After 15 years working in office-based corporate roles, SE16 resident Katherine Blackler has recently set up a local business SortMySpace Ltd offering professional organising and decluttering services in our local area. The inspiration struck for this unusual career choice following a home renovation and with some influence from grateful American friends.
“While I was refurbishing my own house, I enjoyed creating the illusion of having a bigger home than I actually have. I spent a lot of time researching clever storage solutions and neat ideas to optimise my space. It was also really important to me to create a sanctuary for me to retreat to from London’s hustle and bustle, especially after a long day in the office.”
Katherine’s house near the Blue Bermondsey was a little over 400 sq ft when she moved in 4 years ago. According to the growing trend in North America, those dimensions would define it as a ‘Tiny House’ and popularity for downsizing into a Tiny House (often constructed on trailer beds) is gathering momentum across the Atlantic. Whilst Katherine has actually added space to her property’s footprint by building a new porch and installing a garden office, she’s still fascinated by the tiny house movement and the concept of ‘simpler living’ through minimalism. She’s continually trying to apply it to life in SE16 and keen to spread the word for others to also feel the benefits she’s experienced.
Only Useful or Beautiful
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
“A friend showed me this William Morris quote last year and it had a profound impact on me. In fact, it has also shaped my livelihood as well as my home. I adhered to his advice as I was renovating. I found that by reviewing items for their practicality or beauty, I started making more conscious decisions about what belongings I kept and questioned what I really needed to purchase for my new environment,” Katherine explains. “Having made time to consider what I wanted from life and whether my belongings and environment were helping me to achieve that, I realised that I need to leave the financial security of my city career and try something new. At that stage, I just didn’t know what that was!”
Starting out in decluttering
Having wrapped up her Project Management contract, Katherine took a six-week road trip across the USA. During her trip she found herself voluntarily helping out her host families, to tackle their messy kitchen cupboards or redesign their living rooms to be clutter-free. They suggested a career in organising and decluttering, still a relatively niche UK occupation but thriving over there. Returning to the UK, she was inspired to set up in business helping individuals create a more organised and welcoming space to live or work in. She founded SortMySpace Ltd. She also joined APDO (the Association of Professional Declutters and Organisers) who now have 160 members across the UK whom they offer training, promotion and support.
“Professional organisers help clients to identify what they do and don’t need in their lives and find clever and accessible storage for the items they decide to keep. We create systems or processes to ease the individual’s or family’s day-to-day activities and show clients how they could optimise their space to better suit their current requirements. Some professional organisers have specialisms such as working with older people when they’re downsizing, others conquer clients’ paperwork or teach people how to declutter their diary of excessive commitments. Like me, many in the UK are generalists so we can help tackle a client’s need in various areas. Assignments vary widely so no day or week is ever the same which makes it an exciting career!” And Katherine stresses, “Despite what the rather addictive TV shows might imply, you don’t have to be a ‘hoarder’ to justify a little organisational assistance in your home or workplace. But if you are such a hoarder, APDO can still find specialists to help!”
Changing your life and mind
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. The Buddha
Decluttering and organising your environment has a strong overlap with Mindfulness principles which encourage you to live in the present moment, a practice Katherine has been following for a few years. “It’s amazing how many things we still have from the past without considering what their value is today. Equally, we hold onto huge amounts from the past or build potential scenarios for our future. Lots of the time, these influences can distract us from getting the fullest experience out of our current situation because our heads are stuck reminiscing in the past or speculating about the future. I’d like to help more people to enjoy a mindful and simpler way of living and genuinely believe that minimalism is the way to do it. More and more people are finding that consumerism isn’t making them as happy as they’d been led to believe it would and are looking for new ways of living life.”
Katherine recently attended a 4 day conference in Atlanta, GA with NAPO (the National Association of Professional Organisers) which has over 4000 members across the USA. Having been filled to the brim with ideas, industry contacts and professional training, she’s now working on an e-newsletter offering practical organisational tips and planning to give talks locally on how to organise and improve your space.
Another exciting development from the NAPO conference is the special import of the popular bloggers The Minimalists‘ film Minimalism: a documentary about the important things which SortMySpace Ltd will be hosting at Shortwave Cinema Bermondsey Square from 24 July (tickets at sortmyspace.co.uk/events).
Katherine Blackler – Professional Organiser & Declutterer
Learn more about Minimalism, Professional Organising & Decluttering & Mindfulness
• What is the Tiny House Movement?
• The Minimalists – blog and podcasts by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
• Becoming Minimalist – a blog by Joshua Becker Creative Ways to Declutter
• The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo (also available in Kindle edition to save you bringing more items into your house!)
• Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) – to find a professional organiser / decluttered nearby or if you’re interested in becoming one
• The Now Project – offers introductory courses to Mindfulness or weekend retreats