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Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Decluttering when someone has died

Sentimental items are without a doubt the most difficult things to deal with when decluttering. Emotions around objects can be incredibly strong, as we link feelings and memories to physical objects and this is especially true when someone has passed away. In this post, Zoe Berry of Life/Edit gives her advice on decluttering a lifetime of possessions after someone dies.

Decluttering when someone has died: How to deal with a lifetime of possessions

Recently I have worked with two clients for whom this is a huge issue: they are responsible for decluttering after someone has died, and they find themselves hanging on to far too much stuff because of an almost paralysing inability to make decisions on what to do with it all. There are varied reasons for this: in these particular cases, the sheer volume of it all was overwhelming. Where do you start with a whole house or the contents of someone’s entire life that’s ended up in boxes in your loft? But perhaps greater than this is the associated guilt. When someone has died it can be so hard to part with their belongings: knowing how hard the person worked for them, knowing what the items meant to the person, worrying that you are being disloyal or disrespectful by simply ‘getting rid’ of them, or not knowing who to give them to or where they should go if you do want to part with them. This post explores how you can respectfully and thoughtfully keep someone’s memory alive without having to be the keeper of all of their belongings.

First: ask for help

This is going to be hard. You probably can’t do it on your own, so allow the people who are offering help to work through it with you. Or if this isn’t an option, look up a professional declutterer here: https://www.apdo.co.uk/find-an-organiser/. We are trained to help you, and can help to guide you through the process.

Start with the ‘least difficult’

In the case of post-bereavement decluttering, there probably isn’t an ‘easy’ place to start, but whatever you do, don’t start with the most emotional things. You’ll know what these are. For some people it’s about their mum’s clothes, for some it’s their husband’s precious collection of books which were his pride and joy. For some people it’s about something that may seem entirely random but you will know what is going to be the most difficult for you. Leave that until the end.

Do I really want to keep this?

Look at the item and ask yourself: what precisely am I sentimental about? Chances are, it’s not the object itself but its association with a person, place, or time. You will retain that memory without a physical object to remind you. However if you look at the item and love it, then it’s not clutter.

pile of photographs letters and memories

Let go of guilt

Often people keep items not out of love or nostalgia, but guilt. It could be because it feels ‘bad’ to get rid of something, or it could be because you had a difficult relationship with the person who has died and you’re subconsciously trying to make it better. Allow yourself to realise that your complex relationship with your aunty will not be fixed if you keep hold of her hideous set of figurines now that she has passed away.

Take a photograph

If you have your grandparents’ table and chairs and you know you can’t keep them and won’t use them, take a photo of them as part of the process of letting them go. Use the same logic as you do with other parts of your decluttering life (you wouldn’t keep all your kids’ toys for example) and apply it to the post-bereavement decluttering.

Pass it on

Do some quality research before passing your items to charity. Some charities only take specific things (for example, no electrical goods) and you don’t want to be turned away after the difficult and emotional process of sorting through, loading your car and driving to the charity shop. Recently I donated a whole lifetime’s worth of clothes which had belonged to a client’s mum. Going through these clothes was so difficult for my client, she spent hours in tears remembering the stories that went with them: where her mum wore them and how they summed her up. I made sure these clothes went to a charity shop local to me which specialises in vintage clothing. For this client, the idea that the next generation of vintage-loving young women would be soon wearing them filled her with joy and pride.

Foliage in a glass jar signifying recycling and environment

Family

You may not want something or have room for it, but you can always offer it to others in the family. Remember to check with them first before packing an object off to somewhere outside the family.

Upcycle

To hold onto your connection with something, create something new that retains its sentimental value. An example of this recently was an antique chair belonging to a client’s beloved great aunty. I encouraged her to upcycle it so it fitted more in to her house décor and she covered it with some beautiful fabric bringing it right up to date whilst still retaining the nod to her family member.

Dealing with collections

It’s very difficult when dealing with the possessions of an avid collector. Your dad may have loved his thousands of model cars, your brother loved his rooms full of books, but it doesn’t mean you have to absorb them into your home. Choosing one or two keepsake items to represent a collection, person or era can allow you to let the rest go.

