Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Is clutter affecting your health or wellbeing, or both? Then fill in this form and take it to your GP

Feeling unwell, overwhelmed or at the end of our tether because of clutter and disorganisation is a much more common, debilitating and potentially life-changing problem than you might think. 

Chores that some people find easy can be a nightmare for others - like filing paperwork, time-keeping, meal-planning, money management or quickly finding things that have been put away in that safe place - so safe you can't remember where it is! 

Juggling a busy lifestyle or having to cope with expected or unexpected life events doesn't help, and add to that an existing health condition - or one that you may not even know you have - and it can become overwhelming and a recipe for disaster.

I regularly hear of people who feel so anxious or embarrassed about their homes that they won't allow people in - even when they have no heating, hot water or electricity, and are in desperate need of help and support from trades people such as plumbers, electricians or heating engineers.

And it might not even be your own clutter that causes heartache or health problems - it might belong to a loved one or friend.

So how to ask for help? 

It's common to sometimes feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about going to a GP, especially if we don't know how to start a conversation about lumps, bumps or problems with bodily functions.

And then there's the predicament about how to start a conversation about symptoms that may affect our minds rather than our bodies, like feeling anxious, having obsessive thoughts or not being able to cope with life in general.  

Which is why this new ice-breaker form will help overcome the awkwardness of not knowing where to start the conversation about health problems related to extreme clutter, hoarding and disorganisation.   The idea is that people download and complete the form and present it to their GP, or other medical professional. 

GPs assess and treat patients all the time for conditions which can make organising difficult, such as:

According to the 2014 annual health survey for England, one in four adults has been diagnosed with a mental illness at some stage during their lifetime.

By 2018 the NHS and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which is sponsored by the Department of Health) are likely to have added Hoarding Disorder to the list of mental health disorders, although only specialists will be able to diagnose it.  

I heard about a case recently where someone (who exhibited hoarding behaviours and had all sorts of health problems due to their complex situation) had completed the ice-breaker and ticked all the boxes except one.

It's estimated that between 2%-6% of the population exhibit hoarding behaviour:
  • Acquire and fail to disguard possessions which appear to be useless or of limited value
  • Have clutter which is so severe that it prevents or precludes the use of living spaces for what they were designed for
  • Have clutter which causes significant distress or impairment for the individual and family members.
And in England* The Care Act 2014 classifies hoarding as self-neglect.  Which means GPs and any agencies coming into contact with hoarders have a duty of care to report patients exhibiting hoarding behaviours to the local authority, so that it can be investigated by its Safeguarding team.
*There may be slightly different arrangements for Scotland and Wales

Excessive amounts of clutter creates high safety risks, not only for the people living in a property, but also neighbours and public safety services such as the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) who get called out in the event of an emergency.  Which is why the ice-breaker includes an extract from the Clutter Image Rating Scale on the back, as the FRS like to know whenever Level 5 or above is reached, so they can visit and do a Safe & Well visit (previously known as a Home Fire Safety visit) and discuss things with the resident such as emergency evacuation plans and fit free smoke detectors.

Which makes it even more important that people whose health is affected by clutter, disorganisation or hoarding visit their GP and use this new form to ask for help. 

I must thank OCD-UK for kindly giving me permission to use the format of a similar ice-breaker that they devised for people worried about opening up about their OCD.

My vision is that GPs will learn about and recommend the services of specialist practitioners (working in conjunction with other agencies) to those who suffer with the conditions outlined above, or are at risk of going on to have mental illnesses as a result of the perceived stigma and shame that many people still sadly associate with living in a cluttered or disorganised home.

So, if you or someone you know feels unwell as a result of clutter or disorganisation and don't know who to turn to, please don't poo-poo their difficulties and tell them to snap out of it - it's likely to make them feel worse.

Instead, why not suggest that they click here to download this simple to use ice-breaker document, fill it in and hand it to their GP at their next appointment?

Because life's too short for your health to be ruled by clutter or disorganisation.

Do please let me know how you get on using the form, and what kind of response you get from your GP.  

                     Thank you.

