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Friday 26 October 2012

Decluttering - from a client's perspective

Recently I was invited to give my first ever decluttering workshop at the Leatherhead Institute in Surrey, so I asked some of my hoarder clients for comments to share with the workshop attendees.  My clients did not disappoint.

Client #1 said:  "(on the decluttering process) - "it was nail-biting"; Afterwards: "it was a Revelation!"

Client #2 said:  "Allow plenty of time - decluttering takes longer than you'd think....."

Client #3 was more forthcoming than I could ever have hoped for, and has kindly allowed me to publish in full what he sent me.  He talks candidly about how he came to declutter, how we met and his progress - I am eternally grateful and flattered for his contribution and candour.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then he'll begin.....

"An eremitical existence and a tendency to hoard do not conduce to an uncluttered living-space. Possessions tend to take over; it becomes difficult to move around; and even basic cleaning grows difficult and is eventually abandoned. But one’s possessions have a way of becoming one’s family. One knows where all of them came from; each has its associations pleasant or poignant. So it was only when self-consciousness about the state of my house turned to self-disgust that I began decluttering. I did not know that that was what it was called, but even I could see that I did not need five of everything. An enormous amount went via Freecycle and Freegle; one young woman left with sixty-four items of kitchenware on a single occasion. Three step-ladders went, leaving me with only two. One man took away a hundred and fifty engineering bricks in the boot of a saloon car. (I hope he got home safely.)
I have since realized that freecycling is the slowway to clear a house, but it was the way in which I met Cherry Rudge, who came to collect a four-hole punch. I confess that when I later learned that Cherry was a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, I thought she was pulling my leg, or that APDO was an association of one. Now I know better. By that stage my decluttering had slowed down. An enormous amount remained to be done; it still does. I was awed by the scale of what I had to do, and I still am. But Cherry inspired me to keep going. With her occasional (but invaluable) practical help and never-failing encouragement, I am still going, even though an unexpected return to daily commuting has robbed me of time and energy. 

There have been real dividends already. For example, I am able to sit down to a meal for the first time in years (though I still sometimes forget to), and I am close to being able to empty the kitchen completely, ready for rewiring and replastering. Then I shall be able to install the bespoke kitchen units that were made for me years ago and have remained flat-packed in the sitting-room ever since. I can even look forward to the day when I shall be able to cook for friends. By that time, I can believe, the process of purging the Augean stables will have become positively cathartic.
As I say, despite disbelief at the beginning, I have come to know that there are such people as professional declutterers, and that they do really valuable work. I know too that they do more than just help people to declutter: they can provide balm for a troubled soul and help one back to a measure of self-esteem. For that alone I salute Cherry and her colleagues, and wish today’s convocation every success."
Anonymous client, Hersham, Surrey UK
Well, I was delighted to report to my client that the feedback on the decluttering workshop that we received afterwards via the Evaluation Forms proved that the event was indeed a success.  

Unfortunately I'd only had time to read out a small part of his piece - the bit about self-consciousness, bricks and step ladders.  It featured during the section on motivation and procrastination and was certainly well received, with some people expressing shock, others seemingly able to relate to some of what he'd said.

I hope to be able to read out more of the piece at future workshops.  I feel incredibly proud that my fellow professional organising colleagues and I are able to provide help and inspiration which drive people to write with such passion. 

I thank and salute my client - and all decluttering clients.  You inspire us too you know.

Explanation of terminology above shown in bold italics

1.      Eremitical existence - Living the life of a recluse or hermit

2.      Augean stables: Greek myth - the stables (where King Augeas kept 3,000 oxen) hadn't been cleaned for 30 years. Hercules diverted the River Alpheus through them, and cleaned them in a day.

