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Professional organiser Anita Fortes of A Neater Life organising a wardrobe

A day in the life of a professional organiser: Anita Fortes

Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a professional organiser? In this post, Anita Fortes of A Neater Life takes us behind the scenes of her business and guides us through a typical day in her life as a professional organiser.

Anita’s day

One of the things I love about running my own business is choosing my working hours. That said, I’m an early riser, usually up before 6 a.m., when my Labrador Retriever takes me for a walk on Overstrand beach.

After showering and breakfast, it’s time to deal with admin tasks.  After moving to a new house last year, I’ve progressed from using the kitchen table to an office on the first floor. I check emails and add a little more to a feature on organising which I’m writing for a local magazine.

Then I prepare for my in-person work with my client, Eva*. I look through the notes from my last visit, make lunch for later and pack up a few resources. I see my job as supporting people to make a change in their lives. It just happens to be focused on belongings and clutter.

Living in rural Norfolk invariably means a long drive, but it’s a good opportunity to think about how I will support my client. When I arrive, I unpack storage boxes, stationery and a labelling machine and, after a quick cuppa, we get started.

Open notebook and a pen next to a pot plant

Eva is a young woman with a busy family life and a demanding job. She’s accomplished, intelligent, and hoards paperwork…lots of it.  Documents, magazines, newspapers and notebooks are in piles everywhere.  The sheer volume had become overwhelming, so she asked for help. We’ve been working together regularly for several months and she’s made amazing progress. Our agreed aim is to reduce the paperwork sufficiently to create a contained filing system of documents, stored in one place. To make progress with this, it’s important to work to a structure.

I help her to prioritise and organise her thinking by sorting documents into categories. To encourage decluttering I offer new perspectives: Is it essential to keep that? How will keeping it benefit you? I check that she is not becoming too absorbed reading each document. This keeps the momentum going and makes the best use of the time we have.

I’m aware of Eva’s rising anxiety levels, so we take regular short breaks to diffuse.  If it becomes tricky, I mention her ‘clutter free’ ambition – she would love to set up a business consultancy. I’ll definitely help her to achieve this.

Five hours of decluttering is enough because it’s quite intense.  We finish the session with a cup of tea, highlight our achievements and chat about the aims for next time. I give her a small task to focus on until then, for example, clearing her desk daily.

An organised white desk with a plant, vases and gold A ornament against a wire grid noticeboard and white wall

On the drive home, I call in to see a new client. She wants to declutter and reorganise rooms to create a spare bedroom. She tells me that she is taking medication for depression. We arrange a session for the following week.

Once home I feed and walk the dog. Later, I check emails and catch up with invoicing. If I can cope with the frustration, I might do some social media marketing.

Or I might just enjoy a large glass of wine.

* Names have been changed to protect clients’ confidentiality. All APDO-registered organisers adhere to the APDO Code of Ethics.

If Anita’s post has inspired you to start your own professional organising business, APDO offers regular training and support for organisers. Visit the training page to find out more!

yellow and white flowers arranged in a vase on an organised wooden coffee table

Finding your motivation during lockdown

Have your decluttering efforts been stalled by the COVID-19 lockdown? Are you struggling to find motivation to get organised? Help is at hand! APDO member Lynda Wylie, owner of organising business Tidy Rooms, shares her tips on overcoming procrastination and getting that project finished!

Starting (and finishing) a decluttering or organising project during lockdown

If I’m honest, it’s taken me a while to write this blog about motivation. I’ve been lacking the impetus to get going during lockdown. The idea of writing the blog made it straight on to my To Do list (Colornote for Android), but without a specific deadline, and with a growing list of priorities and glorious weather tempting me outside, it just didn’t move any further.

I know from talking to clients that this is similar to what can happen when you decide to start decluttering. Other things suddenly become much more appealing (even jobs you’ve been putting off for ages) and you can quickly lose your initial enthusiasm to get stuck in. Feelings of overwhelm are very common and you may wonder where and how to get started.

The talk of lifting the lockdown finally got me focused again on writing. Having a deadline is a powerful force for getting your project underway.

a tidy organised decluttered kitchen counter with white cupboards

5 ways to overcome procrastination:

Here are 5 established ways to get your decluttering off the ground during lockdown:

1 Set yourself a clear deadline

Deadlines don’t just apply to big tasks, like decluttering the garage or setting up a filing system. Smaller tasks  such as clearing the ironing basket or changing the beds respond just as well.  You could tell someone about your deadline, even asking them to check in with you as it approaches. Promising yourself a reward once you’ve done the task can also inspire you to get going.

2 Break a bigger job down into smaller chunks

Start with a small goal.  Setting out to file a handful of papers will feel more achievable than tackling the entire bagful. Once you’ve done it, you’ll feel great. Plus, once you’re underway you’ll often do more than you expect. If your goal is to tackle one shelf and you keep going to finish the whole bookcase, you’ll feel fantastic. Remember to step back and appreciate your hard work when you’re finished.