Memory Box

Just as you’d keep a memory box for your children with their precious school drawings, first shoes and other sentimental items, you can also do this for someone who has died. It doesn’t matter how off-the-wall these things are – if an empty margarine tub makes you chuckle thinking about your gran, then pop it in the box. This is a good way to preserve memories without taking up too much space. It also keeps the items all together, so you can choose when you want to look at them, particularly if grief is still very raw.

Most of all be kind to yourself. Take time, acknowledge that this is one of the hardest things to do, accept help and reward yourself when you make progress.

APDO Spring Clearing Week 2019 logo

In conversation with BuyMeOnce

Tara Button, CEO & Founder of BuyMeOnce, is at the forefront of the global movement to change the way we shop and live forever, championing the longest-lasting and most sustainable products on Earth. 

In the spirit of Spring Clearing Week 2019, professional organiser and APDO member Caroline Rogers spoke to Tara, to find out more about the movement, the website and how we can all benefit. 

 

You can find out more about Spring Clearing Week 2019 here!

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.

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.

Headshot of APDO President Katherine Blackler

Presidents Day: An interview with Katherine Blackler, APDO President

18th February is Presidents Day – what better day than to have a catch up with our APDO President Katherine Blackler. Katherine runs her company SortMySpace Ltd in South East London, but has taken some time out today to share her story with us.

How did you get into your chosen career and why?

I left a fast-paced project manager role in the corporate world to work out “what makes my heart sing”. I had spent 15 years in the City organising people and processes but was experiencing a disconnect. Whenever I was plugged into the day job, I just couldn’t reflect easily.

In the past, I’d travelled between work contracts to gain perspective and inspiration. This time I decided to stay put in London and refurbish my small home instead. While I was sleeping on a friend’s sofa-bed to dodge the dust of the building work, I noticed an article on minimalism which my best friend had left out. The William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” jumped out at me. It changed the way I created my new space and saw my possessions. And, unbeknown to me, it started to shape my new career path.

I then took a six-week road trip across the USA where I found myself helping out my host families: organising the trunk of a sleep-deprived mum’s car to have items for the ‘top-end’ of their kids in one box and items pertaining to the ‘bottom-end’ in another!  I made suggestions for my cousins in Chicago on how to use their space differently to save the hassle of moving to a new house. I even found myself in IKEA with a tape measure within 24 hours of meeting one of my brother’s friends in LA!

At that point I’d never heard the concept of a professional organiser and declutterer, but it made me realise this was something I genuinely enjoyed and that it could be an expanding market in the UK in the near future. Amusingly, I initially googled the term “efficient living consultant” as I had no idea what I’d be called if I made the jump!

A group photo of APDO Board members

The APDO Board in January 2019, one of 3 live meetings a year that the APDO Board hold

How did you become APDO’s President?

I first volunteered to be part of the APDO conference team as I have experience of running events from my corporate life. The Board felt I would be a good fit for a new role as Head of Partnerships and Campaigns helping to connect the Association with relevant businesses and charities whose focus or products overlap with the work our members do. I introduced the concept of Donate a Day during National Organising Week 2016 whereby our members get together to give their time and expertise to a charity for the day. It started with one event in London with six organisers and by 2018’s National Organising Week, we had almost 40 members supporting 12 charities across the UK. That’s one of my proudest APDO achievements – thus far!

I then introduced a second campaign week to APDO’s diary and we launched Spring Clearing Week in 2018 as a twist on the traditional spring cleaning idea. We are expecting Spring Clearing Week to grow year on year now in the same way as National Organising Week has.

In April 2017 I became APDO’s President-Elect, shadowing the then President Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House). I stepped up in April 2018 for a two-year term as President. When I step off the board, I’ll become Past President for one year, on-hand for advice and support to the next President.

Group photo of Katherine Blackler and APDO colleagues

Katherine and APDO colleagues during the first Donate a Day at Dress for Success during National Organising Week 2016

What do you hope to achieve during your Presidency?

I’d said in my manifesto that I want every household in the UK to know what a professional organiser and declutterer is before I step down! Nothing like an enormous goal to keep you focused (or permanently in post!). That’s not to say every household will also engage a professional organiser, but without knowing that our members and their services exist they won’t be able to even entertain the idea.

