About our diary

This is the true story of Stella, one of Cluttergone’s clients. She is someone just like you, who is struggling with clutter and organisation. Chrystine, the consultant working with Stella has kept a diary of her visits.

We have been so moved in the time we have known Stella that we felt that others could benefit from an insight into her life.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of the way we work, the issues that arise during clutter clearing, and most importantly Stella’s success.

Stella is a real person, although for the sake of anonymity and confidentiality personal details have been changed. Our personal thanks to Stella for allowing us to share the diary and follow her journey.

Chrystine's diary has about forty entries, we hope you enjoy following Stella's decluttering progress.



About Stella

Chrystine Bennett writes:

Stella Brown, a high flying professional person working in a national organisation, was hit by a serious illness later compounded by clinical depression, she has since retired.

In 2007, Stella started thinking about all the stuff that had built up around her. She knew she couldn’t manage to clear it by herself so she started looking at clutter clearing web sites. She didn’t want someone who would come and just tell her what needed to be done. She wanted someone who would get down on the floor and do the actual dirty work with her. After reading several websites very carefully, she was convinced that it would be Cluttergone.

A broken boiler pushed her to clearing some of the paper in the front hall and purchasing a shredder. Stella, looking at the piles of paper decided that even though she couldn’t deal with the clutter herself, she could stop it from getting any worse. She put a recycling bag in the front hall next to where she opened the post.

6 March 2008, she was ready to contact Cluttergone.

Stella told me during a recent visit that having screwed up her courage to make the call; she’d hung up when the phone wasn’t answered after 4 or 5 rings. Beverly used the phone memory to call her back.

Stella told both Beverly and me that she knew this was going to be a very long process and that she wasn’t setting any kind of deadline. We advised that each visit should not be longer than about 4 hours and there should be tw0 weeks between each visit.

Subsequently, I learnt from Stella that her psychiatrist was reassured by this and the fact that we were not trying to push too far or too fast and that she retained control. Stella has also more recently said that it continues to be scary to be clearing the clutter but with the support she has she can cope.


How it all begins

Beverly Wade writes:

My first contact with Stella was on the 6 March 2008. On returning home from a session with a client, I checked my phone for messages. As one of the messages had cut off half way through, something led me to return the call of one of the numbers, even though no message had been left.

Stella was so pleased that I had called back, though her nerve had gone after ringing my number, and after a chat we agreed that our consultant Chrystine would ring her the next evening to book a session.

11 March 2008. Chrystine spoke to Stella and she had had a cold and depression, asked to be rung in 10 days. Finally, they set a date: 1st April 2008.

29 March 2008. Stella called me to say that she was getting cold feet, in part because she had not yet seen our agreement document, and had some concerns about confidentiality and privacy. I was able to reassure her, as did the document, and the visit was set to go ahead.


1. The first session

Chrystine Bennett writes:

Stella hadn’t invited anyone into her home since it disappeared under all the stuff. My visit was a brave leap. We did the tour. She’d thought a lot about what we should do and she wanted to start at the top of the house in her bedroom. Stella said 'I want to start with the tops and bottoms of these wardrobes so we have somewhere to put things.'

It was obvious that she was anxious. Anxious that I would start running riot, anxious that her comfort areas would be invaded. We talked and she said that decisions were the most difficult so I said 'Okay, what don’t you care about? We’ll just do things that you don’t have strong feelings about, that don't require much thought”. "We can get rid of shoes,” she said. She indicated that she preferred being barefoot so it was easy to get rid of shoes.

The bedroom was piled with newspapers and magazines, the latter mostly in their plastic mailing bags. 'I don’t care about them.' Stella said. Right, so I ripped off the plastic and put it in a rubbish bag before handing the magazine to Stella who put it into a recycle bag. This proved to be a very important process for both of us. Stella retained complete control over what was thrown away. At the end, we vacuumed the spaces that we'd cleared, to reclaim the territory, to mark it, to celebrate.

We ended up with nearly a dozen bags of rubbish and recycling. Stella was impressed that we could clear so much clutter without impinging on sensitive areas and that it wasn’t as scary as she thought it might be.


2. We vacuum the floor!

When I arrived, Stella was ready. She had a plan.

She wanted to tackle the dining room which was filled with a collection of half opened boxes: pictures, glassware and ornaments from a recently deceased aunt. Because they weren’t Stella's with her memories attached, she figured it would be easier to have a go at getting them into a basic order. Collections of like things developed; sheet music was encouraged to migrate to the piano, glassware was arranged in orderly lines and some things that she liked were given homes in the kitchen.

Light nattering and discussions of the process accompanied our work. I had warned her that after the first visit, she might be drained the next day.

Stella said, 'I was tired which surprised me! It's not as though the work we did was hugely physically demanding.'

to which I replied,

'Thinking about and making choices is more tiring than people think. I'm impressed that you didn't cancel the second visit.'

