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77 Clutter Fairy client Jill talks about her journey into hoarding
Episode 7720th March 2020 • The Declutter Hub Podcast • The Declutter Hub
00:00:00 00:31:17

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In this podcast, Lesley talks to one of her Clutter Fairy clients, Jill, who discusses her journey with hoarding. This is such an open, honest and insightful discussion about one woman's journey with hoarding tendencies. One not to be missed! For detailed show notes go to 



Intro 0:07

Welcome to today's episode of The declutter hub podcast, your channel for super easy, no nonsense advice on how to declutter and organise your home. Please welcome your host professional organisers, Ingrid Jansen, and Lesley Spellman.

Lesley 0:30

Hello, and welcome listeners to Episode 77 of the Declutter Hub Podcast. I'm Lesley. Before we get started with the main parts of the podcast, I'd just like to remind you a few things we've got going on within the declutter hub at the moment, we are right in the middle of our 40 day 40 item challenge where you guessed it, we are decluttering one or more items per day from our homes. It's all taking place over in the declutter hub community on Facebook. So come over and take a look to see whether you can be inspired. If you do have more than 40 items in your house to tackle then maybe you want to take a quick look at our members area where it's much more in depth. We guide you step by step to each area of your home with courses, live q&a sessions with Ingrid and I challenges quick wins and a community chat. In today's episode, I'm talking to Jill, Jill has been a client of mine at the clutter fairy for over eight years. And I think it's fair to say whilst we've made huge progress in Jill's home, there is still a little bit of work to be done. So welcome, Jill. So happy that you're here. And thank you so much in advance for agreeing to share your story with us. I mostly when we spoke a few weeks ago, and he said yeah, I'm happy to share. I was like, that's absolutely amazing, because I think it's fair to say the reason why we're here today, Gil is because you have let's call them hoarding tendencies, shall we?

Jill 1:47

That will probably be very fair.

Lesley 1:49

Okay. And so we're still going through that journey with the stuff that you've got in your home. And really, today is all about you talking about how that came to be the journey that you've gone through from right from your childhood, right through to now and how you see this progressing in the future. So that's what we're really here to talk about. And as I said, I really think it's going to resonate with a lot of people who have that irrational emotional attachment to clutter that goes beyond the norm.

Jill 2:18

Yes, it certainly does go back to childhood. I grew up in a home where my mother was a bit of a collector of things, particularly material books, was not very interested in housework, whereas my dad was the exact opposite. He owned practically nothing. And so I've probably been a messy person with too many notebooks, and too many pens, since I was very little. But I think looking at it sensibly, it really started to deteriorate after my mom died. And I know 44 It seems a long time back now. I've just turned 60. But after mum died, I felt this enormous void in my life. And I'd taken up a hobby, I started crafting, just the year before she died. And at that point, I had got a little hairier and I was doing a few cards, not very much. But after she died, I wasn't opening the boxes. I'd watch television, and I buy things and I go to craft shows and I go to craft shops. And I buy things and be that sort of it felt like it was filling the void. But I didn't use it, it was just there.

Lesley 3:38

And so that's when it all started to happen. So, you know, jumping back to childhood and your teens, you know, you you lived, you know, because we've obviously spoken a lot over the years. And you lived a very fulfilled life. You know, you're academically you were very successful. from a career perspective, you were and still are very successful in what you're doing. You've never married so you've been on your own and you've not got any children, you have a very fulfilled active life that you enjoy, don't you so there's not really any depression or anxiety in there.

Jill 4:12

The worst depression after mum died, and I did get treated for it. But while eight sort of helped me cope day to day, it did just feel like emptiness. And I suppose my younger life. So starting from my 20s I have six degrees. I spent an awful lot of time studying. So you wouldn't be surprised that books were quite important to me. And I think as a lot of people do, when you acquire knowledge and you acquire books, you sort of keep the books and the notes because it shows all that effort that's gone in. So I remember when you for came, I found it really hard to give a book? Because it's sort of represented my success and all the trials and tribulations.

Lesley 5:10

I think the fact that you've got six degrees says a lot as well about that desire to acquire, whether that's knowledge or stuff. I think that's also very relevant as well, because a lot of people would think that was an excessive amount of degrees. But I'm I'm a fair hearing.