I’m convinced the concept is catching on. Anyone joining the industry now is getting an easier time finding clients and building their business than even a few years ago, even if it still feels slow to them! But we still have a long way to go until our services are as recognised and embraced as those of a window cleaner or a plumber.

I appreciate that you can now watch videos on YouTube on how to tile a bathroom (or indeed improve organisation in your wardrobe) but if you call in an expert it’ll be done in a fraction of the time, be tailored to your exact needs and it comes off your to-do list so you can do things you enjoy more!

What do you get from the President’s role?

Volunteering for APDO is undoubtedly a big commitment but it’s such an exciting time to be involved in this growing industry; I wouldn’t miss it for the world! We’re at a challenging transition point for the association as we position ourselves as THE go-to resource for professional organisers and the public. My board members, past and present, are a true inspiration. They are an enormous support as I learn and develop to be the best version of me that I can.

I see this role as supporting my personal goals of spreading the word further whether that’s speaking on stage, radio or TV (as well as continuing to work one-to-one with my clients). I feel our physical environment is so important to the way we operate and how we respond to the world and life’s curveballs. If I can help more people achieve some balance and joy that brings me huge satisfaction; it’s the ‘personal connection’ puzzle piece I was missing in my City days!

Screen shot of a video conference screen during an APDO virtual Board meeting

An APDO virtual Board meeting, one of 3 virtual meetings that the APDO Board hold each year

Why the sudden massive interest in decluttering and organising?

It’s been growing steadily for the past decade, but conversations have undoubtedly spiked with the Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo and her new show hitting Netflix this January. The fact that APDO has doubled our membership from 150 to over 300 members in the past 3 years demonstrates an increase in awareness as this as a career or business choice too.

With time being the most precious commodity of all, we’re all trying to find ways to gain time for friends, family and memorable experiences. One way to do that is to reduce what you need to curate, maintain, repair and replace in your home.  Great initiatives like the Library of Things are expanding where you can borrow household appliances that you only use once or twice a year instead of buying and storing them yourself.

I feel that social media is helping spread awareness about our buying patterns and the impact on the environment, especially issues like single-use plastic or throwaway clothing, so consumer habits are shifting too. These environmental trends align with the work we’re doing decluttering and asking our clients to consciously consider what’s necessary or joyful for them whilst trying to stem future influxes of items into their space.

I’m excited to see how things unravel over the next few years for APDO and all its members.

If Katherine’s story has inspired you to consider a career as a professional organiser, you can find out more about joining APDO here.

Rails of brightly coloured clothes in a charity shop

What to do with your unwanted stuff

With UK Charity shops reporting record levels of donations in January (some have even closed their doors to donations as they are full), Sue Spencer of A Life More Organised gives us some suggestions about what to do with our unwanted stuff. Over to Sue…

Reuse, recycle or regift

As a professional organiser I work closely with my clients to try and reduce the number of discarded items which end up in landfill – my approach is reuse, recycle or regift.

  • Reuse – rather than buying new furniture or storage, look for ways of repurposing some of the things you already own.  Often moving furniture between rooms, or adding baskets to shelves in wardrobes, can change the look and feel of a space to suit your needs better.
  • Recycle – paper, plastics and metal can be recycled at your local household waste site. If you sort these in to boxes before leaving home, it makes it really easy to drop them off – my local household waste site is proud to recycle over 94% of the items it receives.
  • Regift (or donate) – your unwanted items to charity or pass on to friends, but do make sure that it’s something your friends need before you offload it on to them!

Donation suggestions

But what happens to the hard to donate items which charity shops don’t want?  Before putting them in the bin, have a quick look at the following suggestions as the chances are someone could find your unwanted “stuff” really useful.

Reading Glasses     

Most high street opticians will happily take your old reading glasses from you; they are sent off to Vision Aid Overseas who distribute them around the world, giving people the gift of sight again.

Rows of secondhand books for sale

Books 

Not all charity shops take books so if you have some which are in good condition, why not consider offering them to a local library, playgroup or school.

You could also try a trade-in site (We Buy Books, Ziffit or Music Magpie).  Download their apps and use the bar code reader to get an immediate trade-in value for your book.  Whilst some books are only worth 5p others do get trade-in values of £2-5. As postage is free, the income can soon mount up. One of my recent clients paid for her session with me through trading in some old books!

