A Clutter Fairy – what exactly is that?

As I was looking around at stuff I wrote just after I set up the business 5 years ago, I came across this and I’m happy to say, absolutely nothing has changed (except the age of my kids!)

Hi, I’m Lesley Spellman, wife, daughter, friend and mum to three kids 15, 12 and 8. For a lot of years I spent my time at home raising my lovely family and trying to create a happy place to live and was more than content. Then, I woke up one morning and thought maybe the time had come to do something a bit different. Back to work? Hmmm? No Friday coffee, child care in the school holidays, getting bossed around – maybe not. So I then moved swiftly onto the option of setting up my own business. Advice from friends was always to do something I was passionate about. In the passion stakes my home has always been high on the list – it needs to be welcoming to me as well as others, it needs to be functional and it’s a bonus if it is beautiful. I love being with people, talking to them, finding out about what makes them tick, and hopefully in some cases helping them. Oh and I’ve always been a control freak…

With my passions in mind and my controlling nature in check, I set up my professional organising business, The Clutter Fairy. It’s the perfect name for my business– it encompasses to a tee what I aim to do for people – whilst providing a constant source of amusement to those who know me well. Lesley Spellman and Fairy- not a likely combination!

Most people have clutter in some shape or form – it’s hard to juggle all the demands made on women in twenty-first century life– but wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone wave a magic wand and make it all go away? But what takes people from moaning at the school gate about their clutter to picking up the phone and calling me? It’s all about the extent to which it is getting them down.

Every client has a different need – at one end of the scale I have clients who want to declutter, have a good idea of what needs to go and just want someone to keep them on track and ensure the job is done thoroughly. By booking an appointment, it reaches the top of their to do list and the job gets done. At the other end of the scale, I have clients who are completely overwhelmed, often to a point of depression, have no inkling of how, why, when or where to get started and are desperate to make a change. They have read all the books, watched the TV programmes, bought the storage solutions but are still knee deep in the stuff of life. That’s when they start searching for an alternative and hopefully find The Clutter Fairy.

So what does The Clutter Fairy do? Well, first and foremost it’s all about trust. By inviting a declutterer into your home you are laying your whole life out to bare. I visit the client’s home, we chat about how the clutter came about, we have a look at each room in the house, see if any of them work well, assess which are the main areas of concern and then chat about how the job can be done and how long it is likely to take. By the end of the initial consultation, the trust is established.

Once we get started together, we work methodically through each room until it’s complete. I challenge items I feel may be questionable. If you don’t use it often, need it sometimes or love it all the time, it’s up for question. But ultimately all decisions about what stays and what goes are not mine to make. We sort things into categories for rehoming – different room, charity shop, family or friends, ebay, recycling. Very little ends up in landfill. And the key to decluttering success is getting the stuff out of the house on that day.

Once a room is clutter free, it’s time to start organising things into a system that works with your lifestyle. If you have five school age kids and work full time, your needs are going to be very different to a retired couple or a student. While we are working together we talk a lot about habits, changing them if necessary and chat about some strategies that will make things easier to manage long term.

I love my job. I love the difference that I can make to someone in as little as a few hours. As trite as it may sound, with every bin liner that finds its way out of the front door, I can see a weight being gradually lifted from that person’s shoulders. Decluttering is not rocket science – it’s a straightforward process of change but sometimes you just need a helping hand.

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Decluttering – a New Year’s reality check!

It’s that time of year when the world and his wife are talking about decluttering. Newspapers, magazines and blogs are all trying to motivate us to live 2012 clutter free. Now, motivation is key to a successful declutter, of course, but alongside that you need education on how to tackle the job and a big dose of realism.

As a professional declutterer one of the key skills I need is honesty. I am honest with my clients and I will be honest with you.

So here’s the reality – if you have quite a lot of clutter in your home, it probably didn’t build up overnight; it took months, maybe even years, to get to such an unmanageable level so it shouldn’t be surprising that it will probably take more than just an hour or two to sort through and get your space back to the way you want it to be. There, I’ve said it – it’s not a “Ten minutes a Day for a Clutter Free home”, it’s not a trip out to buy a gorgeous storage unit from Ikea, it’s not about a labelling machine or post it notes. If you have a lot of clutter, it’s going to take time to sort it.

And time is not all you need. More than anything you need focus, determination, motivation and a huge amount of energy. Clearing clutter is emotionally and physically draining if there’s a lot of it.

The ideal scenario is of course to get a professional organiser to help you. What they will try to achieve is a balance between your vision and the amount of stuff you are willing to get rid of. If you have said you want a minimalist home with clear surfaces more akin to an edition of Ideal Home and you only have one carrier bag ready for the charity shop then it’s time for some questions to be asked. A professional will keep you focused, motivated and above all entertained throughout what can be a mind-numbingly tedious job at times.

If a professional is not an option for you try to bear in mind the following.

Having well meaning family to help can be, in my experience, a disaster waiting to happen. A daughter, a mother in law, even a husband is not impartial. If someone has been living with the fallout of your clutter they are likely to harbour a small amount of resentment and perhaps may struggle to understand the  psychology behind your attachment to your things.

If you are going to go it alone you need to be realistic about time. For me an averagely cluttered room takes between four and six hours to declutter, reorganise and the final vitally important part – discarding the stuff to charity, an eBay seller or the tip. And that is based on me working with a client at a reasonable pace.

