"This has been an amazing experience, cathartic and almost like therapy! I feel lighter, freer, more in control and incredibly happy with my new decluttered and organised space. I've not only reclaimed rooms in my house but managed to close a door on a previous phase of my life."
Maria, MD of an ad agency
"A huge thank you for all your hard work. Our friend is over the moon with her decluttered and newly organised home."
Debbie, who paid for our service for a friend
"Not only did Anna's pragmatic approach help us with the sometimes painful process of parting with our mess, she also instilled the discipline which has enabled us to maintain it.
In a society where we are all so busy, Anna's service ensures that you achieve success in a very short period of time."
"I can't thank you enough for your help, guidance and - as important - your patience and compassion. I can still hardly believe that we have reclaimed two rooms. I keep wandering into them just for the hell of it!"
Liz Marshall, lawyer
"Anna has a gentle manner and is very perceptive. She doesn't railroad you into anything, but makes helpful suggestions in a sensitive way. She also has great ideas for how to continue the decluttering and maintain good systems, once she's gone.
I can't recommend her highly enough."
"Get Sorted helped me sort through my mother's belongings after she passed away last year. My partner and I live several hours away so it was impossible for us both to be there. It was a very emotional time for me so I was glad of Anna's company and support. She was really friendly, efficient and good at helping me make decisions, without being pushy."
Steve, HR director
"Anna cleared my paper clutter and set up a simple filing system for me that I've found easy to maintain. I saved money too because I'd been paying two lots of home insurance. I feel much more in control now - and richer!"
Gina, web designer
"Get Sorted project managed the refurbishment of our new house. Neither of us could take time off work so it was great to leave the coordination of the tradespeople in reliable hands. They also organised and coordinated the removals for us. We couldn't have managed without them.
Pierre, school teacher
"I'd been thinking about sorting my paperwork out for ages but I was really busy and when I did try to attack it, I got bored and depressed and gave up. Everything was getting on top of me. Get Sorted was a breath of fresh air. Anna helped me go through everything really quickly; what I thought would take days took under 4 hours.
Gina, web designer
"Anna did a brilliant job of kick starting our big declutter. My husband and I work full-time and have two young children. Clutter was building up, along with my stress levels! We could no longer use the loft guest room because it was crammed with stuff we no longer needed. Within a few hours, the room had been sorted and items were given to charity or put on eBay."
"My sister and I live 3000 miles from our Mum. We both travelled to Wales to help prepare for Mum's downsizing but the time we could take from work and children wasn't enough. We were all feeling overwhelmed. Anna stepped in to help Mum get sorted in her new flat and her emails kept me in the loop. I only wish we'd found her sooner.
Johanna, delighted daughter
"Anna was great at challenging why something should be kept and then categorising things into recycling, resale, charity-shop and so on. She even arranged for things to be collected. We now have a neatly laid out cellar where everything is easily accessible. Brilliant. Why didn't we do it years ago?
Sabina, school teacher
"Over the years our cellar had become a dumping ground for stuff we didn't use regularly but didn't want to throw out. Classic hoarders. After just a day spent with Anna we now have half the rubbish and twice the space. She organized it into two distinct areas: a laundry-cum-larder and a large space for storage."
We all feel guilty about getting rid of gifts from friends or family. I decided to have a bit of fun with this by organising an auction to raise money for Alzheimer's Society. Remember, the spirit in which that gift was given to you won't go away but if you really don't want or need it then give it up to a good cause. We raised £700!
This article appeared in the Abergavenny Chronicle on 23 January 2014.