Originally published July 2015 - updated February 2018

Friday, 5 January 2018

Let's Face It - a free photographic exhibition exploring facial Pareidolia & raising awareness of Autism

I met a lovely lady
Anna is her name
She had some virtual goggles on
As we played an Autism sensory game.

She's a very caring lady
And bright as bright can be
So I'm looking forward to her photo exhibition
To see what she can see.

By viewing inanimate objects
Which look like other things
And seeing the positive aspects of Autism
And the possibilities they bring.

She's reaching out in a non-verbal way
To connect and make people smile
Because communications that make you feel good 
Make life so much more enjoyable and worthwhile.


Anna Vaughan-Spruce's free photographic exhibition is on at the Parochial Hall, Earlswood Road, Redhill RH1 6HE from Friday 19th January (1.30pm - 3.30pm) to Saturday 20th January (11am - 3.00pm).

The event is kindly sponsored by The Henry Smith Charity (Horley), which aims to bring about lasting change to people’s lives, helping them to benefit from and contribute to society.  They achieve this by funding organisations that work with people to reduce social and economic disadvantage.  


According to Wikipedia, Pareidolia is "a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists (e.g. in random data).
Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the Man in the Moon, the Moon rabbithidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans."
Anna and I first met at The Autism Show in London in 2017 - we happened to be standing side by side wearing goggles and headphones whilst watching The National Autistic Society's brilliant virtual reality video about the challenges faced by some people on the Autism Spectrum when they go shopping.  
We instantly hit it off.  

As someone who is on the Autism Spectrum, she totally understands the need for the type of planning, organising and decluttering help offered by Rainbow Red and specialist members of APDO (The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers), and similar organisations worldwide.

Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red is delighted to have been invited to contribute to Jo Cooke’s book “Understanding Hoarding” (published by Sheldon Press in 2017), to talk about her experiences as the daughter of a hoarder.

She was a founder Member of APDO’s Hoarding Advisory Team and a member of The Chief Fire Officers Association’s Mental Health (formerly Hoarding) Working Group, and helped organise the first ever UK Hoarding Awareness Week in 2014, attending the event launch at the Houses of Parliament in London.

In 2013 Cherry became APDO’s Chair and Acting President, later stepping down from all her APDO roles in 2014 to care for her father who had Alzheimer’s. 

She became a Dementia Friend in 2015, and devised an ice-breaker form to empower people to discuss with a medical practitioner the affect that clutter, disorganisation and/or hoarding has had on their health, so that the most effective treatment and holistic recovery pathways can be signposted.

Cherry is an advisor to Surrey County Council, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, and a volunteer at FastMinds ADHD/ASD support group in Kingston-upon-Thames; she helped co-ordinate their participation in the 2016 Gnome Project at Hampton Court Palace

Cherry undertakes regular Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training to enhance the holistic services offered by Rainbow Red, and offers training and workshops to help people understand chronic disorganisation and hoarding behaviours, the types of medical and situational situations that can cause it, and techniques that can help people affected by these complex factors make decisions and take practical, sustainable control of their homes, and their lives.

For further information please contact Cherry Rudge - Phone/Text: 07931 303310 - Email: cherry@rainbowred.co.uk

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Challenges of clearing a hoarder's home

If you've ever had to clear out the home of a loved one after they've died, you'll understand how time consuming and emotionally draining it can be sorting out the legal red-tape stuff (probate), making decisions about what to keep, what should go where/to whom, etc.

So imagine having to do that for the home of a hoarder.

I've just done exactly that – it’s taken my family and I over two years to clear the property of my late father (who was a hoarder), visiting virtually every weekend; it’s just as well that I’m self-employed and was able to have the flexibility to fit other visits around work, and have a supportive family and professional organising and hoarding practitioner colleagues who were able to help.

Between us we've probably collectively spent over 1000 hours working on this exhausting project.

What I find incredible is that my dad’s hoarding behaviour was mild compared to what I’ve seen professionally in the homes of other hoarders.  Goodness knows how long it might take to excavate and dissect some of those homes in the event of the person passing away.

My heart goes out to family members who – like me – have to take on this challenge, and the burden of responsibility and commitment of time and energy that goes with it.