These trade-in sites also take DVDs and CDs and will accept mixed boxes of books and DVDs, something to bear in mind if you decide to go completely digital.

Bras – don’t burn them just yet

The charities Smalls for All and Against Breast Cancer accept bras which are in good used condition and then send them on to help women in African countries.

If you come across any unopened packets of ladies’ or children’s pants (or want to buy some to donate) then Smalls for All will also take these.

A pair of blue high heel shoes being discarded

Shoes

Most charity shops will accept shoess but there are also a charities, such as Sal’s Shoes which collect outgrown children’s shoes and distribute them to countries around the world – finding, in their words, “new feet for preloved shoes”.

Toiletries and Make Up

If you have a stash of toiletries left over from Christmas gifts or some miniatures acquired from hotel bathrooms which you’re not going to use, why not contact your local council to see if they have a collection scheme for a local women’s refuge or homeless centre as they are always looking for donations to give to the people who go to them for help.

Give and makeup is a charity which helps women in the London and Cardiff areas and will take toiletry and make up donations by post.

Bedding

Homeless centres and night shelters are always grateful for donations of unwanted bedding such as sheets, duvets and blankets but it’s always worth checking to see what they need (my local night shelter can only take single duvets).

If you’re an animal lover then vets or animal charities may also take some bedding blankets and towels to use as bedding in cages.

Rails of brightly coloured clothes in a charity shop

Clients often say that not knowing what to do with their edited belongings can be a block to getting these items out of their house. Now that you have some ideas about where to donate and send your items, you can declutter with peace of mind, knowing that your unwanted items will soon be on their way to becoming useful once again and bringing joy to someone else.

If you would like some guidance with your own decluttering, you can 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.

 

Snowdrops in sunshine

Organise to make the most of your outdoor space this spring!

Spring means snowdrops, daffodils and birds singing. The sun gets up earlier, it goes to bed later, the air seems fresher. If you have an outdoor space – whether it’s a garden, balcony, patio or a few steps – it suddenly seems more inviting. Invest a little time this spring to make the most of it. Moira Stone, owner of Uncluttered in Wales, APDO member and keen gardener, takes us through what we need to be organising to prepare our outdoor spaces for springtime.

You’ll probably need to get something out of your garden shed or garage. Is it difficult to find things because it’s so cluttered? Don’t despair. Focus on the task in hand, that’s organising your outdoor space for spring, and make a note to come back to sorting out the garage or shed later.

Declutter and tidy up a bit

  • Pick up any litter that’s blown into your space.
  • Remove fallen leaves and sticks from the pots, borders and lawn.
  • Clear away any other plant debris left over from summer and autumn and put it on the compost bin.
  • Weed a little – those pesky dandelions seed everywhere and soon get a grip.
  • Cut back the ornamental grasses that die down in winter.

 

daffodils growing in a park

I’d like to make a special plea for the garden pond and other water features. Give them a little TLC by clearing out the debris. Leave it on the side for 24 hours so any pond life captured can make its way back into the water – it helps the pond in so many ways. Then put the rest on the compost heap. Your water features will thank you for it!

Spring clean

There are days when it’s quite warm enough to sit outside with a cup of coffee and admire the great outdoors. That’s so much nicer when you’re sitting on clean garden furniture in an organised space.

Firstly, wipe away the green algae that has flourished on wood and glass in the generally mild and damp winter.

Next, bring the furniture out into direct sunlight and give the covers a good shake. Clean by wiping the furniture gently with a soft cloth and very dilute washing-up liquid. Gently scrub any dirt away with a small brush or old toothbrush. Leave the furniture to dry thoroughly.

Finally, brush up along steps, paths, patios and other hard surfaces to make them look neat.

tea cup and saucer on a white outdoor table next to pink flowers

Organise and display

Abundance is a sure-fire way to make an impact in an outdoor space. Do this by putting like with like, something that professional organisers love to do. Several pots of daffodils or crocus or tulips clustered together, for example, make a much bigger statement than when they are on their own.

Enjoy your outdoor space!

If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space of whatever size or shape, enjoy it! If it’s got a little out of hand, then an APDO professional organiser, especially one interested in gardening, would be happy to help.

You can read Moira’s previous garden organising post for APDO 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