APDO Spring Clearing Week: Making Clutter Count

At the Bonhams Plath Hughes Private View for the London Bibliophiles in 2018.

Last week was Spring Clearing Week, an annual campaign run by the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) to raise awareness of the need to Spring clear before we Spring clean.

This year, the theme was Making Clutter Count, and, since books are – of course – never clutter, I chose to focus on clothes and textile recycling. I was really inspired by the RSA’s new report Turning the Tide: Public Attitudes on Plastics and Fast Fashion, which found a gap between our desire to reduce the use of plastics and petrochemicals in our clothes and our awareness of how much we are actually consuming. It calls for “new measures to turn the tide, including a tax on virgin plastics used in clothing; a ban on marketing petrochemical-derived clothing; and a commission to prepare for the future of fashion.”

I also drew heavily on Orsola de Castro’s recent book Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act (Penguin Life, 2021). De Castro has been at the forefront of the slow fashion movement since the 1990s. Her book is full of hints and tips on how to “mend, repair and rewear” your clothes, as well as facts and figures on textile recycling, and advice on how to declutter your wardrobe more mindfully.

Preparing for the Week

As well as reading these two publications, on the build-up to Spring Clearing Week I tried out various apps to see whether I wanted to recommend them to people on Instagram. In the end, on Friday I chose to highlight @thredup, a survey you complete to find out how sustainable your wardrobe choices are; @goodonyou_app which provides information on how fair clothing brands are; and @30_wears, which allows you to photograph and diarise your use of each of your clothes. Apparently most women wear most garments only seven times before disposal, so, as its name suggests, the app aims to encourage them to up that to thirty wears.

I also did a lot of surfing the web (including APDO’s own recycling and donations hub for members) to try to find out which charities were still able to collect items for donation despite the Covid restrictions. It’s really important to do due diligence on charity bag schemes, as some collections made door to door actually give very little to the named charity. Some collectors are more conscientious than others about trying to have clothes reworn before looking to have them scrapped for recycling. And, clearly, the best route for anything containing plastics and petrochemicals is for it to be used to the point of destruction before being scrapped and repurposed.

During the Week

The APDO colleagues who run our Twitter and Instagram accounts both primed members in advance to be ready to take part in their #APDOClutterChallenge (links to Twitter – the Insta challenge was completed through Stories which is, of course, more ephemeral). Colleagues shared a range of resources, some of which were new to me. My favourites (in no particular order) are:

The APDO blog shared several articles throughout the week, including one highlighting Caroline Rogers’s recently published research into clutter and wellbeing; Linda Cavellini’s interview of upcycling and sustainability expert Lynne Lambourne; and two posts bringing together advice from a range of APDO members – ‘Decluttering During the Pandemic‘ and ‘10 Ways to Donate Your Decluttered Items That You May Not Have Thought Of!‘ I was lucky enough to have a couple of tips included in the second one – using Recycle Now to find local centres for recycling clothes and The Great Diary Project for family diaries.

Overall

This was the first APDO campaign week to take place since I became a verified member, and it was a great learning experience. I’m sure that some of my clients picked up tips directly from following the #springclearingweek hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, and all my clients will benefit from my own increased knowledge on how to make their clutter count. It was also a fantastic way to gain an insight into the things that my colleagues are most passionate about clearing out and organising – there are so many different people looking for help with so many areas of their houses that it’s really useful to know who has expertise in particular fields. Of course, the APDO Directory lets anyone search by particular specialisms, but there’s niche and then there’s niche … you can search for photo organisers, but not for librarians or archivists, for example.

Now I’m looking forward to National Organising Week in November … and, from a CPD point of view, to the APDO Conference next month.

Image: Photo taken by Daichi Ishikawa at Bonhams Plath Hughes Private View for the London Bibliophiles in 2018.


Tidy Beginnings Pricing

Some people ask why we quote by project rather than advertising an hourly rate. It’s a fair question.

This description from colleague @organised.joy sums it up: when you hire me to sort out your books you’re hiring a quarter century of experience as a qualified librarian. Quoting by project means you don’t pay my expert fees when I’m not using that expertise.

Last week included a couple of mug sorting exercises with virtual clients, another shed tidy and helping to decide and carry out a picture hang. I love a bit of variety, and I love being able to sort the spaces around the books and papers – that’s how Tidy Beginnings started, helping existing private library clients with their non-library work too.

As a working class person I used to be terrified of services without set price lists. It took me years to realise that while some bespoke products had inflated prices, others were motivated by a desire to fit the project to the budget of the client, not the other way round. As a customer the most cost-efficient prices I’ve paid have been to businesses who work this way.

Originally posted to Instagram.

Tsundoku Feedback

Thanks to @ebblake for this lovely feedback on the first trial run for our Tsundoku experience – and for sending the beautiful picture of her tsundoko pile ready for redistribution to friends (posted here yesterday).

We promise clients confidentiality and never post pictures without their approval. It’s really lovely that Emily is pleased enough to have added her Tsundoku experience to her stories and shared it with us.

You can book a discovery meeting for help sorting through your own TBR. Until we advertise the experience as a package, it’s available at a massive discount to clients willing to try something new and a bit different. Our usual private librarianship (collection management with or without cataloguing) and professional organising (decluttering and restoring order to any room in the house) and virtual organising services are available too.

