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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.

Toys on the floor on a background at wall

How to keep an organised home when you have small children

Some of the most common questions that professional organisers get asked are around how to keep on top of clutter and keep a semblance of an organised home when you have small children. In this post, Rebecca Caution of Conscious Space Professional Organising shares her top tips on how, with a little bit of effort, it really is possible to do so.

Think like a Montessori educator

When it comes to maintaining an organised home with small children as inhabitants, take inspiration from the Montessori approach. Montessori is a method of education based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori nurseries and schools, children make choices in their own learning, whilst staff and classroom set-up guide the process, developing independence and encouraging creativity from a young age. But what does this look like day-to-day in the home?

Designate a place for everyday items and establish daily rituals

Children learn through repetition, so putting in place routines which allow them responsibility for getting themselves ready each day will be effort rewarded with less stressful mornings. Consider affixing a hook for each child – at their level – in your hallway or by your front door. Coats and bags can live here, so that each morning your children can grab them as they leave, and each afternoon return them there. Likewise, shoes – along with seasonal accessories, such as gloves and scarves or sun hats and sunglasses – can be kept in an easily-accessible container under the sofa. My children love having their own special hooks and even though the 17-month old can’t quite put her coat and bag on herself just yet, she has a clear sense of pride at being able to get them herself when she knows it’s time to leave.

Easy access kitchen items and mealtime rituals

Similarly, child-friendly cutlery, crockery, baking equipment and lunch containers can also be kept in a place which your children can reach. Once items are within easy reach, rituals can be established around accessing plates and bowls for each meal and returning items to the sink or dishwasher afterwards. In our home, cereals, fruit and healthy snacks are also accessible, so our Reception-aged son can prepare his own breakfast and the toddler can pull out whichever cereal she chooses each day. It may take a little time and repetition to get children to return items to the same place, but it is worth it to see the self-esteem it builds when they are allowed to do these things for themselves.

multi-coloured wooden toy building blocks on a wooden surface

Fewer toys

Our consumerist culture would have us believe that the arrival of a child in our homes is synonymous with the sudden necessity for a multitude of items we never before considered we would need (clue: we don’t). And the bombardment of daily marketing plying parents and children with messaging that they “need” this-that-and-the-other just carries on from there.

Whether you store and rotate toys, or simply make a commitment to have fewer to play with, the benefits are numerous: it’s quicker and easier to tidy up; it fosters far more creativity; children play better and for longer with what they do have.

Simple toy storage makes tidying up a game

Store toys which are most loved and are played with daily in open baskets. If baskets aren’t your thing, use other easy-to-access open containers which you like the look of, such as a shelving unit, canvas bags on hooks or felt boxes – especially if this is in your living space. That way, you can feel satisfied each evening that all toys are tidied away without having the eyesore of plastic boxes encroaching on your limited child-free time.

Store toys by type (cars, soft toys, dolls, building blocks, dressing up clothes), by colour or a different way each time – whatever works because any method of distinguishing toys means it’s simple to make tidying up a game and get even the very youngest of children involved. Think like Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game.” Those with the musical ability of Mary Poppins can come up with a catchy tidying-up song too. The rest of us can find one on Spotify.

Keep toys and books visible on open shelving

Another Montessori-lesson is to store toys and books in bedrooms on easy-to-reach shelving, with as few items in each space as possible, and then to encourage your children to return an item before another is selected. This allows easy child-led tidying and also leads to more focused play rather than the over-stimulation that can come from having access to too many toys at once. When everything is visible, it becomes very easy to assess which toys are getting regular use and which have been outgrown, at which point you can decide with your children whether it’s time to rotate, or to pass some things on to someone else who might like to play with them. When this is part of family conversation and encouraged from a young age, children become less attached to a multitude of items and really value the chance to be able to share toys which they have outgrown with someone who might be less fortunate than they are.

Red and white decorated childs bedroom with open shelving and toy basket

These small and simple changes can really make a difference to a household. You will notice all the wonderful benefits of having a tidier and more ordered home: more time, less stress, clearer focus. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also notice the pride and joy it gives small children to have a little bit of independence; to take responsibility for their own possessions and daily chores; to focus and play when they have fewer toys to choose from; to truly value those that they do have; as well as gaining an understanding of the value of being able to share their good fortune with others. What could be a better pay off than that?