Jill 5:27

Yes, that's very fair.

Lesley 5:29

That's something that you've always striven for, isn't it, that acquisition of knowledge, and that's really relevant. And I think when I first met you, that certainly was something that struck me was this is someone that's searching for something more all the time?

Jill 5:42

Yeah, it is. And I think, you know, my travelling was the same. I did a lot of long holidays, to really get to know countries. You know, that holiday lifetime, I was having no shears. So yeah, she probably right. I want to do and see more, and have an I suppose the half more came with it.

Lesley 6:04

Let's just jump back then. So we go through this path. I mean, we've jumped forward quite rapidly through your life. But for the most parts throughout your early life, your childhood and so on, you had a happy life, which you enjoyed, you were successful. There's this undercurrent of wanting more knowledge, wanting to be very successful academically, and work wise as well. You had a happy time, you had a great relationship with your parents. And then all of a sudden in your 40s Your mom passes away, sadly. And then it all goes wrong in terms of your acquisition then of stuff.

Jill 6:40

Yes, I think that will be very fair, when I met

Lesley 6:43

you, then it was probably about I was gonna say six or seven years pass when your mum died? That would that be?

Jill 6:50

Yes, it probably was. I think when she first died, I just couldn't face anything. I lived in the South of England, my mum lived in the north of England, my brother had a major car accident, about the same time that she died. And suddenly I found myself with her house, all the paraphernalia of the funeral and everything that happened after she died. And a brother who was in hospital who may or may not make it and then no may not walk. And I had a very high profile job. But I was travelling the world as part of that work. And I just shut down. I couldn't give myself any time because I had so many other calls on my time. And I couldn't craft I couldn't read, I stopped myself sleeping. And that's still a problem today that you know, two or three hours is a good night's sleep. And it just built up I didn't notice it. But the way I coped with my mom's house and they had a large three bedroom, three story house was to put the things in the car and take them back with me to my house. So suddenly, I had my house, which was not ridiculously over full. It was a bit messy, but it was fine. You know, with floors, you could see the carpets, things were put away. And suddenly, I'm bringing a three story house contents back with me because we needed to sell the house. I was left with my brother's bills, my mother's bills and my bills, and nobody to help. And it just, yeah, I just shut down and tried to stop feeling so I could just get on and do things.

Lesley 8:51

I know you've had an opportunity. We'll talk about that a little bit later that you have sought counselling for this. And you have explored some of the potential trigger points. Was PTSD ever mentioned with the fact that your mom dad and your brother had the serious car accident in close proximity? No, it wasn't wasn't. Do you consider that to be a trauma?

Jill 9:18

I didn't at the time, but at the time I was trying to be superwoman. I'm a senior manager. Why would I not be able to cope? I was running of really important projects worth millions. Your parent dies, your brother has a major accident. You've got two nephews who need support. Why wouldn't I cope? It was it took me a long time to recognise that I wasn't coping.

Lesley 9:47

Okay, so you were ignoring the symptoms then for quite a while. Whether that be the sleep or the buying stuff or the attachment to things as well. So you talk about bringing things back from your mom's house and that's it. You know, that's wrapped up in sentimental, sentimental acquisition really as well, isn't it and not wanting to let go, which is all perfectly normal or perfectly, you know, trick the trauma of losing your mom, with your brother trying to get the stuff so perfectly normal, but it's the volumes of stuff that were unusual, I guess.


Yes, yeah, it's certainly, I earned enough money to be able to find what I wanted.


So let's, let's jump forward to when you and I first met, as we've said that you sort of by this time, you're in your early 50s, you're living back up north at this point. So you had moved handy with your job back up here, there was boxes and boxes of stuff when I first met you, because you would come from a big house down south, you've also got your parents stuff as well. So there was a lot of boxes of stuff. So what what was it that made you pick up the phone to ask for help, because this was probably the first time, I guess that you'd ask for any help from anyone.


