Spring is definitely not the only time you should be cleaning around the house. Decluttering your home on a regular basis has a tangible effect on the way you live and work going forward, so as daunting as the task may seem, it needs to be a priority. Laura Williams, a Professional Declutterer & Organiser and Founder of OrganisedWell, sits down with Terri Levine. Together, Laura and Terri bring up the positive effects of decluttering your home that you should take note of. Your mind is as cluttered as the world around you, so if you want to regain some clarity, take Laura and Terri’s advice to get organized once again!
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Decluttering Your Way To Freedom With Laura Williams
I was sharing with our guest that I spent the entire weekend decluttering. First, I started with my office and then I got on up the right tangent and went through the whole house. When I came into work, I feel so much more energy. It’s synchronistic because I have with me, Laura Williams. She is the Founder of OrganisedWell. She’s a professional organizer. She’s a declutter. She’s based in the UK. She’s going to help us look at how decluttering possessions and getting rid of the things in our homes and our offices can help us not only in our business but also in our health. Laura, welcome here to the show.
Thank you for having me.
I woke up on Saturday morning and something said, “Go spend the morning decluttering your office,” and I did. I got rid of gobs of stuff, old books and old programs. On Sunday, I got up and said, “Let’s do more rooms.” That was fun. I can’t believe it when I came into my office. It feels completely different. Before we’ve been talking about why that is, how did you get interested in decluttering?
I was completely overwhelmed by everything going on in my life. It got to a point where I was so under so much stress. I happened to pick up the book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was reading through it and trying small changes in my bedroom. It felt so amazing. I was changing the energy. The space that I had and something changed within me as well. I felt like I was regaining control of some aspects of my life. It was lifting. I enjoyed it so much. I started looking into it more and more and discovered it’s an industry where you can help other people with this. It went from there.
What is it about this decluttering and getting organized that adds value first to us as people? Let’s talk about our businesses. I want to go to our health. I want to cover it all with you, Laura.When we declutter, we're removing things from our homes that we don't need. Click To Tweet
When we declutter, we’re removing moving things from our home that we don’t need that’s filling our space. For me, it’s not about the physical. We take things out. We changed the energy in a space. We create space, which makes us feel that freedom. Through the process of reviewing our things, we think hard and long about the things that are important to us. For me, what helped me is the shift from we consume all this stuff. It’s so easy and cheap to get a hold of things so readily available now through getting deliveries at home. We accumulate but we never look consciously what we’re keeping. We don’t notice, but it builds up. We also do that with our diaries, time, social media and email. All of those things that build up. By decluttering, we’re making a conscious asset to think about what’s important to stage in our lives and we’re releasing everything else. It also feels good to release those things because we can pass things on to other people who will enjoy them and use them in a way that we haven’t. There’s a feeling of helping other people there as well.
I’m so glad you brought that up. I’ve been in business for many years. I have invested in myself. I have programs, courses, books and manuals. When I took them all out, I could have filled ten closets with them. I was overwhelmed. They were scattered everywhere. I’m like, “Was I even looking at them?” Instead of throwing them away, I realized, “My clients would love some of these.” There are programs that cost anywhere from $97 on up to probably $10,000. I organize them all. I made an Excel spreadsheet for them. I said to my clients, “Pick what you want. Let me know and I will ship it over to you.” They’re ecstatic. That does feel good.
It feels amazing to be able to share with other people. They’re going to get the benefit, but it also frees you up. You’ve got all that stuff accumulated. You’re trying to work in that space, but you’ve got so much there, things that you don’t notice, but you know you haven’t touched in ages and that doesn’t feel good.
Unconsciously, I would walk into my office before and it felt very heavy. All of a sudden, I walked in and I was like, “Let’s get to work.” It’s so different. How can that help us have more success in business?
When we have lots of things around us, we’re creating visual noise. We may not notice it, but it may feel like unfinished business. Maybe you didn’t finish all the courses or you meant to come back to things. Maybe they were books that you mean to reread or read in the first place. All of that energy, that negativity is there. By clearing it, you’re taking the guilt or the feelings of things that are incomplete. You’re taking that away, but you’re also taking the visual clutter away, the visual noise. I always think about space. I studied art in the past. I reflect now that when you look at the visual picture when you look at an image with lots of white space or lots of clear space, it’s quite calming. I never thought about why that was until I started this work. There’s a parallel between what’s attractive about an image, maybe a minimalist image or something with lots of blue skies or plain space, and a room that has the same experience where you don’t have lots of detail or of things everywhere. It was so calming.
