Susan the Teacher
Susan was a typical clutterholic.
She had had her clutter challenge for 23 years, ever since she became a teacher and started to create lesson plans, resources, ideas etc for her classes.
She kept everything from her teaching 'just in case' it came in useful again. However, at the age of 59 she was close to retirement, her husband had already retired and she had reached her true turning point.
Susan had clutter in every room of her home. Her office was stacked with boxes and crates of paperwork clutter related to her teaching. However it wasn't just work related paperwork clutter that she struggled with. She had craft clutter, book clutter and clothes clutter. She struggled to control the new and incoming clutter. She was also a self confessed bargain hunter, special offer queen and could never resist the BOGOF offers in her supermarket.
Clare: What made you seek help to deal with your clutter?
If I'm honest I'd wanted to get help for a while, but the turning point came when my husband retired and the comments about the boxes and bargains were constant. He wanted to join social groups, take up new hobbies but he couldn't do either because he had no space and we couldn't invite people into our cluttered home.
I realised I was holding him back, so I got on the internet.
When I came across your website it struck a chord. You weren't claiming to know what was best for me and I liked that. Others I saw and spoke to said they'd be able to visit my home and tell me what I 'should' and 'shouldn't keep', and how to organise my home.
That made me feel uncomfortable - a complete stranger claiming to know what's best for me.
So I signed up for your top tip videos.
When I saw the first one about the Clutter Conveyor Belt I suddenly realised that my clutter wasn't the real problem - my accumulation was a more immediate problem. I took your challenge of going through old receipts to see how much I'd spent on things I'd never used or didn't know what they were for and I was shocked. It's then I realised I needed help.
Clare: What other types of help had you considered?
I'd signed up for top tips on a couple of other websites, but their top tips had actually been impractical or obvious to me. I don't want to know about storage solutions because, as you say, it doesn't solve your Clutter Challenge. I needed detailed, specific help like you provide in the videos.
I'd seen lots of people providing a service where they would come to my home to 'help' me.
I even got quotes from two companies, but there were so many hidden costs it was beyond my budget when I got the quotes. I knew I wanted to learn how to do it myself. I've had enough blitz's to know the clutter returns so I knew I needed to learn how to get back control forever.
That's what makes you different.
Others would have made me dependent on them. You share a life skill.
As you say - you want people to achieve a long term permanent solution so they can be clutter free forever. That's what I want and I'm finally doing something about it.
Clare: So which type of help did you have?
When I first looked for help I wrongly thought a home visit was the only type of help that would make a difference, but I couldn't afford that. Plus I knew I needed to get help that I could keep secret.
Although my husband was complaining about the clutter, he would not have approved of me paying for help which is why the DIY Clutter College was ideal -
it has all the resources, advice etc I need
I don't need to print anything off that he can find and question how I got it
I feel as though you're helping me with my Clutter Clearing because I watch the 'Clutter Clearing Session how-to' video and I get a lot of support from others on the same journey, using the same process with the same challenges
I can afford it and pay for it from my own bank account so it's kept secret from my husband.
For me it's the next best thing to having 1-2-1 Coaching from you. Besides, when I do a LIVE Clutter Clearing Sessions I feel like you're helping me 1-2-1.
Clare: What surprised you most about your Clutter Clearing Journey?
Firstly how effective the Clutter Clearing Category Cards are! I was expecting the decision making to be painful and difficult, but with the 7 categories and the not sure category it became easy to make the decisions after a few sessions.
Secondly, how easily I found it to let go after a few weeks.
To begin with I was convinced things would come in useful, but when I listened to your audio in the online Clutter Community about 'how to make decisions' there was one question that I found changed everything. 'When was the last time you used it?' I realised I hadn't used any of the teaching resources more than twice. I enjoy the creative making.
Plus, I'm retiring in a couple of years, we have a resource library and, as you say - I have all the successful students as evidence of how hard I've worked over my career, I don't need to keep the 'stuff' to prove I worked hard. I've donated much of it to the resource library so it's still being used and appreciated by people who haven't used them yet. It's also saving other busy teachers a lot of time so it's actually a positive to let go.
Clare: When did you start to notice the improvements in your clutter and your home?
After about 6 weeks.
I think it took a while because it was paperwork which, as you say, is small in volume, large in quantity.
It wasn't until I had gone through the filing cabinets and started on the boxes and crates, much of which went to the resource library, the remainder of which went in the clutter free filing cabinet, that I saw less boxes and crates.
My husband started to notice the improvement when I finished the lounge. (The first room I did was my office which he doesn't use so he wouldn't have noticed the improvement in there.) He asked me where I had put it all because he was so used to me buying more crates and boxes to put stuff in he couldn't believe that I'd let go of things!
He also noticed we have more money because I'm not buying useless storage for the clutter or impulse buying the things that became clutter, so with the money I'm saving I now have a weekly cleaner.
Clare: So what have you learnt on your journey so far?
Admitting you need help and asking for it isn't as scary as it might seem, especially if you do the DIY Clutter College so you don't have to talk to anyone, you can just start whenever you want!
Starting is hard, especially when you've put it off for so long like I have. At my age it's difficult to accept change, much less choose to do it.
But once you've started, built up the routine and momentum, and successfully cleared and organised your first room, you soon find you can do it. I would even go so far as to say I enjoy doing it!
I've realised that I will clear it all by keeping at it - as you say, eat the elephant bit by bit.
I've also taken your advice and put a 'Clutter Accumulation Ban' in place so I don't go bargain shopping. That's harder than making the decisions!
Going shopping with a list and only buying what's on your list because you know you NEED those things and you know you'll USE those things is really hard when you're used to impulse buys.
Now I'm going through my clutter I realise how much I've bought over the years that has been a total waste of money. I did start adding up the things I'd bought on special offer and never used. I stopped counting at $100....!
I've also learnt that you don't need people to come to your home to help you. The online videos are perfect. I can watch, follow, re-watch and because it's exactly the same every time it's easier for me to learn the process. I've reached a point where I don't really need the videos to tell me what to do, I watch them because I feel like you're there with me, helping me.
Lastly, that you're right - it's the new habits that are crucial to keeping the clutter away.
Clare: How are you rewarding yourself?
Guilt free reading time is my favourite. I've found so many unread books amongst my clutter!
Just spending quiet time relaxing is heaven.
My husband is rewarding me without knowing it with his positive comments about how happy he is to see things going out of the house! He's also taking the teaching resources to the library so saving me time that I can spend doing more Clutter Clearing.
Clare: So what advice would you have for anyone considering having help?
You can do it if you're patient, determined and realistic that it will take you a bit of time to do, and you'll only get there if you start your journey NOW.