Monday 6 December 2010

Decluttering: for life, not just for Christmas?

Christmas is a great time for promoting your goods or services. "The perfect gift" will help out many folks desperate to find something more interesting than socks - or whatever your usual standby is for somebody special.

If you're selling 'things', you'll know your market. Whether it's clothes, jewellery, personalised gifts, wine, chocolate or whatever, you can target the necessary audience to attract the people you want as purchasers. Advertisements in local publications, special offers on your website, announcements on Facebook or Twitter.

Services are a little different. We might all benefit from services, but do we want to admit to that need - or do we all enjoy them? A voucher from a beauty therapist can be a lovely idea - but what if your mum (like mine) only ventures to the hairdresser because she has to, and really rather dislikes that kind of attention? No good giving theatre tickets for the panto if the recipient can't imagine anything worse than a chorus of "He's behind you". And we might all say from time to time "I'd love somebody to come and clean my house", but would the response be "are you saying my house is dirty"?

And that's my problem when it comes to my decluttering services. It sounds wonderful: give a decluttering day for a Christmas gift. But I wonder. In my experience, decluttering sessions are at their most successful when the person suffering from the clutter has made that decision for themselves. The daughter that says "My mum needs your help", the friend who says "My friend's house is a tip", and asks me to help out, might be acting with the best of intentions; but the mum, or the friend, are more likely to feel (a) threatened, (b) insulted or (c) terrified - or some combination of the three.

When my clients have reached the decision to get professional help with their clutter - whether it's an office, a wardrobe or a house - it's not (I'm told) any of these things. Liberating, enjoyable, fun, inspiring - all these things have been said about the process of Getting It Sorted.

However, these have all been people who have come to me of their own accord. They've reached a point where they feel that the help of an outsider will be of benefit to them; a fresh pair of eyes, some ideas on storage and the use of space, and (dare I say it) a bit of gentle nagging; inspiration, motivation, support and sympathy. But none of this can happen until they've come to that conclusion for themselves.

It's the old joke: How many counsellors does it take to change a lightbulb? One - but the lightbulb has to want to change.

So that's why I don't promote decluttering sessions as a gift. If somebody has discussed it with a loved one and between them, they've decided that that's the gift that is wanted, and one pays for the other, that's absolutely fine; but like the panto-hater getting the ticket for Jack & the Beanstalk, if it's not what they want, it will be a wasted gesture - no matter how much you may think they need it.

Decluttering is a gift: but it's one you're more likely to need to give to yourself.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Phone numbers on Facebook

Here we go again. I've seen this one doing the rounds before, but it's just come back...

YOUR PHONE NUMBER IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!! NO JOKE... Go to the top right of your screen, click Account then Edit Friends. Go to the left side of your screen and click Phonebook. Everyone's phone numbers are now being published.

Well, for a start, this is nothing new. Here's a revelation: If you put something on your Facebook profile, and allow your details to be viewed by your friends - guess what? They'll be able to see it. Amazing. (That's a bit like being surprised if people read your profile updates.)

If you visit a friend's profile, click on the Info tab and scroll down to Contact Information, you'll be able to see their phone number, email, website address etc. - if they have chosen to post it in the first place. This has been the case for simply ages. The Facebook 'phone book' is no more than a compilation of information that you already have.

Check your profile settings. (They default to Friends Only, as a rule.) Click Account>Privacy Settings. Have a look at Contact Information in that list. If (as seems reasonable) you want your Friends to be able to see this, but not Friends of Friends or the whole world, make sure that's the setting.

If you don't want anybody to see your phone number, not even a friend (in which case, what are they doing on your Friends list in the first place?) then take it off your Facebook profile entirely. (I'm assuming you don't need it there to remind yourself what it is.)

And please don't just repost these warnings without thinking about it. By and large, they are calculated to frighten and panic people. If they were calculated to inform, they'd be written in a far less inflammatory fashion. Next time you see something like this, please take a few minutes to check it out; find out the real story; and if you think there is something still in there that is worth knowing, edit it before you post it.

