When you’ve lost someone, the decluttering process is tough

I was pretty much born to be a Clutter Fairy, ask anyone I know, it’s not really work for me, it is second nature to be organised and I genuinely enjoy helping people declutter their homes.

Today I was reminded of something though – just how emotionally difficult decluttering can be. You see, I’ve been doing some decluttering of my own at our family home. I lost my Mum a few years ago to cancer. One minute it was Christmas and she wasn’t feeling too well, by Spring she’d been diagnosed and before the start of the Summer she was gone. She was 56, far too young to being saying goodbye.mourning-214439_1280

We thought about decluttering often, but it never felt quite the right time. But after 4 years had passed we were ready as a family and it was time to start clearing some of her belongings out. Everyone had their chance to take what they wanted and a little more time to get used to the idea. Not that it made it any easier for us. I declutter for a living, but I still found it very hard. I found myself apologising repeatedly to Mum for letting things go, there were the occasional tears and sometimes I just had to take a few minutes for a sit down, cup of tea and a quiet moment to myself.

But I understand that’s all part of the process and whether it’s a separation, bereavement, illness, breakdown of a relationship, redundancy, or whatever horrible stressful situation has been thrown at you, the outcome can often be that things get on top of you. It took my family a few years to come to terms with the fact that we would have to let go of Mum’s possessions, and honestly, there are a few things we just couldn’t bear to part with even a few years down the line.

But I know Mum would be proud, everything that left the house went to her favourite charity and all of her possessions were treated with the love and respect that they deserve.

  • Remember that to preserve memories you need to edit the highlights. If, for example, there is a dinner service that reminds you of happy family times, but it isn’t ever going to be used, keep one place setting rather than the whole service.
  • Decluttering the belongings of a loved one is often done in stages. Time is a great healer. Declutter what feels right now and then tackle it again in another year or so.
  • Only keep things that remind you of happy times.
  • Involve the whole family – everyone has their own memories of their loved ones and should be allowed to keep their own mementos.

So today has reminded me of what an amazing job our clients do and how proud I am of them that they took the plunge and asked for help and started their own decluttering process. It’s not easy, but it is worth it in the long run. So if you are thinking about calling us, please remember, we understand, we’ve been there, we know what you are going through and we are here to help.

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Make your New Year’s resolution to declutter a reality

I’m into my 7th year as a Clutter Fairy in 2016 and it’s time for me to reflect as a business owner how things are progressing generally. When I started back in 2009 very few people knew about the possibility of having someone in your home to help with your clutter and so it was a bit of a risk as a business model but now, several years on and over 250 clients later, I’m so delighted that the risk has paid off. I’ve got to be honest, it still feels like fun rather than work, but a business it is and so people spend their hard earned cash on having me and my team help them with their cluttered homes and I’m confident enough to say most feel like it’s some of the best money they’ve ever spent. So what kind of clients do we have?

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Jackie, 35, busy mum of 3, works 9 to 5 (and then some) and likes to spend the precious time she has with her husband and kids, finds time to see her girlfriends and generally has a fulfilled life but she never quite gets round to tackling the dumping ground in her spare room. When her girlfriends come round for wine, she sweeps stuff off floors and surfaces into a carrier bag and hurls it into the spare room where it stays. Every time she opens the door, she feels overwhelmed and out of control and just wishes she could get on top of it.

Jackie is capable of decluttering herself, she has very little emotional attachment to stuff, it’s time she lacks. She calls us, schedules a day in her diary, we come, declutter the room together, find a home for everything, talk strategies, and the job gets done. The key here is that it is a scheduled task that is given priority and is finished.

Eleanor, 55, is a mum and grandma.  Eleanor’s home is immaculate and she knows which cupboard everything is in, but there is a lot of it. She has a big home and has been allowed to spread out especially for the last ten years since her kids left home. She would like to move to somewhere more suitable but is stuck in a rut because of all her stuff. Eleanor was brought up by parents of the make do and mend generation. If something has a use, you keep it. She uses the internet all the time but is still not quite sure what paperwork she should keep so keeps everything.

Eleanor needs a helping hand and reassurance that it’s OK to offload some of her stuff. We go through all her papers explaining fully the pros and cons of what to keep and why but always have her comfort zone in mind. We understand and can visualise smaller homes and how much stuff she will be able to manage and we systematically go through all her belongings to work out what will enhance her life going forwards. The key here is reassurance, working through her stuff with a system that she feels in control of and our ability to visualise a smaller home.

Jean, 60, lost her husband ten years ago and has struggled to get in control of so many things since. Her home has become full of stuff and her family periodically come whiles she’s out and sort rooms out, taking bags and bags of stuff to the tip. That makes her feel vulnerable, she can’t find things she knows she has so she buys it again. She feels guilty, embarrassed and thinks she is not as bad as ‘the ones on the telly’ but feels some sympathy for them.

Jean needs help from someone who is objective, non judgemental, practical and sympathetic. Is she a hoarder? Maybe – there are so many definitions – but we are not going to put a label on Jean. She wants to change, has picked up the phone to ask for our help and we are going to try. It will take a while. The clutter has taken years to build up so it’s not disappearing overnight but, every time we come, we will start to see clarity and progress and Jean will see light at the end of the tunnel. The key here is that we will help anyone who wants to change but we are realistic. We have different clients, just like Jean that we work with regularly and have done over the past 6 years but at some point we will get there.

Our clients are all unique; everyone’s lives, homes and circumstances are different and should be dealt with differently. The one common thing is that they have made a resolution to change and asked The Clutter Fairy to help in that process.  Yes, it’s a strange idea to those people who are fully in control of their homes. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it’s going to take you out of your comfort zone and you’ll go through a huge range of emotions. But you will go through the process with someone that cares, tries to make it fun and will finish the job. It will change your life and it’s going to mean that that resolution you made to tackle your clutter in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 is finally going to be kept and 2016 will be your first year of a clutter free lifestyle.