Get Sorted! - The Blog

Can we change our ways?

posted 15 May 2017, 14:50 by Gwen Montgomery

People often ask me whether or not clients get me back again and again, and it's a good question!   One client for whom I sort out a home office quarterly said that she was obviously not going to change her ways a few years from retirement and it was easier knowing I was coming back to file and clear and set things in order.  For others, my first work was decluttering before a house move but then they keep me returning for admin and paperwork help, and even for the next house move!   

Most clients - particularly if they have had me back until the whole house has been Sorted by Gwen - really enjoy their space that is now free from clutter and they know everything has 'a home' and love that they can put their hand on the bulbs, the travel adaptors or the sticky tape.  They keep it pretty much in order, but keep me in mind if things get too near the edge.

One of my clients, who I had considered my 'fail' - I could not convince her to part with things and she was SWAMPED - got me back a few weeks ago.  I was delighted to find that she had kept all her paperwork in the system I had set up and that she was much more ready to throw out memory or sentimental papers that she would have clung to before. I think the rest of the house is still stuffed.....

Many women I have worked with have said that they now think twice before buying more new clothes.  They can find what they already have and the wardrobes are in order having parted with 'bad buys' or the items they realised they hadn't worn for years.  For some, finding so many new clothes with their tags still on them, has helped them realise they have a habit of shopping to treat themselves or 'feed a need', rather than actually buying something they will wear, and  this realisation has stopped this habit.

For some mums of young children, their 'tidy pre-motherhood self' has been lost in the busy clutter of family life, toys and baby clothes.  They find it really hard to function in the disorder and even harder to carve out a chunk of time to tackle a room or a cupboard.   With a day set aside and babysitting organised and the couple both in action, we have gone through the whole house and set things to right and they have been thrilled with the change.  Yes, it will get messy again, but they will be more aware of over-buying and have a fresh idea of what they have and be able to find things more easily.

All women you ask?  Well, for the most part my domestic clients are women, and more of my small business clients are men.  Their businesses have benefitted from systems and filing and some of them get me back as it makes better business sense to buy some Sorted time rather than procrastinate and lose things.

Sorted by Gwen believes in change - but it's good for business if I'm still needed!   Get stuck in - Declutter your space!

Have you stopped having people over to your home?

posted 2 Feb 2017, 04:52 by Gwen Montgomery

For many who suffer under the burden of gathering there is a sense of shame – sometimes quite deeply felt.  However, there are certainly those who exhibit great delight in their treasure troves. If they could, they would charge you admission price to see the things they treasure!   Both of these are signs of something deeper that is going on. 

Those who experience a sense of shame often become reluctant to have friends and visitors into their home.  Some continue to entertain by stuffing things into one room or a few corners or out of sight and dismiss it with a wave of their hand while dreading facing the cupboard or pile afterwards – not to mention what might now be lost!  One  of my clients no longer had visits from her daughter as she could;t cope with her mother's hoarding behaviour.   Happy to meet for coffee or lunch or at the daughter's home but it all became too much and led to arguments. The experience of many who have had some help – usually offered – from friends or family members, is that it often ends in tears or strained relationships. 

Since I am known by my friends as a declutterer I have been aware that a few of them struggle with having me in their homes.  As a professional, I know that I have to be unshockable and non-judgemental or the battle is lost at the start.  As a friend, I don't care too much how you choose to live and I'd rather be in your company and home than kept out.  

If some of this sounds familiar, ask yourself a few hard-hitting questions.  For example is your 'stuff' more important than your relationships?  Is your home uncomfortable for others who are visiting?  How can you start changing that today?

Keep decluttering!  

Diagnosing of the Hoarder

posted 25 Feb 2015, 03:53 by Gwen Montgomery

Signs of clutter and hoarding are generally quite obvious to those around the ‘sufferer’ – or if you prefer ‘practitioner’.  In most cases, homes and rooms are visual chaos: piles of papers on most surfaces, work surfaces invisible under the stuff that covers them, and overflowing storage.  Alongside the visual there are common factors:  things go missing, time is spent and wasted looking for things, more arrives into the home on a regular basis – whether from shops, car boot sales, charity shops, or from other people.. 

