place!
  • clean car, if necessary – which it probably will be!

 

On a general note, many cars really should be classified as moving clutter boxes. The next time you go to your car, take a good look around and consider some of the thoughts above. You might just find that there is a lot of clutter in your car that you could easily do without. Give it a go!

Your home

Once you have taken care of everything you brought back with you, maybe it’s time to look after your house as well. Even though leaving it empty for a while does not make it any worse for wear, you may want to give it a quick once-over. Keep your eyes, ears and nose open during this process. You’ll probably find nothing, but it will avoid surprises later. Having someone take care of your home while you are away is good, but they may not have been as thorough in their visits as they intended.

organised entrance hallway decluttered

Another thing you may want to keep in mind when returning home: you are in a unique position to detect things that may have slipped your attention before you left! Remember that feeling when you arrived at your vacation spot, when everything felt airy and open, empty and clutter-free?

Take a moment to become aware of spaces in your home that need attention because you may just see them in a different light now that you have been away. There is no need to get going there and then,  just take note of anything that seems off, and schedule a time to take care of it in the future.

Catching up with everyone

Finally, the most important lesson of all: once you have taken care of these little tasks, make time to arrive properly. Enjoy the fact that – except doing your laundry – there are no residual tasks related to your return home. Sit down, lean back and breathe.

This is the time to meet your friends and family, talk about your adventures, keep the relaxed feeling of being away from the daily routine going for another while. Listen to others’ tales of what has happened during your absence, and leave whatever you do for a living out of the equation for as long as you can. A vacation does not start and end at your front door, you can decide if that is the case.

Or you could decide that your vacation is not quite done yet…

If you have returned from your summer holidays and think you’d like a little help to get your home organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

begin mug with tea

You’re ready to declutter. So where do you start?

Guest blog author Jules Langford runs Cluttered to Cleared specialising  in virtual decluttering and offers the “30 Days to a New Clutter-Free You”, a unique combination of an online e-course with 1-2-1 skype and email support.  She can work with clients all over the UK.

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You know you need to declutter…

You’ve set some time aside

You’ve even stocked up on bin bags!

Now you just need to decide where to start.

So how about starting in…

  • The bedroom. After all, you’re fed up of the place being used as a dumping ground, and it would be much easier to get a good night’s sleep in a calm and clutter-free room.
  • On second thoughts, wouldn’t it be better to start in a room guests see, like the sitting room? And think of those relaxing evenings after dinner with your feet up, once it’s cleared.  Lovely!  But until…
  • The kitchen is sorted out, there won’t be any relaxing evenings anyway. Making dinner in such a cluttered environment takes far too long.  So maybe that would be the best place to start.  And you can get that healthy eating regime under way…
  • Then again, if you cleared the basement, think of all that useful storage you would gain. After all, the stuff from upstairs has got to go someone where…

By this time, you probably feel totally worn out.  And all without having decluttered so much an unpaired sock. But never mind, there’s always next week…

So where SHOULD you start?

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter so much where you start – just that you do.  See looking for that perfect starting point for what it is – a form of procrastination. Otherwise, you will be going round and round like a hamster on a wheel forever and a day.

Still craving a starting point? Consider the options below:

  • The room that’s bothering you most. What room is causing you the most hassle day-to-day?  The stress caused by a cluttered, chaotic room can’t be underestimated.  You don’t have to be in it, you’ve only to think about and it drags you down. Just think how great it would be to get that cleared, a real weight off your shoulders.
  • The room you would enjoy most if it was clutter free. Maybe your yen is for a bathroom that is more spa than swamp.  Or a bedroom that is more a sweet dream than nightmare.  Don’t let clutter stand between you and your bliss.  Your home is to be enjoyed, not endured.
  • One small area – build your confidence. If a whole room is too daunting – downsize your decluttering!   Be it clearing off the dining room table, the kitchen junk drawer, or maybe the overflowing coat hooks on the hall, this is the little difference that makes a lot of difference. And one thing always leads to another…

So make a decision –  and then make a start.  Because the sooner you, the sooner the clutter will be cleared.

If you need help to clear a path through the overwhelm, an APDO member in your local area would love to help. Search here.