He certainly was the first time I'd asked for help. As a way of ignoring all the stuff, I tended to sit and watch television. And one of the programmes that I watched was the hoarder next door. And I watched it, probably the whole series two. And it was probably the third time the series was being shown. And I sort of felt sorry for the people because they there seemed to be a lot of dirt on I didn't consider myself to be dirty, you know, I could always get to the sink and the toilets got cleaned. But I saw one of the episodes and I thought, actually you are living in a way that you don't want to be. And I need to do something on straight after I think it was a third programme in that series. I looked up the ladies who were being shown as helping the holes and they were down in Ken's. It wouldn't have worked. You know, they said they only worked in their area. But they did tell me about the declutters association. So I looked up and you had to be the closest and I thought if I don't do it now I'll never will and I literally straight after the programme as soon as I found you on the internet, I think I emailed you, and you email back. And then we had a chat. And it just felt like something had moved. That finally I was going to get some help. I can't say I look forward to letting somebody in the house because it had probably been four years since I've actually moved to my house. And since anybody had actually been in. I mean, I remember when I moved a double pantechnicon of stuff arrived. And they said, Oh, it's gonna take us all day to move you in. And I'm thinking, it'd be ridiculous. There's not that much stuff. And when they said, and there's another double pantechnicon still to come. I think at that point, my heart sort of sank. And I'm thinking, Oh, my God, where do I put it all. And it literally had come into the house. And I'd had an idea, you know, in the lounge was going to be the suite and the bookcases and in the kitchen, were going to be the kitchen things. Well, in the end, it was just boxes piled on top of boxes piled on top of other boxes. On the kitchen, I couldn't get to the work surfaces. And I've been trying to do things on my own. So I bought a book on decluttering. And the first piece of advice was, you know, just try one little drawer. Well, I couldn't actually physically get to my drawers. And if I did get to the drawer, where would I put it down to sort it. And clearly one of my problems was letting go. So my mum had always kept things, you know, it'll come in one day. And I can see that tendency in me is one wooden spoon enough when you can have 20. I have the 20. So it was with some trepidation. I welcomed you into my house, and it probably was seven or eight years ago. Now. You've looked around and I felt awful, actually, because you were having to climb over things, much as I did. And you wanted to start upstairs. I remember and I just felt that was too personal, too invasive. And you agreed you'd start in the kitchen. And it was traumatic. I think you were you were there for about four hours working on the kitchen. And we went from not being able to see the surfaces on much of the floor to actually the dead room echoed and probably for a couple of weeks afterwards. I'd walk into the kitchen, just for the source of the calm and the peace. I wasn't sure how much I liked you because she was so challenging. But oh my god over the years? Yes, it's been. It's been interesting and difficult. So worthwhile.


Oh, it takes me back to. I'm not sure even eight years later you absolutely love? Well, I'd say, it has been a really interesting journey for me. So to put it in perspective now as to where we are eight years later, the challenges that we've had along the way, from my perspective, it's about time, isn't it jail, because where we've been held back is your availability, you have got a management role that takes you all over the world. And so you're not home a lot of the time. And so quite a lot of our sessions will get cancelled. And so there are times over the past eight years, where we booked him maybe 12 sessions in a year. And we've only done two or three because you've been away. So it's really, we've made slow progress. We've made a lot of progress. But we've made slow progress, mainly because of your availability. I think within that time, there have been periods where it's gone slower than others. I think there have been lightbulb moments from your perspective. We'll talk again about about that in a minute. But I think there's been steady progress all the time. And you definitely are a different person than you were eight years ago, in your ability to rationalise the stuff that you're keeping, and the ability to be able to let go of things. I think it's been very positive. I don't think it's something that's going to get fixed overnight. And I think that's the thing with with people who have hoarding tendencies, this is not a quick fix. It can't be the same as a before and after on a TV show. This is a long standing mental health psychological issue that needs to be tackled over time with a timescale that suits the person that you're working with. And I think that it has worked. Jael hasn't it, as I say, still, Camila. I know every time Joe's like, Ah, I know she's gotten to karma. So she sort of loves and loves it in equal measure,


