Home rescue: How to declutter your home

RTÉ’s latest series of Home Rescue sees a Cork mum with eight sons — all with names beginning with the letter K — declutter her home. Ailin Quinlan meets the family.

Home rescue: How to declutter your home

RTÉ’s latest series of Home Rescue sees a Cork mum with eight sons — all with names beginning with the letter K — declutter her home. Ailin Quinlan meets the family.

When architect Róisín Murphy and builder Peter Finn agreed to redesign the bedrooms of a Cork mother and son, what they found was not a clutter problem, but a crammed-to-bursting family home accommodating three generations.

In July 2017, Carmel Im’s eldest son Kenneth, his wife Lisa and their two children, moved back into the four-bedroomed, end-of-terrace house Carmel had been sharing with her 29-year-old son Konrad, in the Cork suburb of Ballyphehane.

To accommodate the new arrivals, Carmel, a knitting and crocheting enthusiast, and Konrad, a fashion designer who is now studying for a degree in social work at Cork Institute of Technology, moved, with all their possessions, to two smaller bedrooms downstairs: “The house is very full but we all get along,” says Carmel a mother of eight sons, whose names all begin with ‘K’ - and who as a result, have become widely known as the Kork Kardashians. There’s Kenneth (39), Kieran (36), Kevin (35), Keith (34), Kristo (33), Konrad (29), Kraig (25) and Kory (22).

Up to the time Kenneth and his family moved in, both Carmel and Konrad - who is also deeply involved in community work - had been storing most of their craft materials in these downstairs bedrooms. It amounted to quite a lot - on top of Carmel’s knitting and crocheting supplies, Konrad, a theatre buff and former Mr Gay Cork 2015 and Mr Gay Ireland 2016 who enjoys creating eye-catching ensembles, had heaps of fabric, several mannequins and even a sewing machine.

They helped transform Carmel and Konrad’s family home in Ballyphehane, Cork.
They helped transform Carmel and Konrad’s family home in Ballyphehane, Cork.

“When the lads moved in that July, we cleared a lot out, but I still had piles of stuff,” recalls Carmel, adding that the bed in her new room was surrounded by a sea of boxes and cupboards crammed with crafting materials: “It was very cramped; there’s no denying it. “I had to move everything from my bedroom to the downstairs room.” After seeing an advertisement for participants for the popular RTÉ series Home Rescue, Konrad applied, and last August, Róisín Murphy and Peter Finn arrived at the family home to see what needed to be done.

They had just three days and €8,000 to transform the two problem rooms, with the help of IKEA Ireland, for what was to be the first episode of the new series. “Carmel’s problem was not clutter,” Róisín recalls.

“Basically this story is about making space for three families in one house.” The word ‘clutter’ she emphasises, does not tell the real story - Carmel, she points out, is simply a granny with an average number of possessions which now had to be squeezed into a much smaller amount of space. “It’s essentially a story about the housing crisis and about having to accommodate what are three family units - Carmel (59), Konrad, Kenneth and his wife and children - in Carmel’s home. “For me this was a story about having to accommodate three different lifestyles in one home,” explains Róisín, adding: “It was extremely challenging.

“However, at the end of the day, it was about giving Carmel a room that was hers, a place she could return to and enjoy her own space. Carmel is a young granny and is still cooking dinner and doing her crafts. She also has lots of style, and so has Konrad, so I wanted to give them each a room with style; they are very creative people.”

Róisín’s first priority was to provide Carmel with what she describes as a “proper” bed in her new room - and to find more workable storage options: “She’d been sleeping in a single bed, so we made a big four-poster ‘Alpha Woman’ bed, which is a strong presence in the room,” she says. Carmel was encouraged to go through her clothes and possessions and decide what she didn’t need - her new room, which measured about three metres by four metres, was simply too small to store it all. “The project helped me cull out everything,” the mother-of-eight recalls, adding that although initially somewhat reluctant to let things go, by the second day of ‘culling,’ she was finding it much easier to do.

The crew also restored an old Irish country cabinet for Carmel’s jewellery and knick- knacks, and created a special crafting corner in the bedroom. Her craft materials were moved out of the bedroom and into a cupboard in a newly-cleared space under the stairs. The crew also hung pretty curtains at the bedroom windows and replaced the blackout blind with clear muslin nets, to give her privacy but allow light in.

They also installed special daylight bubs which simulate real daylight, to help Carmel counteract her Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression related to the changes in the seasons. Konrad’s room presented a different challenge - it was smaller than Carmel’s, and also functioned as a regular meeting place for Konrad and his large circle of friends. To create more space in his room, Konrad too was encouraged to sort through his possessions and learn to live with less.

Recalls Róisín: “I wanted to give Konrad’s room the feel of a studio apartment; to make his room a place where people could hang out.” There wasn’t enough room for a sofa or chair so a king-sized, raised, platform bed provided this opportunity, becoming, recalls Róisín “like a big ‘mosh pit’ or space where people could congregate and hang out”.

The bed-design also usefully incorporated storage space for Conrad’s extensive tee shirt collection and other possessions.

“The storage was built into the framework of the bed,” Róisín explains, adding that a dramatic painted geometric pattern on the wall behind the bed now substitutes for a bed-head and also allows for more space. The crew also built a special wall-cabinet which offered storage options and also contained a fabulous make-up mirror surrounded by lights: “When it opens it’s a theatre make-up mirror, but it’s very discreet when it is closed, “ Róisín explains. “Konrad is very involved in theatre and has a lot of friends who come to do their hair and make-up. “I moved a lot of his coats and theatre costumes into existing storage space in the hall - this had to be cleared first.”

She thoroughly enjoyed the project, she says now: “Konrad and Carmel were lovely people to work with. I think this was the most challenging makeover of the series because of the size of the rooms and what they had to accommodate - but it was also one of the most rewarding projects, because you knew you were really helping out.”

Carmel, who has steadily continued with a clear-out of unwanted possessions since the team left, is delighted with the results: “They did it all in three days. If Konrad and I had done it, it would have taken us years; I don’t think we’d ever have got there I know that if we’d tried this without the team there would have been great trouble between all of us over what could stay and what had to go, but the fact that they were professionals was a huge help.” She has also learned a very useful life-lesson, she says: “I’ve learned that I have to stop just picking up stuff I have a very extended family, and I have eight sons so I was always buying things I thought someone might like, but I’m more disciplined about that now I must be the only one in Cork city who can walk through Penneys and buy nothing!”

Róisín’s Tips for Making the Most of Your Space

  • Regularly cull your wardrobe and give away clothes that no longer fit, or which you’re not especially fond of.
  • Where possible, use the potential offered by a bed-frame for storage.
  • Remember - every piece of furniture can have a dual purpose - for example one of Konrad’s wall-cabinets is for storage and also incorporates a make-up area.
  • Make good use of hooks.
  • Use old suitcases or baskets on top of the wardrobe to store out-of-season clothes.
  • Where space is tight, install a dedicated hanging rail for long garments such as coats.
  • Try fitting wall-cabinets for storage - this gives more floor area. It may seem an unusual feature for a bedroom, but, says Róisín it provides a lot more space.

- Home Rescue returns October 30, 8.30pm on RTÉ One

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