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.