I do find it very stressful, you're very good at pacing it, you can usually tell when I'm tired. I think the biggest turning point for me was probably four years ago. It's about to be four years ago, when I had cancer. And I think pre cancer, I was still trying to hold on to things as though they mattered. And I think once I'd had cancer and recovered, I saw things more in perspective. And there are certain things, I've never been a lover of clothes. So actually getting rid of a lot of my clothes as been really useful. Because it's a lot easier to choose what I wear in the morning. Anything I don't like I'm now able to put away and get rid of the books hurt. And I think it would be fair to say I've still yet to really tackle the craft stuff, I have given away a lot. But I had so much that it's hardly a dent in in the sort of the total. But yes, I can see huge progress. You know, I like calm, it's just, I'm not very good at putting things away. But you're right, it's the fact that we've only managed two or three sessions in quite a few of those years. between sessions, I can get messy again,


it's very difficult when there's when there's a lot of stuff around to keep it and particularly when you've not got the ability when you're home, you know, if you're travelling around the world, and you come home and you're exhausted, and you know, starting to declutter your house, when it's such a colossal task is not something that you're necessarily going to jump up and want to do. And we all understand that I think some of the things within them, and you mentioned close their jail. And I remember that I remember the first session that we did. You know, I knew we're going through that through the cancer treatments at the time. So you know that the declaration was put on hold for a little bit. But I remember that when I came back for the first session, you said, I feel differently. I feel like I've got things in perspective. I want to get rid of much, much more stuff. And you were very specific about that. And so since that time, I think that a lot of your relationship with some of your stuff that you held on to before. You're making normal in inverted commas, decluttering decisions, so with your clothes, you were able to let go of things that you'd have shoes, shoes is actually a good example. I can share this. You were keeping shoes that were sort of elegant shoes, let's say, and your feet have changed over the years. That means that you can't wear heels and you can't work as elegant a shoe as you used to it. Was that fair? Before you were clinging on to that. And after that time, you were like, Why? Why am I doing that? And you just managed to let go of? Probably 75 or 80% of issues?


Yes, that is fair. I think part of it was I was holding on because it costs a lot of money. And there was that stupid belief that I would get back into them. And my feet will never go back into the, the shape or size that they used to be, and clothes very much the same. You know, I was holding on to probably three different sizes of clothes, and clothes that still had wear in them, which was my mother speaking. But I hated. I'm not aware of Brown, why was I holding on to brown things I would never have happened if you hadn't been there pushing. And so while I don't always love you, I certainly know I couldn't do it without you.


And thank you for being so candid. Because I know what you say, to me when we're there, Jill is very open and honest as, which is why she's doing this podcast today. I want to try and put their house I know everybody's house is different. And everybody's volume of stuff is different. I want to try and put this into some kind of perspective, because obviously, you've not got a visual representation of what Jill's home looks like. So she's got a four bedroom house, a beautiful house, it is not dirty at all, there is no environmental issues in there. We do have dust in there, because obviously with clutter comes dust. But other than that the house is clean functions. She sleeps in her bed, she uses her bathrooms, cooks. And so there's no issues that sometimes when people hoard it goes a little bit further than that. But the rooms are very, very full. Jill has certain things that she's the things that she has mentioned that she has clung on to books is still a sticking point every time I go try and sell and sell your books. And she's like, Yeah, no, we're not doing that today. And so we'll get there at some point. But the main problem within Jill's house is craft. And so what we have done over the past several years, really is that we have organised the craft stuff, to get it to a point where we can then start to offload some, but we're not at that point at the moment, Jill said that it has she has got rid of some craft stuff. But it's probably one or 2% of the craft stuff that she's got that she's offloaded. There is still a lot to go out. But Gil is not ready for that yet. And so that's what so I just wanted to put it in perspective a little bit. Not that it really matters. It doesn't matter whether people have got scholarone by a barrel mental issues. But I just think it's important that people have got a mental picture of what that looks like.


Yes, in a four bedroom house, I would describe it as a one bedroom house with three very large craft rooms.


I mean, this year, certainly we've planned it differently, haven't we, Joe, you're going to invest more time, I'm going to bring a second person with me because I think you're ready for that. So normally when we work and we very rarely work more than one person one to one we not worked because two to one can be a little bit overwhelming. I think Julie's perfectly comfortable with that. So I'm bringing a second person with me with a view to trying to get through the stuff a little bit faster. Because it's volumes that hold you back. We're gonna do a second part of this podcast where we talk more specifically about craft and about your relationships, your crafts stuff, because often with crafting comes clutter, I think that's fair to say, people who crafts see value in a lot of things, which is perfectly fine. And so I thought it would be useful to split this podcast into two to talk first of all about your relationship with your stuff and your journey with hoarding. And then to talk a little bit more specifically about the craft of so we're gonna come back to that on a podcast in a few weeks. I talked about my perspective as to where you are at at the moment. How do you see this progressing? And do you feel that you'll ever be completely clutter free?