I have two big desks in my office and I cleared them down to the bone. I cleared them even of things that were on my desk. I’m like, “That’s sentimental. Somebody gave that to me or I picked it up somewhere.” I no longer felt a real attachment to the object. I started to think about something. I tell my clients all the time that they want to have one focus, one goal and not to have shiny object syndrome. I thought, “Visually on my desk, I have shiny object syndrome. I could be interested in any one of these objects for any reason and I could lose my focus.” Is there something about that and keeping desks or file cabinets clean or an email?
When we simplify things, we make it easier to focus on a few tasks. From a visual perspective, researchers have done research on our ability to focus and be productive. When we have a less cluttered environment, it enables us to focus on things that we need to work on rather than being distracted. We know from other studies around focus and productivity that the human mind can only focus for certain amounts of time. If you’ve got things distracting you, our brains can’t multitask. You’re trying to go from one thing to another. Even individual objects, they point to memories, don’t they or they have a meaning. Even if they don’t, that’s not so powerful anymore. It’s still there. By clearing our space, we create less distraction. When you talk about focusing on one thing, we need to be able to do that. Even if you’ve got things that you might use on your desk, that stuff is there. It’s enough peripheral vision. If we can clear things into drawers even, that enables us to focus on that one task or thing that we need to read or whatever it is. It simplifies things.
I want to share a story with you. I was out with one of my clients who flew me into Seattle. She wanted me to work on her business, help her office and all of that. We got to her office and she opened her computer. I almost fell on the floor. In her inbox were something like 8,000 and something emails. I was like, “How do you work?” When you turn on your computer, if I saw that in my inbox, I would want to close down my computer. I’d be so overwhelmed. She said, “I don’t have time to read all this email.” I looked and I organized it in the oldest dates. Some of them were eight years old so clearly, they couldn’t be that important. Do you have any tips on how people can manage email? I feel like people get sucked into an email trap and a social media trap.
There are different ways that you can manage things like email. With physical paper, I often say only touch it once. When you get a letter through the post, you want to open it, get rid of your envelope, decide what to do with it and try and deal with it then and there. If you can, great. If you can’t, you maybe you need to come back to it, but only come back to it once. We can approach email in the same way. If you’ve not either read it and not been chased up, then maybe it’s not that important. If you’ve read it, closed it and you’ll come back to it, you’ve taken the choice not to deal with it. That is a decision. To some extent you can remove it. I didn’t do it. That was a decision. I’m going to delete it. People use email in different ways. You might have an action box where those are the things that I need to come back to action, but I should only come back to it once. Deleting email is a good way and if it’s important you’re going to be chased up. If you can deal with it straight away with an answer and then get rid of that is the ideal.It's easy for people to get sucked into an email and social media trap that overwhelms them. Click To Tweet
I have been pretty good over the years about keeping my inbox very clean because I remember opening my box at one point and there were hundreds of emails. I said, “That’s overwhelming. I’m never going to do this again.” I’m good about reading an email, either sending it to someone on my team if it needs to be delegated and then deleting it or instantly, I have tons of different premade autoresponders that I can hit a button. They go out or I can dump it. There’s so much that I don’t need and I can trash it. That’s also great advice about the paper. I don’t accumulate paper, but I love my husband to pieces. I’ve never seen anyone accumulate so much paper. Interestingly enough, he can’t find what he needs because of the abundance of paper. What if you have someone who, I love the word and maybe that’s not technically what he is, is a hoarder and is afraid to throw anything away then what?
You use the word hoarder. It is recognized as a health condition in its own right now. There are certain definitions around that, but I know people use the term to describe people that are collecting things. The first thing would be to understand what’s important. We don’t necessarily need to understand why he’s kept everything. We need to get him to define what’s important and then to work out where he wants to keep the things that are important and get him to think about what he’s going to do with everything else that isn’t important. Maybe he’s not taking action because he’s not sure what to do with it. It’s helping thinking through what’s the strategy and what’s going to be the plan of action.
You mentioned delegation. There’s the great model, the Eisenhower model, where you have four quadrants to think about. One is defining what’s urgent and important. That’s the quadrant that you work on. You need to focus on because it’s either important origin while it’s both. If it’s important but it’s not urgent, you can schedule in your time to deal with it, come back to it and make sure you do that. If it’s urgent but not important, is that something that somebody else could do to help you or is there another way that you could manage it? There’s the fourth category, which are things that aren’t important or urgent. We perhaps don’t need to deal with those at all. It might be helping him think through his strategy for approaching how he categorizes the paper coming in and then what he does with those things would help him.
