I have a confession to make.
My wardrobe has been in complete disarray for months. In fact, in wardrobe terms I had gone from being a woman who has an eclectic and wide array of interesting garments to the crazy cat lady hoarder.
The difficulty in my line of work you see, is saying no to things that are too good to pass up, either because they’re on my fashion bucket list, or because they will work with an outfit I want to style up. Then there’s the stuff that is such a good bargain it would be rude to say no.
This picture is an accurate reflection of what my wardrobe had become.
As I have a somewhat eclectic style, there are no colours I will not wear and I ignore sizing labels completely. This means there is no way I can filter things out, because I learned that I can never say never when it comes to what is wearable and what isn’t.
In physical terms, I have a large wardrobe by anyone other than Mariah Carey’s exacting standards. My wardrobe is, in fact, a small room off the bedroom. Why it is there I am unsure. It is ‘L’-shaped and the width of a reasonably narrow corridor. The boiler (which looks like something out of a science fiction film) sits in one end, but the rest is just dead space. If it had been designed as an actual walk in wardrobe, I would have sacked the architect. It’s more of a sidle in wardrobe, and a ‘where the hell am I going to put that?’ wardrobe.
When we moved in, it had a wobbly clothing rail attached to the longest wall, and that was it. Over the last few years I have loaded and loaded things on to it, to the point where it was actually beginning to buckle. All other storage involved large plastic tubs on the floor and a small chest of drawers rammed up against the boiler which caused my long-suffering husband to shout ‘Christ Alive, this is a fire hazard!’ every time he had to go in there to fiddle with a valve.
Last year, we had a marvellous chap called Andy round for several weeks. He was the epitome of the handyman, indeed, for those of you old enough to recall the televisual feast that was Changing Rooms, he was like your actual Handy Andy. He worked through the list of ‘small jobs’ that we had accrued over the last few years, and managed to tick a fair few of them off. For me, the most significant thing was that he replaced my rickety clothes rail with scaffolding poles (truly) and made me some narrow shelves in various weird shaped alcoves in my wardrobe to try and maximise the usage for my difficult space.
For a while, this helped enormously, but the advent of my new business venture meant that clothes were piling in there faster than they were coming out, and we had reached critical mass by the time my saviour arrived.
It appears that I am absolutely invested in the whole ‘cobbler’s children’ story. Only the cobbler’s children have no shoes and I have four cupboards full. I can organise other people’s wardrobes with no trouble at all. I cannot organise my own to save my life.
Luckily, someone else can. I threw myself on the mercy of the absolutely brilliant, Carol Richardson. Carol, who I call Wonder Carol, because that is what she is, has a business that is dedicated to de-cluttering. It is called Absolutely Tidy, and it is, and so is she, and now I am on my way to being, and really I cannot recommend her enough.
I met Carol at a networking event, and we clicked. I knew I needed some help, and I trusted that she could help me in a way that would work for me. I wanted someone who I felt wouldn’t be critical of me or my life or house. I wanted someone who was the calm to my chaos, and who had the patience to figure out what I needed. I wanted someone who would prompt me when I got off track, but who I never felt was forcing me to do things or rush decisions I wasn’t ready to make. I wanted someone who would be flexible in terms of working, and who wouldn’t just try to Marie Kondo me. I’m never going to be a minimalist, I just wanted someone to help me make my life and home more manageable.
I also wanted someone who wouldn’t judge the fact that I could do all these things for myself, but I just haven’t. My house bravely teeters on the brink between lovably eccentric and scary chaos. Sometimes, depending on what is going on, it tips over.
I know I am prone to hoarding. Most of the time I can rein it in sufficiently. Sometimes I don’t. Usually I get to a point where I am so sick of it, I crack and spend long, resentful evenings and weekends organising myself, running backwards and forwards to the tip, to the charity shop, to Homebase etc and turn it around. I reckon it works on about a two year cycle. I knew this was the year I needed to get a grip. I’ve known for months, but it turns out that having a hysterectomy, starting a new business, spiritually spring cleaning your mental state and maintaining domestic harmony do not always make comfortable bed fellows, and domestic harmony seemed the least important, so I dropped it.
I am getting re-married to my lovely husband at the end of September. We are having it at our house. This means I need to have a workable, beautiful space where I can host about eighty people, and not worry that they are going to call social services on me. I also run a clothing business in which a significant amount of money is tied up in the clothes sitting in my wardrobe that I don’t wear any more. Things needed to change. I needed help, because although I could make the time to do all of the above, my time would be better spent doing other things, and I cannot do everything.
That’s exactly where Carol came in.
She emptied out my entire wardrobe and we went through it piece by piece, deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to bin and what to give to charity shops. We then organised what I was going to keep, and figured out how best to use the space in my wardrobe so that it was all accessible and I could see everything.
This took some time, as you can imagine. We kept in contact between sessions and she sent me links to various storage ideas, a Pinterest board she had created for me, and kept me up to date with various questions and ideas. She was quick to respond to my input, and was flexible enough to tailor her thoughts to my needs as we worked. The brief changed as we went on, mainly because she was extremely good at gently eliciting information from me with regard to what was important to me and how I really wanted things to be rather than how I imagined things would be. She was also extremely good with my budget. We ended up repurposing a lot of things I already have. Weirdly, by paying her, I ended up saving myself money because I didn’t throw money at storage ideas that looked good on paper, but which didn’t work in real life.
I am so delighted with what she has done for my wardrobe, I’m keeping her on to help me plan my wedding, and have also been inspired to tackle some of my smaller, tidying jobs on my own. She’s fantastic to work with and will organise everything from your sock drawer to getting you a new washing machine delivered and fitted.
She really is Wonder Carol.