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Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a bereavement volunteer

In this new series of posts, we’ll be interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In the first of this new series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living about becoming a bereavement volunteer.

What is a bereavement volunteer?

Bereavement happens to everybody. We all lose people. And there’s a huge demand for support.

I’m a volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care, a national charity which offers free confidential bereavement support to anybody. No formal referral is needed – clients can just refer themselves. It’s a lovely charity to be involved with. (Cruse Bereavement Care also provides support in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man).

Cruse usually offers introductory sessions on understanding your grief and then one-to-one support or bereavement group support. During the COVID-19 pandemic we’re mainly offering telephone and email support although some areas are providing 1:1 Zoom sessions.

It is very humbling to hear some of the difficult situations that our clients have endured. It feels such a privilege to be able to help in some way.

How did you get interested in this area of work?

I’m a registered independent social worker and I work mainly with people with hoarding behaviours. My clients are often people with disabilities or mental health challenges that lead to an accumulation of clutter.

When you start chatting to clients you can feel their distress. So many seem to have unresolved grief and might have experienced multiple or complicated bereavements. Many have never had any formal support. It all seems to make sense as to why they have difficulties with clutter.

I saw that Cruse were advertising for volunteers and I thought I would love to volunteer, and it would also help so much with my hoarding clients.

hands held in support

Tell us about the training

It’s a great course! You learn so much!

It’s five days, spread over several weeks. It’s often on a Saturday as some volunteers are at work in the week. On completion you get a foundation certificate from the National Counselling Society.

There are some really complex issues around grief. On the course we cover:

  • theories about grief and bereavement
  • practical listening skills
  • group work with lots of role playing (participants take turns to play different roles, listen or observe other people using an assessment tool)
  • different cultural beliefs around funeral traditions, bereavement and grief.

 

There’s homework too as a portfolio is required and this is assessed as part of your foundation certification. It incorporates a reflective journal for the duration of the course, and various pieces of work to demonstrate your understanding of the theories and information you have learnt.

Volunteers also undertake continuing professional development (CPD) by attending a number of study days a year. These include ‘sudden and traumatic death’, ‘death by suicide’ and various other elements such as safeguarding, as part of your volunteer induction. Last year I ran a session on the connection between bereavement and clutter.

How much does the course cost?

The course usually costs a few hundred pounds and is held face-to-face. During the COVID-19 pandemic though, Cruse has moved it online and if you sign up to be a volunteer, it’s free – which is an amazing opportunity.

Being a Cruse bereavement volunteer can be quite flexible. You could volunteer for as little as an hour a week, typically spending six sessions with each client.

What makes a good bereavement volunteer?

Compassion and empathy.

The client needs to feel that they are being listened to, that you are genuine and that you care.

A good rapport is important, and it’s essential that they feel they can trust you and that you will maintain confidentiality – similar skills to supporting people to declutter!

close up of hands holding a mug

How are your clients and business benefitting?

The roles of professional organiser and bereavement volunteer are very well matched. Undertaking the Cruse volunteer training has really enhanced my professional practice and my business. Since completing the course, I’ve drawn on it with almost all of the clients I’ve worked with.

Everyone goes through bereavement at some time in their life and it affects us differently, depending on the relationship with the person who died, and how we remember them. It’s also important to understand that we grieve over more than just people. It might be a relationship, a job or a previous home. We even feel grief about getting older and our lives changing in ways that we can’t control or reverse.

Even the most straightforward declutter and organise or packing and unpacking job can bring up many deeply buried feelings, when a client comes across an item that once belonged to a grandparent or something that reminds them of a special day or event. Having an understanding of this and the theoretical background, as well as the practical skills and counselling techniques, has been invaluable.

Being there to support a client through this process, giving them a safe place to talk, reassuring them that what they are feeling is perfectly understandable and giving them confidence to make choices for their future is a very special part of our job.

Finally, I feel that volunteer work is a wonderful way to build great connections and enhance my own wellbeing. When we give time to others, we get so much more than we give.

Thank you, Lisa, for explaining how beneficial your bereavement volunteer work has been for your clients and business.