Language and excuses used include: ‘It’ll come in useful someday’, ‘I couldn’t resist it’, ‘I know where everything is – really’, ‘that cost me a lot of money’ ‘if I had more time, I know exactly where I want things to go’, ‘ I could make something really fun with that’ or ‘I couldn’t part with Aunt Dora’s teapot collection’!

What about the habits of the hoarder? There are four main types of hoarding behaviour which I will explore over my next few blogs.  Some hoarders exhibit several types or habits of hoarding – many have a predominant one.  But for all hoarders there is the basic problem of more ‘stuff’ coming into a house all the time and very little leaving it.  Every kind of hoarder shops, collects, saves and gathers.  Many become attached to the things in their homes and associate most items with memories and people.

The common problems I have found are that hoarding puts a strain on relationships – primarily with a spouse but also with children if a parent is a hoarder.  Families can hardly function if there is nowhere to sit or put anything down or if life is a cycle of frenzied searching for lost items.  Most people do not recognise the effect clutter has on their mental health and it is only when ‘stuff’ leaves the house that a sense of relief is felt and experienced.  100% of my clients give testimony to the feeling of lightening and easing of mental strain when they have parted with amounts of clutter. 

Let me also say that, in my work as a declutterer, it is very important that I am not judgemental and that clients, who may feel a huge amount of shame, know that I am unshockable and will not be judging their behaviour.  Rather I help them to clear their space and to suggest ways to break hoarding habits and avoid the cycle of clutter in the future.  

If you are curious about what type of hoarder you may be, check back in a while when I reveal my four main types of hoarding behavior that I have identified!

Getting the right message across - Proofreading etc

posted 17 Nov 2014, 08:00 by Gwen Montgomery

Every business needs to promote itself whether online or in print.   This is the first impression that most of your potential clients will have of your services or product, so it is vital to get it right.   Great images, eye-catching design and legible fonts or graphics are important, but PLEASE – get it proof read! 

It’s about attention to detail, and more.  If you get this part right, with no glaring typos, or awkward prose, then you have avoided putting up barriers to purchasers.   Even if you are not a five star hotel, where attention to detail is essential, every customer wants to know that utmost care is taken in how a product is made or how work will be done on their house, their hair or their horsebox!

Printing is expensive and many new businesses need fliers, business cards and perhaps other advertising.  My advice would be to get an average print run the first time.  It’s not until you’ve a few months behind you in a new venture that you realise your main selling point, or the smartest way to cast the net to your potential clients.   So don’t get dozens of boxes of your fliers, you will want to make changes.  Most importantly, don’t go to print without getting your documents proofed.   Although I know I have a sharp eye and am offended by the overuse of the apostrophe, there are a few others out there, with money to spend, who will also notice if details are incorrect.

What about online presence?  Websites are much more affordable these days and many people choose to design their own and put the content up themselves.   Others get designers to do the job, but not everyone gets it checked out by a copywriter or proofreader.  If your business is not writing – and it’s few writers that make a living out of writing – then you should get some help.  You might be brilliant at what you are at, be it training, plumbing or running a B&B, but then you are likely not a practiced writer or grammarian!   It is true that many people are dyslexic, and many more who run great businesses are ESL and their written English may be far from comprehensible.  There are many websites that I gave up trying to read because the content was badly written – poor structure, long sentences – just not getting the message across.  But there have also been several like that which I have enjoyed re-writing or where working with a client to understand their business better, I could help to write attractive prose which got their message across.

When we dream our dreams for our business we read about entrepreneurs and leaders, managers and whizz kids. The most successful business people will tell of hiring people who are better than they are at sales, design, marketing, human resources – whatever!   Recognise what you are best at and also where you are not so gifted, then spend a little to fill the gaps in your expertise – you won’t regret it. 

