"I don’t think I can afford to hire you…."
They were the first words (after hello) that Claire* said to me on our initial consultation. She’d phoned to book in for a half day slot at £99 as paperwork was taking over her life. It was at the point where she had given up opening post. She was in debt. She panicked every time the postman came. She had paperwork all over the place – on the dining room table, in drawers, at the side of her bed, stuffed into a kitchen cupboard and in a letter rack and magazine file in her living room. She realised she couldn’t go on as she was running out of places to hide the letters. Out of sight, out of mind was the theory, except it was neither. So we had a chat. She sent me some photos via Facebook messenger to see what I was facing (it all seemed pretty normal to be for my clients to be honest, nothing scary, all of it possible to be tackled). After our chat she rang me back five minutes later – her sister had given her a loan so she could afford one session to make a start, as her sister knew how important it was to her to do something, and she needed my help to do it.
We needed to get as much done as possible in our first session so that Claire* could be left afterwards feeling a bit more in control. Usually after one session it can feel like it is going to get worse before it gets better so I was mindful of this, and pre-warned her that at some point the task may feel overwhelming, but once you’re a client you can join the exclusive ‘maintenance’ secret Facebook group to keep the support going (oops, it’s not a secret now!).
We had a plan of action so that when I arrived we were ready to go. Claire* had already collected everything in one room and had taken a day off work so that whilst the kids were in school and her partner at work we could crack on. The power of the pile showed Claire* just how much it had spiralled out of control but I reminded her that this is the worst it will ever be, and that we would get through it. We sorted it into piles to start, whilst the unopened letters soon got opened and added to the pile. We did not sort through which piles to keep at this point, it was just about putting into piles of ‘obvious rubbish’, and then into categories of types of bills, bank statements, sentimental etc.
Whilst sorting we found the following treasures:
A £50 Meadowhall giftcard
£5 Morrisons voucher
£28 in cash
A ‘lost’ driving licence
A £5 cheque
£48 in Tesco vouchers (Still valid – just!)
£25 in old £5 notes (you can still pay these into your bank account)
An expired birthday present spa voucher from 2 years ago. (We rang the spa and they replaced it with a new voucher).
At the end of the first session it became obvious that although we had made a great start, Claire didn’t feel comfortable to carry on sorting it to the visualised ideal by herself. We agreed on ‘homework’ that Claire felt she was able to tackle by herself and I left that first session with Claire overjoyed that it was now in some sort of order and she had hope back that she could get on top of it once and for all! We agreed that we would have another session, and when finances allowed she would give me a call and I would book her back in.
Later on that evening she phoned me to book back in – her husband had been so impressed by how Claire* now felt and the progress we had made that they agreed to find the money somehow and rebook another session. She had three sessions in total. By the end of the three sessions she only had a handful of paperwork left, all neatly organised, had gained quite a bit of cupboard space, had her dining and living rooms back and more importantly had strategies in place to quickly deal with anything new coming in to the house. I received this feedback from her in a text on Christmas Eve, which she has agreed I could share, and it really made my day (it made me cry to be honest).
“Hi Heather. I’ve finally had a few minutes now I’ve finished work to message you and update you on my paper! It’s all still in order! After our second session I did some homework of my own which I know you will be impressed by and maybe you could use this as an example to your followers? I felt so in charge of everything again. I’ve not felt like it, ever. I looked at all our bills and we’ve saved hundreds changing our gas and electric and our car and home insurance. I looked at Martin Lewis website and contacted EDF and they owed us £120 from when we cancelled them which they refunded us. I applied for the PPI back off the credit card statements we found and a cheque came last week. We’ve booked our first family holiday abroad as there was enough to pay for it. I honestly can’t thank you enough. I’m sat here thinking at what a difference it is this Christmas to a few months ago where I was dreading it. Changing our suppliers has meant we have had breathing room to be able to buy the presents we really wanted to buy Tom* and Jenny* this year instead of make do presents. Thank you so much.”
Claire* gave me permission to share her story (anonymously). She really did put a lot of time and effort into changing not only her home but her mindset too. Paper is nothing to be feared! I will be doing a quick guide to a paper declutter FREE for my newsletter subscribers, so if you haven’t already add yourself to my mailing list by entering your email on the pop up box on my webpage, or email me at email@example.com (I promise not to spam you or share your details with anyone).