Children of hoarders worldwide who have had to do the same will no doubt relate to the following story.
There's been:
·      on average at least one trip to a charity shop or tip per week
·      umpteen bags of shredding (paperwork like car insurance documents dating back to 1952)
·      three removal vans full of unwanted furniture
·      several bonfires of furniture the charity folks won’t take
·      a stack of stuff that's been sold online (including three 1950's wooden TV sets that went to an opera school in London, a box of 1970's/80's Smurf figures that surprised us as they turned out to be quite collectable), and assorted computers from yesteryear)
·      53 original Oxo tins
·      a wash tub that turned out to be so old that it’s been donated to a museum
·      several hundred books and newspaper/magazine clippings
·      five decades of part-dismantled lawn mowers, washing machines, car parts in the garage, barn and four sheds, plus cans of oil that had been drained from cars about 30 years ago, together with assorted mechanic and DIY tools in varying degrees of rust or disintegration
·      a loft containing loads of radio transmitter equipment, vintage valves and transistors dating back to the 1950’s
·      Enough wood to build another shed!
·      LOTS of rubbish and dust!

And that’s not including:
·      the vast number of boxes containing photos, my Mum's paintings, assorted family memorabilia and yet more paperwork now stored in the loft/garage/spare rooms of various family members waiting for us to sort through over the coming months (hopefully not years….)  
·      the massive piles of assorted paraphernalia that’s been piled up in the house and garden waiting for the clearance people to deal with prior to the house being demolished because of years of neglect and disrepair

So my wonderfully supportive family’s journey (and time needed to reach a point of closure in order to finally grieve) continues....

Along the way the exercise has been likened to an archaeological dig, which is about right because of the layers of decades of paperwork, newspapers and technology we’ve found.

Occasionally people have told us “just put it all in a skip”; what they don’t realise is that the contents of every book, drawer, cupboard, box and disintegrating confetti-like carrier bag needed to be checked in case there were things like money or personal memorabilia inside. 

We would have missed all sorts of treasures, such as drawers containing money, jewellery, or family memorabilia and medals belonging to ancestors who fought at Gallipoli - which we hadn’t known about.
I count myself fortunate to a professional understanding and patience about hoarding behaviours and why I believe my father was a hoarder – because many other families aren’t able to accept and forgive when coming to terms with this debilitating disorder that can – and does - tear families apart. 

Thank goodness for specialist Professional Hoarding Practitioners like Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC and Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK (author of the excellent book “Understanding Hoarding”, that I contributed to with a story about my experiences as the daughter of a hoarder) who are skilled at working with people who exhibit hoarding behaviours, and help them reduce the amount of possessions that they own before it becomes the job/chore of family members and friends to clear a property once someone has passed away.  

They're also busy training personnel from local authorities, housing associations, charities and the next generation of Professional Organisers and Hoarding Practitioners - thank goodness, as Rainbow Red has had so many enquiries this year from people asking for help that we can't cope with the demand for our services.

So, as I'm publishing this blog on New Year's Eve, you may be wondering about my New Year’s Resolution?

It's to plough through my parent’s possessions as soon as possible, reduce the amount of my own clutter and theirs, get my own home in order and ensure that whoever ends up sorting out my belongings and affairs when I die has a quick and easy job to do. 

Hopefully this blog will be thought-provoking enough to help you think about doing the same….

Wishing you a happy, health and as clutter-free New Year as possible!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Someone once asked me about what training I've done. So, here are some examples of the main Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training and events I've attended or books I've read since 2014.