Be prepared with bin bags, transport to take the stuff away and plan to avoid any distractions (kids, phones, facebook, loose women etc)

Remember it will get worse before it gets better. All that stuff in those drawers and cupboards is going to have to come out to get sorted before it can go back in.

Stay focused on your goal. Don’t move from room to room. If something belongs in the kitchen, for example, put it in a box labelled kitchen and move it later with other things that you find along the way.

I could go on and on but after what might appear to be a very negative blog, I want to end on a positive note. All that is standing between you and a home that you want to be in, where you can find what you need and above all can be proud of, is time, energy and focus. And we’ve all got a bit of that stored somewhere!

Good luck and if you have any questions, let me know.

Hands up if you would struggle to throw away Jo Malone packaging?

Well it’s Valentine’s Day, 23 years since I first got together with my lovely husband (not an adjective you will hear me use often when referring to my other half but hey love is in the air) and to celebrate the event he gave me a gorgeous box of Jo Malone perfume and a candle. Perfect choice – well and truly spoiled – and a very happy wife.

Rather than try to describe the excitement with which I accepted my gift, I will let the brilliant marketeers at Jo Malone do it themselves. “Love is a Gift. The Art of Gift Giving. Define a moment to remember. The distinctive cream bag. The pristine box. The black, grosgrain ribbon. The tissue paper misted with fragrance. Before you even lift the lid, the Jo Malone experience is special.” Yes, it is, thankyou, Steve and thankyou, Jo Malone.

So I’m sold, my husband has his brownie points, I smell gorgeous, my candle has pride of place and it’s back to reality. Time to tidy up – I do my normal groundhog day stuff. Yes, even for the Clutter Fairy who gets a kick out of tidiness, that morning routine is dull, dull, dull (but good when it’s done!). I make the beds, open the blinds, hang clothes up, pick up undies, put stuff in the laundry basket, toothbrushes back on their container etc etc etc and then I find my empty Jo Malone packaging. What’s a girl to do?

It is just so gorgeous, you really don’t want to get rid of it so you try to come up with reasons to keep it.

You could reuse the bag for someone else’s gift – well, yes but then they would think they were getting Jo Malone and understandably might be a tad disappointed if they open the box to find a Shower Gel from Tesco. And if you actually bought them some Jo Malone you would get the full gift experience as described above and have no need for a bag.

You could use the bag for day to day shopping. You could but might look a bit daft cramming baked beans into a gift bag or a bit posh sending your son’s packed lunch in in a Jo Malone bag.

And what about the box? Same applies. Lovely box but we need to be managing expectations.

The ribbon? If and only if you are meticulous in keeping all your gift stuff together and are genuinely creative when  wrapping a gift for someone is that ever going to be useful.

The tissue paper, it’s a bit crumpled already but could be recycled for gift wrapping if you fall into the category above.

The leaflets –  everything is online should you need a full resumee of scents and as you’ve just had a whole 100ml bottle, it might be a while.

So ask yourself this – why are you keeping the packaging?

It might come in useful – now here I might have a point. That lovely box is sturdy and could definitely be used to store something in but unless I can think of something immediately it’s going to become clutter.

You feel so guilty -it cost alot to produce and alot to buy- yes it did but the gift is the perfume or candle and not the packaging. If anything, Jo Malone should be cutting down on the amount of packaging but to be fair everything is recyclable so it can be reused if disposed of appropriately.

Is it for show? You’ve got your Jo Malone and you want to make sure people know it.  (Ooh, contentious!)

Is it laziness? – you just don’t ever get around to getting rid of stuff like that.

There are lots of reasons why you might still have that packaging and as the home owner it is absolutely your call whether or not you want to keep it. My job as the Clutter Fairy is to make you ask yourself why. You might think it’s a bit of  a daft thing to blog about,  but this kind of clutter – empty shoe boxes, carrier bags, leaflets, ribbons is prevalent in almost every home I visit and it has a big habit of multiplying until one day it becomes unbearable.

Do yourself a favour and put it in your recycling bin. You will never give it a second thought.

Is paper clutter getting you down?

Even in the most tidy and organised of homes I visit in my day to day life as The Clutter Fairy there is one thing that always causes problems and that is paper. It flows through the door of our homes via the postman, school bags, newspapers, fliers or in work bags. And where does it find its home? In the hallway, kitchen surfaces, bedroom, living room – in short, lots of places where it is never going to be dealt with and leaves you with lots of clutter, depressing you each time you see it building up and up.

The key to paperwork is dealing with it initially as soon as it comes through the door and then revisiting it on a regular basis.

So, pick that post up from behind the door, get your recycling bin at the ready and get rid of:

•  Adverts and mailings trying to sell you stuff . It’s never hard to find info about things to buy!

•  Envelopes – the reason for keeping them is?

•  Terms and conditions that you are very unlikely to ever read. They send them because they have to not because they think customers will read them.

•  Duplicate bank/credit card statements from a joint account. Better still – opt into paperless billing online.

•   Letters that are for info only. Read the info, put any dates into your diary.

•   Charity requests (unless you know you regularly increase your donations)

•   Take away menus from any take-aways you never have and never will use.

•   Any info that is duplicated online.

I could go on and on but you get the gist by now.

You will have got rid of at least 75% of the paper and everything that is left is needed until actioned or filed.

Put what remains into your intray in your office/study/kitchen. It doesn’t matter where it is as long as it is where you deal with your paperwork.

Try to deal with paperwork once a week.

Go through your intray, action first, shred second, file third.

For most people who cite paper as their worst clutter nightmare, it is more about changing habits than anything else.

Good luck!