If Rebecca’s advice has inspired you to get your family more organised, you can find your local professional organiser here.

Home Staging Association logo

Organising and home staging: An unbeatable combination!

Paloma Harrington-Griffin is the Director of The Home Staging Association UK, a source of information and support within the Home Staging industry. In this guest post for APDO, Paloma examines the relationship between organising and home staging, and how you can use both activities to increase the sale price of your home.

Organising and Home Staging: The perfect combo

Organising. Does the word alone make you think piles of boxes, chaos and runs to the charity shop? For the average homeowner that might be the idea, however, for professional organisers and home stagers, that same word can mean an opportunity to change someone’s life.

Organising and decluttering are usually the first items a homeowner needs to tick off their list when putting their property on the market, followed by handyman work, a thorough clean and the ever-so-efficient Home Staging.

There are several ways of improving a home to sell it faster – and better. Some can prove to be extreme and expensive, but others are quite straight-forward, practical and, most importantly, budget-friendly. Decluttering and Home Staging are a powerful combo for those wishing to achieve a quick sale and the highest offer value possible – which is the main goal for every Home Stager.

The effective techniques not only clear a property of excess items and personal belongings, they also prepare the homeowners for their move, getting the property ready for potential buyers who come for viewings in the hope of putting an offer down on their new lifestyle.

An organised, clutter-free home with the right pieces of furniture and accessories is ahead of the competition in the property market game.

In the Home Staging Profile 2018, research conducted by the Home Staging Association UK, 62% of property professionals mentioned that home staging has a great effect on the buyers’ view of the property, whilst 95% of the interview sample said that staged homes sell faster than non-staged ones.

In addition, 100% of estate agents and property developers said that home staging makes it easier for a buyer to visualise the property as their future home, meaning that while organisation is important, staging the home for potential buyers is key to securing a sale.

How can a professional organiser implement a few styling hues to their work?

According to Susie Batista from Cheshire Home Staging, there are some really stylish ways to be organised. It doesn’t always mean old tired cardboard boxes gathering dust, but clean purpose-built shelving with rows of wicker baskets, plastic containers for food items with trendy black labels.

Susie also suggests updated solid pine toy boxes, and stylish laundry baskets. The list is endless, and this type of organisation not only helps clear the mind and energy flow in the house but also looks aesthetically pleasing. It’s a win-win.

Before and after decluttering photo of home staged bedroom

Elaine Penhaul from Lemon and Lime Interiors suggests taking control and working strategically to eliminate the mess when decluttering a house for sale. It can be an exhausting task that sometimes seems never-ending, however, with the right approach it can be done in a very efficient manner.

Elaine likes to group her clients’ items into three categories: skip, store, show. One of the goals is to prepare for the move, so get rid of anything that isn’t needed for the new home. This is a lot more effective than storing and sorting later.

Before and after decluttering photo of a sitting room

The Home Staging Profile 2018 showed that 23% of the properties that were sold had the reception room staged, followed by 22% of properties that had the master bedroom staged. Therefore, if you need to choose a room to organise and style, these should be the ones to prioritise.

Whether it is to improve one’s quality of life, or to secure a sale which will allow a lifestyle upgrade, organising and staging walk hand-in-hand and can achieve great results when combined. It is proven to work, and the benefits are real – so what are you waiting for?

You can download a FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Home Staging at the HSA’s website 
and find your local professional organiser here.

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 in to 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 home work 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.

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.

 

red front door

What to check before saying ‘Yes!’ to your new home

When you consider a new property, there’s loads to be thinking about, from the fixtures and furnishings to where you’ll eat your breakfast in the morning. In some cases, it’s so easy to visualise yourself in your new home, you miss out on some of the practical problems. In this post, the team at Really Moving show us the “five ‘S’s” to look out for, to make sure your new home doesn’t let you down!