Oh, and this post - both on Facebook and here on my blog - is made available to Everyone. In case you were wondering.

Friday 3 September 2010

A challenge for my techie friends

OK, guys. My head is spinning on this one, and I would value a bit of input from any of my other geek-colleagues.

This is all about my contacts and my emails. Across the years I've come to a few conclusions:
  • I like to have my emails on a local machine-based client (e.g. Outlook Express, Thunderbird or whatever). I check my mails using MailWasher before I start and then bring them in; if I'm away from home, I use webmail to look at the inbox and delete rubbish, but leave it on the server until I get home and it can all go in one place.
  • I enjoy Microsoft Outlook for two reasons only: its ability to act as a source for a mailmerge (vital for Christmas card labels) and the silly, tiny convenience of being able to pick up an address from the relevant button in Microsoft Word when creating a letter or invoice. I haven't used it for email since I stopped working in an office, five years back.
  • I keep a separate Googlemail account for convenience, for an alternative, and for giving out to shops that need it. But when it comes to contact details...
  • ...since getting an iPhone, I adore the ease with which my online address book on GoogleMail synchs with the phone - also, therefore, ensuring I have the whole shooting match in at least two places in case one goes belly-up.
One thing I'm always trying to drum into my IT and decluttering clients is the wisdom of keeping single-source data. You can see from the above description that I'm not following my own dictum here. I've been existing on a complex combination of merges and imports for some while now, and it offends my sense of efficiency.
  • I want to keep my contacts on GoogleMail for keeping in synch with iPhone, but I don't like the GoogleMail interface for emails (yes, I know I can set up POP3 accounts on it, but I don't want to do that).
  • This means that I have to put email addresses into both Thunderbird and GoogleMail when I get them.
  • I like using Outlook for the minor tasks described above.
Now, the challenge:

I discovered Soocial the other day. A very neat system (chargeable, but not excessively) it nearly takes care of this problem - but not quite.
  • GoogleMail and the iPhone are synching with each other already, so I only need one of those sources to store on Soocial. No problems there.
  • Outlook won't synch to Soocial, because it only supports 2003 and 2007, and I'm still using 2002 (Outlook XP) - and I really don't have any other reason to upgrade the damn thing at extortionate cost.
  • Thunderbird seemed to synch to it at first, using a rather complicated plug-in called Funambol. I got the initial set of contacts from there into Soocial, no problem. However, since then it's refused to update again - and when I looked at updating Thunderbird from version 2 to 3, discovered that the Funambol plugin isn't available for that version.
So am I looking for the Holy Grail?
  • Would it work if I replaced Thunderbird with Windows Live Mail - as that's one of the connections advertised as working on Soocial? Any opinions on that one? I only ditched Outlook Express in favour of Thunderbird, some years back, as I was having an anti-Bill Gates strop at the time.
  • Would GoogleMail synch contacts direct with WLM - in which case I wouldn't need to use Soocial as part of the process at all?
  • And do I ditch Outlook completely, and accept that I need to export contacts to CSV at Christmastime to make them the source of a mailmerge?
My brain hurts, and I'm sure yours does now. But if any of those friendly geeks out there can come up with a really good solution, I'd be eternally grateful.

Don't panic!

As we know, Facebook often introduces new 'features', ideas, rules and all the rest. Some are positively beneficial, some less so. However, I'm a bit worried by the amount of warnings that fly around the place about these things which are, in themselves, inaccurate. So this is a quick plea to check it out before you go striking fear into the hearts of all your friends!