You’ll no longer pay rent for storage or office space you don’t need
You’ll avoid penalties for late payments due to paperwork piling up
You’ll no longer buy things you already have but had forgotten about because you can't find them or see them through the clutter (I worked with a client who had 27 phillips-head screwdrivers and another who had 12 pairs of white trousers)
You’ll pay less to a removals company and be able to pack more quickly if you have fewer belongings
You’ll have all your household paperwork to hand so you can make better use of comparison websites for reducing bills. We can show you how to do this
You'll avoid paying twice for services you already have (eg insurance) because you couldn't find the paperwork
We’ll help small businesses and the self-employed sort and file paperwork ready for tax returns, saving on accountants' bills
You’ll avoid penalties for late payments due to paperwork piling up
We’ll help free you up to be more efficient and productive in your work and personal life!
This has been an amazing experience, cathartic and almost like therapy! I feel lighter, freer, more in control and incredibly happy with my new decluttered and organised space. I've not only reclaimed rooms in my house but managed to close a door on a previous phase of my life.
Anna is amazing, calming, understanding and above all constructive. She buoyed my spirits at points when I felt overwhelmed and would previously abandoned the project and kept me focused on what I ultimately wanted. I feel proud that not only have I managed to clear myself of all my unwanted stuff but hugely benefited an amazing and worthwhile charity, who I'm now on first name terms with and who I shall continue to support.
Anna sorted lots of practical things and motivated me to sort other stuff out, not least while she was there but moreover 1 week on I'm still basking in the glory of my results and have been inspired to tackle those other niggling tasks that have bothered me for years.
So spare room reclaimed, bedroom freed of junk, garage and shed cleared, playroom tidied and loft emptied.
100+ bags to charity.
30+ bags to friends and family.
3 x hippo skips for recycling.
3 people + 1 dog very happy!
Thanks for everything Anna :)
As soon as I entered Maria's home I could see she had a sense of style. It was a beautifully decorated thin, tall house with everything in its place. So why did she need me?
A trip to the top floor answered my question. Maria had what many of us have - a guilty room - where everythings gets dumped. Her bedroom next door was starting to look a bit guilty too and Maria was feeling that she'd lost control.
Following a really busy few years with her business Maria had allowed clutter to build up and had found herself comfort buying from the internet. She hadn't been able to get into the mirrored wardrobe you can see in the photo for some time or the set of drawers on the right.
It was a familiar theme: She'd start tackling it but get despondent and seeing all that stuff every time she passed the room made her feel down.
We attacked this room as well as the bedroom over a two and a half day period and there were times when Maria - feeling despondent at the enormity of the task, as she mentions in her testimonial - thought we'd never succeed.
But I was impressed at her decisiveness and determination when it came to the sort: Keep - Charity - Friend. I also greatly admired her generosity: She could have earned quite a lot of money by sending most of it to a dress agency - and there'd be nothing wrong with that. After all, it was money she had spent.
But I think that donating over 100 sacks to a charity shop was part of turning a corner in her life and the difference her donation will make to The Samaritans, who run the shop, can't be underestimated. The funds raised are vital for the running of their helplines.
It was the best donation of items they'd ever received at the shop and the manageress drove out to the house to thank her personally. I felt a shiver of pride on Maria's behalf!
A measure of how motivated Maria became was that when I returned in the mornings she'd spent much of the previous evening decluttering further and organising the items she'd chosen to keep. I could see that she was naturally a very ordered person and was enjoying these 'final touches'.
She and her daughters also unearthed a lovely sofa bed from the garage to put into the newly organised room - thus reclaiming her spare bedroom.
I asked one of my clients, Jane Beynon, to write a testimonial for me and she wrote this great blog about her experience of decluttering.
I had always thought of myself as a fairly well organised person. When I was still working and juggling family responsibilities, this was essential and I always believed in having systems up and running so that there was some 'slack' to deal efficiently with the unpredictable when it arose.
Drowning in Things
Since retiring, I found myself with nearly 64 years worth of possessions and yet would not describe myself as a hoarder; nevertheless, I found myself increasingly 'drowning in things'. This was making me very miserable and prevented me doing the things I enjoy and had hoped to spend more time doing in retirement.
