Property interview: professional organiser Mel Carruthers on decluttering lives
What does your company do? We start each process with a consultation. Decluttering and organising is the same as any other home service – gardening, for instance. You know that it needs to be done, but for whatever reason you can’t do it yourself.
We think of it in terms of physical stuff, but it has a lot more benefits, and includes introducing efficiency which can really help the day-to-day running of a home.
I have virtual clients, but mainly we go into houses to help. Sometimes we will do all the work over several sessions, other clients prefer to get a plan in place and carry out the organising themselves. Virtual clients may have helpers or carers who will help them with the physical stuff.
At the beginning, when we have decided the objectives, decluttering is the first step, as there is no point organising stuff that is not needed. With what is left, it is about storage. I’m really keen on everything having a space so you know how many particular items of each type you have room for. If the space starts getting full, you then know it is time to let some go.
Do you have typical clients? They all have different needs, but our typical client is someone who has multiple draws on their time – running a business, having a family, or with caring responsibilities.
There is sometimes some neurodiversity involved, or elderly or disabled clients who can’t physically tackle clutter themselves. And sometimes people just don’t know where to start.
We have noticed that currently we are dealing with a lot of farmhouses, which can have had generations living in the same house. Once the working family retires, they leave it to the next generation and so there is a lot of furniture left in situ.
Changing life stages is another key point – decluttering before putting a house on the market, downsizing, a new baby or when someone has passed away.
Is it an emotional process? We are all tied to our possessions, so it can involve good and bad emotions when it is time to let go, so you have to be very sensitive. It is about preserving memories but not burdening people with too much stuff.
Is now a good time of year to think about decluttering? November and December is a great time. If you have children you are likely to have an influx of new toys coming in and it is a good time to point out to them that it is nice to pass on things to others.
Also we all have guest rooms that act as a bit of a dumping ground, which might be needed for visitors. And lots of families have a dining table that is unused all year, apart from storing piles of items, which will suddenly be needed for Christmas.
What would you advise for someone who wants to get started? Starting at one side of the door and working your way round the room is a good idea. The problem with decluttering is that it can be overwhelming so it is best to start small. Don’t be tempted to take everything out of a room at once because it is so easy to give up and everything gets chucked back in.
Break it down into small chunks, set a timer, or work to a playlist to try and gamify it and tackle one drawer or one cupboard in a session.
Doing it with a friend definitely helps, as they don’t have the emotional attachment to things, and you can repay the favour for them.
How do you find clients? An online presence helped in the beginning but, now we are established, it is more word of mouth. Certainly we’ve started with one house and worked our way up the lane as neighbours see what we can do. A lot of our clients are elderly and wouldn’t necessarily be on social media.
How has your background helped? I used to be a museum curator, and I work with our local auctioneers who are always happy to come out if I find something that might be of value.
And I have an eye for an overlooked object which would be better displayed, and that is a real joy if you can give a more prominent place to something that is meaningful rather than tucked away in a cupboard.
How much does it cost? A half-day session with one organiser is around £160 to £200. I can bring other people if there is a larger job – there are three organisers in the company, and I also have a joiner that we can bring in to create storage.
Born and raised Born in Maidstone, Kent, and raised in Cranleigh, Surrey. I moved to Scotland to go to university in Aberdeen, then spent years in Dubai, and then moved back to Scotland six years ago.
Qualifications MA(Hons) in Celtic Civilisation from Aberdeen University, and a post-graduate MA in Arts and Heritage Management from Sheffield University.
Career path I was the curator of The Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. In Dubai, I worked in business development for international corporate law firms. I started More Organised as a “side hustle” in 2014, and moved back to Scotland in 2017 to open it as a limited company.
First job I had a paper round as a child then various shop assistant jobs.
Family My husband, Chris, and I have a 12-year-old son, Finn.