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.

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The loft that time forgot…

If you, like many people up and down the land, have just made your annual trip up to the loft to pull down your Christmas decorations, you will know what I’m talking about. Your heart sinks as you see random items that are shoved up there out of the house and out of your way, out of sight and out of mind. Why not take the opportunity while you are up there anyway to have a good look around and take stock? You might even decide to take the bull by the horns and embark on a declutter.

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The loft is a voyage of discovery. Whatever your reason for going up there: loft insulation, bending rafters, making sense of the space: you are bound to find things that were forgotten. Lofts and garages are often a halfway house and can be easy to declutter. You’ve already decided the items don’t belong in your living space so they have a temporary home in your loft until you can make the decision to get rid of them. So maybe now is that time.

  • Make sure you have a decent ladder. If it is fixed, make sure it is secure as you are going up and down several times.
  • It is essential to have someone with you for the project to help with carrying and making the ladder steady. A loft declutter can be overwhelming so you need a helping hand.
  • Invest in some robust clear boxes to replace the cardboard ones that may have deteriorated, and to improve the look, and stacking capability. Loose things should be in boxes where possible.
  • It is also worth having with you some large labels and a black marker pen to clearly label up your sorted boxes so you can see without moving them what the contents are.
  • Have a wide sweep of the things you can see that you know you do not need and bring those down immediately.
  • Lofts often house collections and it is worth checking they are still of worth to you personally and stored adequately.
  • When you have finished, zone your loft and map out the layout of what is where.
  • Lofts could be zoned into household items, toys and clothes that are going to be useful for younger children, memorabilia, suitcases and travel,seasonal decorations, archival paperwork, photos (if the space is dry).

A loft conversion can add 20% to the value of your home and in some cases means you do not need to move house for extra space. Height, pitch and footprint will determine what you decide to do with your loft. But before you can do a loft conversion, you need to do a serious declutter. Go on, you know you want to!!

 

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.

Ten months down, two to go…

I shared with you at the beginning of 2014 that my two best friends decided to go without buying any clothes, shoes or accessories for a whole year. I knew it would be tough for them. I never had any doubt they would do it but I thought they would be chomping at the bit to be out there shopping on New Years Day but it seems as if it has been more profound than that. Here’s a Q and A with Mary:

What have you learnt most from your ten months of abstinence?

I’m now a firm believer in “Less is more”. It’s so much easier having less. It takes less time to get ready to go out. I don’t spend hours agonising about what to wear as I have limited choice. I have got rid of loads of stuff that I don’t need. It makes things so much simpler.

You used to love to treat yourself to something new for special occasions. Has that been the hardest part?

Dressing well will always be something that is important to me but I previously mistook that for wearing something new. This is a real eye opener for me. Last year, I would always buy a new outfit for a special event. Now I am getting so much more value out of the clothes I have and allowing myself to enjoy them more.

You used to spend a lot of leisure time shopping. Has the shopping ban made you change behaviour?

I embarked on this challenge at at time when there were some big changes to my family life. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fill my newly found spare time shopping. I wanted to do other things, more rewarding things. This process has helped me so much. I have joined a gym, started singing, got my chickens at last and have been much more focused in running my business. I don’t need the boost I felt from retail therapy any more. I have learnt to address my feelings instead of covering them up going shopping. I am focusing on my needs now too as well as the rest of the family’s and that’s made me a more confident person. I am in a much better place emotionally than last year because I have faced change head on instead of hiding behind a clothes splurge.

Have you saved money?

I’ve not really kept count but I’m sure I have. But for me, it wasn’t just about that – it was a personal challenge and has become a journey.

Would you recommend this to anyone for 2015?

I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone brave enough to do it. In fact a couple of friends are giving it a go on a month by month basis. Good luck to anyone who wants to challenge themselves.

The ecstasy of the purchase

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So I shared with you back in January that my two best friends were embarking on a “Buy nothing for a year campaign.” They’re kindly sharing their thoughts on the process with me as I have an insatiable interest in what makes people shop to excess and the effects of that excess on the home. So far so good they’re both sticking to it. Well done, girls. Let me tell you it’s nothing short of a miracle with these two!

So in 13 weeks, a very admirable absence of banned purchases, but there are a few notable developments. Katie is doing a textbook move by replacing clothes and shoes with things for the house. In the strict rules of the game that’s permitted, but it begs the question, is it a clothes fetish that’s the problem or actually the desire to buy ? Is it all about retail therapy regardless of the category? I’m not saying retail therapy doesn’t have its place – I fall for its charms on an all too regular basis. But does retail therapy actually make us feel better and how permanent is the high that accompanies it? What gives us that boost is an individual thing – it can be makeup, shoes, craft items, magazines, DVDs, underwear, candles and the list goes on. But does the purchase of things really lead us to sustainable happiness?

Mary has done some self diagnosis on what might have driven her desire to buy. She was born on Christmas Day and as well as the obvious factor of her birthday potentially being swallowed up by the merriment of Christmas, it has also meant that all her acquiring as a child was focused on one day. Could this contribute to an excessive desire to acquire? It’s an interesting thought. People often express pity for those with a birthday around Christmas time but why?

The rules of the game are providing laughs and debate

– can you accept a clothing gift from someone?

– when you need a uniform item is that allowed?

– if you get a gift voucher can you spend that on clothes?

This blog is designed to get you to think. I’m not a psychologist but work daily alongside people with psychological issues leading to excessive acquisition. I find people’s emotional drivers fascinating. I’d love to hear your thoughts.