If this is a topic that interests you, Margaret Ginger of Cruse Bereavement Care will be speaking at the APDO Conference on 20 May 2021. 
Headshot of APDO member Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy

An insight into hoarding behaviour

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

Hoarding: is it a trait we all share?

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

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

Historical context

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

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

The throwaway generation

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

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

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

Hoarding is a complex issue

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

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

Hoarding as a mental disorder

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

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

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

Working with people with hoarding behaviours

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

APDO Lynda Wylie professional organiser

Interview with a Professional Organiser: Lynda Wylie

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

Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

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

NOW interview Lynda Wylie decluttered organised kitchen

What prompted you to set up your business?

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

Who has influenced you most in your organising business?

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

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

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

What benefits do your clients experience through becoming more organised?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW interview Lynda Wylie decluttered organised cupboard

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

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

What’s your top tip to share?

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

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

 

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

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

APDO member and volunteer Head of Conference Sian Pelleschi

Sian Pelleschi

Who is the APDO Conference for?

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

How does the APDO Conference work?

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


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

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

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

Sounds interesting! What will the virtual event include?

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

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

Tell us more about the programme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There really is something for everyone to enjoy.

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

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

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

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

a bookshelf of organising books

Recommendations from the APDO Book Club bookshelf

APDO’s Book Club was launched in the summer of 2020. Whilst the book club is for APDO members, we wanted to share our thoughts on the books that we have read with a wider audience, in the hope that some of these titles might find their way onto your reading list too. In this post, APDO Book Club co-ordinator Sarah Howley of Organising Solutions reviews some of the books that have made it onto the APDO Book Club bookshelves so far. Over to Sarah…

Headshot of APDO member Sarah Howley

APDO Book Club

When I heard that APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers wanted to introduce a book club, and that they wanted me to be involved in running it, I was overjoyed. As a librarian and life-long book enthusiast, I was thrilled to be given such a golden opportunity to immerse myself in industry literature. This was a chance to expand my reading list, identify new favourites and get together with other organisers to seek out the most interesting finds – I couldn’t volunteer quickly enough! Working alongside Mel Carruthers of More Organised, a plan was formed and before we knew it, the first meeting arrived.

With one book per month taking the spotlight, it’s been difficult to choose between all the amazing books we’d like to feature on our reading list. However, in the spirit of professional development and acknowledging key industry themes, Mel and I aim to curate a diverse and interesting selection for our fellow APDO members to enjoy. You can find a brief review of the first six APDO Book Club choices below.

“Making Space” by Sarah Tierney

This debut novel by Derbyshire writer Sarah Tierney explores themes of mental health. Miriam is fed up with her lacklustre life and purges her belongings in hopes of a fresh start. A chance assignment introduces her to Erik, a troubled artist with hoarding disorder. Their story demonstrates how emotional wellbeing and trauma can affect our attitudes to clutter and decluttering. APDO members were impressed with the author’s handling of the subject matter and found Lisa, the fictional professional organiser, to be a relatable character. Find out more by reading our interview with the author.

The book "Making Space" by Sarah Tierney on a white background

“Dostadning:  The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson

Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish-born artist, offers this practical handbook on getting things in order before you die. Having death cleaned for many people, she pulls together her most useful anecdotes, interlaced with the dry humour of an elderly matriarch who has seen it all. At times, the author seems to eschew sentimentality, yet at others her words are resoundingly beautiful. During the book club meeting, we acknowledged that we all know at least one client, friend or family member who could benefit from this best-selling introduction to the concept of death cleaning.

“The Trauma Cleaner” by Sarah Krasnostein

Sarah Krasnostein’s telling of Sandra Pankhurst’s story is shocking, funny and compelling in equal parts. The author reveres her subject, and you can’t help being a little in awe yourself as you discover more. A terminally ill transgender woman with a tumultuous and often traumatic past, Pankhurst is dedicated to spending her remaining time helping others clean away their own pain. The group discussed how organisers often find themselves in the role of confidante, and shared techniques for dealing with sensitive conversations.