Security

When choosing a new place to live, especially if it’s an area you’re unfamiliar with, you’re going to want to feel safe. Considering the safety aspects of the property will allow you to make an educated decision. You can look at sites like police.uk and see what crimes have been committed in the area (be sure to check your existing postcode too, just in case it seems shocking – you may find your own area had quite a few issues without you knowing!).

If there have been issues near the property, then it’s worth being very careful about security, and assessing the property on a visit.

What is access to the property like? Is there a garden gate to the front, or an easy way to get onto a flat roof? What does the garden back on to?

These don’t have to be deal-breakers, but knowing about access points will make it easier for you to secure your new home. It will also help when getting home insurance, and ensuring you get a great rate.

If you do think the property requires more security, look into what changes you could make, from simple fixes like sensor lights and a visible security system, to improving locks or making fences taller.

bright decluttered organised sitting room with couch

Storage

The holy grail of housing – what’s the storage like? If you’re lucky, the property will have built in storage, but if not, look for opportunities to maximise usable space. Window seats with an empty bench, ottomans that can hold blankets, under cupboard areas that could hold shelves or drawers.

Don’t forget to check whether there is a shed (and if it’s included) along with what the loft space is like and if it’s easily accessible and properly insulated.

The best thing you can do when buying a new home is to clear all your clutter in advance of your move. This stops you paying more money to move (and possibly store) your items, only for them to take up space in your new home.

Most people will want to decorate their new home in a different way to their previous one, or if it’s your first property, you’ll have the chance to co-ordinate and decorate as you like. In many cases, your older items don’t fit with the new aesthetic. If you know you’re planning to completely start over in your new home, don’t bother bringing all your old items with you.

If you’re upsizing, you may be surprised at how much space you have for all your items, but if you’re moving to a small flat, or downsizing from a bigger home, be sure to invest in furniture that doubles up as storage.

Structure

A Chartered Surveyor will able to tell you how structurally sound the property is. Issues like damp or subsidence can have a long term impact on how liveable your property is, and how its value will change over time. You can also take the opportunity to consider any structural changes you might like to make to the property, and what’s possible.

If you’re considering buying an older property that will need some TLC to turn into your dream home, a Building Survey is probably your best option. These are for older properties, or ones that have had significant work done to them, or you will do work to in the future.

An in-depth survey also gives you negotiating power with the seller – if you will need to spend money to fix elements of the property before you move in, you could use the survey to ask for a reduction in price. Your survey will often also tell you how much those improvements might cost.

bright decluttered organised hallway

Saving

Speaking of costs, do you know how much your property will cost you long term? No, we don’t mean the mortgage payments. By checking the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of your future home, you’ll be able to see how energy efficient the property is, and how you can save money on your bills. The EPC will tell you what improvements could be made to make the home more energy efficient, from big changes like solar panels, to the small ones like energy-saving lightbulbs. An EPC needs to be updated every 10 years, so make sure your seller’s one is up to date, so there are no nasty surprises down the line.

Space

When it comes to what makes a home, space and light are key. But don’t forget that even the smallest space has the opportunity to be improved – painting a room a lighter colour, introducing hidden storage spaces and not over-filling the area with clutter can make a big difference. That’s why we always recommend clearing as much as you can before you move, so you can decide how to make the most of the space your new home affords.

By looking into whether your future home could be extended, and whether there are any planning permission issues, you’ve effectively planned for the future and added value to your new home already. Space is always a good thing, and so looking at your potential new property with an understanding eye, and being willing to do the work and make compromises will set you up in a home you can enjoy for years to come.

If you need help decluttering your home before you move, you can find your nearest APDO professional organiser here.

If you are considering buying a new home in 2019, reallymoving.com are a moving home comparison site, providing instant quotes for conveyancing, surveys and removals, along with helpful guides and tips to make moving home stress-free.

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

How to meet your organisational goals

Professional organisers help clients at different stages on their organising journeys. In this post, owner of Hertfordshire-based Blissfully Organised Tracy Ross shares some of her tips to help you achieve your decluttering and organising goals this year.

It’s not just the stuff

When we talk about decluttering, the focus is usually on the physical stuff taking up our space. However, there are other types of clutter in our lives which can also take our energy and time.