3.      Convocation: A gathering for an event


Decluttering Workshop - 20th October - Leatherhead Institute

On Saturday 20th October, Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms and Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red gave a hugely successful decluttering workshop in Leatherhead. 
The event was hosted by local environmental campaigning Groups from the Transition Network(Ashtead and Bookham) - plus Leatherhead Residents' Association

A packed house of around 80 people learned useful hints tips about on how to declutter their homes, upcycling, repurposing, recycling, and other environmentally friendly ways to get rid of unwanted items.

Guest speaker Barbara Unsworth - Manager of the QEF Charity Shop in Shepperton - explained about the wide variety of things that the shops can recycle if they can't be sold in the shop.

Everyone took home a Useful Information Sheet which Cherry and Lynda created, and which is now available on the Transition Ashtead Website.

Delicious refreshments were served, and proceeds from the afternoon were donated to Leatherhead-based group the Friends of Teazle Wood.

Lynda and Cherry are Members of The Association of Professional Decluttererers & Organisers UK (apdo-uk), whose Members are required to abide by a strict Code of Conduct.  Cherry is also apdo-uk's Marketing Officer. 
Further decluttering workshops are planned in the North West Surrey and South West London area - to make an enquiry or a booking please contact Cherry on 07931 303310.
To find a professional declutterer near you, check out the apdo-uk website, or call 020 8123 4591(leave a message and someone will call you back).



Thursday 4 October 2012

National Poetry Day - the power of feeling organised!

"Roses & Grapes" painting by Ruth Alder, 2005
Roses are red,
Clutter makes me feel blue,
Being organised makes me feel better,
You should try it too!

Sunday 16 September 2012

Why did I become a professional organiser? Thanks to my darling Mum....

This is a special Blog dedicated to my darling Mum – Ruth Alder – who died unexpectedly in October 2009.  She was my best friend and a wonderful wonderful person who everyone loved dearly, and I still find it hard to believe she’s gone. 

The reason this blog is dedicated to her, is that I’ve come to believe that her passing was the inspiration for me to start my decluttering and organising business in 2011, although I didn’t realise it at the time.  What I did know was that my need to help people became stronger than it had ever been before. 

Perhaps this increased need to help people was because I hadn’t been able to help stop my Mum from dying.  Or perhaps I felt frustrated that I’d not been able to “rescue” her from my Dad’s hoarding habits whilst she was alive.  Mum was a painter, but aesthetics have never really been Dad's "thing".
So instead perhaps I thought I’d try and help someone else overcome their clutter problems as a tribute to her when she’d gone. 
Or perhaps – as has been suggested to me by a dear friend – I had an urge to help others as an indirect cry for help for myself (to be able to come to terms with my bereavement).  I don’t know; perhaps the Cruse Bereavement counselling people (who I’ve just signed up with) will be able to tell me.

What I do know is that when I met an elderly lady who needed someone to help her declutter, it felt like helping my Mum (who was a similar age), and the opportunity was too good to miss.

Asking for help with decluttering can be one of the most difficult things for people to do; people may know they need assistance or support, but won’t ask because of pride or embarrassment, because they’re shy, or because they simply don’t know who to ask. 

That the lady asked for help meant she was motivated to get organised, although it had taken her about 10 years to get to that stage!  We arranged to have a regular session every Wednesday, which gave her a structure in her week to take time out from her busy schedule - which revolved around numerous hobbies. 

I started reading numerous books on things like decluttering, hoarding and chronic disorganisation, and much to my delight, the more we worked together, the more we made her home safer and a more pleasant place to live in.  The added bonus was that her health improved – mainly because of the relief that the burden of having to get her life in order by herself was now being shared. 
And the rest is history.  Thank goodness she asked for help, because she’s made great progress with her decluttering and organising, and has become more of a friend than a client.  And I’m now very happy with my new profession.

Since I discovered and became a Member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers UK (apdo-uk), I passionately want to tell everyone that there are kind, impartial, non-judgemental professionals around who they can talk to about their clutter and organisational problems, and who can provide advice, support, coaching and practical assistance to reduce the clutter and organisational stress in their lives.  ( by the way!)