I’m interested in getting him some help. I am speaking selfishly. However, I know that audience will relate. Look around your homes, your offices, your cars, where are you in the clutter situation? What about email? What about your life? Do you work with people by Zoom or how do you work with people? Please tell us how we can get in touch with you and find out more.
I work with people virtually over Zoom or WhatsApp because there are lots of people out there who feel that they want to get on and do the task, but they’re finding it overwhelming. They don’t know where to start, perhaps once some ideas. I work with them. I’m not physically there, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together. I look at the issues and put together a good plan. I help keep them accountable. We have all good intentions, but sometimes it’s hard to make a start and to keep it going. I do all of that over online. If people want me to, I can go into people’s homes, work with them and be an extra pair of hands and work through practically to help them get things through things quickly.
How can people get in touch with you?
My website is OrganisedWell.co.uk. I’m based in the Midlands in the UK. My virtual service is available worldwide.
I want to be more organized and organized well. Let’s talk about our health. What happens if every day we are living with a lot of clutter, a cluttered environment and a cluttered mind, not what happens to work business? What happens to us as human beings?
Clutter around us has a number of impacts, particularly on our stress levels. If we are already stressed, if we’re already juggling and dealing with lots of other issues, our environment can add to that. If we’re not, but we’re living in a cluttered environment, it can impact our mood, which can make it harder to deal with other things. If you’re unwell, it can make it harder day-to-day. We have a fight or flight response to that noise. It can increase stress levels and hormones. It makes it difficult for us to remain calm. It can have an impact on our relationships with people that we’re living with. It can also mean that maybe we don’t want people to come and visit us. We begin then perhaps to isolate ourselves. Preventing important things being done in our environment where people come in.
We are social beings. We need to have contacts. If you feel a sense of shame about your home or your working environment, then that you can begin to isolate yourself. Intensify focus, we’ve talked a little bit about that. The visual noise can be distracting. We can have a sense of unfinished business, which nickels at us and takes us away from the tasks that we need to be focusing on. It can make it become delayed decisions. We put things off, “I’ll deal with that another day. I’ll pop this here and deal with it later.” What we’re doing is we’re encouraging ourselves to put things off. We start to feel guilty and it becomes harder to get things done. We get into habits of delaying, which builds up our environment. It’s not a good habit to be in either.If we're already feeling stressed, our environment can contribute to that even further. Click To Tweet
I’m thinking of the people in my life, the clients, friends and family who tend to procrastinate in their thinking. I see that they also have more clutter whether it be email, in their homes, in their offices and some of them, even in their cars. Is there some correlation between procrastination and clutter or lack of organization?
I don’t know the science behind it, but I would say it’s the same behavior. Procrastination is about avoidance. It’s about putting things off for later. Often, it’s to do with the emotions that we’re feeling. We put things off because we don’t like the idea of it because we’re scared or nervous about something or fearful or have with the negative emotions. We behave in a similar way to our things. If we feel that we should be doing a task or go and sort something out, we should deal with it. Maybe we have emotions around the items that we need to look at. Maybe they have memories attached or we’ve become attached to the item itself. It’s become familiar. It’s been around a long time. We may fear getting rid of that item, the loss of that item or to face those emotions related to that item. It’s similar.
Where does someone start? Let’s say someone’s reading and they’re like, “My environment can use a tune-up and it seems overwhelming.” Where should they start? Let’s give them some homework.
Particularly for facing emotions about something, maybe we feel bad because we didn’t deal with a task or maybe we feel that there’s so much to do. The first thing to think about, and I always find it’s helpful in building motivation, is why do I want to do this? When you decided you wanted to tackle your office, why did you want to start tackling your office? What gave you that idea?
I can answer that. I was working and I turned my head to look around. I went, “No wonder I don’t want to come up here.” There are so many things that I don’t want to look at that I don’t want to deal with them. I dread coming into my office and that’s when it hit me, “Get rid of those things and don’t surround yourself with them.”