Time: Our time is precious, and it is easy to feel stressed when it feels as if we don’t have enough time to do what we want, and need, to do. First, make a list of your key priorities and then review these priorities against how you are actually spending your time. Can you edit out things that don’t fit in? Be careful not to over commit yourself.

Clock on a white wall above a white desk plant and lamp

Distractions: Electronics and their constant alerts distract your attention and impact your ability to focus. Managing your computer files and photos across multiple gadgets, keeping up with emails, searching for data and remembering updates and backups all take up your time and quickly become “digital clutter” if not managed well.

Routines and habits: Small changes to our daily habits add up to big results. Be aware of the habits and routines that are creating clutter or zapping your time. For example, do you put things away when you have finished with them? Are you wasting time on social media? Do you hit the snooze button too many times each morning?

Limiting beliefs: Take a good look at your routines and your mindset… what is stopping you from achieving your goals?

Organised kitchen shelves

 Achieving your organisational goals: My Top 5 Tips

  1. Schedule your sessions: Carve out small blocks of time for decluttering and organising, adding them to your diary to keep the time free. For example, you could set a timer for 15 minutes to work on a specific area, without distractions.
  2. Value your space: Visualise how you would like to enjoy the space that you have. What would make you feel relaxed and happy?
  3. Stop the inflow: Be careful about what you are bringing into your home. Try to stop buying new items when you are actively decluttering, or employ a “one-in-two-out” strategy.
  4. Celebrate your successes: Decluttering and organising takes time, especially if you are working through lots of paperwork or memorabilia. It’s important to reflect on what you have achieved so far, and to reward yourself for your progress.
  5. Ditch the guilt: Don’t be afraid to let things go. You don’t need to keep things out of guilt or obligation. Recycling the things that you no longer need reduces their environmental impact, whilst freeing up space in your home.

Finally, with all the above tips, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help can be hard but, even if you know what you need to do, working with someone else gives support, guidance and motivation. Which will speed up the process and make it a more positive experience.

If you would like support to help you with your decluttering and organising project,
you can find your local professional organiser on the APDO website.

 

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Smart Works just got smarter!

How do you take an already efficiently-run stockroom and make it even better? Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson (Declutter with Hannah) and nine other APDO colleagues did just that as part of National Organising Week (NOW) last week with North London charity Smart Works.

The team, headed up by Marcella Caricasole (Think Tidy), joined forces to organise the stockroom and offices of the charity Smart Works as part of APDO’s annual Donate a Day where professional organisers donate a day of their time and expertise to charities.

“Having an opportunity to work in a team with my awesome colleagues was the strongest appeal. Doing so for the benefit of such a terrific charity was the icing on the cake,” said Arianna Steigman (Reclaim your Space), a sentiment that was echoed by the whole team.

Donate a Day was an idea introduced by APDO’s President Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace) in 2016 when a team of six organisers helped to organise a charity’s​ new stockroom. Katherine says “This year I was delighted to participate in one of 10 events across the country involving over 40 APDO members. It’s amazing to see an idea grow with such momentum.”

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works shoe organising

In her element sorting shoes; Heidi Vorster (All Organised)

Smart Works is a UK charity which provides high-quality interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to women in need.  They give women the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools they require to succeed at interview and start a new chapter of their life.

Hannah said “Smart Works’ attention to detail in making their clients feel comfortable and special is so inspiring. We were very lucky to have had the opportunity to help make their already well-organised space even easier to manage.”

After being shown around Smart Works and learning more about the valuable work they do, APDO members got stuck in: organising rails of clothing, categorising shoes and bags, fixing and organising jewellery, steaming and mending clothes, and sorting out pedestals of paperwork.

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works Lizzie Grant

“A very long facial” described the day for Lizzie Grant (Simplify Stuff) steaming clothes

After five hours of focused activity everyone felt very positive and happy with what they had accomplished, and they had enjoyed some good giggles along the way.

