Give me a R.E.A.S.O.N | Decluttering Done Right
We are here today with Louise Hopkin, who is going to talk to us about The Top Six R.E.A.S.O.N.S we collect clutter.
Welcome to ease, it's so good to have you here!
Louise already knew at a really young age that she wanted to travel the world and left New Zealand at 21, and she never looked back. She now lives in Canada with her Australian husband and Canadian son. She has called Calgary home for 12 years so truly mixed a multicultural family as well. Louise started as a home organizer six years ago, not really knowing what it was all about. She quickly discovered that there were many layers to the organizing part and found that the psychology part of why we collect clutter, was what she was most drawn to. So, Louise is now an organizing coach and has her online program to help those who struggle with clutter and really want to learn the skills to end the clutter cycle for good. Welcome Louise.
Hi, thank you so much for having me here. Super excited- it's great that we're connecting from all over the world right? It's pretty amazing!
Yes, Japan and Singapore meets Canada. So we know a little bit about your background, already, but maybe you do want to tell us a little bit more about your journey that really said, ‘Okay, that's it. This is it’_ this is how you got to where you are today.
Yeah, sure, I'd love to. It's some, I guess, like you said, I left New Zealand when I was 21. So not that long ago, right?
No, no. A few years ago.
Yes, yeah. So, I've always wanted to travel and I've lived in England are Ireland, Australia, lots of different places, and I've always been restless for something else right. It's always looking for the next job, like career job- I've owned a cafe in New Zealand, and then we moved to Canada, and so I was in oil and gas. And there was something just kind of this restlessness right? And I found this thing called organizing. I'm like, ‘Ooh, that sounds interesting’ so I looked into it and it was really funny because when I was doing it I kind of was drawn to it and you know what I tell people I'm actually not a naturally organized person they're like, ‘Whoa, that makes it really interesting’ and it was quite funny because I'm like I'm actually kind of a hot mess, sometimes, but teaching myself, helps me to teach others how to get that organized. And so this is what I found when I was working with clients, it was pretty amazing because I thought, ‘oh you know I'll just help them make things look pretty and put things away and that's it’. But what I started seeing was this whole kind of weight on their shoulders and I was like okay there's something more here. So, I really want to dive deeper into this and help people so it's been my passion for six years now.
And it's so fascinating. As you say, because people are giving you the opportunity to come in, right, and into their very private, intimate personal world. And you are pretty much, helping them navigate take those decisions between: Is this something that is worthwhile I guess to keep? Or to discard? And, and so I guess one of the first things that we would like to know a little bit more about is, what have you found the behind the psychology as you say of your clients of why- and not only your clients but to everyone, right, because we all accumulate clutter to some extent. Why do we do that? What is the reason behind this wanting to collect and keep things?
Yeah, totally. And you're exactly right, we are all, we all do it because, one, the more I looked into it is the psychology part that we said. It could be, you know, family upbringing like from their parents. Whether they grew up in a certain area that really came from nothing, and then all of a sudden they move countries and they have access to all this materials, and so they're like okay we buy a lot. Then there's also trauma in our life as well. When trauma happens we find security and stuff. And so, it's funny when you say reason. So, with my acronym, I have the Top Six R.E.A.S.O.N.S of why we collect clutter. And that's exactly what I was finding I was hearing again and again. So I'm like ‘okay I'm gonna put this into an acronym’, and it is R.E.A.S.O.N. And so what that is is (R)etail therapy, (E)motions, (A)ssigned time, (S)entimental overwhelm and (N)o can't say it. So, these are the categories we put it into and a lot of people they resonate with that as well and they can pick at least two.
Exactly. Sorry. Can you say A again
Assigned time. Okay, I would love to know a little bit more about those because that's really interesting somewhere like ticking every box but for some very specific categories, a ring very true. So, can you dive a little bit deeper into that.
Sure can- it's my favorite topic. So, and the thing is, that I know when I say that as well. A lot of people can say, ‘oh I resonate with maybe three or four of those’ it's like yes, and what I will say though, is let's just concentrate on two of them. Because if you try and work or concentrate on more than that, it's going to be too overwhelming. So, let's start with retail therapy. So what I say for that is, you know there's triggers, say you come home you've had a bad day, or you're having an argument with a friend or a loved one, and you're just like you know what, perhaps a lot of us are online shopping right now. This gives me that adrenaline rush. Yeah, right. Yeah.
