Name: Bronagh Twomey.
Lives: Rylane, Co.Cork, with my husband Patrick.
Job title: Professional Clutter Clear Coach.
Salary bracket: In the first few years of a new and relatively unheard of business there is no salary! Welcome to self-employment where any money earned goes to pay for overheads, insurance, advertising and a website.
Hopefully, as I get more clients I’ll start to see some wages. Luckily, when I left my job after working as a Speech and Language Therapist for 23 years, my husband and I were prepared for the financial change to our lives. It took some adjustments, I can tell you, but we are a team together. We are very fortunate that we are both happy with our choices and lifestyle. It’s important to say we don’t have children so there is no financial pressure to provide for a family.
This job is a bit of a taboo subject still in Ireland, but with more openness about mental health it is becoming more common to ask for help with clutter and hoarding. There is now scientific proof that clutter causes anxiety. It literally “wrecks your head” and causes a lot of stress. It takes focus away from what is important and what needs to be done.
Education background: Bsc Hons Speech and Language Therapy, University of Ulster at Jordanstown. I completed a start-your-own business course run by Macroom e in 2014. I’m interested in self-development and more recently took part in Safetalk, a suicide alertness for everyone.
Hobbies: Socialising, chatting to family and friends over a coffee, taking care of our animals, reading books again after avoiding them for years. I like to mix things up so one day I could be doing a dry stone wall course and another day planting my favourite flowers or having my nieces and nephews over.
I love a good TV drama too. At the moment I’m obsessed with The Handmaids’ Tale. Currently I have a lifestyle where I can go with the flow and be more flexible with my time. There are ways to enjoy a simpler life with less money.
Describe your job in five words: Clearing clutter with my client!
Describe yourself in five words: Friendly, encouraging, loyal, compassionate and flexible most of the time! Now, for my weaknesses.. I’ll need more than five words!
Personality needed for this kind of work? All of the above and more! I think the main characteristic is an ability to listen to the client. Clutter happens to us all at some stage of our lives, especially when life is extremely stressful. It can build up following a life change ie, bereavement, job loss, relocation, mental and physical health issues. This clutter can build up over a number of years and can be a reflection of change that needs to happen.
Often my clients are professionals that are working so hard that they can’t get on top of the clutter and so call me in. I need to show empathy compassion and non-judgement.
Listening is really important because the client invariably shares why this has built up and happened.
Obviously, this is a private and confidential business so integrity is important. You need to be a person that your client can trust.
How did you get this job? I invented it for myself! I became interested in buying second-hand items to furnish my own house years ago. I saw overpurchasing of material goods happening all around me because people were offered money by banks without even being asked and didn’t refuse. This in turn created lots of unnecessary waste. People throwing out things that were in perfect order just because they could buy the latest. I found a perfect washing machine and dishwasher on the street being thrown out for free and installed them myself. I used to be asked to come to people’s houses to help them sort out their stuff and let it go. I helped a number of people sell items at boot sales. The joy they felt at clearing their space was infectious and so obvious.
I really enjoyed knowing that the items could be used again and that people who needed these items could find them. This fed my passion further and I thought that maybe I could do this as a business myself. I loved seeing the relief on a client’s face when they could see into their wardrobe again and be able to function with less stress.
How long are you doing this job? I am in my fourth year now. It is seasonal and after a number of years there is a pattern emerging.
Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Yes, I think because it is a relatively new ‘job’ that you need lots of experience working in a therapeutic way with people initiating and encouraging change. At the moment there are very few clutter clear coaches so in a way I am making my own rules and following UK ethics and guidelines.
Describe a day at work: I work from home if it’s an admin day. This involves motivating myself away from the house jobs and focusing on making appointments and following up on social media. I have a rocky relationship with computers so I try to get computer work over with in the morning.
If it’s a day with a client I’m much happier, hopping into my car and heading off to the job usually for 10am and working for three hours with the client. We then have an hour’s lunch break and continue for the afternoon for another three hours. My clients can vary in their degrees of motivation for the task. Some can organise, sort and let go naturally. It is a skill that you can practice, however, and get better at. It’s easy for some people and for others it’s a struggle, therefore, I need to coach much more and motivate.
How many hours do you work a week? This depends on the time of year and, like farmers, I have to make hay whilst the sun shines so it is not easy to predict.
I have now learned to enjoy down time and not feel guilty because I’m not with a client every day of the week!
What do you wear to work? I wear very comfortable clothes because I’m moving a lot, carrying, sorting and clearing with the client. I don’t wear make-up and I wear shoes with a good grip. Health and safety is important in this job.
Is your industry male or female dominated? I haven’t met a male clutter clear coach yet.
Does this affect you in any particular way? Not at all.
Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: I love being in the house/office with the client and seeing their progress. I think about them before and after the job a lot. This plays into my high interest in human behaviour.
The process of decluttering can open up difficult emotions and I encourage the client to explore these. If a client needs encouragement to seek further professional help I do this also. I see this as a challenge more than stress.
I am self-employed so my stressors are diffferent in my job. The stress for me is paying bills and getting the next client rather than the job itself. The rating on the scale changes daily.
Do you work with others or on your own? I work with the client so I’m not on my own. I network when I can with a health and wellbeing business group in Ballincollig when time allows and this has improved my connections with other professionals all over Munster. You can become a bit isolated running a business.
When do you plan to retire or give up working? Currently, I’m allergic to making life plans. I’m in the moment more and I’m enjoying the ‘here and now’ for once.
Best bits: Oh, it’s definitely feedback from the client, seeing the results of clutter clearing. Great change can happen after clutter clearing, from romance (yes really! Want a better love life? Clear clutter out of your bedroom!) to writing books, to weight loss!
Clearing clutter can literally change your life. It allows you to make space for what you really want to do in your life, not what you think you should do or must do. Let the guilt go, is my motto.
Worst bits: I think the worst bit is being labelled as a neat freak (I’m not!), I just believe that life is too short to be wasting time looking for stuff and not being able to find it.
I believe that we shouldn’t waste our time buying items that we are never going to use or wear. People also presume that I love cleaning. I don’t! Its easier to clean if you have less stuff lying around, that’s all.
Less work means more time to play and live the life you want and deserve.
Advice to those who want your job? I’m going to say contact the UK Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, who provide invaluable assistance.
For more about Bronagh Twomey or to contact her, see www.Clutter2Calm.ie, call 087 4186148 or you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.