We’re at home. All the time. And for many of us, that has brought a realisation that we own too much stuff, and we can’t keep a handle on tidying it all. Enter Netflix and their zeitgeist-hijacking organisation porn, either inspiring anxiety soothing bursts of decluttering, or inspiring frantic calls to the organising professionals…
By Aisling Keenan.[restrict]
You likely fall into one of two camps: Those who watch with glee as organisers colour-coordinate 250 kids books, then feeling inspired and motivated to tackle their own mountains of junk, or those who are so overwhelmed by the mountains of junk that those same shows fill them with guilt and anxiety.
When I started googling “The Container Store Irish franchise rights” the other day, I knew I’d reached peak organisation fever. I was examining gaps in the Irish market for container-specific megastores, having finished Get Organised: The Home Edit, the latest in a line of Netflix series’ focused on the goal of, essentially, sorting through your shit.
Shows like the aforementioned Get Organised and Marie Kondo’s Hug-your-stuff-then-throw-it-out (right?) have tapped into the ever-growing trend of more minimal, neater living. We’re at home more than ever, and it seems to have occurred to us all, at the exact same time, that we would feel marginally less anxious if everything we own was decanted into clear containers and sorted into rainbow order. It’s a matter of how we get there that’s the difference.
While I enjoy decluttering, organising, cleaning and coming up with inventive ways to display my various belongings, I understand that not everyone does. Hence, professional organisers are being called upon to help put shape on people’s domestic lives.
After putting a call out on Instagram for intel, hundred of respondents replied saying that if they had the money, they would pay for a professional to do their sorting for them. Many even said they had already done so.
Dubliner Rob Burke put his reasoning to me in an incredibly sensible-sounding way.
“Money is a tool. I give money, I get happiness (organised stuff is happiness),” he explains. “I try to stay on top of organising myself and get to “a place for everything and everything in its place” vibe. But there are things I just can’t figure out the place for, or ways to store things I’m just completely blind to, that I would absolutely pay someone to come and tell me what to do with. I figure it’s probably a bit like therapy,” he continues.
“Half the time you’re hearing what you already know, but someone else telling you makes it resonate, and someone holding a mirror up to you and forcing you to consider the thing (be it a feeling in therapy or the fourteenth ridiculous kitchen contraption) makes you actually confront it and deal with the feeling or, in the case of the home stuff, either donate/recycle it or find the right place for it.”
One of Ireland’s best-known professional organisers is Sarah Reynolds. Her business, organisedchaos.ie, and her book Organised, are both about one thing: changing people’s approach to clutter and tidying. She told me about the types of clients that come to her, and why she went into the business of pro-sorting in the first place.
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“I always loved organising and did it at home as a kid. Then when I was sixteen I saw Oprah interviewing Julie Morgenstern (a famous professional organiser, around long before The Home Edit!) and as Oprah would say, I had my lightbulb moment and thought about doing it for a business. It wasn’t until a career break in my thirties that I actually took the leap,” explains Sarah.
With taking that leap into professional organising must’ve come some apprehension as to whether there was a market for such a service in Ireland. I asked Sarah if she was nervous, at the start, about people taking her up on her skills.
“I still am. But over the years I’ve come to realise that what I do is excellent and there is value to that. I think women – especially Irish women – have trouble recognising that they’re good at what they do and that they’re worth it.
“After ten years, I’m still not great, but I’m getting better at recognising my service’s value and therefore more confident in selling it. There is so much value that is “invisible”. People are really paying for the skill of organisation and the creativity that is required to maximise space. Not everyone can do that, which is why we’re there. They are paying for the value of the appointment itself. We know we could probably do the decluttering ourselves, but life is busy and we don’t. When they make an appointment it forces them to get the job done.
“They are also paying for the time and relief that they get back in their lives. That’s hard to show potential clients before a job. Once we’re working with them they see the value immediately. But to get the first sale, the client has to trust what I’m saying we can do. Instagram and shows like The Home Edit are great for showing our work so that customers can get a better feel for the service they will be getting,” Sarah continues, also commenting that she’s seen an uptick in demand since those shows aired.