“It’s very inspiring to see so many beautiful clothes and accessories and how much love and care has been put onto creating this amazing walk-in wardrobe which will change the lives of so many women who are trying to get back into work,” said Filipa do Carmo (Khôra : Space . Sorted)

Sarah Owen (A Place for Everything) said “I wanted to be part of Donate a Day because I really liked the idea of teaming up with other APDO colleagues and giving my time and expertise to a charity which would benefit from my help. I was particularly impressed with the work that Smart Works does supporting women getting back into the workplace. It was a fun day to boot, so a ‘Win Win’ for all.”

Nicki Munns (All Organised) gets to grips with 2017’s donation documents

One of the achievements in the office was liberating a pedestal by reviewing, culling and organising older paperwork. “It’s a task which often slides down the list as day-to-day demands shout louder,” explained Sam Hofer (Untangled), “but creating that additional space by scanning or shredding historical paperwork can make such a difference so it’s really worth the time investment.”

Smart Works were delighted to host the APDO team “Thank you all so much…your expertise was incredibly valuable to our staff, volunteers and clients.”

Catch the team in action with the video round-up of the day activities.

APDO Donate-a-Day Smart Works

Group photo (from left to right):

Front: Arianna Steigman (Reclaim your Space), Lizzie Grant (Simplify Stuff), Sarah Owen (A Place for Everything), by Marcella Caricasole (Think Tidy), Nicki Munns (All Organised) and Filipa do Carmo (Khôra : Space . Sorted)

Back: Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson (Declutter with Hannah), Sam Hofer (Untangled), Heidi Vorster (All Organised) and Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace).

 

You can read about more Donate a Day activity by APDO members here!

APDO Sarah Owen professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Sarah Owen

This National Organising Week, we have been showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, their challenges, successes and motivations. In our final interview in the series Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything in Hemel Hempstead shares lots of great advice, and tells us about her business.

Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything


What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

I love to organise, so it’s hard to pick just one thing or area as I enjoy bringing order and calm to all my clients, regardless of what they need help with.    I love to help families because I remember how it felt to be overwhelmed by children’s stuff and not having enough time or energy to sort it. A lot of my work involves sorting toys and children’s clothes.  I also get an immense sense of satisfaction helping people with their paperwork and working with them to implement efficient systems and routines to keep it in order.   Paperwork is something that doesn’t generally get messed up by children so stays sorted for longer!

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

It’s the little things, like adopting good routines, which have made the biggest differences in helping me and my own family be more organised.   For example, I insist that everyone puts their coats on the coat hook and shoes on the rack when they come home.  (They don’t always remember, so I sometimes have to tidy up after the children, but the routine is mostly there). We have a bowl for our keys by the front door so we know where they are when we go out again!

I always carry my diary and notebook with me and write things down as I think of them or as soon as I make appointments.   We have a perpetual shopping list on the fridge, so we add things to it as soon as something runs out.  No more forgotten ingredients!

One of my mantras is “Everything in a home should have a home”. I am passionate about making sure things are put away in their proper place as soon as they are not needed.   Where possible I try to tidy and re-set at the end of one day to be ready for the next.  I find a day starts so much more positively if yesterday’s mess has been cleared away.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

I wish!  I live with a not-so-tidy husband, two children (aged 7 and 11) and two cats.  Some days it is more ordered than others and it is never as tidy as I would like it to be, but I do know where things are, and I do have efficient systems (I just wish everyone else in the family was as passionate as me about following them!)  My daughter’s room is definitely the worst and she’s not even a teenager yet!  Unfortunately, she hasn’t inherited my tidy gene!  At the end of the day, our house is a lived-in home and not a show home.

apdo blog family organising decluttering

What prompted you to set up your business?

Pre-children I spent 10+ years organising corporate events and loved the challenge of juggling lots of projects and relished the fact that no two days were the same.  After having my children, I decided not to return to the events world, mainly because I couldn’t travel and be away from the family for long periods of time.  I therefore wanted to find a job, ideally my own business, which would allow me to work flexibly and utilise my organisational skills.   Having worked in the corporate sector for large companies, I often found it hard to see where I was adding value so wanted to be able to make a tangible difference with what I did next.   I came across APDO and learnt more about the decluttering industry… and the rest, as they say, is history!   I knew this line of work would suit my skill set and more importantly my work would really make a visible difference in people’s lives.  Working for myself means I have lots of flexibility and I love what I do.  In some ways it is like what I did before, as I work with lots of different people, and no two days are the same.

