‘Clutter makes you reach for a biscuit,’ says Anna, as she looks around my bedroom. I can think of no better way to convince me to embrace the popular decluttering trend which takes in everything from Marie Kondo to the tradition spring clean via newspaper articles on how to declutter your wardrobe. Clutter is distracting, clutter is stressful and clutter stops you from achieving your goals, so the theory goes, and I can’t be the only one who’s ever sat at my desk to work and found that the piles of paper/clothes/washing-up/to-do-lists have totally put me off what it what I was supposed to be doing.
Adds Anna, rather alarmingly: ‘Your house is a mirror of your mental and emotional state’, which makes me wonder what impression my bedroom is making on her. It isn’t messy, but because I share my flat and often work from home there are certainly a lot of things packed into a rather small space – a bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers jostle for space alongside piles of books, files, a desk and a printer. However after an intense couple of hours with Anna, not only am I feeling rather proud of myself for filling up not one but two black bin bags (one full of rubbish, one for the charity shop) but I’m also I’m feeling strangely liberated.
As someone who moves house every few years and who therefore tries not to acquire too much ‘stuff’, I’m surprised at how much I’ve still managed to acquire. But Anna’s approach isn’t just about getting rid of unnecessary items (and I’ve always viewed the ‘oh no, I’ve got way too many things’ crisis as a bit of a First World problem) but about better organising the things you have, so that they are more efficiently placed and easier to find and will thus reduce the stress and tension which builds up when you are constantly losing things or simply feeling overwhelmed in your own house.
‘I’m interested in the psychological effect of our surroundings’, says Anna. ‘It’s an extension of you and your emotional state. It needs to have a calming effect and not for you to get more stressed about it.’ If your possessions are badly organised or buried underneath other items then you can become demotivated and uninspired, she adds: ‘You will start to procrastinate and your time management will be poor and it competes for your attention.’
If, like me, you often work from home, then a negative environment can be a real problem, as the moment you sit down at your desk your creativity can just dry up, or you can only think of all the clutter which needs sorting before you can feel free to work.
As I tend to get fidgety if stuck in the house for too long, we decided to have a two-hour time limit on the proceedings. Rather than diving straight in however – I expected Anna to go through my wardrobe saying ‘You’ll never wear this again!’ – she produced a Tibetan bowl and struck it for positive vibrations, which felt a bit hippyish but it sounded nice. She also lit a white sage stick and wafted it around to cleanse the aura of my surroundings. Each to their own and we were soon deep into discussing what I was hoping from this session – to get rid of things I’ll never use again and to free up space for the rest of my things to be easily accessible and therefore used more often. I recently found a box of clothes labelled ‘Things I will never wear again’ so I’m no stranger to pointless hoarding.
Anna, who has a diploma in interior design and has just qualified as a reiki master, spends the bulk of her time as house manager to high net-worth individuals (aka very rich people) and is fascinated by how your mindset affects your surroundings and vice versa: how you shape your environment but how your environment shapes you.
In an email sent after our session, she wrote: ‘Clutter, among many other things, affects us in many ways, adds stress to our lives and does not let us to move on, but in fact keeps us stuck in stagnant place and does not support our better self. They are attachments , energetic cords that no longer serve us and we need to let go and make space for something better to come into our life. And this is where I come in, I help you let go of that attachment, release the blocked energy and invite a new flow of energy into your home.’
Once you have tackled the problem (and you can do it on your own, although it’s so much easier when you’ve got someone else to march you through the process) you regain your motivation and confidence and, as she puts it: ‘your house won’t hold you back anymore.’
We work my way through my wardrobe and the small change of having Anna hold up each item from the other side of the room (rather than me just going through the rack of clothes on my own) is very effective: I can appraise each items dispassionately, literally from a distance. Dresses I will never wear again, jeans which are falling apart, shirts which I bought having seen Julia Roberts in Closer but which never boasted the crisp, white starchiness I was hoping for, they all go in the charity shop bag. The decisions are all mine and Anna doesn’t make me get rid of anything (even a size 8 which I’ve never worn, am unlikely ever to but which I can’t bear to part with) but merely stands there to help me come to my own decisions.
Before long we have cleared a whole section of the wardrobe thanks to clearing and some on the spot reorganising by Anna, and she then starts moving whole group of things round my room, so that all the clothes are in one place and all my books and work things are in another, whereas before they were all sharing shelf and wardrobe space meaning I was constantly crossing my room to find things – CDs and DVDs are no longer in my wardrobe, for example, and shoes are no longer at the bottom of my bookcase. I’m no Imelda Marcos but I was surprised by how many pairs of shoes I owned and had forgotten entirely about two pairs which I now wear all the time. Strappy sandals which made me feel like I was about to break my neck went, books I enjoyed but will never read again also went and it felt as if everything which remained would be used and valued so much more now than merely existing in a pile of other stuff.
Two hours later and my wardrobe was transformed – a month later and the clutter hasn’t crept back. I’ve yet to decide on ‘inspiring’ pictures for my workspace but it’s all a work in progress: and means that I can actually sit down and start working, without spending the first 15 minutes on clearing a space on my desk and in my brain.
Clutter competes for your attention with what you’re trying to achieve. ‘I can’t write,’ said one client. Transform your environment and it transforms you.
If you have things under your bed, a valance hides them from view and makes the room look tidier.
Consider putting inspirational pictures, views or quotes in your creative space.
Colours compete for your attention so when choosing them see what colours inspire you rather than distract you rather than just going for colours you like.
Put jewellry in clear acrylic boxes so you can see them without unpacking – practical and time-saving.
To book an appointment or get a quote for a project contact Anna on firstname.lastname@example.org