WHEN I tell professional Clonakilty declutterer, Anne-Marie Kingston, that I have more than one skeleton in the cupboard and the bones of four communion and confirmation outfits that are of sentimental value; she puts on her ‘you need to de-clutter’ hat.
“If someone doesn’t live with you, then neither should their stuff,” says Anne-Marie, who has been keeping house since she was a toddler.
“I love and adore clutter and am decluttering from a very young age.”
After 11 years in the banking sector, Anne-Marie, 38, decided to take a redundancy package and make her passion her job, following her dream to help people declutter their homes and make more room in their lives for more important things.
“I was expecting my first baby, Ryan, who is now five,” says Anne-Marie.
“I wanted to spend time with him and Chaoimhe, who is three. I’d never get that time back with my children.”
Then she explored her other passion in life.
“I took the plunge in 2015 by completing a 12-month decluttering course in Limerick, where I was certified as a professional declutterer, and in March, 2017, White Sage Home Decluttering was established.”
Anne-Marie has reams of experience of clearing clutter and putting things in their place where they belong.
“When my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer I was only two,” she says.
“Dad subsequently had to have his leg amputated. My mother took over the family farm, roughly 52 acres.
“I am an only child, and I took on the house-keeping duties at a very young age. I loved cleaning, polishing, organising things. I was always very ‘hands on’.
“Mam had lots of chores to do outside in the yard, including feeding the calves and milking the cows. Dad was laid up for ages and he had some complications, so there was a lot of hospital appointments and doctors’ visits.”
Anne-Marie minded the house while her mother tended to her father.
“I organised things at home,” says Anne-Marie.
“Fortunately, dad got a prosthetic limb and because he is strong and he is a fighter, he got his ‘wheels’ and off he went.”
Anne-Marie always had a welcome into the parlour.
“When we had the Stations, traditional in farming communities, I’d have all the best china washed and polished, set on the table with the white starched table-cloth. The parlour was the ‘good’ room where the people had refreshments after Mass in the house.”
Anne-Marie was a top-class house-keeper, keeping on top of everything.
“Back then, in the ’80s, there wasn’t much money around,” she says.
“We had our Sunday best, which was laundered and ironed and put away clean in the drawer until Sunday. We had our one good pair of shoes and a pair of everyday shoes.”
Times were different then.
“We got parcels from cousins in the USA, we didn’t buy a lot of clothes. Money wasn’t readily available. Nowadays there are so many cheap shopping options, Penneys, discount stores, online shopping...” says Anne-Marie.
“We are lured to buy more and more stuff that we don’t need.”
Anne-Marie started as she meant to go on.
“I had my own bedroom and you could eat off the floor. I had everything organised, neatly in its place.”
Is Anne-Marie a fan of best-selling author Marie Kondo, currently popular on Netflix, who has proposed the KonMari way of folding garments?
“I’m not into folding clothes so much,” says Anne-Marie. “I prefer grouping them. I’m married to John, a traditional farmer and he’s not into having his socks and jocks folded!
“I think Marie Kondo can be a bit extreme. You can still have your collection of books in their right place.”
Anne-Marie was buzzing when she was helping friends and family declutter their rooms and their homes.
“I get a huge buzz out of helping people and businesses declutter and get more organised,” says Anne-Marie.
We are all guilty of white elephant syndrome.
“There are things in our wardrobes and cupboards we don’t even know about or have forgotten about,” says Anne-Marie.
We can panic with a knock on the door.
“We’ve all been in the situation where you bung all the clutter into the hot-press as the neighbour comes to the front door.
“Often, the clutter stays there and the black bin bags mount up.
“When I come into de-clutter, I also take away the black bin bags and dispose of them through charity channels, car-boot sales, or to people in need of items. People love that the clutter is taken away.”
What does Anne-Marie discover when she’s called upon to declutter?
“I see a lot of people who still have their wedding presents and their baby presents piled up,” she rerplies.
“They are overwhelmed by work and managing a busy household. You accumulate a lot of stuff with babies.
“Sometimes the mums are exhausted and have no energy to get cleared of clutter and try and get more organised.
