In the year 2022, a Professional Declutterer is someone you call in to help you take control of your cluttered life. We are a new breed of coach if you like, decluttering coaches, who help you create calm in your home.
After the last two years, many people have found themselves stuck in their homes and faced with a huge amount of stuff that has accumulated and is now out of control. In other cases, a need to spend has created a mountain of stuff that seems insurmountable, and which hadn’t been there before. It’s chaos whichever way you look at it.
I started my business in 2015. I say started, in truth, I did not know what to call myself and struggled to communicate at network meetings. I would say things like, “I want to help people let go”. In truth, I meant let go of not only physical clutter but the mental clutter that is attached to it too. In truth, I was pretty cluttered myself! I had a shop, The Lifestyle Concept, based in Highcliffe. In my mind I wanted it to be Scandi style, wood, simple colours, and minimalist with some gorgeous pieces. Instead, it became fuller and fuller and more and more cluttered, with lots of ‘bling’, an indicator of what was going on in my brain at the time! It was just ‘too busy.’ I even questioned my reason for having a shop. It was certainly not to sell people stuff they did not need. The shop was never going to survive, I wanted to help people let go of stuff!
I had to question myself. Did I want to sell stuff to people or did I want to help them let go of stuff. It was a mixture of the two but the two did not fit comfortably together. I would watch people, women mostly, buy jewellery and clothing and I would often wonder if they really needed it? I had been one of them, once, a woman who bought to fill a hole. Little did I know that my life purpose was to be revealed in that shop. I knew, beyond a doubt, that leading a decluttered life was the way forward. in 2017 I closed the shop, having lost a lot of money, but happier and freer as I no longer had the worry. It was at that point that the brain fog started to clear although it was to be a few years before it finally lifted completely. My first learning is that things did not make you happy, you made you happy, not the stuff you gathered around you.
When on earth did we become so driven to spend, spend, spend, even when, in most cases, we don’t even have the money? My passion for spending got me into incredible debt, debt that took years to sort out. Debt that caused rifts in my relationship too. I kept telling myself I wasn’t good with money and sure enough that’s how I stayed, not good with money! Every day was a shopping day I would joke, but in truth, it was my form of therapy and like any other addiction, an addiction.
Between the years of 2017-2019 the hard work began. Reiki, meditation, walks, connecting with nature, blogging, writing my story, connecting with the right people, and focusing on what I wanted my business to be. Could I not help people let go of stuff that they no longer need, only keeping the things that are precious and important. Was there such a role for me combining both my need to declutter and my home-styling experience?
Turns out, there were others that thought like me, and I found APDO an association of Professional Declutterers. That was it! My eureka moment, I could become a Professional Declutterer, supported by an organisation, but with the credentials to help others move forward. As I reflected on my life, I realised I was a natural and had been letting go of things all my life, naturally and unequivocally, knowing that by doing so, I was allowing in the new and not stopping my life from moving forward.
As my thoughts focused on my business, the clients came. They needed a Professional Declutterer in their life. In those early days I was very naive and there were a few lessons on how not to do things. I think I did not realise how many people have clutter and how it is affecting them not only physically but mentally too. Many of my clients in those early days were so overcome with depression and were spiralling out of control. They were full blown hoarders, something I had never come across before.
Having not long recovered from a spending addiction myself, it was like being a former addict, going back into the lion’s den, or in my case, rooms with lots and lots of clothes! It was not so much tempting, far from it, to go back down that road, but neither was it the best environment for me, as the sheer amount of clutter made me struggle to see the wood for the trees and to help the client. I felt as overwhelmed as them! As my client base grew, my successes helped my confidence grow. I came to realise that people pleasing was not going to get me very far. I had to learn to speak the truth, even if the truth hurt.
I now work with many clients with different needs, and I love supporting them all. Many are vulnerable adults who have struggled with clutter for their entire lives, having never been taught the art of letting go, for others, a recent trauma has laid heavy on their minds and caused them to collect to forget. In all cases, there is now too much stuff which is causing feelings of anxiety and stress and that’s where I come in.
I am the calmest I have ever been. The bigger the problem, the more I thrive. I love clearing clutter and coming up with solutions for storing items efficiently and neatly – yes, I love a label and a place for everything. It’s a saying that many know – “A Place for everything and everything in its place” but it’s a good one. It does make life a lot easier, no more lost stuff and no more chaos. I honestly believe that a messy house is a sign of a cluttered mind, despite the fact that Einstein had a messy desk, he also, nearly definitely, had ADHD!
Whenever I work with my clients, I always explain that it’s going to look a lot worse before it gets better. Mainly because I dive straight in and work on the system of
Bags in situ, I like to work with my client, as a team, empowering them to see how easy it is once you get the hang of it. It can even be fun! Music playing, energy flowing, there can be a sense of excitement at what can be achieved. With one client, I lit a candle as we cleared a cabinet leaving just one item on the top.