“Atomic Habits” by James Clear

Packed full of exercises, explanations and examples, James Clear makes a convincing argument for swapping big goals for small steps. He emphasises the importance of building good habits and presents us with four laws: make it obvious; make it attractive; make it easy; make it satisfying. Prior to our meeting, several book club members had even felt inspired to create their own good habits! We reflected on the effects of internal and external influences on habit creation and considered how Clear compares to other writers on the same topic, such as Gretchen Rubin (author of Better Than Before).

The book "Atomic Habits" and a notebook and pen on a desk

“The House We Grew Up In” by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell has long been a household name associated with best-selling fiction. In this novel, the children of a woman with hoarding disorder revisit the family home to clear it after her death. Multiple timelines and voices reveal a charmed beginning threaded with moments of unease. A shock event blows the family apart and this is compounded by Lorelai’s attempt to hold tightly on to everything and everyone she can. APDO members often witness how hoarding disorder impacts the loved ones of those who live with it, and in many cases it can be impossible to maintain a close relationship. Together, we considered minimalism and hoarding behaviours on a spectrum, where the level of compulsion can be strong in both extremes.

“Calm Christmas and a Happy New” Year by Beth Kempton

In this festive treat, Beth Kempton combines charming narrative with checklists, cherished memories and contemplative exercises. The book is split into three sections: anticipation (before Christmas), celebration (during Christmas) and manifestation (after Christmas). While religion is mentioned, it is not central to the guidance given. Our book club members were lucky enough to receive a short video from the author, in which she advised on applying Calm Christmas concepts amid a pandemic and entering 2021 with a positive mindset.

What’s next?

Look out for another blog post this summer, featuring a review of our next six books:

  • Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonnenschein
  • Introduction to Coaching Skills by Christian Van Nieuwerburgh
  • Death & Decluttering by Nancy McGovern
  • Decluttering at The Speed of Life by Dana K. White
  • Two more great choices which are soon to be announced.

 

The APDO Book Club is one of the many benefits of joining APDO! You can find out more about becoming a member here!

a client looking at phone during virtual organising session

Virtual organising sessions are a great motivator

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

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

Adapting to a new reality

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual organising and motivation

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

1 Home visits are no longer essential

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

2 Location is irrelevant

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

3 You can declutter with or without a professional present

Remote sessions are very flexible.

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

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

a client at a laptop during a virtual organising session

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

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

Give virtual organising a try!

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

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

Headshot of Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a KonMari consultant

In this series of posts on our members’ professional development, we are interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In this next post in the series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo about becoming a KonMari consultant.  

What is a KonMari consultant?

Marie Kondo is a Japanese tidying guru who’s written a number of books and has a Netflix show. She’s a sweet, nice and kind person. Her trademarked method of tidying is called The Marie Kondo Method™ and often referred to as KonMari.

KonMari consultants focus on what ‘sparks joy’. That means focussing on the positive rather than the negative, focussing on what you want to keep rather than on what to discard.

Generally, consultants follow the specific Marie Kondo Method™. First of all, we work with clients on their vision, which is what they want their life to look like. We then use this as a springboard for decluttering and the decluttering process.

We use categories of items to prevent looking at the same thing over and over again. We work on categories in a specific order, beginning with clothes, then books, paper and then komono which is everything else (although, obviously, we split this into sub-categories so that it is not too overwhelming). Finally, we work on sentimental items – it’s important to leave this to the end so that you are practised at knowing what sparks joy.

I haven’t found anyone who the Marie Kondo Method™ hasn’t suited. People aren’t robots, of course, and it can be a very flexible system if that’s needed to suit the client.

How did you get interested in the KonMari Method™?

I’ve been an expat for most of my life, having to move at very short notice. Leading a decluttered and organised life and being ready to move is a way of feeling less pressure in that situation.  And focussing positively on what to keep is so much better than thinking about what has to be discarded. We took this approach when my mother moved and it was rather fantastic fun!

What makes a good KonMari consultant?

Kindness and empathy. It’s probably the same for all professional organisers.

Also not pushing my own agenda. I’ve done my KonMari decluttering and my life is not the same as yours. If you struggle or find yourself in a muddle, I’m here to listen, show compassion and help.

