Free Up Your Life – Banish The Clutter
With help from professional organiser and declutterer Katherine Blackler from SortMySpace
Tell us about your business.
SortMySpace Ltd offers professional organising and decluttering support to Londoners who feel their home or work environments are not operating at their best for them, their family or their team. We help clients to identify what they no longer need in their lives and find clever and accessible storage for the items they decide to keep or improved process and flow for regular activities.
How did you get into your chosen career and why?
I’d been working in the corporate world for 15 years always organising people and processes but it often felt there was piece of the puzzle missing. When my project at Lloyds Banking Group was extended for another 3 years, I politely declined the project manager position I’d been doing and left, despite having no plan what I’d do next.
Once I’d refurbished my own home to make the most of a small space, I took a six-week road trip across the USA. I found myself voluntarily helping out my host families; tackling their messy kitchen cupboards or redesigning their living rooms to be clutter-free. When I realised I was choosing to spend my free time in this way I questioned whether it could be a natural career choice – even though I’d never heard the concept of a professional organiser and declutterer before then! I initially googled “efficient living consultant” as that’s what I thought I’d call myself!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I get a lot of satisfaction that I make a tangible difference to individuals and their lives now. I love the variety of this job too: I’ve had some days where I helped a high-net-worth income family catch up on a backlog of medical insurance claims in the morning and then worked with a pensioner with hoarding behaviours clear a pathway through her kitchen in the afternoon.
How do you work with a client?
I don’t have a one method fits all approach as I’ve found my clients, their environments, their abilities and their goals vary considerably. That said, if someone wants to tackle the whole house (and there aren’t basic food or hygiene requirements needing more immediate attention), I’ll often suggest we start with the bedroom. It’s the first thing you see when you wake in the morning so getting on top of that can make the rest of the day seem easier too.
I often have a ‘sentimental box’ to-hand so if we find anything that’s trickier to handle emotionally we can place it into the box to come back to later. That way the client gets into a rhythm of decision-making and we don’t grind to a halt on that one particular item.
Why the sudden massive interest in decluttering and organising?
It’s been growing steadily for the past decade but it’s definitely coming into the limelight now with the Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo and her new show hitting Netflix on 1 January. Social media is helping spread awareness about our buying patterns and the impact on the environment including of single-use plastic or throwaway clothing so consumer habits are shifting.
With time being the most precious commodity of all, we’re trying to find ways to gain time for friends, family and memorable experiences in a hectic diary. One way to do that is to reduce what you need to curate, maintain, repair and replace in your home.
Great initiatives like the Library of Things are expanding where you can borrow household appliances that you only use once or twice a year instead of buying and storing them yourself.
Where do you see the business in 3 years from now?
I’d like SortMySpace Ltd to have a larger team of organisers who each have an area of expertise, whether that’s helping elderly with downsizing, tackling office and household paperwork, working with clients who have hoarding behaviours, supporting sleep-deprived parents dealing with the sea of ‘plastic-fantastic’ and so on. Personally I’d love to be spreading the word further whether that’s speaking on stage, radio or TV (as well as working with clients one-to-one). I feel our physical environments are so important to the way we successfully operate and are able to respond to the world and life’s curveballs. If I can help more people achieve some balance and joy that’s a winner for me too!
How do you like to spend any free time, and what advice do you have on ensuring a work/life balance?
I’m the first to admit that balancing my own diary is my Achilles heel. I’m externally optimistic about what I can fit in!
Volunteering for APDO Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (I’m currently the President until 2020) is a big commitment but it’s such an exciting time to be involved in this industry I wouldn’t miss it for the world! My board members are a true inspiration and a massive support as I learn and develop to be the best version of me that I can.
For 2019, I’m focussing on getting more work/life balance now the business is stabilised. I liken starting a business to piloting a plane: You have to really give it full throttle to get it off the runway and can’t be distracted with anything else. Once you’re air-borne though, you can look around, check you’re on the right course and that the plane is in balance. That’s the stage I feel I’m now at so will be getting more of my yoga and hiking into the agenda. My new year resolution is to have more singing, dancing and fancy dress in my life. I don’t claim to be good at any of them but I certainly have fun trying!
What advice do you have for others wanting to set up their own business?
Go for it if you are passionate about it! But surround yourself with a support blanket of people who want to see you succeed! You will inevitably hit walls of doubt and tough challenges along the way. That’s when you need people fanning your wings to keep you moving. The network can be friends, family or even professionals but it’ll be seriously hard if you think you can do everything alone. Being part of APDO, my fellow professional organisers and declutterers rallied for me and they really understood what I was facing.
How can our readers learn more?
Call me for an initial chat about your current concerns. We can then schedule a consultation, or jump into a productive session.