Chaos into order

Why I always encourage some ‘clutter counselling’ before decluttering

People are often surprised when, after requesting some decluttering work, I encourage a few one-to-one sessions of ‘clutter counselling’ before even starting with the physical clutter. It’s not conventional; there are plenty of fantastic professional organisers who prefer to dive right into the physical job. I do believe, however, that in the long run, it’s well worth those few extra hours of exploration and reflection together.

Firstly, it’s not an ‘add-on’. My priority is to give value for money to clients in everything I do. I encourage some ‘clutter counselling’ first not to squeeze a few extra hours’ payment out of a job, but rather the opposite: to minimise the time spent essentially multi-tasking when it comes to the actual task of decluttering. Let’s face it, it isn’t easy work – even with the best preparation it’s a very intensive and time-consuming physical task to even transform one room. That’s when you take the emotions out of the picture. If you’re also trying to process things emotionally at the same time, often you’re left with far less visible progress than you might have hoped for – and anyone who’s tried any amount of decluttering will know just how important visible progress is for morale and motivation.

That becomes even more vital when you’re paying by the hour for help.

I enjoy helping people organise, but what I am not – nor do I want to be – is a really pushy person. If you’re contacting a professional organiser there’s clearly a willingness to make changes, but getting in touch is often one of the first steps; actually being willing to make those changes a reality is much harder. If you aren’t ready for that, then to dive into a full-blown decluttering session is likely to be a waste of time and money. I’m not going to force someone to part with more than they are willing to; for some people the investment in a decluttering session is all the incentive they need to be a bit tougher with themselves. For others, though, it is well worth taking the time to properly process and consider things before making that big effort. Even if you do get someone to really push you and half-bully you through the process of organisation, if you haven’t come to the right place in your mind to do that you run the risk of feeling resentment and loss. Chances are you’ll get a temporary reprieve from the clutter, before it builds right back up again.

Ultimately, while I am always happy to help clients with the challenging (but satisfying) task of decluttering and organising, I believe in many cases my presence there isn’t as needed as you might feel at first. Once clients have explored the reasons for holding onto things, challenged them, and made changes in attitude, I often find that huge steps forward are taken between sessions without ever getting physically involved in the process. That’s why clutter counselling is so important. It paves the way to lasting and satisfying change.

I wonder if that is part of what makes Marie Kondo’s client work so effective; she claims a 100% success rate for her method, but plenty of people have bought the book and ground to a halt. Why is that? Is there perhaps something about her, rather than just her famous technique, that enables her clients to achieve greater results than those who only read her book?

What makes it work isn’t so much the specific approach, but rather the regular sessions in which her clients are held to account and challenged over their thoughts and behaviours. Marie Kondo doesn’t do the majority of the physical work; she coaches her clients to make the shifts in themselves that need to happen in order to facilitate change.

If you’ve got a mountain of clutter you’re trying to clear, consider what might be holding you back. Start making the changes internally today, so you can make those changes externally down the line – sustainably and with peace-of-mind. If it would be helpful to talk about the challenges you’re facing, then don’t hesitate to get in touch either.

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