“I also find in some houses, where illness or tragedy has occurred, people don’t have the heart or the motivation to get rid of clutter and things just get more on top of them.
“I approach people in a non-judgemental manner and I adopt a gentle approach. Clutter is personal to us all.”
She takes no prisoners.
“Everything comes out of the wardrobe,” says Anne-Marie.
“If it doesn’t fit, flatter, or make you feel good; out it goes. I ask — will you ever wear that again? A person size 14 to 16 won’t be wearing a size 8 anytime soon.
“There are often sales items in the wardrobe with the tags still on. Having the ability to let go is vital.”
And you get more head space in the process?
“That’s for sure!” says Anne-Marie.
“When you start discarding stuff; you automatically feel lighter, free of being snowed under. Clutter affects everything, including our wellbeing.”
How do we accumulate so much stuff in the first place?
“Emotions play a big part,” says Anne-Marie.
“Shopping can give us a brief boost if work is going badly or the kids are acting up. Items can pile up, often even without husbands or partners aware of it.”
Trying to find things under pressure can make us panic.
“You know the stress in the morning when you are looking for something different to wear?”
I do. You can’t see the wood for the trees.
“Exactly,” says Anne-Marie. “Everything should be an arm’s reach and not buried on high shelves inside the wardrobe.
“In my laundry room at home, John put up bathroom rails for my clothes. I can see my clothes at a glance.”
Anne-Marie has no time for glancing at photographs.
“Photos are on our phones now. There is no need to have stacks of photographs all over the house,” says Anne-Marie.
“I advise people to store them on a disc or USB stick. If you must keep them, store them away in a pretty box. ”
How does Anne-Marie tackle the hoarders?
“I offer various programmes, and I begin room by room. I can transform a room in six hours. I am very hands on.”
She is often surprised.
“I’ve often been in what looks like a doll’s house, and the cupboards are full of clutter. Things are just stashed away out of sight. Very often, the bigger the house, the more clutter there is.”
Some things are in your face.
“Holy statues and holy pictures are often accumulated,” says Anne- Marie.
“I hear; well, Auntie Mary or Uncle Joe gave me that. But honestly, how many statues or holy pictures do you need?”
Anne-Marie finds that many people and businesses are availing of her services.
Is that because it is spring-cleaning season?
“I don’t think people do a big spring-clean anymore,” says Anne-Marie. “They replace instead of revamp.”
She says she congratulates people who seek her out to get help to declutter. “It is a big thing. I say well done!”
Anne-Marie loves her job.
“I really do,” she says.
Her former bank colleagues must miss her?
“I used to have all the bank notes in little organised bundles in order of value, facing the same way tied up neatly.
The filing cabinet was clean and tidy, all the documents in their rightful place!”
Anne-Marie breezes off, a breath of fresh air, spreading the joy that she brings to front doors all over Cork county.
“My nickname is Queen of letting go of clutter!” says Anne-Marie.
Marie Kondo is only trotting after her!
For more see www.whitesagehomedecluttering.com
This area is a great place to start by going through all your food cupboards and check best-before dates. Make sure you can see each and every item. As a result, you will be more selective when going shopping, saving you time and money.
The bedroom is the most important room in the house as it is your rest, relaxation and romance space. Keep clutter to a minimum as it causes distraction and affects your sleep pattern. Do a quick 10 minute tidy up first thing each morning by putting everything back in its rightful place.
A great tip is to do a clear -ut of broken, non-age appropriate toys at least twice a year coming up to birthdays and before the arrival of Santa.
Hang a clear bin liner on the back of the door for clothing items that no longer fit you, flatter you or make you feel good. Once filled take to your local charity shop or clothing bank.
Are there items here for years/decades? Check the condition of the sheets, blankets, clothing items — are they stained, ripped or faded?
Ask yourself, do I need it? Have I a requirement for it? Have you old college or course notes? Are you referring back to them? If not, let them go.
The only items in your attic should be Christmas decorations, baby items if you’re having more kids. Retain tax returns for five years. Think before you pop anything into the attic!