LIVING, working and home-schooling during this past year have seen many of our homes transformed from sanctuaries of calm into endless rooms of chaos.
Regardless of property size and the number of rooms we have, most of us struggle to find enough space for storage in our home. Decluttering is a crucial part of the organisation process – but how and where do you start?
'Professional organiser' is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a business growth area and in Northern Ireland a few such people are coming forward to help people restore order.
Sharon McNulty is the north’s first Gold Certified KonMari Consultant. After reading Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo's book, the 49-year-old Omagh woman was inspired to try out the method for herself.
She was so impressed by the process that she travelled to London to be trained up by Kondo.
“My home looked OK but the cupboards were full. I realised I had been tidying all these years but all I really did was move stuff from one place to the next," Sharon says. “I helped my friends and family do it and then I realised it wasn't so much about clearing your physical clutter, but it was more about your mental clutter.
“I set up my business couple of years ago and I've got to the stage now that I have given up my job permanently after 31 years and have trained a team of five further consultants and am looking for others.”
The KonMari method encourages people to get rid of items that no longer have a purpose and keep things that are purposeful and meaningful. It teaches to tidy by category, rather than locations, starting with clothing and followed by books, papers, miscellaneous and finally sentimental items.
Before starting their tidying journey, Sharon encourages all her clients to have a vision of what they would like their lifestyle and homes to look like in the future – a method which she says is designed to help clients let go of things and keep their momentum going forward.
“I generally find that if you complete the entire tidying journey you won't have to do that again.”
During the process it’s a case of having donate, keep, sell and bin piles. And when completed, Sharon vouches that the process changes your mindset and spending habits long-term.
“Gathering all your similar items together makes you see how much of everything you have. You realise it’s a waste and because of the angst you have had trying to get rid of that accumulation and so you don’t go back to old spending habits.”
Her tips along the way include getting children involved in the process to give them ownership of their spaces and also not trying on clothes as you sort – rather, wait until the end.
Sharon suggests using photo books as a lovely way to keep momentums of occasions, as well as memories of your children’s school days.
“If you give them pride of place on a bookshelf you’re more likely to look at them and reminisce.”
And when you finally decide what sentimental items you want to keep, Sharon encourages clients to “display and truly appreciate them” rather than put them back up into the attic or under a bed.
“You obviously don’t want to clutter the place but display those items that are special to you somewhere that you can truly appreciate them. Even a little stone which brings back a memory of a special visit to the beach could be placed in your underwear drawer, so you are seeing it every day.”
Friends and busy working mothers Claire Savage and Lisa Skinner, from Bangor and Belfast, launched Order in the House, a professional organising and decluttering company in April.
The pair are registered members of the Association of Professional Organisers and Declutterers and offer wardrobe detox, home office organisation, home clearance, home move and even home styling services, such as that seen in the BBC show Sort Your Life Out.
The pair, who both have their own money-saving Instagram accounts (@wisdomandpennies and @savvydays) started dreaming about creating a stylish organisation business during the first lockdown.
“Life as we knew it had changed significantly, for many the rooms in their houses had become makeshift classrooms, offices, gyms and workshops of all kinds,” says 39-year-old Lisa.
“Lockdown has impacted people's choices and desire to have more organisation in their homes. We've both got children and it’s been hard to keep homes clear of clutter.
“My husband and I are both working from home and there is frustration which comes from trying to segregate work and home life.
“We anticipate that home working is here to stay, at least in hybrid form, so people are going to have to be set up for that. We want to work with companies to make sure that staff have an organised home office space, one that boosts productivity and helps to improve mental wellbeing.”
For those overwhelmed by the prospect of decluttering their entire house, 38-year-old Claire’s advice is “start small” and to target a specific room or area, such as your sock drawer or larder.
“Our advice is to take everything out and then only put back the things you absolutely need or you absolutely love.”
She acknowledges that parting with items, especially sentimental ones, can be a painful process.
“We aren't going to force people to get rid of things; we just want them to rethink the amount of stuff they have and to free up space and enjoy their home.
“Sometimes it just takes a third party to really ask you if you need those in your life.”
GET BACK AS YOU CLEAR OUT
IKEA has just launched their Buy Back scheme allowing customers to sell their old furniture back and receive up to 50 per cent of their original value to spend in store.
H&M has a garment-collection programme where if you hand in a bag of old clothes (any brand) into its stores, you will receive a £5 voucher off a £25 H&M spend.
Marks & Spencer's Shwopping initiative encourages shoppers to donate unwanted items. Drop off donations (any brand) into its Shwop drops instore. Or to receive a £5 M&S voucher bring donations, at least one of which should contain an M&S item of clothing or soft furnishings to Oxfam shops.
Levi’s has partnered with the Blue Jeans Go Green recycling denim programme. Drop off any unwanted denim (any brand) to a Levi’s store and receive 20 per cent off a single item purchase.
Schuh offer a £5 voucher for every wearable pair of shoes (any brand) traded in.
Lush offer a complimentary fresh face mask to customers who return five clean normal sized black of clear Lush pots.
MAC offers a free MAC lipstick to customers who return six MAC primary packaging containers to a MAC counter.
As well as charity shops, women refugee centres and freecycle community groups on social media, Re-Fashion (re-fashion.co.uk) will send you bags in which to send unwanted clothes and pay for free postage. Donations will be used to support sustainable fashion projects and support the Rieves Foundation.