When it comes to managing “the stuff” in your life, what kind of person are you?
Are you a) the type of person who would think nothing of holding onto files or banking receipts for 10 years and shudder at the thought of a spring clean?
Or are you b) more likely to throw out Christmas and birthday cards the day after they arrive and manage your household with a cleaning system of which Shannon Lush would be proud?
In times of stress I can go a bit overboard with the cleaning thing. Sock drawers get a good turn-out, laundry cupboards are re-arranged, bathroom mirrors are left gleaming and floors are mopped within an inch of their wooded life.
In other words, my inner neat freak is unleashed, along with my complete belief in the transformative powers of a tidy-up on a person’s ability to control their emotions and by default, the shape of their life.
As it turns out, I could be in the wrong profession - a growing number of people are making a very decent living out of sorting other people’s stuff.
Barbara Reich is among the best.
As one of New York’s most successful life “de-clutterers” she spends her days arranging the sock drawers, kitchen cupboards and social events of the city’s elite.
To the average punter, Reich’s services might seem just a little bit extravagant.
In a recent profile in The New York Times she described a typical working week that included finding space for the latest Birkin handbag in a clients’ closet and jetting off to an Aspen weekender to arrange a swanky dinner party (for thirty) so the busy working mother could attend her son’s softball match on the same night.
#Firstworldproblems, as Twitter would say.
Then again, Reich is also completely ruthless:
“Everybody’s going to learn how to read and write, [you] don’t need the evidence,” she told one client who was agonising over keeping her child’s first written work.
She also advises throwing out any faulty gifts as soon as you receive them, no matter who gave it to you, because even relatives, “won’t love you any less” for not keeping it.
Here in Australia the “life organisation” industry is growing at a rapid pace.
Brendon King expanded his interior design business to include “style and life” planning and organisation services after realising how many of his clients were struggling with the pressures of renovation and the details of their hectic, executive lives.
Part personal valet, part life coach, with the skills of a designer and a stylist all in one.
“One of the most common requests is helping to get an idea off the ground. While most people can visualise the romantic dinner, the colourful first birthday party and the study makeover down to the wallpaper pattern, they usually don’t have the time or know where to start. They are also want it to be picture perfect without even considering the tiny details, and that’s where we come in,” King said.
But it’s not just the rich and fabulous or super busy that need a helping hand in these areas - clutter has the potential to completely take over your life.
Wendy Hane is the secretary of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers Inc (imagine how tidy that office is?) and has worked as a professional “de-clutterer” for the past six years.
She says approximately five per cent of our population suffer from some form of chronic disorganisation.
For many of Hane’s clients, “stuff” has become a very big problem and in some cases presents as a serious mental health issue.
“I have helped several clients who are facing serious life consequences like divorce, eviction and even being prevented from seeing grandchildren or family as a result of their addiction to “stuff,” she said.
One woman, a successful and well-groomed bank manager, approached Hane after realising it had been ten years since she’d invited another person into her home, due to its chaotic state.
While another carted home fifteen years worth of filing from his job following retirement because he was scared of what he’d become without a professional identity.
“Fear is a very common emotion for many people who are having trouble letting go of stuff they have accumulated over the years,” said Hanes.
But it’s not all bad news.
Once you understand what your motivation is for organising your space and what you’re prepared to do to make that kind of change happen, Hane reckons you’ll get on top of it.
Alternatively, stress me out enough and I might just come around and do it for you.
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