When listening to Radio Wales' guest newspaper reviewer, my ears pricked up - firstly because I agreed with many of her comments and then when I heard what her company did, I kept repeating 'Get Sorted' until I got out of my car and could write it down! I made contact with Anna within a day or so and we met up about a week later.
I found the whole experience very positive and uplifting - the apparently impossible quickly became something I could contemplate. I slept better that night than I had done for ages and awoke eager to continue the work Anna and I had started.
Cutting through the fog of sentimental attachment
Possessions can acquire sentimental worth and it is often difficult to be dispassionate. A third party can cut through this fog without getting bogged down in emotions. Anna set up bite size targets and quickly summed up the areas which were bothering me.
I felt that after a morning, she knew me quite well! She was certainly privy to quirky corners of my home that even life-long friends were not aware of!
As we worked to clear 'obvious' unwanted possessions we were talking and evolving a longer term plan. Anna was as good as her word and sent me a summary of what we had discussed, together with contact numbers for book and record dealers.
In the two weeks since we met, I have thrown myself into continuing the stripping down of my home. I have found this immensely satisfying and were it not for this Christmas thing about to happen, I would be continuing with it. Roll on the new year!
Huge thanks to Anna. I never felt intruded upon and greatly valued her carefully thought-out advice. It was also heartening to know that I was not alone in some of my problem areas! I cannot recommend her service highly enough.
I'd like to share this with you and if you live in a small town you'll maybe think .. so what? If you live in a city it might just freak you out.
I am mildly obsessed with the (Yotam) Ottolenghi cookbooks and restaurants and I raved so much about him that my old school friend, Chris, bought the Ottolenghi Cookbook (that Yotam wrote with his business partner Sami Tamimi)
Ottolenghi's Cucumber Salad Steals the Show
Chris and his wife, Rhian, were involved in organising a barbecue for the Scouts in Abergavenny. They volunteered to make a salad and chose the cucumber salad (with chilli pepper and poppy seeds) from the Ottolenghi Cookbook.
Everyone raved about this salad and Chris sang Ottolenghi's praises loud and clear.
Several weeks later, Chris' friend Andrew went into the local bookshop and asked for the Ottolenghi recipe book. The bookseller replied that he had one of his books in stock but added, "However ... I don't have the one that you want. You want the one with the cucumber salad in it, don't you?"
(And just in case you're wondering what relevance this has to decluttering it doesn't really ... except that if I had to get rid of most of my cookery books it would be the three Ottolenghi ones that I'd keep).
I'm not going to spend long on this because paperwork needn't be difficult or time-consuming if you follow a simple system.
Top Tips for Dealing with Paperwork Clutter
Unless there's a really good reason why you shouldn't then swop over to paperless billing. For anything else that comes through your door do one of 4 things:
Shred or recycle
'Delegate' might mean creating an in-tray for your partner or your book-keeper or admin assistant if you run a small business. If you live on your own or don't have admin support then there are only 3 options.
Don't let your 'action' pile get too high. Deal with some of it daily.
Get your filing system down to a minimum. Clearly labelled suspension files in a cabinet are really useful. Take a day or two days out of your schedule to cull and reorganise your system. It will be worth it!
Think of it as returning to a blank canvas. Clearing out old paperwork is liberating and you'll find it easier to maintain your new 4 (or 3) point system.
If you're self-employed or run a small company you need to keep 7 years' worth of paperwork. But you don't need to keep all of it in your home office.
If you're not self-employed then there is no reason to keep old utility bills or even bank statements. Shred them.
Unsubscribe from catalogues and magazines that you tend not to get around to reading.
Keeping catalogues makes you spend more money because they're a constant reminder of all those things you didn't even know you needed.
Piles of unread magazines just make you feel guilty. If you really want to read them then keep some by your toilet and some by your bed. If you haven't read them within a week then recycle them or donate them to your doctor's or dentist's waiting rooms.