So Mum, if you’re reading this, thanks for watching over me and helping me find my new vocation - you always were an angel, it's good to know that some things never change.

Friday 13 July 2012

Falls Awareness - prevention is better than cure

Accidents are a real pain
There’s a very good reason why preventing accidents and educating people to the dangers of potential slip, trip and fall hazards, has become a personal mission for me – and that reason is pain! 

My pain came from having tripped over a carelessly abandoned door wedge where I worked many years ago, and slipping two discs – definitely not an experience I’d recommend.

Cluttered staircase
Photo published with kind permission of
an anonymous Rainbow Red client
But actually something more dramatic happened around the same time that was equally life-changing – it didn’t happen to me, but it affected me greatly. 

The elderly father of a colleague fell down the stairs at his home, and died - which is very sad and bad enough.  What was worse was - how can I put this delicately..... there was a lot of cleaning do afterwards. 

Utterly tragic, and a situation no one wants to be or hopefully should ever be in. 

This might all sound very shocking, but sometimes shock treatment can be an effective way of getting people to change their bad habits: think heart attack > change in eating or exercising habits.

I'm sure this all influenced my decision to became a professional declutterer and organiser, and why I'm so keen to help hoarders or people who have piles of newspapers or clutter in their home. 

Most of us have met people who gamble with their lives – and sometimes also the lives of other people - every day by leaving objects on the stairs or in walkways where they can easily trip over them. 

For an elderly person who falls over, there's not only a high risk of hitting their head or breaking hips/shoulders/arms (and all the pain and disruption that goes with it); there's a real and potentially life-threatening risk of not being able to get up. And sadly - if they live alone - there's also a real risk that by the time someone finds them, it could be too late to help them....

Thank you in advance
So, if you ever happen to be walking around a supermarket and see someone loitering around spilt milk or spaghetti strewn across the aisle, it’s probably me stopping people from walking across the spillage whilst waiting for an assistant to mop/sweep it up!

And if you’re the supermarket assistant that I come to report the incident to, thank you in advance for clearing up the mess and helping to prevent a potentially painful injury.  And - based on my own experience - hopefully saving someone a fortune in physiotherapist/osteopath/ chiropractor bills!

Friday 30 March 2012

Rainbow Red has a Waste Carrier Licence

Rainbow Red is delighted to announce that it is now the proud owner of a Waste Carrier Certificate from The UK Environment Agency.

As a Licenced Upper Tier carrier/broker/dealer, it means that we are registered to carry waste (including items for the charity shop, recycling point or tip) from a client site, and to organise for others to do the same. Licences are valid for 3 years.

To check our Waste Carrier Status, find us on the Environment Agency Website:
The Business Link website is a good place to find out more about Waste Carrier Licenses (as the Environment Agency's website is rather confusing):

Tuesday 27 March 2012

apdo-uk Conference - 26th March 2012

When she's not busy working with her clients and running her own business, Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red is also a Member of -- and Marketing Officer for -- The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers UK (apdo-uk).

Cherry organised and was a key speaker at the Association's recent conference at the Park Crescent Conference Centre in London, where apdo-uk was delighted to launch its first ever charity partnership - with Anxiety UK.  

A fabulous day was had by all attendees, and the great guys at Media On Demand Streaming captured the essence of the day by creating a superb webcast for us - see some of the edited highlights here (YouTube).

Saturday 24 March 2012

A big thank you to Rainbow Red's clients

Left to right: 
Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red);
Cassie Tillett (apdo-uk);
Debbie Conibere - 1st Weybridge 
Debbie Conibere, Fundraising Co-ordinator of 1st Weybridge Scout Troop (the oldest scouting group in Surrey) has thanked Rainbow Red's clients who kindly contributed around 20 dustbin bags of textiles, towards their recent HQ Renovation Appeal.

