Frequently asked questions
Most people will have never used a professional organising service before, so it’s understandable that there will be some things people want to clarify before they start.
What happens during a typical decluttering session?
I help my client sort their possessions (such as separating clothing from paperwork), review the use of each item (we might separate clothes that still are worn and loved from ones that can be donated to charity), and move towards their personal goals (for example, packing for a house move, or making certain areas of the home more intuitively easy to use). Clients vary in the complexity and nature of their aims. However, they are consulted at every stage and their views shape our activity entirely. We stay tuned in to the ‘story behind the stuff’ to help us with our decisions. For this reason, it can occasionally be an emotional process (but not always). A sense of emotional liberation can be considerable, particularly with a decluttering project that has gone on over some time. Clients often under-estimate the amount of time a job will take, and the role of their reflective processes (perhaps hoping that I would turn up and ‘make it all better’). I use a bike trailer to remove items for donation or specialist recycling. Although this may surprise a few people, the repeated and regular removal of 40kg loads makes an impact quite quickly.
What happens to the things I get rid of?
Some items will have to go to landfill but this is kept to a minimum. Items like furniture can be donated to charities, and any number of smaller items, including clothing, can be taken to a charity shop. I do not carry waste – this is either done via council services, or by hiring the help of other businesses whose specialism is in waste management. Council recycling services can absorb a lot of the recycling we sort. Recycling specific items can be a challenge but I engage fully with bra recycling schemes, the Oxford Community Fridge, the Night Shelter, Asylum Welcome… and keep a beady eye out within commercial settings for recycling opportunities with things like printer cartridges or used fluorescent tubes. I do not sell items on behalf of the client or for myself – my focus is on the opportunities for the client that arise through a series of donations to various local and national charities.
What happens if I don’t want to part with something?
You don’t have to. It belongs to you. We can consider your options and think aloud as much as you would like to but the final say is yours. Clients are sometimes surprised when I discourage them from parting with something. The option of a ‘second opinion’ is often useful to clients.
Do you offer discounts?
Unfortunately not. However, for clients who want to approach their clutter problems in a different way from one-to-one work, I also run workshops where people can meet up with others and think though clutter issues in a group, sharing experience and building morale. These are a smaller commitment and easier to budget for. Sometimes all that is required is a little thinking space and the knowledge that you are not alone. Clients can attend more than one workshop if they choose, but they are intended as stand-alone work and do not assume you will do more decluttering with me necessarily. Please see the ‘Workshops’ tab.
Do you work with hoarders?
A significant number of people with clutter issues often say ‘I’m a hoarder’. Media content has opened our eyes to the existence of this problem, but many people who describe themselves as such don’t actually have a hoarding disorder. Individuals who experience a hoarding disorder will typically score highly on the Clutter Image scale, but it is important to see it as an internal emotional experience more than an environmental one, deserving of the compassionate and responsible response we would expect to offer someone with any mental health difficulty.
In Oxfordshire, resources for individuals who engage in extreme hoarding are lamentably few, and I am always keen to identify places where I can signpost people to. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot help individuals who are experiencing hoarding disorder myself. I am happy to help them access the available resources more suitable for their needs.
Do you publish photos on the web?
As you can see, the answer is yes. All of the photos of interiors used on this site have been taken by me and used with the permission of the homemakers in question. The use of photographs is something we discuss at the assessment stage.
There are a number of considerations to the question of photographing clutter. Such photographs are a helpful tool in exploring the decluttering process and helping clients engage with and enjoy the changes that are gradually happening around them. On a personal level, many clients want to use photographs for their own use, as souvenirs. In terms of helping the public understand what decluttering involves, the use of ‘before and after’ images can explain very effectively what has been achieved with help, and this can motivate and support new clients. Some individuals can feel quite despairing before they see though publicity that change is possible. The majority of photos I take are stored securely and not used publicly. When they are used publicly, they are testimony to what we have achieved together, and could quite rightly be part of personal pride.
There is no doubt that for some, however, the sharing of images produced of their home space, even if anonymous, constitute an intrusion into their personal space. It is also undeniable that images of cluttered spaces have been used on TV and in newspapers to entertain and titillate, raising concern amonst potential clients. No photographs are taken, or shared, shared without the full agreement of the client.
Why do you do this work?
I set up Clear Space for Me when I realised how much being organised had really helped my own wellbeing, and how comfortable I would be sharing that discovery with others. Since I started I have worked with many different people, and have really come to enjoy seeing how they all address a single universal question – how to live. What may look like indiscriminate muddle is actually a bit like a painting whose fine brushstrokes reveal the artist’s sensibility. As someone who is interested in working with people, I find great inspiration from the approach my clients have taken in their lives.
Although I see many personal items, the items themselves aren’t especially memorable to me, most of the time. This is partly what makes it helpful to have an organiser with you, to lend an unsentimental eye. What is interesting to me is the client’s experience of them. People with a lot of ‘stuff’ often have a lot of interests and are fantastic conversationalists. And I won’t deny that I do feel really good when feedback from clients shows that decluttering with me has helped them feel better.