A tidy kitchen

Tell us about the training

The training is a rigorous procedure to ensure that standards are maintained and that clients know what they are getting!

First of all, you have to read Marie Kondo’s books and apply the method to your own home, taking photographs to document the process.

Then you apply to go on a certification course. I attended the first European KonMari seminar in London in April 2018 which was three days long. Now they are mainly being run online, although there are still some in-person courses.

You then spend at least 30 hours with a practice client, submitting reports throughout the process. If this is up to standard, you then take an online exam. If you don’t pass then you do get a second chance at it. If you fail for a second time you are then mentored by a certified consultant.

After this, you have an informal interview, pay the certification fee and are then listed on the KonMari website.

There are a number of levels of certification from Green (newly certified) to Master, depending on the number of hours you’ve spent with clients. I’m currently Gold (600 hours) working towards Platinum level.

Of course, you’re learning all the time. Each client and situation is different.  There is a fantastic supportive community of consultants and you can always access help from KonMari Inc.

How much does the course cost?

Virtual certification courses that last ran in September 2020 cost US$2,000.

How is your business benefitting?

Training in the Marie Kondo Method™ gave me the confidence to start The Tidy Coo (I hadn’t heard about APDO training at that point) and it gives me a structure to help other people, whatever the situation.  Clients have often read Marie Kondo’s books and specifically want to work using the Marie Kondo Method™ and come to me for that reason.

What’s your advice to someone thinking about following this training?

Go for it! It’s worth knowing that consultants are encouraged to show the Method by example, by living lives that spark joy. We do this by looking for things that we love and focussing on things that spark joy!

Thank you Rosie for telling us about your KonMari journey and how it benefits both your clients and business.

If you would like to find out more about APDO members and their specialisms, take a look at the Find An Organiser directory.

 

 

an overhead photo of a woman typing at her laptop

Virtual organising: What is it, and how does it work?

Since the start of the pandemic, virtual organising has become more and more popular and many of our APDO members are working with their clients in this way. But what is “virtual organising” exactly, and how does it work? In this National Organising Week post, five APDO professional organisers tell us about their virtual work with their clients.

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do

I help busy, overwhelmed people get back in control of their time and learn new habits to stay productive, both in their work and personal lives. At the moment I’m working with a lot of people who are working from home due to COVID-19 and struggling to focus and stay productive. We look at what’s stopping them from getting things done and put in place new routines, structures and techniques which help them to get the most out of their time. This can be a lifesaver, especially for those in busy, demanding jobs, perhaps with a team working for them and often an extremely high workload.

I work entirely virtually (via Zoom), and this works really well for productivity coaching. The client generally joins meetings from their normal workplace, at home or in the office, and they can share their screen when we discuss their inbox, diary, or other documents. We might also work together on screen to create a new daily or weekly schedule, or to brainstorm work objectives or priorities. The client will then go away to try out their new habits, and we’ll discuss how they got on at the next session, providing both support and accountability.

I love working virtually because it means I can work with clients across the UK (and the world!) and can be flexible with sessions depending on what the client needs.

 

Tilo Flache of ClutterMeister

These days it is challenging to meet clients at their homes, and I have shifted a good portion of my business to virtual organising. In the process I have found that there are great advantages to using the virtual method.

For one thing, I don’t consider decluttering and organising a client’s home ‘just an emergency measure’, but a necessary learning experience. My involvement with the client is no longer hands-on, and that makes any physical activity a little more time consuming – after all, there is one less pair of hands around to get things done! With virtual organising, the client is required to do all the work themselves, which allows us to use the tactile memory to reinforce the process and ingrain it in their body memory. This makes it much easier to remember and repeat the steps I guide them through in our sessions.

The fact that I can only ever see either the work site or my client’s face can make the work a little more challenging: part of my job is to keep my clients safe, both physically and mentally. Keeping an eye out for unusual reactions often requires a lot of creative camera work to stay connected with my client. The switch between work and face allows for bursts of productive work, followed by a short break with a different, more relaxed focus, before returning to the job at hand. On the plus side, separating the practical activities from the mental and emotional work can be a game-changer, especially if the client tends to be unfocused and easily distracted.

