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!!

 

It took me 6 years to take the plunge to declutter so how did it work out?

This morning I received a testimonial from a client I recently worked with. I have posted it in its entirety – nothing added nothing taken away.

Setting the scene

8 years ago I lost my partner of nearly 30 years. Living – no; existing in a large house, rattling round with rooms that I may visit once a week or month, monthly outgoings humungous. Obviously time to move.

Me – disorganised and de-motivated. My idea of filing – a foot high pile of papers – obviously the old ones are on the bottom – that is until the stack falls over – around the two foot mark if you are interested.

I’m an extremely private person and the house is full of memories, mementos and 30 years of clutter. After several abortive attempts (over 6 years)  to ‘tidy up’ so I can at least see what I have and then think the unthinkable – put the house up for sale – I gave up, took to my bed and said that’s it.

Then I literally realised the path I need – a house doctor – like you see on TV. How to find – the internet.

I interviewed a couple who didn’t feel quite right then Lesley stepped in. I knew immediately she was the one. Why? Very discreet, actually understood the problems. I wanted it done in 2 weeks. She suggested more gradually over 2 months. I ‘gave in’ – why pay a professional and then think you know better than them?

I am so glad I went with my gut feelings. She was right on every count – see below. We decided on a budget, times and terms. Her remit – to have the house ready for the estate agent’s pictures (staging). Obviously there are several stages like de-cluttering, organising and designing the look and feel of the rooms before the end result is attained.

How did it work out?

Lesley arrived complete with bags for recycling another colour for the tip another for paper and collapsible crates. Me – extremely nervous – here is a stranger going through my things. I really could not fault her. She got on with it and nothing fazes her.

The most important aspect was her understanding. Emotional stuff I thought I had dealt with suddenly comes to the surface via the memories unearthed. Anyone who has been bereaved will know what I mean. Suddenly you are in bits. Lesley knew immediately what the problem was and averted the potential disaster.

We worked in short periods of two/three days – which gave me time to recover and do my ‘homework’. The end result is amazing. Not only my view but the estate agents who came to value the property.

Yes it is hard work – this decluttering and organising job – words I’ve never used before but now I have a house fit for a king and I’m proud of it as well.

Briefly
Lesley can organise, declutter and stage superbly – exactly what it says on the box; but she brings other dimensions to the task; empathy and being discreet. She does it with feeling. Not only feelings for the job in hand but more importantly feelings for the client. She really does care and supports the client emotionally throughout. The other aspect she brings is her discreetness and she honours your privacy. Would I use her again. YES! Unreservedly and without question. My only regret. Not finding her 6 years ago.