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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Gift recycling – are you a fan?

gift-1008894_1920.jpgHow fast did November go by? Can’t believe it’s December already and the seasons’ festivities are almost upon us. December is a busy time for us declutterers as it starts to dawn on people what needs to be done to prepare for that ‘perfect’ day.

It would be so nice if our homes were visitor ready year round but invariably they’re not and we always have a flurry of new clients wanting to declutter so they can feel proud of their homes when family and friends come to visit. Whilst I’m a big fan of November being the best time of the year to declutter, decluttering in December presents options to think a bit differently.

As a declutterer I have close encounters with people’s bad shopping decisions time after time. For me, if you’ve bought it, not used it and often can’t remember even buying it, it’s a no brainer to let it go to someone else who can enjoy it. For most of the year the options of where to offload your stuff are fairly standard:

  • family/friends (but please make sure they actually want your stuff so you’re not just involved in the great clutter pass the parcel game)
  • Ebay/Gumtree/Facebook selling sites
  • charity shops
  • Freecycle

But in December there are lots of brilliant ways to pass on your stuff and feel your impulsive purchase was not wasted. It’s called gift recycling. To be fair, it’s something that many people are uncomfortable with but as we all work towards a society with less waste it’s worth thinking about. December is a time for reflection on the year past, thanking those who’ve helped us and for thinking about those less fortunate. There are infinite opportunities to give gifts and extend kindness

  • teachers, TAs, lunchtime assistants, lollipop people (I’m pretty sure they’re not called lollipop people anymore so if someone wants to enlighten me I’d be grateful!)
  • toy appeals
  • food banks
  • secret santa gifts
  • school fairs
  • bottle tombolas

There are lots of possibilities. This list only scratches the surface. All you need to do is a good search around your home, look in drawers, wardrobes, in your food cupboards, in the loft, spare room. Gather your unwanted things together, make sure they are in date/not too dusty/still in fashion and gift away. Let the guilt go – despite your worst fears Auntie Beryl isn’t going to pop round and demand to know why you’re not wearing your Britney Spears slippers but someone somewhere is going to be delighted with them! And you are one step closer to that clutter free home. It’s a Win Win situation.

What’s the best home improvement you can make?

 

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Ideal Home Show 2014

I had a really interesting day at the Ideal Home Show at Earls Court in London on Friday. I was delighted to be asked to be an expert declutterer in the Anglian Home Advice Centre. I chatted to lots of people about to embark on extensions, big interior design projects, new house builds and so on but over and over again people were admitting to having a real problem with clutter. So, as I looked around at the high tech storage solutions, beds that morph into home offices, furniture designs that promise to ‘ declutter in one step’ (with a cupboard – how does that work?!), I think I could challenge the big players at the show with my offering. A session with the Clutter Fairy is effective, straightforward, efficient and definitely cheaper than an extension!

In a decluttering project, storage and what form it needs to take should be investigated late. All too often I hear of people about to embark on a declutter who first pop off to IKEA to buy extra storage. Not necessary! Declutter first – identify what you are going to keep, gather like with like and then see if you have gaps in your storage. At that point you will know whether or not you need anything, whether it is utility or something more aesthetically appealing, what the dimensions should be and whether it needs to be divided into sections and so on.

Decluttering is a cathartic process – you will never be disappointed; you will always get a great result. Your rooms appear bigger, you have more space, you can find what you need, you save time searching for things you’ve lost, you save money not shopping for things you already have. Need I go on?

All too often, we spend vast amounts of money, time and effort trying to create the perfect space in which to live. Whether you want a storage box or an extra room, if you don’t clear your clutter it will never be enough. Maybe that perfect home is already there; it’s just buried knee deep in stuff you don’t need. So, give it a go, invest in the best home improvement you’ve ever made and allocate time to a declutter or go one step further and ask for expert help to guide you through the process. You know where we are!

 

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Me at the Anglian Home Improvement Advice Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never entirely sure about what to take to the Charity Shop?

One thing my Clutter Fairy clients love is the fact that I take stuff away at the end of the day. It’s gone for good and with it a weight is lifted. At the end of every session I drop off at my local PDSA Charity Shop. Sometimes, I’m happy to tell them that it’s a lucrative stash, other days, not so good.

There are definitely misconceptions around about what can and can’t be sent to the Charity Shop so I made an appointment with the lovely Ambia, Manager at the PDSA in Sale, and thought I would get straight from the horse’s mouth exactly what happens to our stuff when we drop it off.

The basic message is that at least 98% of the stuff that comes through the door is used in some way and most of that sees some kind of financial return for the charity whether it be sold, recycled, ragged etc. I found that statistic absolutely staggering.

Here are some questions I get asked alot. Ambia answered them all for me.

If my jumper has a hole in it or I have an odd sock, surely the Charity Shop doesn’t want it?

ANY clothes, shoes, towels, dishcloths, knickers, socks, tights will be accepted. Every bag you send will be sorted through with a fine toothcomb and a decision made about whether it will be sold or ragged. An average binbag is about 4 to 6 kilos which will, if ragged, get the charity about £3. Ragging adds up to alot of extra cash for the charity so please please don’t send your old clothes to landfill. These rags get redistributed around the UK and Third World.

What do I do with electrical stuff?

Only if it is sealed and in its original packaging can it be sold without testing. All electricals need to be PAT Tested for Health and Safety so only certain Charity Shops will accept them but there are lots that do. Check on their websites, give them a call or just ask instore.

What about videos?

It really depends on the area, some shops will sell videos or will redistribute them to another charity that will send them overseas. BHF, for example, will take videos and advertise that they sell them.

Some of the stuff I am sending is valuable. I don’t want to see it being sold for £1.

As part of the training for all volunteers and management, they are instructed how to identify vintage clothes, designer brands and antiques. Each charity has specialists that they can ask for advice if in doubt. The pricing in charity shops is strictly governed and items are priced in bands.

What happens to foreign coins and stamps?

They go to a specialist and then are sold in bulk. Any gold or silver is either put in the shop or sold to a gold merchant.

I’m never sure whether to sort stuff into categories to make it easier for the volunteers.

It really isn’t vital as every bag will be sorted meticulously by the volunteers. The only thing that needs to be separate is fragile items. If something breaks in a bag, it means the whole bag is unusable as staff won’t be able to sort through it due to Health and Safety legislation.

I send lots of really great clothes but never see them for sale in the shop. Where are they?

When stuff is sorted it is often sent to other local shops. What will sell well in, say a student area, might not work so well in an area dominated by families. If it doesn’t sell in that shop it is sent to other shops with different demographics and invariably it will get sold somewhere in the chain.

I know they don’t recycle duvets and blankets at the tip, what about the Charity Shop?

Blankets,towels and duvets sent to a PDSA are sent straight to the animal hospital.

When I am sending books, what if they are damaged?

If they are damaged and cannot be sold they will be recycled.

What about large items of furniture?

Most charities have vans that will pick up large items. Beds and sofas need to have the appropriate fire resistant standards.

So, hopefully that has given you an idea of what can and cannot be taken to the Charity Shop. One thing I would like to add is that this information came from the Manager of a specific shop. Please check carefully with the shop you use to ensure they work along the same principles. For me, as a declutterer, taking some weeks maybe sixty bags or more to the shop I am comforted that so much of it is getting sold, redistributed or recycled.

So, the moral of this blog is, if in doubt, put it in the charity bag. Someone somewhere will have a use for it and you could be helping raise vital cash for the PDSA or your own designated charity.