The latest culprit is the 'Places' Feature. Put simply, this enables you to post your location to Facebook - if you want to. If you 'check in to a place' using this feature, your location will be displayed. (For anybody who uses FourSquare, it has roughly the same effect - it's your way of saying 'this is where I am right now'.) It doesn't happen automatically "when you are logged in", as this posting puts it:

IMMEDIATELY!!!! Facebook launched Facebook Places yesterday. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged in. It gives the actual address & map location ofwhere you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know. TO UNDO: Go to "Account","Account Settings", ......"Notifications", then scroll ......down... to "Places" and UNCHECK the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes and re-post this message!!

This isn't accurate. The only way people find out where you are is if you actively use the Places feature to tag yourself in a place - not whenever you log in to Facebook. And, like all other features, you can choose whether to publish this (if and when you use it) to everybody, friends of friends, just friends or a selected list.

Not only that, but Places isn't yet available outside the USA anyway!! So those of us in the UK can't use this feature yet even if you wanted it.

And finally, following the instructions above wouldn't help in any case, as they would only stop you being notified of other friends tagging your location... it wouldn't stop the tag from happening. If anything, stopping the tagging is more of a security problem, as it stops you being alerted when somebody else has tagged you. [NB: you can also change your settings so that other people can't tag your location. See the link below for this explanation, too.]

For the real story (rather than the run-round-in-circles-panic-knee-jerk version) have a look at this very simple explanation on the Facebook help page.

And next time you read anything like this - before you repost it - please take thirty seconds to do a bit of research. You could save us all a lot of raised blood pressure!

PS: How do you spot something that's likely to be a hoax / inaccurate / deliberately designed to cause panic? In my experience, the more inflammatory the language and the higher the usage of exclamation marks, the less likely it is to be worth taking seriously...

Monday 23 August 2010

To Do

I love 'to-do' lists. Sad, but true. I always have, right from the days of organising homework. [Oh, don't stop reading now. I really do have a life these days, honest.]

They are useful things - providing that you keep just one, all in one place - multiple lists are the best way to challenge your sanity. [Unless, of course, you count the Shopping List as a To-Do List, in which case I'd prefer to keep buy onions separate from phone mum or do invoicing.]

They are ways of indulging a certain amount of the anally retentive: if you put something on your List that you've already done, you have the satisfaction of Ticking It Immediately. [Come on, own up - haven't you ever done that?]

Being not only a sad List person, but also a Very Sad Computer Geek, I've been exploring the world of Computerised To-Do lists. Getting an iPhone made the obsession even worse, as there is always an App For That. I thought you might enjoy the three I've found: they are all vastly sensible, useful and usable, but will work for different people. All three have online accounts and synchronise with the iPhone (hooray!).

The simplest

TeuxDeux: It couldn't be easier. A To-Do list where tasks are put either in a Day, or on the Someday list. If you click to strike it through, it stays on that day (so you can look back and see what you've achieved); if you don't, it automatically moves on to the next day. Drag and drop items between Days or the Someday list. That's it. Elegant, simple and beautiful.

The biggest

Evernote: Huge capacity. Upload scans, photos from computer or phone, handwritten notes, screenshots, web pages, voice memos; the possibilities seem limitless. Geek heaven.

I have tried both these, and loved them for different reasons; but eventually, I decided that neither of them was for me.

I needed just a bit more flexibility to sort, filter and categorise than TeuxDeux offered; my tasks definitely come under separate headings, different priorities, different timescales, and the beautiful simplicity of TeuxDeux was being messed up by my attempts at coping with these requirements.

The geek in me adored Evernote, with the ability to capture just about anything, any media, any place, any time; but eventually I had to admit that I just don't need that capacity. My life can be complicated, but not that complicated. I am quite capable of finding distractions in the normal course of events, without trying to find things to upload just to make Evernote look pretty.

I was therefore hugely relieved to find the middle ground. (Spoken like a good Anglican.)

Toodledo: has much of the simplicity of TeuxDeux, but with the options to categorise, prioritise, date and star. It's nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as TeuxDeux nor does it have the multimedia capacities of Evernote, but I love it.

