I’m going to start with a story, it’s similar to many calls I get each week, but with one major exception.
[Julie] called me and asked for my help. She shared how she is a single mum with 3 kids – that’s enough to need some help! Then she shared how she has some serious health issues, escaped a violent relationship, and moved into her now deceased grandparents 123 year old home. My brain thought straight away, “this sounds like some chronic issues that may be causing some chronic disorganisation – this is our wheelhouse!”
Then the exception: she lives in rural NSW. Not just a couple of hours away, but 8.5 hours away, in a small town of about 4,000. Although she did have some NDIS funding to help, her services we limited and, to be honest, not great. She was struggling.
The struggle was daily – would her body hold down and absorb food to fuel her, would her arthritis cripple her too much to get things done, would her other ailments force her into the wheelchair today? These realities were enough to deal with, but she also had to manage a home that had inadequate storage, ineffective systems and clutter that built up as the years of limited energy drained her.
I always dreamed of changing the world, and as our motto says, “one drawer at a time”. I had received similar calls over the years from potential clients who struggled to find someone willing to come to their area and help. At those times, I knew I couldn’t stretch myself as I was running solo and had young kids myself. But now, I am in a different place. My “baby” has just turned 18 and I have an amazing team that can support my big dreams.
So, in the first week of August, I set off to the countryside with my camper trailer (and some Kmart organising staples!) in tow. It felt fitting that in the same month Decluttering Diva turns 10, we would embark on this new adventure.
As with many of my initial sessions, we focused on mum’s room. Knowing that if we could create some calm and order in there, we may be able to help her rest and heal. With everything on her shoulders, this was definitely the first priority. She found it hard to declutter clothes, which is especially common for women. We get such a sense of identity from our wardrobe; it reflects not just who we are now, but who we were or who want to be. Confronting the reality that her life would change as her health inevitably diminishes, was hard. I worked gently alongside her and came up with creative ways to keep and store as much as possible (for the meantime).
The next day, we worked in the central kids area, as well as the laundry and kids bathroom. If we set up simple systems that the kids could manage on their own, that would take a load of mum. Through all the trauma and uncertainty, teaching life skills like how to organise, how to declutter, what to with the things you no longer want, and how to reset an organised space were not a priority. I know kids like routine, limits and systems. They may fight against it at first, but deep down they want to know the limits and expectations, and they want to help – but sometimes they just don’t know what to do.
The reactions from the kids when they came home from school said it all – they were thrilled!
We moved onto to the kitchen, where made a great dent at the local Reject shop for more organising supplies to create an accessible and user-friendly pantry.
The elephant in the room, though, was the giant garage space. Unlike in Sydney, country folk have the luxury of space, and this family had filled it. We knew our client didn’t have much left in the tank after 3 days working with us, not to mention her usual health issues, wrangling a neighbour’s stray sheep, feeding the horses, and having multiple sessions with her psychologist, dietician and specialist doctors. So, we decided to tackle the garage independently – sorting like with like, removing rubbish and labelling everything so that, when she was ready, she could grab a box and work through one category at a time. With the skills she learned through working with us, she would definitely be able to tackle a box at time.