I always like to tackle the worst area first, as often, it’s the elephant in the room, so why not dive right in? If I have the luxury of being able to put like with like, then I will do so, but often that is not the case, so I simply work from the back of the room, if I am able to access it, and move forward. I create areas, to be sold, to be chucked, to be kept, to be donated. Items are put in categories and if something does not work in that room then it’s moved to the next room, whatever the state of the next room.
I must have the weirdest brain, in a good way, as I see no obstacles to clearing an entire home. I see no reason to believe that any of my clients cannot achieve the home of their dreams with just a little support. In other words, I believe in them and appreciate their trust in me.
So why do people have clutter? I always think it’s linked to trauma. In fact, there is an amazing book by Dr Pete Walker – CPTSD from Surviving to Thriving and it talks about the Four F’s? The Four F’s are the responses based on childhood trauma, Fight, Flight, Free & Fawn. Most people who have hoarding tendencies fall into the freeze category, often hiding in their bedrooms, shutting down from society and gathering stuff around them to feel comfort. The other category Flight also can lead to hoarding but more from a sense of perfectionism. I know that I fall into that category, as someone who was and can sometimes still be, in ‘flight’ mode I would seek to buy the next thing to create a sense of order in an often-chaotic world. Even in my 40’s I would buy more and more towels so that everything looked perfect. Inside my head, things weren’t perfect, far from it.
With my clients, the Flight response, often creates ADHD symptoms which can escalate to full ADHD where the need to create a perfect world, can lead to agoraphobia, fearing going outside until everything is perfect in the home. Of course, one can argue that the need for perfectionism is linked to OCD, but I believe that many of the responses have an overlap whichever way you look at it.
My job is to help clients break habits of the past or even habits of the now, so that they can move into the future and often I will share books that have helped me, or a morning meditation to start the day. After all, this is all about letting go. Decluttering is exactly that, determining what is important and what can be gone. A bit like a production line that is blocked, due to an incumbrance, clutter blocks up your life and holds you back. It can change the energy of a home too, creating a negative ‘feel’ to your home.
Clutter can mess with your head and cause you to make bad decisions as you simply do not know which way to turn. Clutter can even make you lose important relationships and clutter is sadly, often, a reflection of the way you feel about yourself. A “What’s the point” attitude can often cause clutter to build as a sense of security is found in the material stuff, as opposed to enjoying nature, good food and good people and the simpler ways of life.
But there are other reasons why people clutter. Some of my clients, just forget to put things away, or buy more things as they have lost stuff. Some of my clients repeat buy, which costs money, only to find the said item stuck in a drawer somewhere. A lot of my clients were raised that way, in a cluttered environment and so it goes hand in hand, that your own home life, is cluttered too. However, just because you were raised that way, does not mean you need to stay that way, how you are today, as an adult, reflects your upbringing but it does not mean that all the ‘bad’ stuff must remain. There are many parts of my childhood which created me, but I have worked hard on rectifying the bad stuff and highlighting the good stuff. The phrase “you turn into your mother” can be true but only if you want it to! I lacked confidence as a child, something that has affected my entire life, but something that I have worked very hard on to become who I am today. After all, if I am unstable, stressed, and anxious that is not going to help my clients. If I am happy and balanced with a can-do attitude, both parties will win.
Sometimes, the loss of someone dear in your life can trigger a trauma response. I work with many clients who have struggled to let go of parents’ belongings, feeling a sense of shame and guilt but as I always say your parents are not their ‘things’, your parents are the memories you hold dear. Selecting just a few key items and storing them safely, or better still, having them on display, is a grand way to celebrate your parents and show your love for them. Putting parents’ items into a damp garage or loft, is no way to show your love, far better you donate them to worthwhile causes, or, if there is value and you need the money, I am pretty sure your parents would want you to celebrate what they have gifted to you and enjoy the benefits of their possessions. Alternatively pick out pieces that you can hand down as family heirlooms or donate to a museum or collector.
So why do we need to have less clutter in our homes? I believe there are so many benefits and I know from my own life, having less stuff has made me the happiest I have ever been. I can find everything as there is a place for everything. When I see everything in its place it makes me feel calm and happy. I don’t lose stuff anymore because I know where everything is. I am proud to ask people round for dinner and if anyone just dropped in on me, that would not be a bother. I can invite people around to stay too. My home is retaining its value as it looks good, and I have kept it painted and decorated. When I come to sell it, it should fetch a good price, with clutter and chaos, less so. I can look around and feel immediately better. I have room to work out in my living room. My mental health is in a good place because my home feels and smells so nice. I want to get home after a day’s work and I am never distracted by what is around me, as there is little around me. When my home is good, I am good!
As for me, for the first time in my life, I know who I truly am, I am a Professional Declutterer. Knowing your life’s purpose is the most satisfying goal of all and where you will find the most peace. If I can help my clients get back to where they need to be by having a decluttered home, then my job is done, and I can rest easy.