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

There have been so many challenges, as I would have expected in changing careers and setting up my own business. The first was overcoming the fear of failing, stepping out and taking a risk to try something new.  I am so glad that I did step out!  One of the biggest challenges I am facing as a small business is building my brand and finding clients in what is still a relatively young industry.  However, I am relishing the challenge of being creative, finding new places to leave my flyers, write blogs, post on social media and talk to everyone and anyone that I come across about my business.  In the past, I would have described myself as an introvert rather than an extrovert, so having to promote and sell myself has certainly forced me to step out of my comfort zone.   A challenge that I am enjoying!

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

  • Black rubbish bags, blue bags for recycling and clear strong bags for charity shop drops
  • Labels, marker pens, elastic bands, scissors and paperclips
  • Examples of files for organising paperwork – e.g. clear wallets, document files
  • IKEA/Lakeland catalogues for storage examples
  • Rubber gloves
  • Caffeine free tea bags
  • Snacks, such as nuts and a banana. Clients often bring out the cakes and biscuits but because I am Gluten Free I prefer to bring my own
  • Water – it’s very thirsty work!
  • Thick socks, as I normally take my shoes off; they keep my feet warm!

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

I think this is one of the best testimonials I have received.   It was so satisfying to be appreciated.

“I really can’t praise Sarah highly enough. My flat was a complete nightmare with mess beyond description! I had arranged for a friend to come and help me, but was so embarrassed by how ghastly it looked, that I felt I had to find a professional declutterer. From the minute I met Sarah, I felt at ease and comfortable and didn’t for one second feel she judged my chaotic home. I didn’t know where to start as I was completely overwhelmed by it all, but Sarah came up with ideas that made complete sense. I am absolutely amazed by how much we have already done in a short space of time and completely delighted with seeing space again! Sarah is just really good at the job – organised, calm, warm, non-judgemental, helpful. She has a knack of encouraging me to get rid of things without in any way pressuring me. It is a huge relief to have found someone who can get me back to having a home again. Thank you, Sarah!”

NOW interview Sarah Owen decluttered organised hallway

What’s the best outcome you’ve seen?

I’ve been working with a client for quite some time now and we have decluttered their entire three-bedroom home. We are on the final room, the study, and we still have a bit more work to do, but we are nearly there. We have methodically worked through each room and cleared away years of stuff which is no longer needed.   The house is safe to live in and the client is proud to call it home again.  After several years of not being able to invite friends back, this client can now have guests.  As well as clearing out the unwanted things, we have implemented new systems and routines to stop the clutter accumulating again.  The client has grown in confidence and feels in control of their life again.  Such an amazing achievement for the client and a huge sense of satisfaction for me that I have been able to support them on this journey.

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

This is a really good question!  I guess my flippant answer would be “my dream client would live in a really nice house and just around the corner!”   In reality, I don’t have a “dream client” – I just want to help and support people who are struggling to get organised by themselves.  I aim to help people regardless of their background or current situation and want to make a very real difference to my clients’ lives.   It is always rewarding to be appreciated and to be told that you are making a difference.

What’s your top tip to share?

When organising, tidying or decluttering, I would say little and often is the key to keeping on top of things.  Try not to let things pile up so that they become unmanageable and overwhelming.    If things however do pile up, then tackle small areas at a time and celebrate what you have managed to clear; don’t give up on your goals for a more manageable home.  Big journeys start with small steps and the destination of a calm and clutter free environment is most definitely worth pursuing.

 

If this week’s interviews have inspired you to pursue a career as a professional organiser,you can find out more about the benefits of joining APDO here..
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

You can read the rest of this week’s series of interviews with some of our professional organisers here on the APDO blog!

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO Marie Bateson decluttering organising

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Marie Bateson

This National Organising Week, APDO is showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview, our penultimate in this week’s series, is with Marie Bateson of Cut The Clutter in Preston. Marie tells us about her love of organising, and how she has turned it into a business.

Marie Bateson of Cut The Clutter

What does being organised mean to you? What does being organised look like?