We do that because it makes us happy when we get that rush and it's like okay this is awesome I get this this is pretty, it arrives, and then that adrenaline rush doesn't last for that long. Then the guilt sets in, and then you're like, ‘Well gosh I didn't, I couldn't really afford that. I don't really have a spot for that’ braid so yes that's yes, thinking about that part of it, and that's what I help people change that mindset right, let's do something else instead of triggering that to make me feel happy, I need to go shopping.
So then the next one is emotions so I have a really neat little trick I have with that I'll share with everybody it's called kind of the post it notes trick or theory. So, what I say is if you're struggling with certain items. What you do is get a post it note, look at that item, write down the first emotion you feel when you think of that item, and sometimes it can be quite surprising because it could be a negative emotion, like it could be guilt and or you're holding on to it because someone gave it to you, so you can't get rid of it right. Yeah, so a lot of us do that because it's we feel bad right because someone's spent money on it and they gave us thing, we don't love it, but, you know, we hold on to
Yeah how can we simply get rid of it? It will hurt their feelings
And that's another thing I have taught people through that but this is a really great exercise because then you know you can see, the ones that bring you joy. So that have the positive emotions the positive imaging. So I kind of go into that little bit of, I guess, call it the woowoo side I don't know but the positive energy. Right and stuff is actually it is energy. So it's, it brings that into it right so it's that live energy,
And the person that gave it to you as well, they probably had every intention to make you very happy with it. And if that item doesn't make you happy, then they're not fulfilling their reason so it's probably not such a bad thing to then get rid of it
Yeah exactly. And there's ways around that too. You can actually say that the person has a discussion with them, see how they feel. I know sometimes people hide it in the cupboard and they bring it out when the person comes over, and that can work, but if you don't have space for it?
And Louise within the ‘E’ of emotion because we're going through the acronym, is it when you are in a relationship right when you're sharing space with someone else. And, and you come across something like that, for example, the post it trick, is that what needs to be done on the end of whoever is the owner of that of the object? It has to be, or? Because I feel sometimes there are things that yes, I am not attached to because they're not mine. I also know that for example my husband hasn't even looked at them in years, because I know that because I've been with him for that long, and not even once, right. So what can you advise in those situations where usually there's a hoarder, in the relationship and then there's someone who's a little bit more detached and more pragmatic -willing to say ‘this goes into the trash’ and not a second thought.
Yes, totally. That's an awesome question because that does happen quite often with the dynamics with couples. So, what I would suggest for that as you can do the exercise together. You can have some opening for that communication. So one of the really big things I say to people, is that if you know someone is attached to something, don't come at them as if like, you know, this is ugly. I don't like it, they’ll get defensive. So you need to have an open communication and really understand it and just say, ‘Okay, I appreciate this, but let's look at this and you haven't even looked at this in the last, whatever- five years or so’ and it's taking up space, why are you keeping onto hold of this? So open up that conversation, let them talk, it can take a process, right, so it can take them a couple of, you know, three or four weeks to do it. But as soon as you start getting kind of pushy about it people get really defensive, and they think that you are trying to take something away from them, even if they don't like it.
And also, I guess it's counterintuitive if you do it behind their backs right and you say, ‘they will never know- they won’t even notice’ and you immediately go and get rid of it- it's not advisable. It has to be both of you if it's an item that doesn't belong to you and to your spouse and then you bring your spouse into the process as you say, That's wonderful.
Totally and that way they will trust you more with that as well. If you take something away behind their back, you're guaranteed they're going to turn around and go, ‘Hey, where did that go’ they probably haven't mentioned it.
No, no, the moment it’s gone is the moment they want it. Yeah.
Yeah. So, it's a really good exercise to just stop that communication together and do it together as a little project right.
Okay, so the next one, we can go on to is ‘A’ so Assigned time, bviously I was trying to get that time one in. What I hear quite often is that you'd rather do something else than go through your clutter, so many people that go ‘I've got way more fun things to do than that’ and I totally get it. But if you think about it, if we just assign that time to it, put it in our calendar, schedule it, hold ourselves accountable for it, and it doesn't have to be huge amounts of time. So, when I go into a house, it can be, you know, myself in an assistant, and the client, so you have nine hours of work_we do three hours each. We don't have one_ right, and that works on one area, so none of us have nine straight hours unless you take a vacation and send the kids away. But none of us have nine hours right? So that's a sign that time to it, instead of saying ‘I don't have time’, do small chunks like the Pomodoro method. You just assign 20 minutes, so it's a time management, and then everybody can do 20 minutes, right, even if it's once or twice a week, you can work on that project, but give yourself an end date. So that's, yeah, so that's what that means. And it's because we don't like to assign time- we just like to be really reactive right and just kind of tear through things and then it's, it doesn't, doesn't work that way because it doesn't keep it consistent.