She said that although she'd thought about it, she held onto her choice to clear the house of clutter because she knew it's the right thing for her to do.

Some things we unwrapped are meant for other family members and were set aside. Some smallish boxes were freed up.

I 'considered' the piles of papers in the front room which Stella had shown me on the first visit which she said actually had a some order to them and she sort of knew what was where. There was a pile on the sofa and two piles on the floor.

'Can I put the paper piles into these small boxes? I promise not to move or mix them up''Yes' said Stella. Each pile was 'containerised'. The bits of exposed carpet could be vacuumed which marked the territory. We had a moment's celebration! It already looked tidier.

I asked her whether she'd told her doctor about using a clutter clearer. She said he'd been concerned that she might be rushing things. But when she told him how we had limited the time to 4 hours every 2 weeks and weren’t pushing, he was pleased that we appreciated Stella’s needs.

At the end of the visit while we were still congratulating ourselves, Stella told me that she had booked a gardener to clear the back garden of weeds on our week off. I was impressed!


3.The garden has been cleared

I walked through the front door and straightaway Stella led me to the back door to show off the garden.

The jungle of weeds was gone. We looked at each other with big smiles on our faces.

Stella said: ‘The gardener was very energetic and we worked jolly hard. I was exhausted but it wasn't emotionally tiring because I didn't have to make any difficult choices. Weeds are weeds and we just pulled them up. We filled 12 bags of rubbish!’

Beverly had sent Stella the most recent newsletter with the offer of a packing list. Stella had replied:

‘Thank you for the packing list. I do not plan to go ‘on holiday’ yet perhaps a short break, given all the encouragement I am getting from working with Chrystine, may be possible sometime later in the year so a copy of the checklist would be welcome. All down to something shifting...along with the bags Chrystine and I have put out!’

‘What do you want to do today?’ I asked.

Stella replied, ‘I like the sense of movement. Can we unstick the front hall today?’

We'd been making piles of 'like' things around the house. Stella loves doing this is this because it doesn't require any thought; nothing is being thrown away. As we did the front hall, we added to the piles.

Part of decluttering is finding a place for everything. The basic sort piles are the first step on this path. Initially one is simply 'putting things away' into the piles. Looking at the volume of a pile enables us to plan how big a shelf, drawer or closet that will be needed to house them in the end.

The front hall bookcase became the home for programmes and leaflets. Coats moved from a sitting room chair to the hall. I found the box of the things cleared from Stella's desk by her colleagues when she didn’t return to work.

Stella said, ‘I'm glad you found that and not me. I can face the stuff from a distance in your hands and I know what I want to keep’

After the sorting and reorganising, we hoovered the now open floor space.

When we finished for the day, Stella’s voice had a new excited squeak. She could now open her front door to the outside world and her hallway looked ‘normal’.

The process with Stella was proving to be very educational for me. I decided to start keeping a diary of our visits and went home to write down the first three.


4. We admire the nail polishes

Opened the door. Big smile from Stella.

Not only was the hallway still clear, she'd potted up two amaryllises to sit on the front hall table.

Stella led me to the kitchen window. There was more to see, she'd also potted up some flowers for the newly cleared garden.

Several times over the past three visits, Stella had said: "I can think of things to do, but I can't actually do them unless you are here." After we'd admired the potted plants, she said: "Guess what! You know how I said I couldn't do anything without you being here, even if I could plan? Well, I've sorted out the downstairs bathroom cupboard and put away the nail polish bottles that have been living on the sitting room side table."

"That's great! What do you want to do today?"

Stella showed me two large empty boxes, which were waiting for us in the front room where there were stacks of video tapes.

"These are the oldest tapes and I want to put them into the boxes. I'm not ready to throw them away, but I am ready to start putting them away. I took on-board what you said on the first visit about videos being an outdated technology. I am upgrading to DVDs and a better TV”
On that first visit, I had slightly moved a stack of videos and had provoked a cry of distress from Stella. I was very impressed by the journey she had made in so short a time. The boxes were MUCH too big and it took both of us to wrestle them up the stairs to the spare room. We laughed and vowed to never, ever again pack anything heavy in large boxes.

Besides clearing the piles on the floor, some bookshelves were freed from videos, so we moved some books from the stair treads onto the shelves. We also started working on a new room, pushing things around and doing some preliminary sorting. There was one last surprise: Stella and I had been meeting every two weeks. She had some upcoming commitments that would mean a three-week break between meetings. Rather than doing that, she wanted to book two appointments one week apart.

Just before I left, Stella said, "You haven't seen the bathroom cupboard yet"
We went and admired the row of nail polishes in the cupboard.
When I got home, I shared my diary with Beverly and we discussed whether Stella would be willing for us to publish it as a diary. We were both very impressed by her insights and her willingness to go at a slow steady pace.