“I’d been thinking about sorting my paperwork out for ages but I was really busy and when I did try to attack it, I got bored and depressed and gave up. Everything was getting on top of me.
Get Sorted was a breath of fresh air. Anna helped me go through everything really quickly; what I thought would take days took under 4 hours. She set up a simple filing system for me that I’ve found easy to maintain. I saved money too because I’d been paying two lots of home insurance. I feel much more in control now - and richer!”
Gina Evans, web designer
“Get Sorted helped me sort through my Mother’s belongings after she passed away last year. My partner and I live several hours away so it was impossible for us both to be there. It was a very emotional time for me and it was good to have Anna there for moral support. She was friendly, efficient and good at helping me make decisions, without being pushy.”
Steve Richards, HR director
"Anna helped us declutter our home and organise our business space. Not only did her pragmatic approach help us with the sometimes painful process of parting with our mess, but she also instilled the discipline which has enabled us to maintain it. I can now find everything and have a home and office I can truly be proud of.
In a society where we are all so busy, Anna's service ensures that you achieve success in a very short period of time.
Anna - we would love you to come round one evening and see for yourself that we have maintained and got rid of even more stuff."
Vicky Hill-Jowett, Operations Manager
“Get Sorted project managed the refurbishment of our new house. Neither of us could take time off work so it was great to leave the coordination of the tradespeople in reliable hands. They also organised and coordinated the removals for us. We couldn’t have managed without them.”
Pierre Voegeli, school teacher
Liz was widowed at the age of 42 and with her son, 4 at the time, they moved to a smaller house. Two rooms had remained full of boxes, bags and stacked furniture.
"Anna, you worked with me through this process and I can't thank you enough for your help, guidance and - as important - your patience and compassion. I can't believe that we've reclaimed two rooms. I keep wandering into them just for the hell of it."
Liz Marshall, lawyer
“Over the years our cellar had become something of a dumping ground for stuff we didn't use regularly but didn't want to throw out. Classic hoarders. After just a day spent with Anna we now have half the rubbish and twice the space. She organised it into two distinct areas: a laundry-cum-larder and a large space for storage.
Chris Dennis, journalist
“Anna was great at challenging why something should be kept and then categorising things into recycling, resale, charity-shop and so on. She even arranged for things to be collected. We now have a neatly laid out cellar where everything is easily accessible. Brilliant. Why didn't we do it years ago?"
Sabina Webber, school teacher
"Anna did a brilliant job of kick starting our big declutter. My husband and I work full-time and have two young children. Clutter and mess were building up, along with my stress levels! We could no longer use the loft guest room because it was crammed with stuff we no longer needed. Within a few hours, the room had been sorted and items were given to charity or put on eBay.
Clearing space in the house seemed like an insurmountable task, but Anna made it very easy. Since she left I've tackled the playroom and have got rid of a lot of stuff I've been dying to get 'moved on' for years. I've also sorted through plastic bags full of admin and a utility room full of plastic bags, so she's helped me get things going in the right direction.
Anna has a gentle manner and is very perceptive. She doesn't railroad you into anything, but makes helpful suggestions in a sensitive way. She also has great ideas for how to continue the decluttering and maintain good systems, once she's gone. I can't recommend her highly enough."
"It’s impossible to give your Mum all the help you’d like to when you live 3000 miles away. Though both my sister and I were able to travel to West Wales to help prepare for Mum’s downsizing and move back to the Cardiff area, the time we could take from work and children wasn’t nearly enough.
We were all feeling overwhelmed. Anna was able to step in and help Mum get sorted in her new flat. Her email updates kept me in the loop. I only wish we’d found her sooner."
A good decluttering session is good for you and good for charity.
Earlier this week I worked with a mother of five children whose loft and garage had become unsuable they were so crammed full of 'stuff'. Unsurprising given the spare time she must (not) have!
If you have spare time then it's definitely worth trying to sell items on auction sites.