And I believe it really does help to have that accountability partner as well whether you know, that's why obviously people hire you to do that. To help them through the process or even if you get a friend on board, because they may just help you make that decision to like ‘okay, get rid of that-you don't need it’ and you go ‘Okay, you're probably right’.
Totally, and again, sometimes it's just being given permission to let go when something really helps people and that's why when I do the coaching and online programs. I've been called someone, they think of me when they're doing it and someone said that I was like the devil and the angel on their shoulder. Good little analogy I'm like okay. So they're saying ‘Louise, is saying get rid of it,’ the angel is saying ‘but only if you think of the reasons through’ and I was that’s cute.
Louie's within the same vein of Assign time, I feel that a lot of families tend to only do a thorough decluttering, if you're doing a big move. If you're moving homes, if you're moving countries, that's when you really, the clock is ticking and you really have to have to do it yes or yes, But, and then sometimes if you are an expat family who's moving every so often, there comes a point where you're like ‘well, I'm unpacking and packing boxes every two years. Why would I want to sort my clutter, if I'm going to do it properly when the time comes’. So I like that you provide this Pomodoro technique right of saying you don't have to tackle a whole room maybe you can do a couple of drawers, a week, and slowly go through each room in your home, but what would you advise on the cycle of going through your clutter- how often should you address it within your home?
That's a great question too. You know, I would say every day, but obviously that's not possible. I will talk about it at the end, but I do suggest 15 minutes a day to go through things. But I would, if you are going to dedicate say, 20 minutes, to a certain area. you know I would like to say, obviously because I want people to keep up with it and keep it constant, I would say do it once a week. And you know what, because the reason why is that it doesn't build up, and it's 20 minutes out of your wing, but if you keep doing that and if you're moving every two years, then you're saving so much time at the end.
That's right and it becomes a habit. It's part of your routine it doesn't become this overwhelming chore anymore, but it's yeah that's actually really good. I need to I need to start that thing now.
I need to check with you again and check that.
Yeah, keep her accountable.
Yeah so I think the Assigned time is a really, really big one. Then, we have Sentimental. So Sentimental is a really tough one and that can be quite a lot involved in that. So, what I mean by sentimental is, items that have been handed down by generation to generation- so it's those China plates that you get the
Heirlooms, yes that’s the word. Yeah those and you get the furniture with it, and you don't actually like it, but you could be the last person and you don't want to break that generation. Yeah, you don't want to be the one the family goes, ‘oh my gosh, did you see she got rid of that?’ and it feels so much guilt, and you become a keeper of it, and you don't like; it takes up space. So, those kinds of things. It could also be when a loved one has passed away, and you're keeping those sentimental items right, that's a really, that's what I say and why it's such a big one and can be a huge process. I've helped clients before when it has been a loved one that's passed away, it can take us months to get to the point where they're ready to do it. It's a process, they free themselves from it, and one of freedom. I guess it is kind of freeing themselves but they, they manage it and understand it and come to really good decisions of what to keep, There's that you know you feel that guilt because you're like you feel like you're being disrespectful. If I just throw something away-would you, wouldn't throw it out depending on what it was, obviously, but try and donate it. Give it to family members that kind of thing, so just sort of, people feel disrespectful and it's not because it's yeah, it's such a big thing right and just learning to push through those barriers.
Yeah, and then when people have the China plates and the heirlooms it's a tough one. So again, I would say ask family. And another really cool one I've had for people is they can turn furniture into perhaps a picture frame that you really like or repurpose things that you actually use. Yeah, so there's kind of those ways around it as well. So that's Sentimental, and then, then there is Overwhelm, which a lot of us has right? And that overwhelm has, I kinda like the thing when we walk in to a room and you just turn around and close the door and go, ‘How do I deal with that?’
Or that drawer where you just stuff everything in and just close it really quick. Yeah, I didn't even stop to analyze how it's about to explode, you're just like, ‘No, no, there it goes, we shut it back close’.
Exactly, I'm in that in that moment right now. I know I'll be so much happier and I’ll think clear and I'll be, I feel lighter when it's gone, but it's like getting to that and then after you're done you're like ‘that really did not take me too long, it really wasn't so difficult’ but the getting started with it is so hard.