I'm delighted to have pleased fellow Twitterer @jimdrew1968 with this recommendation: "Thank you @workingorder for recommending, I now feel in control again. Love ability to forward emails at it. Great tool."

Oh, and one more thing: anyone who loves to-do lists needs to read the wonderful, biographical book by the gorgeous Mike Gayle. And yes, it's called The To-Do List, and I recognise myself in there. Do you?

Saturday 17 July 2010

Packing SOS

A cry went out on Twitter just now: "@workingorder Please Cassie do you have any helpful tips for @DirtyEnid who is packing for house move? #packing #fail #SOS"

Thinks rapidly. Quick Google. Few ideas. Hope helpful.
  • Label, label, label. An extra few seconds after sealing box up will save untold anxiety at the other end.
  • Don't overfill boxes with heavy stuff. You'll break your back trying to move them. More small boxes much better than fewer large ones.
  • If it's not already too late, be ruthless about chucking out stuff that you really don't need (my usual guideline being "if you lost it by mistake, would you [a la Katherine Tate] be bovvered?"). Or, in this case, "if you left it behind by mistake..." Charity shop / skip may be a better place for it than the removal van.
  • Group, group, group. Don't mix rooms. If you know that everything from one box will go in kitchen, saves a lot of wandering around.
  • Keep the kettle, milk, coffee, teabags (or whatever is vital to you) easily accessible. Do not lose sight of main items key to survival. Also include things like loo paper, headache pills, mobile phone.
  • If you have to dismantle flat-pack furniture, put screws/bolts etc. in plastic bag stuck firmly to part of construction ready for re-assembly.
  • Don't panic. Be systematic. Yes, I know it's easier said than done, but deep breath and count to ten may save some vital item from breakage.
  • Need help? If you could use some professional input, see if a local member of apdo-uk is available to help you - at one end of the process or the other. A professional declutterer / organiser can not only be an excellent extra pair of hands, but will be able to stop the red mist from descending when it all gets too much.
  • Found this item by thinking in advance? Check out HelpIAmMoving for a wealth of tips & advice.
If there's even one bright idea that has helped @DirtyEnid today, my work is done.

Friday 2 July 2010

What could make decluttering easier?

This is not my list. While these are policies and suggestions I use all the time, brevity is not one of my skills; this is an excellent little summary which turned up in one of the updates I get in my inbox from the wise and wonderful Nina Grunfeld of Life Clubs, and I thought it was well worth passing on.
  1. Find a timer and set it for 5 minutes of decluttering only. You’ve always got the option of ignoring it when it goes.
  2. Get help. Other people can be ruthless with your things.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up that you never went to that play or cooked that recipe. You did something else instead.
  4. Trust your intuition – you’ll know if you want to keep something. Any wavering, bin it.
  5. If you’re only keeping something to be tactful, get rid of it.
Any questions?

Wednesday 30 June 2010

A new home for your clutter - on stage!

This is an appeal for help, but it does belong happily in a blog about decluttering.

My lovely friend Lou, who I'm privileged to have shared a stage with, is involved with the splendid (and wonderfully named) Hocus Pocus Theatre Company. They are putting out a call for various props needed for their next production; so if you've anything on this list that's getting in your way, you could do a big favour all round!

If you can help, visit their contact page for details and get in touch with Hocus Pocus direct.

Norwich based Theatre Company looking for props and set for forthcoming work - CAN YOU HELP?

Below is a list of items and descriptions that we are currently attempting to source for a project we are putting together over the summer. Maybe you have a garage or loft full of things you no longer have the need for, perhaps you don't have the time to sift through them or arrange for them to be taken to charity... most of the items we are looking for are general household things. Condition is not necessarily the most important thing, for some items the older and more well loved the better! Help us turn your unwanted items into something magical!