However, if you're time-poor and you want to get rid of unwanted belongings asap then donating them to charity is a good way of doing this.
This is what my client wanted to do and as she was generously donating a large amount of items we arranged for the Bobath van to come and pick them up at the end of the session.
Among the items donated were around 20 sacks of children's clothes and shoes, an exercise bike, a computer monitor, a bedroom chair, a printer, a DVD player and large tubs of paint which the charity is going to use to repaint their shop.
If the items are unusual (like the paint) it's better to check with the charity that they can use them first.
You might find this surprising but the shop can sell ripped, damaged, paint-splattered and worn out clothes and textiles to raise money.
You can help them by sorting these items into plastic sacks labelled e.g. 'damaged textiles'.
Please remember that very little need go to landfill anymore!
So declutter and be happy in the knowledge that someone else will get great pleasure from your used items and you're raising money for the charity to continue its work.
The Bobath logo on our home page will link you through to their shop website.
(See my blog under House Clearance: The British Heart Foundation offers a house clearance service as a way of raising funds)
Research has revealed the measures some people adopt to make up for the lack of suitable storage space in their homes.
As a declutterer I believe that paring your belongings down will greatly simplify and enhance your life.
However, I recognise that people need space to store basic, everyday items, personal items that you’ve chosen to hold on to and occasional items like camping gear or Christmas decorations.
I always advocate decluttering and using the storage space that you do have more effectively. But, as the Royal Institute of British Architects, discovers from their research the British public is poorly served when it comes to well designed, functional homes that fit their needs.
‘The Way we live now: What people need and expect from their homes’ is a ground-breaking piece of research. It provides the only national evidence setting out how people are using their homes now, what they look for when choosing a home and what they think needs to happen to improve the home-buying experience.
Take a few moments to read this short article. I’m sure it will ring several bells with you!
How many of you have made a resolution to sort out your wardrobe, declutter the spare room so you can have people to stay again, clear the loft so you can have it insulated? And how many of you have stuck to it?
In January, Anna Roberts was invited into the BBC Wales studios to discuss New Year decluttering tips with Louise Elliot (Jamie was on holiday).
Click on the arrow below to hear the conversation - because, let's face it, tips for the New Year will apply all year round!
When you're decluttering for the Spring you'll come across items you no longer want. Favabank is another way of passing on unwanted items through a social bartering system. You can also barter or exchange skills!
I'm sharing this from John Durrant, founder of Favabank, a social bartering site. The website features a video explaining the system briefly and simply. Bartering is back!
"I thought I'd take the opportunity to contact you as a professional declutterer to let you know about a new website that helps people to pass on unwanted items to others in their community who can make good use of them.
The website is Favabank which is a platform for bartering everyday items and sharing skills and favours.
For decluttering, it could be seen as a little like freecycle / freegle, where you can pass on unwanted items, but the difference with Favabank is that it comes with its own virtual currency so when you pass things on to others, they pay you in 'Favas' which are shown in your Favabank account and can be 'spent' in the future on items or skills offered by other people.
The focus is on generating local, friendly and helpful exchanges.
We'll soon be announcing an official launch date for the website, but if you think it might be a useful resource to help your clients to declutter please feel free to take a look around and sign up if you wish - the site is free to use for everyday neighbour to neighbour transactions."
Recent research suggests that the average household is sitting on around £3,500 worth of clutter. In other words, if you sold everything you didn't use or need, that's what you could earn in car boot sales or on auction sites.
I was asked whether that was my experience when working with clients by Oliver Hides on BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales this morning.
Some clients call me in because they're stressed and/or depressed by the amount of clutter in their homes. They feel bogged down by it and the fact that they can't find anything increases their stress levels.
I don't know about you but whenever I've done a car boot sale, I've barely even made back my pitch fee! Selling on auction sites can be fun but you need time to pack and dispatch the items when or if they sell.
The last thing busy working people who are stressed by their clutter need is one more thing on their To Do list; a garage or spare room full of things they intend to put on GumTree or eBay ... one day.
