Organising and decluttering – something a lot of us dread as it’s often hard to know where to begin. But thankfully there are professional organisers and declutters out there to help, like Sarah Owen from Flamingo Organising.
Having just moved home in December last year, I know all to well how hard it is to get things organised for the whole family. So luckily I managed to speak with Sarah who gave me some tips in how to tackle the last load of boxes in my house and how to start the decluttering process. Read my full interview with Sarah below and if like me you’re struggling, feel free to reach out to Sarah who can offer 1-1 support and guidance on your specific situation.
How and when did you start being a professional organiser and declutterer?
Pre-children, I spent 10 years in corporate events organising a variety of conferences, hospitality and incentive travel programs all around the world. I have always considered myself an organised person with a good eye for detail.
When both of my children were in full time education, I was looking for a flexible career that would work around family life and enable me to utilise my organisational skills. Equally as important, I wanted a job where I could make a tangible positive difference to people’s lives. Decluttering ticked all of the boxes! I did some training with APDO (The Association of Professional Organisers and Declutterers) and established my decluttering and organising business in Sept 2016.
So does this mean you have an amazingly organised and spotless home?
Lots of people ask me this question! If only I could answer yes and all of the time! I have 2 children, 2 cats and a not-so tidy husband. My house is definitely a lived-in home rather than a “show home”. However, things are organised and all of our belongings have a “home” so it is easy to find things and put them away again at the end of the day. I do find it hard to relax if things aren’t tidy!
With Spring now here, do you have any tips for readers who are looking to do a spring clean but don’t know where to begin
Don’t overthink it, just begin! I find with lots of clients, they feel so overwhelmed by what they perceive to be an enormous project that they don’t start at all. Like any big project, I suggest to break it down into small manageable tasks. Start with a drawer or cupboard in a room that you use frequently and would see an immediate difference. For example, this might be the kitchen or bedroom; then carry on from there! Clients often say, “I wish I had started sooner, and I am really enjoying sorting now that I have got going”!
When you get a new client, what’s the process? How does it all get started?
My service is tailored to each client and their individual needs. Some people are embarrassed by their homes and how messy they have become, so asking for professional support by making a call or sending an e-mail is often a major step in starting the process. Once a client gets in touch, I will chat to them to understand their story, what their decluttering goals are and what time frame they are working towards. Sometimes a chat on the phone is enough to make a plan and book a date for the decluttering to begin. For other clients, a free home consultation to meet me and show me their space is preferable before booking a session. For big projects this is especially helpful for me and the client. We can formulate a plan together and I can assess how long I think it might take.
When sessions actually begin, I am very hands on and work together with the client. I am very sensitive and respect that I am working in someone’s home and private space. I ask before opening cupboards and paperwork and make suggestions rather than telling clients what they should do. My service is encouraging, supportive and confidential. Clients are re-assured that I am insured and a member of a professional body (APDO) and have a code of ethics.
Do you have any items you swear by in order to ensure your clients get organised?
This does depend on what area of the home is being organised and what the individual style preferences are of the client I am working with. However, items that I use frequently with clients are:
Curver storage boxes: grouping things together and containing like with like makes it easier to give items a home and put them away. These boxes are stylish, affordable and easy to wipe clean.
Half shelves: these are great for creating more useable space in cupboards. These work really well in kitchens for items such as food, cups and to organise the under-sink area.
Labels: (either handwritten or printed from a label machine) It may seem simple, but writing what is in a file, storage boxes etc makes finding and replacing items much more efficient and saves time!
Coloured Plastic Wallets: I really like the ones with poppers on the front as they stop things falling out. The different colours are great for sorting paperwork into various categories; they look pretty too which makes filing more fun!
What are your favourite things or areas in the home to organise?
I love to organise anything and everything! I help people declutter before moving and unpack again when they have moved into a new house. I help edit wardrobes, clear lofts and I love to organise paperwork as it is so satisfying having everything in order.
One of my favourite areas is the kitchen; they are the hub of the home and a well organised kitchen makes such a difference to a busy family life. I enjoy helping a family make better use of their space so they can find frequently used items easily and see what they have so they avoid buying costly duplicates. Also, making simple organisational changes to ensure the cups/tea/coffee are kept near to the kettle in order to reduce time spent moving around the kitchen makes such a difference.
It’s difficult decluttering when lots of things seem sentimental. How do you tackle this with clients?
The longer we have owned things, the more attachment we potentially have to those things; some people can find it hard to let go of items for various reasons.
The people that I work with have reached out to ask for help as they have struggled to let things go on their own in the past; there is already a recognition that they want or need to let go of some of their possessions.
I always work at the client’s pace supporting them to make the decision about what to keep and what to let go. We work in a methodical manner and go through a drawer or box at a time considering what the item is, if it is liked, when it was last used and when it is likely to be used or referred to in the future. We make decisions from there. Often when a client is looking to let go of a lot of things, it will be a 2 or 3 step process that is done over a period of time.
Part of living a sustainable lifestyle is about not buying unnecessary things. I suppose as a declutterer you may agree with for other reasons too. Do you try and follow any sustainability practices in your home?
Yes, I definitely agree! Having seen some people’s homes where they are burdened and overwhelmed by too many things makes me want to live a lighter life even more; not just for my own mental health, but for the future of our planet too.
I have been acutely aware for a number of years now that as consumers we need to do our bit for the environment. I am trying to do lots of little things that will hopefully have a bigger cumulative impact. For instance, I don’t always buy new clothes: I love to look around charity shops for a bargain. My family and I take out our own reusable water bottles/coffee cups/lunch boxes; we take fabric bags to the shops and we use washable cleaning cloths rather than kitchen roll. At Christmas I was given some re-useable make up remover pads – one of my best presents, and they are made from flamingo material!
I really try to limit what I throw away and recycle whatever I can. It’s so great to be able to use local recycling schemes for things such as crisp packets, contact lenses, and old pens. I encourage recycling with my clients when we are decluttering too.
I am aware my family and I still have a long way to go but are heading in the right direction towards living a more sustainable life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me Sarah – your tips are incredibly helpful and very motivational to start tackling those boxes I’ve been putting off for the past 5 months! If you’d like Sarah’s guidance and support, then head to her website for more details and contact information at www.flamingoorganising.com.