A great question as it made me consider it deeply. The first part, what does organised look like, is obviously different to different people. In a home it could be something as simple as a wall chart showing appointments or, at the other extreme, completely neat and tidy rooms. Some would say tidiness is not a prerequisite of being organised and I agree with this to a point. Having an organised mind, which is not visible, is closer to my idea of what organised means. If your life, schedules, work and time are in a mess, then nothing is manageable. So to me, being organised starts with, and continues to cover, all areas of our day-to-day living.

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

My favourite area to organise is the kitchen. I enjoy any space and even paperwork, but I feel clients get a lot from re-organised kitchens.  Things are often spread around instead of being kept together, such as baking ingredients, herbs and spices, and the positioning of working areas often needs a rethink. For example, kettles may be at the opposite end of the kitchen to cups. Everyone keeps stuff in their kitchen cupboards that they will never use and once it’s re-organised clients are visibly delighted.

NOW interview Marie Bateson decluttered organised kitchen

I worked with a lady earlier in the year who is a “buyer” and lives alone. She had many duplicates but hadn’t realised how many due to disorderly spaces e.g. 12 jars of marmalade and nine jars of curry sauce. Over the course of a few weeks we made up six boxes for the local food bank. Both of us got great satisfaction from that and I always suggest it now to other clients with too much food.

You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?

I am very tidy and organised everywhere except my home office. My partner says it’s as if someone else lives in there! As only I use it, I am less bothered, and this indicates that I like people to see my orderly environment. This is interesting, as I hadn’t considered this aspect of my home before! I run out of time regularly and paperwork is the thing that suffers.

What prompted you to set up your business?

I set up my business because of the huge feelings of job satisfaction I get from organising, sorting, staging, dressing and minimalising homes.  This coupled with the good it does for others who need my help.

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

The biggest challenge has been, and still is, securing clients. Once I get a client I almost always get repeat business. I have tried lots of methods but, ultimately, they find me.

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

I always carry a plastic box with my essential kit in the boot of my car. It contains bin bags in three colours for sorting (virtually all clients have their own but just in case), scissors, labelling machine, spare batteries, slippers, folding step, bar keepers’ powder, hand sanitizer and my receipt book.

What’s the most memorable collection you’ve seen? (What did you/the client do with them)

A large collection of Durex! Every bag or box I emptied contained a few packets. This was a single, quite reclusive girl and she didn’t seem embarrassed by them – she simply put them all to one side and then took them to her bathroom cupboard.

What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?

The nicest comment I’ve received came from the mother of a client. Her daughter suffers with some mental health issues and I worked with her for a few weeks. Following a couple of sessions her mum said she had never seen her daughter this happy ever!!!

NOW interview Marie Bateson decluttered organised room

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

I don’t think we want the dream client as ultimately, they would be so organised after a session that they wouldn’t need us again. Or is that some organisers ideal? It’s a tricky question! I have some “nice to have” traits when considering my ideal client.  For example, they would be decisive, open to suggestions and would work at a good pace. But to me the dream is to make a person’s life better. To help them feel settled and to enjoy their surroundings. Anyone that gets this outcome is a perfect client to me.

What’s your top tip to share?

My top tip is to start small. Clients who are overwhelmed by the chaos benefit from seeing a key area sorted. I look at the situation and assess where they may appreciate and continually see progress. This could be clearing the kitchen table, the surface of the bed or the entrance hall. I encourage them to keep looking at this area which they are now delighted with and remember what it was like. Realistic expectations need to be set early on, for example, that the whole house cannot be done at once – otherwise a client can feel disappointed. Positive endorsement of what has been achieved is key.

 

If you are considering a career in professional organising like Marie, you can find out more about APDO’s training courses here.
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our final interview in this series of interviews with APDO organisers! You can find yesterday’s interview here.

APDO National Organising Week 2018

APDO Lynda Wylie professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Lynda Wylie

This National Organising Week, APDO is showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, and their challenges, successes and motivations. Today’s interview, our fifth in the series, 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 out first. Six 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 if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our penultimate interview in the series! You can find yesterday’s interview here.

APDO National Organising Week 2018