The items are as follows:
  • Wooden hat/coat stand
  • Old fabric Union Jack flag (the tattier the better!)
  • Pre-1950s double door wooden wardrobe
  • Wooden cabinets/bookshelves/cupboards
  • Kitchen utensils - especially enamel and copper (any condition)
  • Cutlery - old battered silver preferably (really don't have to be in good condition as will not be used to eat with)
  • Wooden washboard (any condition)
  • Tin Bath (any size, any condition)
  • Jug and Bowl set (preferably enamel, if such a thing even exists!)
  • Patchwork quilts/blankets
  • Gramophone Horn
  • Persian style Rugs - as battered and threadbare as possible if not we have ways of aging them.
  • Kitchen/dining chairs - old/wooden/battered/pre 1970s if possible
  • Children's furniture - esp wooden chairs/writing desk/school desk
  • Wooden Dressing table - pre 1960s (any condition)
  • Trunks/Old suitcases - pre 1960s (any condition - don't even need to be opened)
  • Old Bikes/bike wheels
  • Pre 1950s china - any condition
  • Grandfather clock parts - esp face and pendulum
  • Junk brass/metal pipes/engineering parts/temp gauges etc
  • Rope - thick, any condition
Phew! If anyone can help us out or knows of anyone else who might be able to then please get in contact or indeed pass our contact details on. We will be performing this piece from September, details as yet to be announced but in the meantime please feel free to browse our website and see what we're all about!

Many thanks,

Hocus Pocus Theatre x

Friday 25 June 2010

Jelly ... and ice cream

We're having something like summer at the moment, so this seems like an appropriate item to have on the menu.

My very first introduction to Twitter, and all its great business, networking, friendship and support opportunities, came from the lovely Judy Heminsley: writer of the excellent Work from Home, champion of five-to-niners, and (nicked from her Twitter bio) "happy to chat about procrastination, productivity, isolation etc. Loves cats, chocolate, colour, clarity & clutter clearing". Needless to say, it was the last one that drew me to her!

Anyway, I digress. One of Judy's great enthusiasms is for Jelly - no, not the kind that goes with ice cream, but a great idea for home workers to get out, meet others and share ideas. It's not another networking group - it's co-working, not networking - and requires a public venue with wi-fi, space, plug points and coffee. It's clearly great for the venue, too!

Judy's a writer (and I ain't) so she puts it better than me:

Jelly is a casual coworking event, where freelancers, home workers and people running small businesses meet up in order to get out of their normal space, meet some new people and work together in a social environment. Jelly is a mixture of work, chat, comparing of ideas, passing on tips and help and maybe sometimes collaboration on the birth of a new project.

I spotted one of her Jelly comments on Twitter this morning, and rather foolishly enquired whether there was such a thing in Norfolk. I should have known. Back came the reply with blistering speed:

Haven't heard of one yet. Why don't you start one? Loads of info in my Jelly guide & it's great fun :-)

So down goes the gauntlet. I love this idea. Any of my within-reach-of-Norwich colleagues want to join in? Leave a comment on this post so we can see how much support there is, let me know if you have any suggestions for venues (needs: powerpoints, wifi and coffee!) and we'll see what we can do!

Wednesday 23 June 2010

You're more than just a number...

Edited and updated September 2012

I've just seen another heartfelt cri de coeur on Facebook: "please everybody contact me with your mobile numbers, I've lost my phone!" I see it so frequently, and every time I think: save yourself worry, trouble and time: back it up!

It isn't always easy with a mobile, though. I'm not going to start chatting about backups for your computer data here - that's for another posting; but mobile phones are so small, and vulnerable, and easily lost or broken.

So how to do it? Well, there are various ways, depending on the sort of arrangement that you have with your mobile phone company: do you use the internet on your mobile phone?


If you're one of the increasing number that use your mobile for internet browsing and viewing your emails, it's actually very easy to use an OTA (Over The Air) backup service. Here are a few suggestions.