3 Schedule a time to get started

Making a decluttering appointment with yourself, just as you might to see the GP or go for a run, shows it’s important to you. Allocating a slot in your day helps move it from “To Do” to “Doing”, and encourages you to start. Schedule more time than you think you might need too so you know you can finish the job and maybe even have bonus time at the end for a cuppa.

4 Invite a virtual body double along

This is a great technique to try during lock down. A trusted friend works alongside you from their home by video call, whilst you work away on your task at the other end of the camera. Their presence is stabilising, helping you to concentrate and keep going when you might otherwise have got distracted or given up.

5 Focus on the end result

When you’re doing physical decluttering, focus on the space you’re gaining and how you’d like to use it for the things you’re keeping, rather than what you’re getting rid of. Planning how you want to use your new clear spaces can be really exciting and provide the incentive to get you going.

 

If you’re still wondering how to get started on your project, why not try a fun ‘Show and Tell’ video call with your friends? One of my clients has been inviting her friends each week to show and tell a category such as shoes, scarves or bags. In preparation for these weekly calls, everyone has been decluttering and organising their belongings and storage ready to show. Lockdown creativity with great results!

Many APDO professional organisers are working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown, offering “virtual” sessions over the internet and phone. If you are looking for support or accountability you can browse APDO’s “Find an organiser” page to find an organiser to help you.

 

Click here to read more blog posts from APDO

Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson smiling

Interview with an organiser: Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson

Have you ever wondered what being a professional organiser is like beyond the Facebook page? You might wonder if their homes are spotless, why they started their business, and of course the ultimate question; how do they stay so organised? APDO sat down with Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson to talk home, business and top tips on what it’s like to be a professional organiser.

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

Being organised has given me more time, better physical and mental health, improved productivity, and reduced anxiety. It really has changed my life. Having a home that is easy to maintain means I can concentrate on the things that really matter to me – my family, my business, and my well-being.

What is your favourite thing or area to organise?

I love organising living rooms and playrooms. Helping a client create a welcoming and calm living space that they enjoy being in, and are happy to invite guests into, is really satisfying.

What habits have helped you to be more organised?

Having a goal! Setting goals for my home keeps me focused and disciplined in my organising. I’m always looking to find more time to spend with my daughters and myself; having an organised home helps me do that. Having a goal keeps me motivated and accountable.

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

Ha! My home looks like any home that has two young children in it – there is Lego on the floor and there are clothes to put away.  But living with less and being organised means that it doesn’t take long to ‘reset’ our spaces. All items have a home so even when the house has become messy, it doesn’t take long to put it all away.  Our house is organised so that is functions well and my family can relax and enjoy being in it, but it certainly doesn’t look like a show home!

What benefits do your clients experience from becoming more organised?

The biggest benefit is that they no longer feel a sense of dread when they enter their homes. They describe feeling calmer and less anxious. Often clients say that they have gained extra time in their day as they can easily find things, and it’s quicker to tidy up. Most importantly, clients say that they are now able to move forward with other aspects of their lives that they have previously felt stuck in. Removing clutter and getting organised gives them the space (both physical and mental) to take the next steps in their lives.

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

Sticky labels and pens are useful to keep track of items that need to be taken to the charity shop; recycled; or re-homed elsewhere. I also take a folding board to fold clothes neatly and a label-maker to label boxes. Most importantly, I bring with me a calm demeanour and stacks of empathy. Clients need to be listened to without judgement and for me to hold space for them while they work through their organising challenges.

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

I came across an impressive Harry Potter memorabilia collection. The reason the client wanted to organise their home in the first place, was to get rid of clutter so that their HP collection could take centre stage.

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

I’ve helped several families get on top of their clutter and get organised when they have been very close to their baby’s due date! It’s wonderful to instil a sense of calm in the client and their home before such a momentous occasion.

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

My dream clients are wonderful, creative, passionate people who are time-poor, overwhelmed and have become stuck. They often feel alone and anxious and are looking for a steady hand to help them. They are big-hearted and always have something to teach me too. All my clients have it in them to make change for themselves, they usually just need someone to motivate, empower, and most importantly, believe in them.

What’s your top tip to share?

Getting organised requires motivation and discipline. On the days you feel motivated, use that momentum to tackle an organising job you’ve been putting off and tackle it in small chunks so you don’t get overwhelmed. On the days you don’t feel motivated, try to be disciplined; you know you will feel better when you tackle that stack of post for example. Set yourself a timer, and reward yourself with a stroll around the park, or a coffee and a pastry when it’s done.

If you’d like to get in touch with Hannah about her services, you can do so by contacting her on her website here.

If you’re interested in becoming a professional organiser, and want to learn more about APDO, visit our Why Join APDO page.

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.

sentimental flowers

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.

Marie Kondo organised wall

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 into 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 homework 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.

Organised wall

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.