I've been doing work in the decluttering field for years. I've taught classes and written nearly 100 posts on the subject. I've also done a lot of decluttering projects in my own house and for my family, but this is the first time I've worked with a hands-on client. I'm quite enjoying it - it's nice to put some of my theories into practice, and together we're making a lot of progress.
Fortunately, she was at the perfect point to do this. She has been wanting to do this for several years and has been willing to weed out boxes and boxes of unused items with very little pushing on my part.
As for me, my role has been to not only work alongside her, but also to set some guidelines and limits to help focus the work and to keep her on track with the project. I give her homework assignments every week such as eliminate all the baskets and unused containers from the hallway, or make a list of all the projects she plans to complete in the next 90 days or even to pick out the paint colors for her completed room. Then I work with her to get agreements on how much of each type of item she will keep and where they will be stored.
I think that is the big value I bring to this project. In the beginning, I gave her a pledge to sign that defined what she could expect from me and what I expected from her. This really set the tone for our working relationship. I told her that I would ask tough questions and set firm guidelines for how to accomplish the work, but the ultimate decision on what goes or stays is always in her hands. But the rule is when she does decide to release something, it needs to leave the house within 24 hours, and I've had to enforce this rule with her a couple of times. Since I have her agreement to this in writing, I feel comfortable in holding her to it and her husband is helping reinforce it too.
I think having a partner to work alongside you and especially when it is someone you are paying, really focuses the work and causes her to get serious about her declutter effort. She told me she had decluttered this room on her own several times, but had not been successful at it, probably because she didn't have someone to hold her accountable on a weekly basis. I even send her text messages during the week, praising her when she has accomplished something, or giving her gentle nudges when she hasn't completed an assignment as agreed.
We are both very excited by the progress we are making, and we are getting ready to tackle another room next week. It has been going a little slower than I'd hoped, but we haven't been able to devote as many hours to the work as I would like. I guess that's part of the learning process for me, to be able to estimate how much time each project will take. I am always wildly optimistic.
I'm so proud of her. With my help, she has cut down her sewing materials to two Rubbermaid tubs. Previously it took up the entire closet, several jam-packed drawers and some floor space. She has also eliminated one whole craft category from the room - rubber stamping. I directed her to another lady in the church who runs our card ministry and they were quite pleased to receive several hundred dollars worth of nearly unused stamping supplies! She has also corralled her numerous scrapbooking projects into just a few drawers and has agreed to a 90 day freeze on any new craft purchases. After the 90 days, we have agreed on a 3 to 1 ratio - 3 completed projects going out before 1 new project can come in.
Tonight, we pretty much finished up with the craft room, although it still needs to be painted. I'm looking forward to starting on the next room and I'm looking to start up with a 2nd client soon. I think this has been a great experience for me as well. It has given me a lot of confidence and it is a joyful experience to see how energized and happy my client is after just working through one room.