You tapped into why you didn’t enjoy working in that space. Often, we tackle things or we do the hard jobs because we have to, not because we fancy it, but because we can’t avoid it any longer. If you can tap into that emotion, then that’s great. Are there things to think about as an alternative might be, what am I going to get from doing this hard work? What’s the benefit? Am I going to create more space that I can use for a hobby or to spend time with family or to feel better and maybe have some time to myself or to be productive and be able to work better? Tap into what’s the reason? Why am I doing this? Thinking about what’s the vision and what do I want it to look like? When I get to this destination, what will it look like for me? You might be dreaming of your ideal bedroom, how relaxing and calm it’s going to be and how you’re going to feel in that space.
You can tap into why you want to do it and why it’s going to be worth the effort. I always think it’s important to start there and then we want to break it down. Don’t start thinking I’m going to tackle the whole house. You’re not. You need to do a very small job first. One that will be easy. One that you can have a real sense of achievement to think I did that drawer. You need to feel great after it because you need to do more of it. A drawer, cupboard, something small, something that maybe will make a difference. Sometimes the hallway is the best place to start because you walk in every day from work or from having been out and go, “I love to be home. It looks great.” Find a place that will make it feel different.
You’ve got to have a why. We have to have a destination. We have to have a vision and then we have to break it into small, actionable steps. It’s so interesting. It sounds like how to build a business. It’s the thinking, which is why every business owner, entrepreneur, even CEO and manager, it doesn’t matter what you do. If you work and you get paid for what work you do, this information and being organized and having decluttered home office, car and email is a very important lesson because it parallels how you build a business. The very first business that I grew to $1 million many decades ago, I remember having a glass desk in my office. I never wanted anything on the desk because it would look bad on the glass desk. I had a photo of my husband and myself. I had a little ceramic angel that someone made me. Every night before I left the office, if there were papers or pens or anything, I put them away, put them in a drawer. When I came in the next day, I remember it always looked great. I remembered that tip. Would that be something that might be helpful for others?
That’s a great habit to be in. Clear everything away at the end of the day. If you need to make it to-do list for tomorrow, do that. When you come in in the morning, you are ready to start and you’re ready to focus on that one thing that you need to get done or you need to start. It feels great and inviting and you’re ready.
I got up earlier. I usually sit in the kitchen and have my coffee and then I come up to my office. I was like, “I want to have my coffee in my office,” and I was so excited to be here, plus I’ve been ridiculously productive and it’s because I’m not being distracted. You have given so much value and so many great tips. Please tell people once again how to get in touch with you because I know I need you and I’m talking to every business owner. Look at your income, at your mental health and your physical health and then seriously look at the space that you spend your time in, whether it’s at your computer that can have a cluttered desktop and email. I’ve seen people open desktops. I’m like, “Nothing is on my desktop,” other than one file I might be working on and that helps me. Look at your office, home and car. If you have a vacation home, look there and be honest, would this help you? Laura, tell me one more time how to get in touch with you.
Everyone can get in touch with me at OrganisedWell.co.uk.
You have created so much value. I’m excited now to sit down at the end of the day and create a vision. I’m not going to do all the rooms in my house. I’m going to create a vision for the three rooms that we spend the most time in. I’m going to keep working my little plan actions every day and I’ll report back to you. Thank you for tuning in, Heartrepreneurs. We have an educational webinar called The Seven Deviations, which can flow money right into your business. It’s not a sales webinar. That’s a gift for you at TLWebinar.com. Finally, if you are not a member of our Facebook group, #Heartrepreneurs with Terry Levine, join us. First of all, when you join, you get an additional gift, but second of all, the guests on my radio show are there. Other experts are there. You’ll have a community of about 5,000 Heartrepreneurs. Laura, I hope you will join us there as well. We would love to have you.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
- #Heartrepreneurs with Terry Levine – Facebook Group
About Laura Williams
Laura started her business 2 years ago with the aim of helping people who feel overwhelmed by their possessions, to regain control and create calmer, more organised homes and lives.
Laura’s work includes helping overwhelmed families to recover space to live comfortably together, creating space for entrepreneurs to work productively, enabling individuals living with or recovering from illness to regain control of their homes, and helping people to prepare their homes for visitors and for sale.
Although Laura’s passion is the physical transformation of a space, she has also developed her virtual Organising Partner service to help people who prefer to do the organising work alone but still want guidance and accountability.
Laura received her BSc (hons) in Behavioural Sciences and Masters in Personnel Development before embarking on her first career in HR and now brings her passion for understanding what drives us and her experience of coaching, together with her love of organising, into her current work. When not working with clients, she values time with her family, yoga and running.
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