I've seen clients physically walk taller when the charity van comes to collect the 30 to 40 sacks we've filled that day. Getting rid of clutter in one fell swoop is therapeutic.
As each sack is worth an average of £30 in revenue to the charity then that's an added feel-good factor.
Selling your stuff can build up a nice little fund in your PayPal account over time and I've shown several clients how to do it.
But weigh it up. What means more to you? The instant stress-relief of getting rid of all that junk in one go or the potential to buy yourself one new dress or jumper?
I bet you didn't know that there was a National Declutter Week and that in 2012 it starts on Wednesday, 7th March. Nor that it lasts for a whole 11 days. But if you look at the dates - Wednesday 7th to Sunday 18th - that gives us two weekends to clear up and clear out.
The thrust behind this designated week is to promote donations of goods to charity. Most of us feel that we have too much stuff and take bag loads to charity on an ad hoc basis. But I feel that the value of this week is to focus on why we should let go of things.
For example, by reducing the amount of 'stuff' in our homes we'll be less likely to buy duplicates. The more you have, the less likely you are to be able to find that measuring tape, that stapler or that pair of white linen trousers you're sure you have … somewhere. And the by-products of owning less and being organised? Less time-wasting and spending less money.
But it was when I was working with clients last week that another reason for clearing out really crystallised for me. Let's call them Jane and Michael, typical in that they keep the immediate area around them (kitchen, lounge, own bedroom) tidy and organised and then dump everything in one or two spare rooms and the loft.
What emerged from the loft, shelves, baskets, cupboards and the floor were items that Jane was collecting, ready to carry out an impressive variety of hobbies. In my mind, she was already an impressive woman but she can also sew, embroider, take great photos and develop them (ok … back in the day).
She can - but she doesn't. And she doesn't because in her mind she needs to clear and be organised before she can get down to being creative without feeling guilty. Part of being organised involves finding space for the materials which is easily accessible. I truly believe that having clutter black-spots in the home blocks your creativity.
So until Jane has purged, reduced and sorted she won't be able to use a redundant spare room as a hobby room rather than a general dumping ground.
Another client wants to write a book but feels she can't start until she's cleared her clutter and cleared her mind.
How many of us put fun, creative activities on hold because we feel that we've got to sort that room or that attic or that garage out first?
Use this week to do it. Put it into bags and get it to your local charity shop. But most importantly, don't let it build up again. Own less, waste less time, clear you home and mind of clutter and let those creative juices flow!
Have you ever considered swapping your house with a couple, a family or a singleton overseas?
A home swap was immortalised in the film ‘The Holiday’ where Cameron Diaz swaps her L.A. house for Kate Winslet’s cottage in the UK and Diaz’s character falls in love with Jude Law, Kate Winslet’s brother in the film.
A couple I know have had three successful home exchanges, holidaying in properties in Montpelier, San Francisco and Seattle (the latter on a house boat!) And they have one set up for Italy this year.
Can you imagine how it would reduce the cost of your holiday if you took out accommodation costs? It means that families hit hard by the recession can still take a holiday overseas.
Several organisations offer home exchanges and all of them give clear advice on how to set yourselves up for a swap.
Chat forums will give you advice and help you cover all bases, such as letting your buildings and contents insurers know, what to do about bills, cars etc. They will also inform you of the potential pitfalls. Do your research!
You might need our help to get your home ready for your exchange visitors. The idea is that you offer your property as a home so you don't need to clear books off shelves or even photographs but you'll need to clear clutter. This is where we can help you.
I was contacted by the daughter of a lovely woman who was downsizing from a four-bedroom house to a small retirement flat and her children live overseas.
They didn't find me until the move had happened so although they'd got rid of a lot their mother still had too much furniture and too many belongings in this small flat.
The children had families and jobs to return to overseas so they asked if I could help as their mum was feeling quite overwhelmed by all the 'stuff' around her.