GoogleMail: not only your phone numbers, but your whole address book. This is my solution of choice: I keep my master address book on GoogleMail, set it to synchronise automatically with my iPhone, and the whole lot are then available in both places.
Mobyko: will back up not only addresses and the rest from your mobile, but also videos, photos and text. A simple interface allows you to edit on your computer and then sync from computer to phone. Please note that this is not a free service: it's presently £24.99 per year. However, £2 per month isn't a lot to pay for peace of mind.
Soocial: synch & share your contacts Presently $4.99 (around £3) per month.
iCloud: if you're an iPhone / iPad / Mac user you've probably already met this option. So, so easy to do.

No internet
You're probably a PAYG user; you wouldn't dream of using your mobile to pick up emails; you need the phone to make and receive calls, and nothing else. Online backup, therefore, isn't for you.

If you're a Nokia user, they have their own software (Nokia PC Suite) that allows you to synchronise your phone with a variety of PC software, including Microsoft Outlook. Until I started using mobile internet, I used this for many years and it worked like a dream. I kept my address file up to date on the PC, and periodically connected the phone to the PC for synchronisation - all done.

NB: This technique also has the advantage that you can use the PC-based address book for many other purposes (labels for Christmas cards, anyone? Mailmerge? Inserting addresses straight into Word documents?). It might be a big investment of time to get it set up, but believe me, it pays for itself - time after time. [I haven't used any mobiles myself other than Nokia and the iPhone, but a quick Google shows me that Samsung - for example - have an equivalent PC Studio Suite; it's worth checking whether your phone is able to use something similar.]

Finally, if you can't face the thought of a complete computer-based address book but still need those mobile numbers backed up, there are still a few SIM card readers on the market - little gizmos that will accept your SIM, plug into the PC via a USB port, and allow you to copy over the data. It will often come as part of a device that can read other sorts of data cards, too - such as the SD cards used in digital cameras, for example - and they tend to be fairly cost-efficient. Check out IWOOT, Amazon or Maplin.


Does this sound like a good idea - but you find the technology a bit scary, or the time short, or your keyboard skills need a bit of help? Contact me today and we'll get it sorted - and you'll never lose another phone number ever again!

Monday 26 April 2010

What do I do?

Decluttering. It's a funny word, and one that is actually a bit misleading. If somebody asks what I do for a living, it's the best word I've been able to come up with - and it's generally used by folks who share my industry.

At a ladies' networking group last week (the splendid Coffee at Caistor, welcoming women in businesses from the Norwich area), I mentioned this problem. When I asked "If I say 'decluttering', do you immediately think 'throwing things into a large skip'?" The answer was a resounding yes.

An extra few words made it clearer: people think "decluttering" is all about what you throw away but it's more about managing what you keep!

I've worked with many clients who have needed a skip - or at least, several trips to the dump and/or charity shop. However, it's equally common for the amount of "chuck-out" to be minimal, because what we've done is to deal with finding the right places for the things they are keeping, and to help with processes that get things done.

So I'm looking at how I describe my profession. It's a noun that's needed. If you're a hairdresser, people immediately know what you do: you cut and colour hair. If you're a plumber, you install and repair plumbing. If you're a vicar, you take church services and provide pastoral care. (Obviously there's a lot more to all these job descriptions, but you know what I mean.)

What's my badge, then? I'm going to be looking for input on this before I settle on something, but at the moment I very much like the suggestion that came from a couple of my colleagues: "stuff management". Your stuff may be important or unimportant, it may be beautiful or unattractive, it may be kept or thrown away - but it's all your stuff. The help I can give you doesn't anticipate what, if anything, you might dispose of; it just helps you to manage your stuff.

What do you think? I'd love to know!

Friday 19 February 2010

It's not about perfect

I picked up a novel today that I've had around for a while. It's a while since I read a novel by Kate Atkinson, but I remember enjoying previous encounters with her work, and When Will There Be Good News seems to be following that trend.