A place for Everything and Everything in its Place

posted 2 Aug 2014, 10:09 by Gwen Montgomery

Most of us have heard this old adage but perhaps we don’t believe in its wisdom.  As you start out in your business venture, particularly if you are a small business, don’t underestimate the benefits of efficiency brought through order.

Many business people – in fact many people - lose hours of valuable working time just LOOKING for things that are misplaced, missing or just plain lost.  Value your time by setting up systems that will serve you well and save you angst and frustration when you need to find something.

Even though much of our modern world is digital, there will still be paperwork – and there must be paperwork – for your business venture.  In my own business of Administrative Systems and Decluttering, I have met many clients who are brilliant at whatever they do – teaching line dancing classes, running a B&B, training sales people, landscape gardening – but they are not so gifted in administration.  Many family enterprises have been started by the man of the house who expects his wife to do the bookwork – I’ve helped rescue a few marriages that have been under the pressure of this expectation.  Not every family business has someone to whom systems and order come naturally!

A good leader is one who recognises their areas of weakness and gets someone else in to do the job! 

Meanwhile, if you can’t find someone to help (and you can’t pay my travel costs!) logic is the order of the day and you need to set up systems that are logical for YOU so that you can find everything quickly.

Where to begin….

When I took a ‘Start your own business’ course, I realized that any or all of the other attendees could be my clients - but not yet!   It is not until business gets going that you find out what needs to get sorted.    For the most part, as I write, I am assuming small businesses without bookkeeping software or staff.  Let’s start with getting the money in – an important basic, but unbelievable how many small businesses are lax about prompt invoicing.   For some readers, quotations will be part of your service – both verbal and written.   Keep a record of it either way.  If it’s verbal then note it in your smart phone or your notebook with the date the client and the amount, along with whatever detail is needed.  If you produce printed quotes, start with a QUOTES folder in your computer filing and name each document by client.  Don’t keep multiple versions of quotes or you will have trouble remembering which was the final one.  If you haven’t got easy access to your files, then print out a copy of the quote and file by date or in an A-Z file folder by client.  

Invoicing will need several systems.  A spreadsheet to track and number invoices – all invoices must be given a unique number and dated.   As well as date, number, client name and amount, you can add further columns for analysis and to track payments or flag up the need to send statements.   It goes without saying, this will need regular attention if you want to have income!

If the spreadsheet system works for you then filing copies of all invoices by number is the easiest in most cases, unless you have a small number of clients and it is more efficient to file them by client.

Again, on your computer, set up a folder for invoices and name each one by number and client or anything else that is logical to find.  They don’t need ‘invoice’ in the title if they are saved in the correct folder.

Both the ‘Quotes’ folder and the ‘Invoices’ folder should be in a FINANCE folder.  Use a ‘tree’ method to name and organize folders.  For example ‘parent’ folders might be:  Business Planning, Finance, Legal (including insurance, licences etc.), Suppliers, Marketing.  These then would have sub folders – for example Marketing might have: Networking, Advertising, Logos, website content, Social Media etc.

If you are keeping paper filing then use the same titles and sub titles in the filing cabinet.   While each business may have particular needs, most have the same basic set up.

Emails will be best managed in a similar manner, set up folders and have a logical home for emails, using the flagging and other aids that your program supplies.

There is so much more, but these basic starting points will help you and don’t delay setting up and then using a system as it will save a lot of time and headaches in the long run.

There are a lot of helpful tools and videos on line, particularly for using software – just search for what you need.

In almost all of the cluttered and chaotic offices and homes that I have help sort out, making a ‘home’ for everything is the starting place.  People waste so much money buying ‘more’ of items they have already got in stock.   Use drawers, shelves, boxes (preferably clear) and LABEL them so you can see at a glance what is what!