I firmly believe that there are a good number of typical organising projects that actually work better virtually than they do with in-person assistance. If the job does not require a second person to be in the space, or the client is worried about the state of their home and wants to show me only the space they are working on right now, virtual assistance can work wonders.

Tilo Flache's desk

Kate Galbally of Better Organised

I recently worked with a client who approached me about improving her time management and her productivity. She has a management role within the NHS with a very heavy workload and rapidly shifting priorities. Over the course of a few sessions, we explored how she can manage her priorities, minimise procrastination and avoid overwhelm. I introduced her to some tools and techniques that are simple to implement and easy to maintain. We also worked together on decluttering and organising her emails and her diary, so that both are manageable and work more effectively for her.

At our last session, she said that working together has definitely made a difference to how she manages her time, that her emails are the most manageable that they have been in a long time and that she feels confident in the way she has planned out her time going forward. This has reduced procrastination and meant that she is able to focus better on deep work and not have to bring work home with her.

 

Lisa Pantling of Clutter Free Living

Before the pandemic, I hadn’t particularly considered working online even though many people do so,  but I gave the option of working virtually to a new client whom I was going to visit at home, but had to cancel due to COVID-19. They were actually delighted with the possibility of still being able to address their difficulties with their ‘stuff’ and felt physically able to execute the actual decluttering and organising themselves.

My client had a recent diagnosis of Asperger’s and this had explained for them the reason why they struggled with sensory overload, and often felt ‘frozen’ in terms of working through some processes and seeing projects through to fruition. It also explained their feelings of being overwhelmed by all the decisions and options available.

The next step for the client was to understand how they could manage their needs and put some systems in place that they can maintain going forward.

We talked through their priorities and where they felt ‘stuck’. Then we cracked on by just grabbing a pile of items piled on a dining chair. It was a total mixture of items:  bills, greetings cards, work documents, old receipts, leaflets, junk mail.

We addressed each category in turn, making decisions about how to deal with them in the moment and moving forward. The client took notes, including on any future actions they were going to take. Part of the success of this method involves agreeing ‘rules’ about how to deal with certain items, for example,  greetings cards. I generally ask questions such as what value does the card hold: is it a beautiful image, was it from a special person, does it hold a special message or memory? The client felt that most of the cards they had held on to did not feel important and that they did not want or need to keep them so many could be discarded. We continued with this method and the client was able to carry out lots of work independently in between our sessions as they now had a way to rationalise their decision making.

a hand using a laptop - keyboard

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire

The idea of being in my client’s home virtually, sitting on the side dresser on her device with me in Manchester, UK, and my client is in Memphis, Tennessee, is somewhat strange, but also brilliant.

I have spent several hours virtually sorting through my client’s belongings. I’ve guided her through the steps needed to make her closet space somewhere she loves going into, not a place where she feels uncomfortable.

Sorting through over 20+ years of clothing can be painful. Asking ourselves the questions of why we keep the clothes we do is often difficult. Are we clinging onto the memories of when we wore them last, or mourning the fact we no longer fit into dresses and jackets two sizes too small? Whatever the reasons, if dealt with in an understanding way, 4241 miles apart as the crow flies made no difference at all: the job got done.

We laughed, we shed the odd tear, we were productive, often silly. The end result, virtually or in person, was the same. We spoke the same language literally and figuratively. Although more physically challenging for her than me, the end result was an uncluttered organised space. A full 50% of the clothes were donated, as well as a multitude of belts, scarves, and accessories.

During all the hours I spent guiding and supporting my client, she continually said,

“It’s like you are here with me”.

And, ultimately, that was all that mattered.

If you are interested in finding out more about virtual organising, you can find our members who offer this service in our Find an Organiser directory.

a family gatherered around a cardboard box marked "donations"

Organising your home: Getting other householders on board

“It’s a case of the old, ‘You can lead a horse to water…’ problem!” says Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home.

Encouraging other household members to declutter and organise alongside you, or for themselves, can be a real challenge but help is at hand from our members who have some suggestions to help get everyone on board.