I enjoy my crafting a lot. I think I want to be able to do crafting at home and at the moment the clutter stops me doing the crafting. So I am motivated. I'm also wanting to retire within the next couple of years. And I would like people to be able to come to my house whenever whereas now I need people to warn me weeks in advance before I can actually get a space on the settee downstairs. So I think I am very motivated to get it finished. I probably will always need Lesley to come a couple of times a year to we're deep Declutter. But I have stopped buying to alarm Jack stent, I don't go to craft fairs anymore, I don't go to craft shops. The only place I buy from is the catalogue, I actually also teach it, I should say, I do teach crafting. And that's a good excuse for buying things. I will always love books, but I'm finding I can give away things that I've read rather than holding on to them. I don't need a copy of every single book I've ever read. And clothes have never been a big issue. I'm getting my own style. And I don't care what people think. So I'm not feeling like I have to always buy new things. So I'm feeling in a lot better place. I do want to finish, and I certainly couldn't have done it on my own. I you know, I'm so grateful I picked up that phone. Yeah,


definitely. I think it's, I think, you know, this is not me saying, oh, yeah, I was really useful. I just think it's a journey that we've gone on together, Jill, and I think it would be very difficult on your own, you've got no one to share what you're feeling with. And so you're very much on your own trying to go through this. That's not to say that you've not got friends and work colleagues. But this is a very personal thing. And there's only so many people that you're actually going to be able to share that with me until you're very open and honest. And you're not too worried about what other people think. And that's really good in this instance, but a lot of people who have an excessive amount of clutter or who have hoarded throughout their life have spent their lives being judged, and I'm sure you've probably felt a little bit of that jail. But you can kind of pass it off a little bit easier than some What do you feel as if you've ever been judged? Oh, absolutely.


I mean, as I say, my dad, it goes back right to my childhood, my dad was a neat freak. And I certainly was never that. So all the time, you know, tidy your bedroom, do this, you're looking at a mess. Every time they used to come to stay with me, I would spend a week cleaning and my dad would arrive and he would go, well, he could have tidied up for I've always felt like I didn't really make the mark. I have gotten to a stage now where I don't care what other people think so much. But it does stop me doing things. It does stop me inviting people around. I used to play bridge and have people around for dinner. I haven't done that since I moved north. Again, I don't feel comfortable inviting people around. I come from a Yorkshire upbringing that says you should always be able to entertain people, you should always have cake in the larder and a cup of tea on the go. And I don't feel like I've lived up to that at all. So the clutter is something that cuts you off from other people, whether you are happy about it or not. I think people live secret lives. I don't think I'm the only person at work who was a clutter. But I'm probably the only person that admits it.


A huge, huge thank you to jail, I really, really appreciate it. And I'm really looking forward to the next podcast that we record, where we're going to delve a little bit deeper into your crafting stuff that you've got of which you have. It is plentiful. So we're going to talk a little bit about that and your relationship with craft, how it makes you happy and how you see the stuff impacting on your ability to do your actual hobby. So listeners, I hope you've learned a lot today as well. And it's been interesting to you to listen to Jill's story. We're gonna be back as I mentioned for a second part of this podcast where Jill is going to talk about her relationship with her craft stuff. That's going to be in a few weeks time, so do watch out for it. Thanks for taking the time to listen today. If you'd like to get more tips and advice please follow us on social media. We are on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as at to declutter hub, and have a lively supportive Facebook group where we chat all things clutter, you can search for the declutter hub community, we would love to see them. Don't forget our members area to where we offer step by step courses, live q&a sessions and a membership community. If you need some support to achieve your goals and lead a more fulfilled life without stuff being the focus. The members area is just a thing for you. Have a look. Our members dot declutter for more information. And if you don't want to miss the next weekly episode, subscribe to the declutter podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher and iHeartRadio. And it will pop into your notifications each Friday. See you next time.


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