I think another one is, people were like, I don't know where to start. So, if you, you have gotten to the point where it's a whole room, perhaps it could be a basement or storage area where it tends to be the collecting area. And you just look at it and you're like, gosh, I don't know where to start, and that's where it's just becomes so overwhelming and so stressful. Yet you want to do something, but it just stops you. So, with that and breaking it down into sections, again, and a little bit of pre-planning really, really helps. So with the pre planning, set up your boxes and decide what categories you're going to do. I would suggest if you're going to (categories) label them ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’, ‘Sell’, and you're going to sell items, again, just be very wary about what you choose to sell like I don't know if you have done it yourself, but selling can be quite stressful. You know people don't turn out, you have to weigh up how much value is it compared to your time.
Yeah, right. It can definitely be another added task that you definitely don't have the bandwidth to do
Yeah. Is that, like it could take you an hour or two hours to sell a $5 item, it's like meaning. Right, but that and again that could be another hard thing to break some people they don't, they really struggle with it and they're like, ‘I need to sell it to feel better about it’ so that's another whole thing throughout the whole thing.
Yeah. It’s like another whole set of mindset
Yeah, it really is and this is why I work on changing mindsets. And then, No can't say it
I'm so curious about this one,
With that one it’s you know, when you go to a conference and they give you all this stuff and freebies and you're like, you just keep taking it you're like, oh ‘I can't say no to it, it's free’, right, yeah. And there's also
It’s a free mug, right?
Yes, it's ‘I got to take it’. But, and then the other one is when you have well-meaning relatives or friends, and they come to your door and they've cleaned out their kids toys, and they're like ‘hey I thought you might like this’, and people are like, ‘Oh, thank you but no I don't actually need any more toys’, and I hear that happening. And the other one I related to, is again, well-meaning grandparents or family members who give you lots of gifts or give your children lots and lots, constantly, right, and so that's when you can't say no, because you feel bad for it. So again, it's about starting that communication, opening up, and saying, perhaps, let's do is create experiences, I would really love for you to take the kids out for a meal or something like that will make something a bit more fun for the kids. Yeah, so that's that's what I mean by those,
That's really good yeah and then like now we've started like between us like our moms group whenever one of the children has a birthday we actually ask the mom ‘What do you need, what do you want?’
People always want to get something that is going to be really appreciated by the other person right and so yes, but some people still have that mindset of, well I don't want to be too demanding, either right or put someone on the spots. Louise, I wanted to ask a little bit on, on what you were mentioning because there were a couple of scenarios that you touched upon with children and toys so when it comes to the cluttering and when it comes to, you know, with your children, making them a part of the process, right, how young is too young? Or how can you get them involved in a way, especially with little ones because they can become very too attached, and they don't like seeing you take things and put them in a trash bag or a bag because they even if they don't play with it anymore, for them it's their posession. So, are there any tips or advice that you can give us with regards to how to approach this decluttering, especially if you're going to do it regularly?
It's really getting them used to it, and you being prepared for they will have a little bit of a tantrum a little bit of a meltdown I, and I never lie about that. But the thing is, you know, after a little bit of time, they're like, okay, because you can say you weren't playing with that and they're like, Okay, and then they move on very quickly. And also sort of backing up a little bit to that, what I would do, is when they have birthdays and Christmases coming, say that I'm just have a conversation again you'll notice a lot of this is like, talking right and being open about it, and saying to them ‘Okay, so you're now turning three to I'm trying to think of an age with, get it, three, four. Let's say you're wanting different toys now you're needing different things to play with, if I said that right, so you're at different stage right? So let's give your toys to a donation. And let's make room for your new toys. Again, it's never gonna it's depending on what day it is, you know the kid might not accept that very well, but if you keep at it and stick to it, they will get used to it. And another way is to recycle, like once every cycle, bring toys in and out.
Yes and do that that way. But I always talk to them about it and even though I said you know, my son was like ‘Mom what did you do with that?’ it was like the little things, but if it's a big toys that they have there, you know, talk to them about it, get them ready for it, and just say, ‘Okay, you're now turning four or five, you're wanting this-let's make room for it, and someone else can really need this toy’.
And sometimes I've found that maybe parting ways with clothes that they no longer fit in, it's easier than a toy, because a toy they can find a way to play with it again, somehow, right? But if they noticed that the pants really don't fit, that the dress is really too small, then they can dimension that it'sno longer makes any sense for them to keep are that, so that could be another gateway.