Follow my lead

Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space says, “The person who has committed to getting more organised needs to start with their own things”. Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms agrees. “Lead by example. When other people in the household see and experience first-hand the difference decluttering and organising makes to a family member, they often become interested in what the individual is doing, sparking positive conversations and feedback”. Laura continues, “They’ll notice how much happier and more relaxed the person doing the organising has become, thus opening themselves up to giving it a go”. Lynda is convinced this gentle, patient approach can be a real recipe for change.

For those of us with more people than usual working in our home, Karen Eyre-White of Go Do says, “If you’re finding it stressful that your partner or other family member isn’t keeping a good work schedule, or setting good boundaries when working from home, find small ways to show them what you’re doing. For example, pin your schedule to the fridge, or cover up your work area at the weekend. They’ll soon start wondering what it’s all about and you’ll find them asking you questions, or simply following your lead”.

A comfortable sofa in an organised room setting

Think of others

Involving others in your decluttering journey is a key part of success.  Laura Williams of OrganisedWell explains further: “Think about the reasons, benefits and vision for the space and really engage all parties in these. Also understand any concerns others might have and talk about boundaries. It may be necessary to leave items or areas that family members aren’t comfortable with organising until they’ve seen the results elsewhere and can follow the great example their family members have set”.

Decluttering coach Suzy Kell, who specialises in helping couples to work on their organising together, agrees. “After organising my own possessions, I waded into joint ownership territory and I hit a wall”, she remembers. “But then I realised it was unfair to force conversations and decisions on my husband without warning”. It was only when Suzy’s husband watched the documentary ‘Minimalism: a film about the important things’ about a year later that he was ready to have those conversations with her – and by that time he was all in! “We then did a mega clear out and we started changing our relationship with belongings forever”, Suzy recalls. “Together we were unstoppable!”

A newly renovated white kitchen

Involve young people

Sian Winslade of Inspired Living Cheshire reminds us that children and young people need a positive role model to follow so they can develop habits they’ll take with them into adulthood. “My youngest daughter is 12 and is forever making changes to her bedroom and her drawers. She is aware that in order to keep her tiny room neat, everything needs a place. I am so proud of her.  Since I started organising professionally, she could see that the changes made in our own home were hugely beneficial to a smooth-running household. Getting her involved with tasks such as with making labels has made all the difference”.

Shelly Moss of Kewniek agrees. “With children and young people it’s important to get their buy-in from the start. Explain what you are doing and how they can help. For example, you might explain how somebody less fortunate would love to have some of their special toys”.

A pile of children's books

Keep talking

The presence of a professional organiser in your home can often help promote conversation where it might previously have been a difficult topic to broach. Amanda suggests highlighting the discretion of a professional organising service, emphasising the fact that they will never touch someone’s stuff without their permission. She says, “Speak to them and explain what is causing you an issue and why. Explain how things could change with their support and perhaps how much involvement, if any, you expect from them. Focus on the positive outcomes as a result and why this is important”.

Focus on the benefits

There are fantastic benefits to getting everyone in your household on board so keeping these in mind will encourage you to keep going. Not only can being organised reduce arguments over lost things or increased spending on duplicates that can’t be found, it can get everyone working together on a shared goal. Living in a more organised space can really ease the pressure on family dynamics, reducing stress and giving everyone more time with each other. Tidying and cleaning routines become easier to manage as a team, so it helps to share the load with everyone in your household.

If this post has encouraged you to talk to your family about organising your home, why not show them Monday’s post on getting started on your organising project to kick off the conversation. 

a yellow organising bag

What’s in an organiser’s tool kit?

When your professional organiser arrives at your home, they will have our bag of trusted tools with them, as well as a skillset built up over their years of experience. Both are personal to each of them and the way that they approach their work. In this post, our members give a sneak peek into their toolkits. 

What’s in your bag?