A short way into the book, I found a paragraph that sums up beautifully what I try to help my clients to achieve. The young girl, Reggie, acts as a 'mother's help' in the household of Mr & Dr Hunter, and in her observation of their domestic situation, Reggie comments that "they weren't housework Nazis or anything, but they knew the difference between comfort and chaos..."

That's exactly my aim. I'm frequently asked "will you make me throw everything away?", and that is so not the point. The purpose of my work is to help you move from chaos to comfort: from feeling negative emotions when you walk into your place of work or your home (anything from a mild dissatisfaction to downright panic) to a point where you can truly enjoy your surroundings - which, incidentally, includes being relaxed about imperfection.

The aim is not to start panicking about whether the CDs are in alphabetical order, or whether you'd measure up to the standards demanded by Anthea Turner's white gloves (and I'll tell you right now: I would, personally, fail in spectacular fashion on either of those). However, what we will do is to look at disposing of items that are not helping you - either practically or emotionally - leaving room for the things that you need or love to be found more easily - and then to help you find the best ways of storing the things that you choose to keep.

Yes, there have been clients who have, as a result of work we've done together, taken loads of things to the dump, the charity shop or the auction room; but there have been just as many who have thrown away very little, achieving just as much by re-thinking the storage options. It's all about making your life easier - not enforcing a minimalist regime.

And it's definitely not about becoming a housework Nazi.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Memorabilia: Keep or junk?

I've been reading a very interesting article on the Mail Online, which I was directed to by my fellow declutterer, Beverly Wade from Cluttergone, via her link on Twitter.

The question I'm probably most often asked before starting a decluttering job is "Will you make me throw everything away?" The answer is a categorical no. As Bev rightly says, "Decluttering is about discarding the stuff you don't want, need or use. Ray, keep your precious memorabilia." The most successful jobs I've undertaken have been those where, far from forcing a client to part with items which are genuinely precious to them, I've been able to help them make decisions about exactly what is precious - and what isn't.

I clearly remember one lady whose study contained several boxes of random "stuff", left over from a long-ago house move, and she had no idea what was in them. About 75% of the contents were real junk - old newspapers, travel brochures, advertisements and the like - which were doing nothing for her, either for today's life or yesterday's memories. What we did find, when all that stuff was cleared, were a couple of books, a few CDs, and best of all, a small ornament that she pounced on with cries of glee: "I'd wondered what had happened to that! I really loved that ornament..." The china item was placed proudly on her (newly decluttered) shelf, which had previously contained real junk, and she got huge pleasure from that tiny, rediscovered item.

I was reaching the end of a day with another client, sorting out the desk in her office. We'd done well, and had got rid of a lot of redundant items that were simply getting in the way, when I looked at a small decorative box on the desk. "Shall we go through that?" "Oh, don't bother - there's nothing important in there" she replied. "Well, let's finish off," I said. "It won't take long."

As she suspected, most of the contents were standard desk stuff - erasers, paperclips, pens, notepaper - but from the bottom of the box I produced... her passport. She went rather quiet, said "I was about to accuse my ex-husband of maliciously hiding that, and was going to have to order - and pay for - a new one..."

So remember - decluttering is NOT, repeat, NOT, all about throwing away your memories. It is all about getting rid of real junk - the stuff that is, to coin the favourite phrase of every declutterer, neither useful nor beautiful. If it is useful or beautiful, getting rid of the other stuff gives you a chance to find it, use it and appreciate it. The writer of the Daily Mail article might appear a bit paranoid about the positive side to decluttering, but he does in fact get it exactly right:
... the more we searched for objects to throw away, the more we rediscovered delights we hadn't seen for years, mementos newly treasured and therefore kept - often now in a newly vacated pride of place. Exactly so. If you hadn't searched, you wouldn't have found the precious stuff.

Oh, and one more thing: if you cherish your memories, how much respect and love does it show them if they are buried in dusty piles or boxes; and how can you wallow in your memories when you can't even find them?