Yeah, it's really about teaching them just about it and just stop talking to them and deciding yourself as a family that that's what you're going to do- and keep that cycle constant. I think birthdays and Christmases are a really good time to do that clean out for toys as well. ‘It's your birthday you know you're going to get presents, even though we're talking about keeping them to a minimum. But how about we do a little bit of a clean out now and then, we can make room for the new toys?’
Sort of last question here, but do you have any special rituals that are associated when you meet with clients- when we meet- with go into their house and what's like the ritual you go through?
Yeah. That's another great question. So, for, because I know people are inviting me into their home they're really nervous and they are like, I get to see everything, I get to see who they are and we get to connect really, really quickly. So, you know, I actually have a essential oils. I'm a big essential oils fan so we can set a diffuser, have that going because that's that energy, but I find, you know some people have the perception of organizers they have had in the past they come in, they tell you what to do, and it's kind of like, this is what you need to do, this, this and you know that kind of does not work, and it's not my style. So I come in, and I will actually chat, walk around with them in the house and just really get to ask questions, get them to feel comfortable, and before that we've already met for a consult so they know my face there. But I really love the oils, yeah, I think the oils are kind of neat so that's mine but, but that's, you know, just take it slowly and then it's really, it's quite intuitive and seeing how the client is coping with the stress of it all,
So it must be so grateful to you because, yeah, I mean, just having someone to help them through this process, this difficult process is priceless. It's really priceless.
It really lights me up and that's why I'm so excited doing it and really love it so and you know I'm hoping to take it, you know, we might move back to Australia and then that's the beauty of it right I can take it back to Australia with me and do it there as well.
And Louise, you have an online program, Reclaim Your Space. Do you want to talk a little bit about that and share with us the details?
Yeah, for sure! So super excited about the program, it's really quite different from the other decluttering programs you've seen and the reason I say that is, again, it's all about the psychological part and we actually dive into the reasons, and then we actually go into and it's the habits and the routines to maintain a clutter free home. So with the program, is five weeks, and we help release the overwhelm and create spaciousness in your home and you will get access to everything so you get the modules, but we take a dive into why are you collecting clutter? We like to explore it. And once we get that really sorted, then everything comes easier and flows. So, it's really about the first part of it because my true belief is that the base of grasping why keep the clutter, why it keeps coming into the home, the next step is you can get organized quite a lot easier, right when you don't have the clutter.
So, yeah, so, so it's a program that I've released a few months ago, and we have an exclusive Facebook group with it. We have group Q&A calls, so it's really supportive so there's that accountability right so they can be nice devil an angel on your shoulders.
Great and how and how long does the program go for?
So yeah it's for five weeks, so. Yeah, and they can start any time and the really neat thing is, you discover your top two reasons, I give you the action steps to work through that. And then you can take it as often as you like and go back through it right, so if you have all six reasons, you can work on all six right just go back through it. And I think the strategies on how to how to declutter a room as well, so there's all the tools and strategies there it's super excited about it.
That’s amazing! And you also have a freebie, as well for us today, How to End the Clutter Cycle for Good Without the Procrastination. And we're going to be sharing the link in our show notes. This allowing for more space and for new energy in your home, definitely helps with everything. With productivity with, as you say, with the overwhelm, with the guilt, right that we also associate to keeping certain things so it's just an overall improvement in your in your life.
It's the energy, but we don't realize that clutter affects our health, our time, our finances. It's just so, so much so I could talk about it forever as you can tell.
And you also have a podcast, of your own right?
Yeah, perfect. So, we'll link that as well and I can't wait to dive into some more of your episode.
Thank you so much Louise for chatting with us today. And yes, if you want to connect with Louise you can find her on Instagram @thespacereclaimers, she has her Facebook page, her LinkedIn profile, as well as her website, and the podcast, too, and all of that you're going to find it in the show notes.
Yeah, thank you for being here today, Louise.
Thank you so much for having me. It was so much fun.
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Louise knew at a young age that she wanted to travel the world and left New Zealand at 21 and never looked back! She now lives in Canada with her Australian husband and Canadian son and has called Calgary home for 12 years.
Louise started as a home organizer six years ago not really knowing what it was all about. She quickly discovered that there were many layers to the organizing part and found that the psychology part of why we collect clutter was what she was most drawn to. Louise is now an Organizing Coach and has her online program to help those who struggle with clutter and really want to learn the skills to end the clutter cycle for good!