Sadly, this client suffers from periodic memory loss she so alternates between being very sharp and very forgetful. I have found that she is very, very reluctant to part with items and I've surmised that this is all tied up with her memory loss. There are memories attached to individual items, even bits of furniture. Getting rid of the items would mean losing the memory.
She has very fond memories of her previous house and likes to talk about where this and that item used to ‘live’ in her house. She's having to deal with so much: Leaving a beloved house and all the memories she associates with it; losing her memory; adjusting to a new home in a new location.
We’ve put photos, letters and memorabilia about certain friends in a ‘Friends’ box and these take up very little space. It struck me when she said: "I have to keep this otherwise one day I might forget that he’s a friend of mine".
Even though she knows she has to downsize we've actually done very little downsizing apart from organising her belongings. I estimate that only 10% has gone to charity or been thrown if it was unusable. We both laugh when I say, 'we're not downsizing, we're just shifting stuff from one place to another!'.
The way we've got round this is to rent some storage space for large items (lovely antique pieces) and to store the rest in labelled, themed boxes in a friend’s loft and I’ve drawn up a rough inventory for it all.
She accepts that both solutions are temporary and that in about three months' time she will have to decide what to do. We’ve discussed it a lot and she accepts that if she hasn't missed it in three months it means she obviously doesn’t need it and we’ll deal with it then.
In the meantime, she can see how manageable her living space is without all the clutter. We'll see!
As professional organisers/declutterers all we can do is enable a process and we can't force people to do things they're unhappy with. When it comes to elderly people who've been incredibly capable, self-reliant and independent all their lives, losing control is a big deal.
My client needs to make decisions for herself - this is how she's dealing with her memory loss. All I can apply is some reasoning and gentle persuasion but ultimately, all decisions should be hers.
When I used to work in television, filming trips overseas required the use of a local 'fixer'. This was a person who translated but, more essentially, made sure that everything happened.
In this line of work, I see myself as a 'fixer'. It's precisely what I was asked to do when a couple asked me to help them turn around a new house purchase in five weeks i.e. make it happen.
It's difficult to ensure that the completion date for a house purchase will fall at a convenient time; both of them work full-time, it was a particularly busy time for both of them and they could not take time off.
They'd decided to rent out their current home and the new tenant was due to move in in five weeks, hence the hurry. Also, paying a mortgage on two properties whilst renovating one of them isn't cheap. So the clock was ticking.
When I walked through the door with them on the day of completion I realised what a tall order this was going to be. I thought we'd walked into a squat!
Just before they got the keys, the new owners, my clients, had been told that there'd been a "small leak" the previous week but that the mess had been cleared up.
In fact, a large amount of water had poured through the kitchen ceiling and about a third of the plasterboard had collapsed. The rest was damp and about to collapse.
The property's a 1940s bungalow with a really nice feel. On the upside, the original parquet flooring was in place albeit very tired. On the downside, the previous owner had made half attempts at renovation and had created even more work.
My clients' intention was to remodel and extend the place eventually but they wanted it to be comfortable (and safe!) to live in for 18 months to two years while they lived in it as it is and got plans drawn up.
Given the five week deadline and the need for the floor to be sanded, treated and left to cure for around 4 days we worked backwards and made a plan as to who should be working when.
I was handed a local directory of tradespeople along with recommendations from neighbours and set about organising visits for quotes starting with an electrician.
This was just as well because he condemned the place on inspection but was at least able to send someone round to start the rewiring work within 3 days. What followed was like managing a big jigsaw puzzle.
It was fun coordinating the plasterer, the plumber, the carpenter, the decorators and the floorers and the result was fresh, light and clean. The final touch was the move and getting all the furniture into place.
In their previous home the owners had gone for a minimalist look but as soon as their belongings were unpacked we could see that the 'cottage' lent itself to a more eclectic look.
Items that had been packed away in their attic were reinstated and their new home has a really warm almost bohemian feel as you can see from the Gallery. My clients are in no hurry for the architect's plans anyway!
If I had a £1 for every time someone had said to me, 'I can't get rid of that, it was a gift' I could retire.
The thing about gifts is that the person who gave it to you never intended it to become a noose around your neck. The spirit in which it was given and the spirit in which you received it never goes away.
You can run out of space to put those gifts; your tastes change; you might not have liked it or found it useful in the first place. It's now an unwanted gift and it's cluttering up your space.
But someone somewhere will love it. They'll love it more than you do, they'll have more space for it than you do. You might get a sense of schadenfreude that it's now cluttering up someone else's home rather than yours... no, only joking.
The other problem with a gift you don't use or like is that everytime you come across it you feel that terrible sense of guilt creep up your spine. Who needs that? Why add unnecessary stress to your life? The person who gave it to you would hate you to feel like that.
I strongly suspect that something I gave to someone close to me was a bit of a disappointment. That doesn't devastate me. I think I might even say something because I'd much rather it go to someone who'd really like it - like me (after all, don't we buy things that we would like to have ourselves?)
Once that item has gone, you'll forget about it and all that guilt will lift from your shoulders.
Give it to a charity shop, give it as a gift to someone else. Just make sure they're not in the same circle of friends as the person who gave it to you! And with the charity shop, maybe take it to one on the other side of town, just to be safe.
A friend of mine in the New Forest has managed to get her children to declutter their rooms themselves. The carrot? A car boot sale where they get to man the stall with her and keep the proceeds. Smart move. But how to stop them using the money to buy lots of useless stuff that will just clutter up their rooms again?
One solution would be to get them to set up a fund for one special item: A pair of special football boots, one of the twenty seven different strips for their favourite sports team (ok, slight exaggeration), a new saddle, a holiday with their friends if they're older. In fact, if you can persuade them to save up for an experience (a hot balloon ride comes to mind) then all the better.
It's a great way of getting children to appreciate the value of things and know what money can buy for them; money that they've earned themselves. You could strike a deal that every item that doesn't sell goes to a charity shop or that for every two items they take to the boot sale they give one to a charity shop.
Just a tip if you are going to take up the car boot sale idea, make sure that you have a date and venue in mind that is not more than a couple of weeks away otherwise you'll just be moving clutter from one place to another and clogging up the hallway, the garage or the car for months on end.
Make a day of it. Here in South Wales there are car boot sales that are held close to the coast so you could do a morning of sales followed by a picnic lunch on the beach. And as everyone knows, the sun always shines in South Wales. I heard someone on the Chris Evans breakfast show say that Cardiff has more hours of sunshine a year than Milan and yes, I did hear right!
A client asked me to help him sort and clear his parents’ house after the death of his mother. He took away personal items that he wanted to keep but like many of us, he had no need of any more furniture.
The client, Steve, was really pleased to donate the furniture to the British Heart Foundation and, as a UK tax payer, he was able to gift aid the donation (for every £1 of value donated you can claim an extra 25p which you pass on to the charity).
Those who gift aid their donations receive quarterly letters from the charity. The first letter Steve received said that his donation of items had so far raised over £1,700 for the charity. He was delighted.
The manager of the Cowbridge Road shop told me that the items had flown out of the shop. They say that turnover is fast, demand being high for decent, cheaper furniture and electrical goods.
So, if you have furniture and unwanted working electrical items, look up your local shops on the BHF website and there will be a phone number for collection of larger items.
New research suggests that 39% of people are unsure about what to donate to charity shops with two thirds (70%) concerned their items might not be good enough quality. If you’re not sure take a look at the BHF's list of what they can’t sell.
Each charity's website will give you guidance on what they take or just drop into your local shop and ask.
And your donations will impact in other ways: BHF shops prevent over 25,000 tonnes of textiles and furniture going to landfill each year.