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  • Episode 297 – How to balance a decluttering journey with a demanding job and kids with Harriett Bremner
A photograph of a smiling woman, Harriett Bremner

Episode 297 – How to balance a decluttering journey with a demanding job and kids with Harriett Bremner

If you want to have a successful decluttering journey, the one thing it needs is time and effort. But what if your time is already taken up by a demanding job and a young family? How do you fit decluttering in? In this podcast Harriett shares her story with us and explains what she’s learnt from spending time on transforming her family home.

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A photograph of Lesley and Ingrid at a laptop smiling into the camera with words advertising the declutter hub membership on the right

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Stacking Oreos and Rainbow bookshelves –
the decluttering journey
of a weary 40
something mum by Harriett Bremner

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Ingrid for a ‘Meet the Member’ podcast

I had contacted Ingrid and Lesley initially to raise a few questions for a members’ Q&A session and mentioned as a parting thought that if they ever wanted a member to share their experiences of The Declutter Hub, then I would be a very willing volunteer. I didn’t really imagine that they would want to take me up on the offer, but to my great delight, a little while later a wonderfully cheery video from Ingrid landed in my inbox inviting me on the podcast! I was over the moon – firstly at the prospect of speaking to Ingrid, but also at the thought that I might be able to help others out there who were having their own battles with decluttering, the way that The Declutter Hub had helped me. 

The half an hour or so chat I had with Ingrid was wonderful, and truly the highpoint of my week

She was so warm, friendly, and genuinely interested in what I had to say. We were soon talking about my experiences of mess and clutter in a way that was both profound and supportive, acknowledging that, although many may say that decluttering is just a simple case of ‘tidying up’, for those of us that struggle with mess and clutter, decluttering taps into many emotions that in reality are far from simple at all.

I recently read an article by a well-known financial expert

explaining that many people assume that debt comes to people when they are frivolous or careless, unwisely spending their money on lattes or avocadoes on toast. In fact, the reality is that debt usually comes to people when they have an unexpected change of circumstances such as losing a job or a partner. I think clutter is a little similar – you can be making your way through life, just about coping with the day to day management of your stuff, and then something changes – illness, bereavement, a house move – and the fragile grip you had on your stuff breaks, and it all become overwhelming.

In my case, it was actually a very happy change of circumstances that lead to my clutter overwhelm, the arrival of my three beautiful children, and my transition from single 20 something to busy working mum.

I spent my twenties as messy but generally carefree

l lived a busy life in London, firstly at law school and then working 12 or 16 hour days in a large law firm. As I told Ingrid, if I hadn’t done my laundry for a week, it was not ideal, but not the end of the world – I just bought another pair of tights on the way to work, laughed and carried on! But fun though that may sound, I realise now that actually I was just storing trouble up for myself for later. Because I had no good habits, no understanding of the practical importance of regular resets, I did not have the foundations to be able to cope when, in a matter of a few short years, I had gone from busy London lawyer with only myself to manage, to wife and working mother of three young children, with a house, a home to manage, and most importantly four other people relying on me to keep the whole thing from crashing down about our ears. Suddenly there was more stuff and a lot less time. And the stuff was so big! Why does nobody warn you that, for such little things, young children have a lot of BIG stuff! Anyone that has ever tried to navigate their way through a living room filled with a jumperoo, a mini ball pit, a teeny tiny workbench and a small pushchair for an enormous stuffed Peppa Pig will know what I mean. And did I mention the clothes? Going from a wardrobe for one to a house filled with clothes for five that all need to be washed, ironed, managed, handed down, given away, day to day, week to week, season to season – it makes me tired just typing it! As Ingrid and I unpick on the podcast, clutter for me, and particularly the feeling and practical reality of being overwhelmed with clutter, was not something that suddenly happened one night whilst I was sleeping. It was a slow, cumulative process, like an unfixed dripping tap – more and more things (and people!) were coming into my house yet nothing was leaving, more and more demands were being made of me yet my energy was decreasing, more and more happiness and love filled my home yet more and more self-doubt and anxiety filled my brain as I berated myself that ‘I just wasn’t doing it right’…

Feeling completely inadequate

I looked around at my new ‘mum’ friends – whilst their babies slept, they often talked about ‘getting a few things done’…What are they doing I often wondered? What are these things that they are ‘getting done’?! All I was doing was cuddling my baby or playing with my toddler and drinking sweet tea to keep myself awake in my sleep deprived state! In desperation I turned to ‘momfluencers’ online…These capable, perky, ever-smiling women online who miraculously seem to be able to run a beautiful and tidy home, whilst simultaneously making healthy snacks for their children and giving you ten top hacks for organising your pantry which magically will only take five minutes… As I watched these ladies enthusiastically stacking Oreos into glass jars and organising their children’s books by colour into beautiful rainbows, I finally had a moment of clarity – what Ingrid and Lesley would call a ‘lightbulb moment’. This is not real life. Or even if it is for some lucky few, it is not the reality of my family life. All I want is a home which is free from mess, where the things that my family need are well organised, neatly stored and can be found by everyone so that we can leave the house in the morning with everyone vaguely in one piece, with their shoes on and my car keys located..