July 2017

June 2017
  • Attended "The Autism Show" in London
May 2017

April 2017
  • Started working with Surrey County Council to produce a Hoarding Protocol
  • Attended Emotional Resilience for Practitioners training (Changing Lifecourse Training & Coaching)
February 2017
  • Attended a fascinating talk on Anxiety and ASD by Laura Kerbey of The Curly Hair Project, based on the excellent book "Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety" by Alis Rowe

April 2016
  • Ran a facilitated discussion on "How clutter affects health, and how to ask for help" at Newbury Hoarding Disorders Self-Help Support Group
  • Read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever" by Marie Kondo.  My verdict? Take from it what you think might work for you.  It's unlikely to make much of an immediate difference to people who exhibit hoarding behaviours or suffer with mental health problems.
March 2016 
  • Attended Autism Spectrum Conditions training (Surrey County Council Training Team)

  • Ran a workshop on "How to ask for help if clutter or disorganisation affects your health" at the annual conference of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers - APDO Conference, London

Nov 2015
  • Attended Self-Neglect Awareness training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
Oct 2015
  • Attended Safeguarding Awareness training (Surrey County Council Skills Academy)
Sept 2015
  • Attended Making Safeguarding Personal - Care Act briefing training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
June 2015
May 2015    
  • Attended Training - Meeting the needs of Learners with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Conditions in the Classroom - Level 3, ongoing (Positive Autism Support & Training)
  • Attended Emotion Gyms with a client (First Steps Surrey/Virgin Care/NHS)
    • Communication & Assertiveness 
    • Self Esteem
    • Anxiety
  • Co-trainer - Hoarding Behaviour Awareness Training for Surrey Family Support Services (Empathic Decluttering)
  • Attended Emotion Gyms (with clients) - (NHS Virgin Care) - Mary Frances Trust, Leatherhead
    • Communication & Assertiveness (NHS Virgin Care) - Leatherhead
    • Self-Esteem 
    • Anxiety
Apr 2015

Mar 2015
  • Attended Mental Capacity Act-Awareness Training (Surrey County Council)
  • Attended Hoarding, Safety & Ethics for Professional Organisers training (Yourganize)
  • Attended Dementia Friend training (Dementia Friends)
  • Presented a workshop on Hoarding and The Care Act 2014 at the Annual APDO Conference, London
Feb 2015
  • Attended Care Act 2014 training – An Overview (Central Training)

Jan 2015
  • Attended a CPD Event - Standardisation & CPD meeting of Prevention, Protection & Safety functions subject matter experts (Fire Service College)

Dec 2014
  • Attended Mental Health First Aid Standard training (MHFA), Kingston

Nov 2014
  • Co-trainer of Hoarding Awareness Training for Professional Organisers (Clouds End CIC)
  • Attended Motivational Interviewing training (Central Training, London)
  • Attended Working with Hard-to-Engage Service Users training (Central Training)

Oct 2014

Sep 2014

Jun 2014

Mar 2014
  • Attended Understanding Chronic Disorganization session at APDO conference (Yourganize)

Memberships & Committees


Saturday, 20 May 2017

"Understanding Hoarding" - by Jo Cooke

"Understanding Hoarding" by Jo Cooke is the first book of its kind in the UK that''s been written by a British author (most of the other books about hoarding have originated in the US).

If, like me, your life has been touched or changed by hoarding behaviours and you'd like to understand more about it, then I encourage you to invest in this book - it's been compared to the international works of Steketee, Frost et al, all of whom are experts and published authors on the subject.

Jos' book is easy to read, sensitively written, empathetic and practical, and includes contributions and case studies from hoarders themselves, families of hoarders, professional practitioners, the Fire & Rescue Service and others.

Jo Cooke of
Hoarding Disorders UK CIC
Jo's insight into the world of hoarding comes as a result of being the daughter of a hoarder - as am I.  

It lead her to eventually set up a specialist social enterprise called Hoarding Disorders UK CIC (Community Interest Company) based in Newbury, Berkshire, as well as two (currently) hoarding support groups.

I hadn't read the book prior to it being launched, and have been absolutely delighted by it - it really does live up to one of the reviews on Amazon, written within only two days of the book being published:

"The definitive book on understanding hoarding.   It is both an easy read and beautifully written. It will become the bible for people affected by hoarding. Hoarders themselves, families of hoarders, and people that come into contact with hoarders such as social workers, housing officers, the fire services and many others.

As well as addressing what is hoarding and why people hoard it gives good advice on decluttering and sustainability.

Jo writes in an easy style with a great deal of commonsense, knowledge and passion.Everything you need to know is in this book, the complete guide."  