Nicky Davie of TidyGirl lists out the contents of her toolkit:

  • Marker pen for labels. They’re not always used but some clients like to label items.
  • Pen and diary to schedule further appointments and follow-up phone calls.
  • Mobile phone for taking project photos and showing my clients ideas and inspiration.
  • Phone charger and power pack so I can be organised, even when my phone runs low.
  • Re-usable boxes for sorting items in a systematic and environmentally conscious way.
  • Biodegradable bags to remove donations, recycling, and rubbish.
  • Business cards to leave with the client if they want to recommend me to family and friends.
  • Marie Kondo’s children’s book “Kiki & Jax” to help parents understand how to help their children organise their rooms.
  • A snack and drink to maintain momentum and help me keep my energy levels up!

 

Shelly Moss of Kewniek has a similar list. “My good old Mary Poppins bag has everything you would expect”, she says. “It is a proper bag of tricks!”:

  • Label maker
  • Sellotape
  • Packing tape
  • Mini toolbox
  • Clean indoor shoes
  • A candle to help wooden drawers run more smoothly
  • A pair of socks to slip on my hands for wiping over blinds

 

A label maker on a desk

Marie Bateson of Cut the Clutter includes a small step ladder in her list of essentials, to help reach higher areas, and to sit on if sorting on the floor.

Amanda Manson of Orderly Office and Home adds to the list:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie pens
  • Plastic wallets
  • Scissors
  • Elastic bands & bulldog clips

The power of Post-its

“I couldn’t live without Post-it notes!”, says Laura Gutowski of Everything In Its Space. “They remind us which piles are which when doing the first run-through of decluttering (keep, mend, donate, sell, recycle, and so on)”. Laura also used Post-it notes as temporary labels while her clients make sure that their new, tailored organisation system works for them, and can be easily maintained and enjoyed. “Quick to make, easy to use, and guilt-free to scrap if the system needs tweaking!”

APDO member Laura Williams decluttering signs

OrganisedWell’s customised sorting cards

Custom signs

Laura Williams of OrganisedWell has a fun way of labelling sorting piles. “My customised signs travel everywhere with me”, she says. “They make it super-easy to allocate the things we’ve sorted through into For Sale, Recycling, Shredding, Bin, and so on”.

Timer

Laura also recognises how helpful it can be to have a deadline to complete a task. She uses a kitchen timer to help her clients work in bursts to focus, or to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Sian Pelleschi of Sorted adds to the list. “I bring a number of things with me when I’m working with clients: my physical toolkit and my mental toolkit”, explains Sian. “My physical kit has everything from my screwdriver set to bin bags, cleaning cloths to my favourite tool – my label maker!”

APDO member Sian Pelleschi's organisers toolkit

Sian Pelleschi’s work bag

Mental toolkit

Sian’s mental toolkit includes bringing a calm but positive mindset, a practical approach, and an eagerness to help. “It’s so important to have this mindset”, she says, “as a lot of my clients are either nervous, worried, feeling a little down in the dumps and have generally hit rock bottom before calling me. They need me to help pick them up and get them going and if I’m not in the right mindset, how can I help them?”

Claire Lawrence of Let’s Get Sorted! agrees. “In terms of mindset and skills, it’s all about keeping clients positive and feeling that they are making progress. So, mini goals, lots of encouragement, a list to tick things off as we go, and rewards for getting through the list. Well, a cup of tea and a biscuit anyway!”

Privileged position

“A professional organiser must be non-judgemental, patient and an active listener”, says Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms. A large part of being an organiser involves working alongside someone in their personal space, helping them make decisions about things which may be deeply sensitive or never previously shared or expressed. “It’s a very privileged position”, explains Lynda. “As for physical tools, I wouldn’t be without my labelling machine, coloured bin bags or polish!”

APDO member Lynda Wylie's organisers toolkit

Lynda Wylie’s organising kit

Flexibility

Karen Eyre-White of Go Do is a productivity coach who helps her clients to be more productive when they work from home. “I bring flexibility and adaptability with me when I work with my clients”, explains Karen. “I make sure my solutions are bespoke for each client. It’s vital that we find new habits and work patterns which work specifically for the personality and preferences of each client”.

If you enjoyed this insight into our organisers’ toolkit, did you see yesterday’s post outlining our members’ Top 10 organising products?