Enter Ingrid and Lesley stage right…. 

By some lucky coincidence, I happened upon Ingrid and Lesley giving an interview on the podcast of a US influencer. Loving the sound of their voices (as well as what they were saying!), that led me to The Declutter Hub podcast. Instantly I connected with the simple wisdom and practical tips they offered. From the podcast, I signed up for a Reset your home
challenge that was taking place in September – the timing was perfect as it marked the return to school period here in the UK, when I had slightly more time now that I was free from children between the hours of 9 and 3, but also the house was looking at its most dishevelled after seven weeks of 24/7 occupation by my little brood during the summer holidays. The Reset your home challenge was the perfect introduction into The Declutter
Hub system. Slowly and steadily, I would listen to the sessions (often on replay rather than live), learning about clutter, finally making the connection between ‘my stuff and my feelings’, and gradually implementing the techniques that Ingrid and Lesley espouse. And they worked – I had the beginnings of an organised home and a battle plan for how to keep it like that. From there it was an easy decision to join the membership, I had been bitten by the decluttering bug and I wanted to learn more. Thanks to an attractive promotional rate to join the membership at the end of the Reset your Home challenge, I signed up to the membership for a year, and have never looked back. I can honestly say that I use the member resources pretty much every day – for every space in my home, every decluttering conundrum, there was something to help me. I have done whole courses, but I also love the quick wins, the showaround videos and the checklists. Gradually, I am building up the knowledge that I lacked, learning techniques to help me manage my home, and most importantly, coming to a place of calmness.

What I love about The Declutter Hub

and why I think it is different from many others out there, is that it gives equal importance to the practical and the emotional when it comes to decluttering. Lesley and Ingrid never pretend that there is a five minute hack that will suddenly magic away your clutter. They gently support you in the reality that decluttering can be hard, it can be emotional, because dealing with your stuff can force you to face the feelings that the stuff represents. When I became a parent, not only did my home become filled with a lot more stuff, but my heart became filled with new emotions. The seemingly simple task of decluttering a toy no longer played with, or a babygro outgrown is linked with all sorts of emotional questions – Did I play with my children enough? Am I present enough in my children’s lives? Am I a good enough mother? It also forces you to confront the passing of time – as your children grow out of their clothes, you have a visual reminder in the too short trousers or the teeny tiny socks that life is short and that you are growing older, and that can be hard. It can feel easier to shove the teeny tiny socks back into the drawer and not deal with it, but with Ingrid and Lesley’s help, I believe that you can kindly and gently clear out that drawer, donate that toy and move on to enjoy a well-functioning and organised home.

I occasionally love to imagine that Ingrid and Lesley are my big sisters

my best friends, my kindly next-door neighbours. But they are not, and to imagine them as such is almost to do them a disservice. What they are is professionals. They are professional organisers with years of experience, and they are excellent at what they do. This is not the stuff of hacks, or
quick fixes – they give their members the benefit of their professional expertise, they teach and they inspire, and always with warmth, humour and the occasional hard truth. They are genuinely exceptional, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

I cannot pretend for a minute that it is always plain sailing

As I type, I can see a Lego strewn floor and my six year old happily surrounded by literally hundreds of bricks, peacefully humming to himself unaware of the chaos he has created. The laundry basket is straining after a busy few days and not enough hours in the day to fit in the ironing. There’s a little shoe mountain at the front door which seems to grow taller by the hour. But the difference now is that I know that, if I follow the systems suggested by the Declutter Hub, if I do the daily and weekly resets, and keep steadily making my way through the resources available on the membership, nothing will be impossible to tackle. My kitchen will be clean and tidy again, and I’ll still have time for a cup of tea on the sofa before the chaos begins all

Of course decluttering doesn’t make you a better parent, just as it doesn’t make you a better partner, spouse or employee. But in my experience, it can make you a calmer one. And a calmer mother is usually better equipped to tackle the ups and downs of family life. Thank you to Lesley and Ingrid for restoring calmness to my hectic life, filling up my toolbox with the things I need to have a peaceful, well organised home that really functions. Now we can get out of the house in the morning with what we need for school and work without it resembling a Victorian farce, and for me that is all I really wanted.

But I’m still not stacking Oreos and creating rainbow coloured bookshelves …

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