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I also spoke to sustainable decluttering expert and writer, Emma Gleeson, about the moment she crossed over from amateur organiser to the professional side of things, and who her clients tend to be.
“I’ve learned over time that there’s proper value in this work. If someone can’t see that then they don’t have to hire me! I started doing it for friends and loved it. A few of them wanted to pay me and I’ve always worked in a slightly chaotic freelance way coming from theatre, so I thought, ‘why not throw this in the mix!'” she explains.
“Almost all my clients are women in their late 30s and over, many of whom are trying to keep a family home under control. I talk about that in the book too, the imbalance of household management, clutter management as an offshoot of emotional labour,” she continues.
Emma also says that sustainability is a huge part of her professional efforts when it comes to organising, and she encourages “buying less and buying better”.
“[Sustainability] is 100% the core of what I do. We desperately need to step away from this cycle of clutter building up every few months through mindless shopping. But having a clutter free home is not about being a minimalist – I’m definitely not! It’s about having only what you need and what you love, and knowing where everything is in your home so you can use it,” she explains.
Emma has also written a book about the psychology behind why we shop, how to declutter and using tidying as anxiety management, and it’ll be out early next year.
“The book is called Stuff Happens and it’s about changing our relationship with what we own and what we buy. It’s definitely not just a “how to organise your home” book – so many of those exist already! I go into the psychology of why we shop the way we do, the psychology of wardrobes (that’s a big one, I’ve a whole chapter on body image), and how to slow down and appreciate where things are made, learn how to repair and use them properly, and ultimately break the clutter cycle of clearout – shopping spree – clearout – spree,” she said.
Lastly, I talked to Niamh Martin, owner of Nima Brush, a massively successful Irish cosmetics company. She is one of the many that told me she hired a professional organiser, Lynn from Organised Interiors Ireland, to help her sort through her things.
“Organisation and order is not my strong point, to say the least,” she admits.
“I start with an element of structure around me and it turns to complete disarray in a very short time. So when I heard about the concept of hiring someone to organise your space from a friend, I politely asked her not to tease a gal!” Niamh laughs.
“We started small. We did our kitchen, sitting room, under the stairs and my accessories (beauty products, jewellery etc). Lynn from Organised Interiors Ireland came to my house with containers, baskets and a label machine. She sorted every drawer, gave each item a designated home and separated everything into sections.
“I’ve had Lynn over twice, the first time I was there with her, second time I left her to her own devices. The first time, she walked me through the system and the process and I worked alongside her. There’s a slight aspect of embarrassment around these things, worrying that you’ll be judged about being such a hoarder of stupid things. Kind of like the cleaning of the house before the cleaner arrives, but Lynn was so kind and reassuring that this is so normal. Quickly the systems she was implementing became exciting and I wanted to do more. When she left I did our hot press, my makeup drawers and bathroom. It was addictive,” Niamh says.
Niamh is evangelical about the powers of Lynn, her professional organiser, but I was intrigued as to whether the processes implemented have been followed through on, have they stayed in place, and would Niamh pay for a service like that again.
“Yes, for the most part. The little homes she created for everything has stayed and we do follow the systems as much as possible. Probably not as aesthetically pleasing as it was when she first tackled it all but definitely it has helped,” says Niamh.
“I need structure and organisation around me to keep my mind calm when things are really hectic and even though I’m the creator of my own chaos, it stresses me out highly so her system was a dream. Writing this I’m scanning areas of the house in my mind that could do with her handy work, so yes I will absolutely be employing her services again. It’s amazing how empowering it is actually, you feel so together afterwards like you could take on anything! I do enjoy that feeling!”
I know that feeling so well – while I’ve never hired someone, I frequently sort things myself at home to decompress, reduce my anxiety and have that glorious feeling of a weigh being lifted. In fact, I’m off to clear out a drawer or two. If anyone needs me, I’ll be alphabetising.
Main image from @thehomeedit on Instagram[/restrict]