Self-Discovery - could I be a hoarder?

posted 20 Jan 2014, 07:43 by Gwen Montgomery

In June, just after my last Blog post, I discovered we would be moving house again.  My husband and I have moved house and jurisdiction several times so you would think this would be 'wee buns' for me (as they say in my adopted home of Northern Ireland)!   However, the last time we moved I was not a declutterer -though Sorted by Gwen was a year old.  In the meantime, my mother had died and I had done some clearing out, and to be fair, did not keep heaps of her things.  But in the process of moving I discovered that I was - YES ME! - a bit of a hoarder myself!

Many folk I talk to about my business say something like 'I'm sure your own house is tidy and minimalist' but no, it is not.  I have a home with a 'lived in' feeling and I am delighted to be in a house with more storage.  This could be a disaster for a hoarder, but I am pleased to say that things are pretty well organised by this stage.  Everything has its place and I know where to put my hand on things, as well as what I have and don't need to buy.   So now it's time you invited me to your place!

Decluttering is a hands-on job

posted 11 Jun 2013, 02:39 by Gwen Montgomery   [ updated 11 Jun 2013, 02:39 ]

There is definitely a greater interest in decluttering around Ireland these days!  Whether people are hoping to find things of value and sell them, or just feeling the stress of having clutter around them - it's time to get sorted.  There have been a number of radio programme articles on the RTE John Murray show about decluttering.  Some of the people who have admitted their guilt are hoping to get the expert in to help, but in the meantime advice was given and suggestions made.
In my experience, my clients have found that they are overwhelmed by the task and cannot start it alone.  Many who have had help from family members have felt judged or even more ashamed and their relationships have been damaged as a result.
Calling in an outside expert is the way forward.  If you get me in, we start straight away in a practical, hands-on fashion and you will see some results in two or three hours.
A new client of mine has been so surprised at the amount of stuff in her home, she knew there was a lot but had no idea just how much stuff had 'become wallpaper'.   There is no doubt that the psyche deals with it by blocking it out visually and mentally most of the time.  Three full days of work and we are half-way through a small house!  Many people imagine that the stuff they have taken many years to accumulate will be cleared in just a few hours.  Honestly, that is just not possible, alongside dealing with the emotional habits that have caused the 'keeping' and hoarding in the first place. 
How I enjoy it when my clients say how therapeutic it feels as the bags and articles leave the house.  I think the house and the floorboards often sigh with relief as well!

Help the Homeless?!

posted 1 Jul 2011, 07:56 by Gwen Montgomery

We have all heard the old adage 'A place for everything and everything in its place' and for an efficient life there's no better motto!
So I recommend giving everything a home.  I have realised that for some people this is not so easy as they don't have a logical or systematic approach to things.   Group things together - keep wrapping paper, cards and envelopes with a scissors and tape all in one place.  Get a tape dispenser or one of the Scotch tape wristbands that has pre-cut pieces of tape - fabulous invention!    String, sticky tape, glue, drawing pins, fixer pads - keep them all together.  Get stacking boxes and LABEL them so you do not spend ages hunting for things or worse still - keep buying new ones because you can't find the ones you have already got!
Oh - and if you really don;t know where to start - call in Sorted by Gwen!
There are much more fun things to do than waste time looking for things! 

Top Domestic Decluttering Tips

posted 9 Jun 2011, 11:59 by Gwen Montgomery

Even declutterers find it a challenge to keep on top of the 'stuff' that comes in our doors!
Just recently I stuck up the 'No Junk Mail' please sign on my door and Oh! how I wish I had done it earlier!!   I seemed to spend so much time picking it up, looking at it briefly and putting it in the recycling.  That wasn't doing anyone any favours.  So my hallway is much clearer these days.   Funny how about 40% were for Take way Pizza - which I NEVER eat anyway!
If you are doing the same - stick up that notice!

Sample Post

posted 17 Feb 2010, 21:17 by Unknown user   [ updated 9 May 2011, 02:27 ]

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