Textile Recycling company Phil The Bag confirmed that 1st Weybridge had broken all records, by collecting an astounding 4 tonnes (1000 bags) of assorted clothing, bags, bed linen, towels, curtains, etc from local Elmbridge residents.  

And still the trollies come!

Debbie Conibere (1st Weybridge Scouts);
Lionel Smith (Storage Pod),
Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red)

Loading in progress

A big wave and a smile from the volunteer loaders - job done!

Any Brown of Radio Wey

 For more information about 1st Weybridge's HQ Restoration Appeal, check out their website

Or call Debbie Conibere on 01932 599560 (before 8pm) or 07931 945282.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

What’s the connection between the basic principles of Feng Shui and the 19th Century classic “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management”?

Rainbow Red was invited (by the lovely Alison Fuller of Serene Healing - an holistic therapist and Feng Shui consultant in Weybridge, Surrey) to write an article about the health benefits of decluttering in relation to Feng Shui.
The answer to the question about the connection between the basic principles of Feng Shui and the 19th Century classic “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, is that they both endorse living in harmony with our environment so that the energy surrounding us works for us rather than against us, to improve health, wealth and happiness.

In her classic epic guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain’s homes, Isabella Beeton (one of 21 children!) not only painstakingly documented a huge number of popular recipes of the time (“first, catch your hare”), she also wrote “I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways”.

150 years later and much of the advice in “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management” is out of date – typically those relating to health remedies (thankfully these days there’s not a lot of call in the UK for unction’s or potions to combat “Cholera and Autumnal complaints”).

However, many of the recipes and advice have stood the test of time and are just as relevant today: “Cleanliness, punctuality, order, and method, are essentials in the character of a good housekeeper. Without the first, no household can be said to be well managed”.

Let me give you a 21st century example of her wisdom: in a recent article, life coach, mentor, motivational speaker and author Louise Presley-Turner suggested that the way to reduce your stress levels is easy - by decluttering and simplifying your life!” 
Her top recommendations for success were:
  • Sort your finances out
  • A clear house equals a clear mind
  • Clean out the cupboards
  • Sort out those niggling outstanding jobs
  • Spend more time doing the things you love
  • Turn off the tv”
Noble suggestions indeed; but are they true? And can sorting out niggling outstanding jobs and untidy ways really improve your health and happiness?

The answer is definitely “yes”. Rainbow Red has had several clients who were in significant danger from falling over cables, newspapers, books, clothing or craft items until they were rescued from the perils of clutter; we’ve had others who shook so badly when we first met them that we thought they had Parkinson’s – only to see them become significantly less wobbly as they became less anxious about their home being cluttered, and their lives became more organised.

We’ve had clients who have benefited from being able to get into bed and change their bedclothes more easily once the volume of clothes on the bedroom floor had been removed, and others who were able to finally sit at their dining room table to eat for the first time in years. In many cases, clients have expressed huge relief simply knowing that there was a friendly face available locally to give practical help, and motivational advice and support, and others who have commented that their house was a more pleasant place to live in after only one short session.

We’ve improved cleanliness and hygiene by arranging for professionals to clean decluttered homes; we’ve re-organised kitchen cupboards and fridges (how often do you check and chuck out what’s out of date – or mouldy – at the back of your cupboard, fridge, or even make-up bag?), and brought in reliable tradesmen to decorate decluttered rooms, install television aerials, and install or repair windows; we’ve even had electricians install lights in under-stairs cupboards, as well as bathroom extractor fans – to combat mould caused by windows not being opened as a result from poor access due to clutter.

Rainbow Red is determined to recycle as many of our clients’ unwanted items as possible; for example, yoghurt pots go to kids arts and crafts workshops in Claygate; textiles go to,uk for their HQ appeal; unwanted toiletries goes to

And if you happen to know of anyone who has a use for newspapers and magazines, we’d love to hear from you!

See the blog as it was originally published here: