DECLUTTERING teaches people to shop selectively,” says Breda Stack, Limerick-based owner of LifeStyle Coach, a decluttering and styling company.
She is also author of Declutter Therapy, and founder of the annual Decluttering Day.
Her statement is a guiding principle on clearing and organising. “There’s freedom and relief from decluttering,” she says. “Often, there’s sadness and shame felt at the condition of someone’s home: decluttering helps bring their personality back into the house.”
Breda empowers people to do the decluttering themselves. “I don’t make the decisions,” she says. “They have to do it themselves, so they can break the habit and learn to do things differently.”
Her approach starts with a client’s personal style, lifestyle, interior decor, organisation, storage and mindset, to see what’s blocking the client from making changes. She also does an on-site consultation, and, via Skype, she works with clients abroad.
“During two one-and-a-half-hour sessions, I hold their hands. If I do the decluttering for them, there’s no point; I’ll be back again in a couple of years, doing it for them again. It’s about changing mindsets, but we also need someone to see the house with a pair of fresh eyes.”
Typically, Breda’s clients are women between 40 and 70 who’ve accumulated their own things, and things left behind by family, or remnants of a relationship.
She speaks from personal experience: “I’d always been interested in the subject and took courses in interior design, life coaching, communications and styling, while working in IT but, apart from throwing out the odd item, I never felt the need to declutter.”
But weight gain, and a wardrobe of clothes that no longer fitted, changed that. “90% of my clothes didn’t represented my taste or lifestyle, either. It may sound dramatic, but I went through an identity crisis, so, to help confront my problems, I started to declutter.”
Breda says it was a slow and painful process, but each session became more fulfilling. “It helped me to accept change and regain control, and, at the same time, gave me freedom.”
When writing Declutter Therapy, Breda focused on the wardrobe as most significant to us. “We interact with it first thing in the morning and last thing at night,” she says. “It stores so much physically, mentally and emotionally. Getting it in order motivates you to tackle the rest of the house and makes you feel good — you donate to charity and recycle.”
Breda has another guiding principle: “Keep what makes you feel good. The dress that doesn’t fit is a reminder it never will again.”
The kitchen is another problem area. “It’s very common to find the table and worktops laden. Not temporary things, like homework, but things like bills. How can you enjoy a meal when you’re looking at them? If the counter is so cluttered, there’s only room to make a sandwich; there’s nowhere to prepare a meal.”
Cabinets full of unused items also need to be tackled. “It’s important to enjoy what we have, and if we’re using it we’re less inclined to go out and buy more. Often, people are using chipped cups when they have lovely crockery sitting like ornaments behind doors.”
It’s about a balance between the aesthetically pleasing and the functional.
“We need things accessible and visible. Keep teaspoons near the kettle and group things together, so you don’t forget what you have. People have grown up without being taught organisational skills. Most aren’t cluttered badly, they’re just disorganised. They may have towels in five rooms or problems with paperwork or the wardrobe.”
But being overly immaculate and orderly isn’t necessarily good either. “Some people are the other extreme”, she says. “They throw out and don’t enjoy what they have.”
* Next week: Food in art and design exhibitions.
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