As children and students across the county return to schools and colleges, a unique college that started as an experiment at the beginning of the pandemic will officially open it’s ‘virtual’ doors to its first academic year of students who are all taking its unique courses.

Next week Clare Baker, a former clutterholic and hoarder, opens the ‘virtual’ doors to the students of her Clutter College that is exclusively for clutterholics and hoarders who want to learn how to clear their clutter forever, just like she did 20 years ago.

‘There are an estimated 1.5 – 3.5 million hoarders in the UK’ explains Clare ‘but my belief is that since the start of the pandemic that number has increased significantly not just because existing clutterholics and hoarders have been forced to spend more time at home and literally face their clutter challenge, but also because the Pandemic has created new clutterholics and hoarders as a result of the mental and emotional stress of the pandemic – a common trigger that causes people to hoard.’

‘My Clutter College is specifically for people who struggle with clutter and know that having a blitz doesn’t work. One of the biggest misconceptions about helping a hoarder is that you can help them by helping them decide whether to ‘keep’ or ‘get rid’ of things as quickly as possible. It’s what all the TV programmes about hoarding do, so we mistakenly believe that the only way to deal with our clutter is to have a blitz and get rid of things quickly as possible’ Clare says.

‘20 years ago, even I had well-meaning friends and family who organised a skip for me thinking it would ‘help’ me deal with my clutter challenge. The skip was delivered to my driveway, out of the blue one Saturday morning. It didn’t help – it made me panic and I felt overwhelmed. The skip got picked up on the Monday morning as empty as when it was delivered, and as a result I put off even trying to deal with my clutter for months. So as I know from my own experience of being a hoarder, having a blitz is actually the most dangerous thing you can do’.

As Clare explains, ‘clutterholics and hoarders actually need to go back to school to understand WHY they have their clutter challenge and learn the skill of HOW to clear their clutter so they can stay completely clutter free forever, just like I did 20 years ago.’ 

‘Those of us who struggle with clutter either never learnt some essential skills when we were young, have created coping mechanisms which actually cause clutter, or we’ve had a life experience – or series of life experiences – that have caused us to form a strong emotional connection with the things in our clutter which makes it difficult for us to let go and feel safe. Our Clutter represents our comfort zone where we feel safe and secure with our clutter.

When someone struggles with clutter it’s because they have a fear of the unknown. They have a fear of the emptiness that they might feel mentally, emotionally and physically without the clutter. It’s not that they want to live like that, they’re choosing familiarity, safety and security over the unknown.’

Clare’s Clutter College is the culmination of Clare’s 20 years of experience of working with clutterholics and hoarders. Because Clare doesn’t help people have a blitz by visiting them in their home, she’s even been able to continue working with them throughout the Pandemic.

‘The Pandemic has made clutterholics and hoarders look at ways to get help without an ‘expert’ travelling to their home to help them have a blitz. That search for an alternative led them to discover my online Clutter College which enables you to clear your own clutter without someone coming to your home. It’s much less stressful than having a stranger visit you in your home making judgements on your belongings by telling you what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t get rid of. In a Covid world it’s also much safer’.

Clare’s Clutter College offers a range of online part-time courses and support depending on what stage of their Clutter Clearing Journey people are at.

‘Some people are struggling to believe they can clear their clutter and don’t have supportive friends or family’ says Clare. ‘so my Social Gathering Support Group that meets every Monday enables them to build their belief and confidence that they CAN clear their clutter by regularly meeting other clutterholics and hoarders who are already successfully clearing their clutter.’

‘For people who are ready to start ‘doing the doing’ by working on their clutter, they can take a short-course. Finally, for those who are ready to face the fear and are ready to commit a maximum of 2 hours a day, 5 days a week to their Clutter Clearing, so they can clear all their clutter for the last time – just like I did 20 years ago – there’s the 7 Step Journey which is a Part-Time 2 year Course.

As one of Clare’s 7 Step Journey students shares:

‘I am doing this course to benefit me and my family and it is in completing the exercises that I will succeed. I am learning and applying the learning as I am going along. It’s no good thinking that you’ll be able to do it quickly. Clutter that’s taken years to accumulate isn’t going to disappear overnight. But if you’re patient you’ll learn how to tackle it, bit by bit. Don’t give up – you will get there if you persevere.’

Clare hopes to arrange a Covid Safe face-to-face gathering of her Clutter College students in Oxford before Christmas to strengthen that bond and support between her Clutter College students, and so she can present course completion certificates in person.

‘The first graduates of Clutter College completed their 7 Step Journey Part-Time Course during the Pandemic’ explains Clare. ‘When I designed that course it involved face-to-face Graduation Ceremonies, but that hasn’t been possible. I hope we can do that in the next couple of months as I think it will be a huge boost for those who have had significant successes and are able to travel to Oxford.

Clare’s top tips for anyone wanting to clear their clutter forever are:

  1. Accept that your clutter didn’t appear over night so it’s not going to be cleared over night in a blitz.
  2. NEVER do more than 2 hours of Clutter Clearing a day. Your brain can only make decisions for 52 minutes at any one time. At Clutter Clearing we only make decisions for 30 minutes during a 2 hour Clutter Clearing Session.  As impatient as you may be to clear it quickly, however long it may take, you will still clear it quicker by doing a little and often than if you give up like you have in the past.
  3. As strange as this sounds, don’t start with the big and bulky backlog clutter that you can see. Start with the smaller, more manageable paperwork clutter that doesn’t need as much space to sort through and is easy to let go of because you can shred it and put it out for recycling – you don’t have to spend time working out where to take it.
  4. Give yourself more choices than ‘keep’, ‘get rid of’ and ‘charity’. Your brain needs 7 Action Focused Choices to make a safe, comfortable decision.
  5. Always give yourself a non-clutter accumulation reward when you’ve let go of some things in your clutter e.g. takeaway instead of having to cook, guilt free TV, lunch with a friend. This is

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