Very sadly many children of hoarders fall out with their parents; the stuff can tear resentful families apart.

I wish it had been available as I was growing up, so that I could have learned what might be behind my controlling father's habits.  It would have given me the knowledge to look beyond the stuff and work towards developing a stronger and more emotionally rewarding relationship with him. 

In later life he developed Alzheimer's, which made caring for him (and then clearing out his house once he'd died) a time consuming, financially draining and emotional roller coaster of a journey.

Jo very kindly invited me to contribute to "Understanding Hoarding", and has even credited me in the acknowledgement at the beginning, for which I'm truly grateful!  

So I must thank some very special people, without whom my contributions to the book would not have been possible.

Firstly, my client Peter - for allowing me to tell his story.  Next, Sheena Crankson and Felix Pring of FAST Minds ADHD Support Group in Kingston-upon-Thames - for their support in helping me create the diagram (below) for the book.  

It's designed to give people an insight into the thought processes of the ADHD Brain in the context of organising, clutter, disorganisation and hoarding, and has been well received by people with ADHD.

The day after "Understanding Hoarding" was published, a lady who has the condition (as do members of her family) asked if it would be OK to take it to school to show the teachers, to help them understand how difficult and debilitating it can be to have ADHD/ADD.

Members of my local ADHD support group were very excited to see the difficulties they have with clutter and disorganisation shown in picture form (because pictures paint a thousand words).

Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC (founder of the first social enterprise in England specialising in hoarding behaviours) has been a great mentor and friend on my personal and professional development journey, and has also made an invaluable contribution to Jo's book.

And finally, I must thank my late parents - without whom I would not be writing this blog now.

I will always be grateful to Jo Cooke for allowing me to contribute to her wonderful book, and for empowering readers to look at their possessions, other people's possessions and other people's lives differently.  

Because hoarding isn't about the stuff, it's about the people.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Cherry Rudge & Rainbow Red in the media & newsletters

Cherry Rudge - owner of Rainbow Red - is a pioneer in the UK decluttering and organising industry, and has been raising awareness of the importance of using an holistic, client-centred, empathetic, non-judgemental, non-confrontational, motivational approach to help people affected by clutter since 2011.

Positions held
Here are a few examples of where you'll find her mentioned in newspapers, magazines, articles or interviews:

May 2017
Thanked for her contribution on the acknowledgement page of Jo Cooke's brilliant new book "Understanding Hoarding" (published by Sheldon Press).  

January 2017

Mentioned in an article by journalist Toby Walne that was published in The Mail on Sunday and The NZ Herald.

Sept 2016
Getting organised outdoors - article in House Beautiful magazine 

January 2015
Featured in Age UK Mobility's article on "How to Safely Declutter Your Home".

May 2014
Brooklands Radio - Interview - Just Women - 20-May-2014
Promoting UK Hoarding Awareness Week - attending Parliamentary launch

January 2013
House Beautiful Magazine (Feb 2013 issue) - The Big Declutter (decluttering supplement)

Brooklands Radio - Interview - Fabulous Women Show 
15-Jan-2013 http://www.brooklandsradio.co.uk/FabulousWomen/CRudge130115.mp3

October 2013
Cherry's hints and tips are mentioned in an article entitled "Organising Outdoors" in House Beautiful magazine.

November 2012
apdo-uk Newsletter - getting organised for Christmas

Healthy Planet (charity) - Stuff For Free Event - North London (Waltham Forest) 24-Nov

October 2012
Surrey Today - 18-Oct - Transition Ashtead helping people clear out for Christmas

apdo-uk Newsletter - office organisation

July 2012
apdo-uk Blog - What does it take to get you motivated enough to declutter and get organised?

June 2012
apdo-uk Newsletter - L of a lesson to beat moving day hell

April 2012
Anxiety UK (charity) website - Announcing partnership with apdo-uk

March 2012
Snapshot from the YouTube video showing Cherry (APDO's then Marketing & Partnerships Officer) addressing attendees at their annual conference.

February 2012
Serene Healing Blog - Feng Shui & "Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management"

March 2011
Radio Wey interview on The Wonderful Wacky Wireless Radio Show - Carers Week