Originally posted to Instagram.

Client Photo: Tsundoku

Tsundoku.

The morning after: client photo.

“tsundoku, noun ... the practice of buying  a lot of books and keeping them in a pile because you intend to read  them but have not done so yet; also used to refer to the pile itself.” —  Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus.

Huge thanks to my lovely client for trialling a new experience I’m developing to help people get to grips with the size of their To Be Read shelf, and for sending me this photo of their tsundoku – the pile of books I helped them realise they wanted to read when they bought them, but which they aren’t actually going to read any time soon (or possibly ever).

These are all heading off to new homes and my client has half a shelf of usable space. More importantly, the weight of all these books is off their mind, and they have a personalised plan for the order in which they will read their remaining TBRs.

If you’ve acquired more books during lockdown than you’ve had time to read, you may be interested in Tidy Beginnings’s new experience, which we’ll be announcing soon.

If you are really keen to shed your lockdown book weight and happy to trial a brand new service, get in touch to find out more and book a hugely discounted pre-launch session. Contact details on webpage.

Note: client has contributed photo and approved the text. We offer a confidential service and *never* share before photos. Everyone knows what an overflowing bookshelf looks like.

Originally posted to Instagram.

Tsundoku Experience Coming Soon

Book pile and quote card.

Really excited to be trialling a new experience for people who feel they buy too many books. First run-through with a client today, so more details coming soon.

For now, here’s some #wednesdaywisdom from Marie Kondo:

“Tidying books is a powerful means of self-discovery. The ones you choose to keep because they spark joy reveal your personal values.” (Joy At Work, London: Bluebird, 2020, p. 38).

Originally posted to Instagram.

Budget Your Bouquets

Daffodiles and whote tulips.

Do you love cut flowers?

This week’s #tiptuesday is about refreshing an early spring vase.

The shops are full of daffodils and tulips at the moment, which combine beautifully. However, daffodils last longer and have a more upright habit than tulips, so when you create your display, budget to replace the tulips after about a week, when they have flopped. (Next week I’ll share what I did with the original red and gold tulips from this display).

Flowers are known mood enhancers and because they have a short lifespan they don’t end up being clutter or visual noise. 💐

Originally posted to Instagram.

Work in Progress: Keyboard Area

Keyboard with cables managed

Work in progress. We’re tackling this room in short bursts each week.

Really happy with how the keyboard area has worked out – with other small instruments near to hand. Hopefully it’s going to be easy for the client to maintain now everything is plugged in and the cables are managed so they can see where everything goes.

Note: client has approved both image and text. We offer a confidential service and *never* post before photos – everyone knows what cable tangles look like!

Originally posted to Instagram.

Screen Use and Eye Health

Carnations and gypsophila in a vase on my office windowsill.

How often do you look up from your screen?

For eye health, the 20:20 rule is helpful – every 20 minutes we should look up from our computer screen and refocus our eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

I know this – at one point many years ago I was even the librarian for a specialist online library for eye health – but I really struggle to apply it!

Over the winter I started putting cut flowers in my office, to remind me that spring was coming, and I’ve found them a real benefit in making me look up more frequently. The light catches them at different times, so I actively want to look at them – then I look out the window at the garden and of course that’s more than 20 feet away, because I’m upstairs!

Because the flowers change frequently, they’re always a new thing in my line of vision – and they won’t become clutter because they only have a short life span.

Do you have any tricks to look up and out frequently when at the computer screen? I’m always looking for new things to try!

Originally posted to Instagram.

Time Management: Delete That Email App

Are you always “on”?

This week’s #protip is about mobile email management.

I know how hard it can be not to be constantly available – one infamous Christmas Eve I can remember my Dad losing his rag with me for answering a student email in the veg aisle as people fought past me to grab the last of the Brussels sprouts. But I also know the joy of my life now, in which I don’t check email outside work hours.

Deleting email apps is one of the most freeing actions we can take in modern life.

Here are 3 reasons to delete email apps and 3 suggestions how to do it:

📧 Our time is precious, and study after study has shown that human beings are more productive when we have some leisure time in which we switch off from thinking about work.
📧 We can’t be fully in our physical environment if we split our attention between it and the requests people make of us in our online world.
📧 There will always be certain emails that we can’t action away from our office. We may check email to deal with things quickly, but that one email we cannot action will prey on our mind and eat our attention until we get back to the equipment we need to answer it.

🤹🏻‍♀️Even if you work for yourself, your work doesn’t own every second of your day. If it’s useful to you to have email on your phone during working hours, delete the app each evening and reinstall each morning – keep your free time free.
🤹🏻‍♀️ Almost all email systems have webmail. It’s more of a pfaff than their app, but it means if you really, really, REALLY need to check, you still can. However, the pfaff of it stops the temptation to “just take a quick look” while you’re waiting in a queue or for a friend. It’s always much healthier to look around at your current environment than dive back into work.
🤹🏻‍♀️ If you’re in a situation in which you are expected or required to be available via email ALL the time, perhaps it’s time to start a new job search. I know that Christmas Eve when we almost didn’t get our brassicas was a big red flag to me. For financial reasons, it took a while to actually leave that workplace but the decision to do so was made that interrupted Christmas Eve.

Originally posted to Instagram.