It’s 9.30pm on a Friday night. I’m standing in the spare bedroom with professional declutterer, Frances Murphy. Every item of clothing belonging to my 11-month-old baby boy is spread out on the floor, bed, and I think I spotted a babygro hanging off the lampshade.
There’s a lot of stuff. Enough to clothe many children.
“You’re not allowed buy any more clothes for him,”she tells me. Firm, but fair. If she sees the stash I have in my own room, I’m done for. But seeing it all laid out does make me realise I have WAY too much stuff.
Frances and her partner in grime, Mary, from MnF Decluttering, have been here since 9am. That’s 12 hours of unearthing my dirty little secrets. Which was quite emotional, actually. Imagine other people going through your things. Items you’re attached to, things that are charged with emotion. The tiny knitted hat your firstborn wore after his emergency c-section. An extra box of invitations to your wedding. Those size 12 jeans that, as the mirror as your witness, you will fit into again. Now imagine a camera crew documenting it all, showing your slovenly self to the viewing public. Imagine you didn’t know you going to be on camera and have no make-up on and hair like a sweaty orangutan ’s armpit. So last season.
RTÉ’s Nationwide are interested in doing a segment on the clutter that people accumulate. Mary and Frances are on board to show how to tackle the mess.The only problem is, they can’t find anyone willing to let said mess be shown on national television.
We are using the front room as, well, a dumping ground, really, so I offer to be their back up plan. All the car seats, extra prams, the baby bath, clothes half ready to go to charity, my winter coats, the bulky toys that they only played with sometimes, all get shoved in there. Cillian, my husband, is using a corner as an office too so there’s filing cabinets and a laptop and printer in the mix. Everytime I pass, I throw something else in, haul the door shut and try to block it from my mind. Still though, everyone has a room like that, right?
We have three boys, age 7, 4, and at the time of filming, 11 months. There’s lots of stuff I’m not quite ready to get rid of because once Culann gets too big for them, Finn the four-year old is happy to get his mitts on them, and then baby Scott will get the use of them in a couple of years time.
Still, there’s no escaping the fact, we all have too much stuff. It has to go.
There’s books, board games, high chairs, Bumbos, prams — an excessive amount of prams, I’ll admit — footballs, hurleys, kites, swimming gear, Lego, more Lego, sure, another box of Lego, dress-up costumes (Finn wore a Spiderman costume every day for the best part of a year so we have three to rotate), dvds, computer games... that’s not even mentioning the adults’ crap, like surf boards, wetsuits bikes, tools and so very much wrapping paper. Why all the wrapping paper, past Esther? Why?
I’ve got used to it but looking at it through the eyes of two decluttering pros, RTÉ journalist, Helen McInerney, and Neilus the cameraman, I start getting the sweats, I won’t lie.
But I really do need help to do it. Any spare time I have, I’m unwilling to use tackling the clear out — I have Netflix and Episodes, season 3, isn’t going to watch itself. But even if I do suddenly get a personality transplant and decide cleaning is super awesome, I really don’t have the time to do it properly. So it just gets worse, piling up like Luas passengers at a tram stop.
Mary and Frances are dynamos. They whizz in, full of energy and determination, they pull everything out, get rid of what needs to go (and bring it all to charity shops) and put order on everything that’s staying.
Their motto is ‘A home for everything and put like with like’. They’re a great team and nothing is too much for them. They pull things from other rooms, hang pictures and rearrange furniture so now I don’t wince every time I pass the room. There’s a futon in there I’d forgotten about!
They suggest we make the downstairs extension into an office instead of a bedroom that is rarely used. We have two new fully- functioning rooms, a system in place to keep the stuff under control, and a better energy in the house in general.
You can watch it on Nationwide tomorrow night, RTÉ 1 at 7pm. (Judge my hair if you must, but please don’t judge the junk.)
Mary and Frances can be contacted at www.mnfdecluttering.com
Mary and Frances’ top tips
To begin, if you can, organise a day to tackle one room and stick with it until it’s finished. If you don’t have a day, pick an item maybe photos, collect them all from all over the house, make a “home” and keep them all together. Get three bands, 1 black for RUBBISH, 2 white for RECYCLING and CHARITY. Mark each one with a large C and R so they don’t get mixed up and away you go.
In the kitchen. Go through your cupboards, check all your sell-by dates, if the dates are out, fling it. This applies to your makeup drawer as well.
In the airing cupboard. Go through your towels, if they’re gone beyond using, repurpose them, eg for dusting. Next fold all the duvets, sheets and pillow cases small enough to fit into one pillowcase, when you are changing the beds it will be much easier.
In the wardrobe. Get into the habit of something new comes in, something old goes out. Next, take out all your hangers and turn them so the opening is facing towards you. As you use and rehang items turn the hanger the opposite way. At the end of the season you can see what you have not worn.
In the home office, make one drawer, a cupboard, just somewhere your papers and bills are together and organised. Have a folder marked ‘pending’, when the post comes and you don’t have time to deal with it place it in the folder and when it’s dealt with put it where it belong. Remember, a place for everything and like with like.