‘We all need a happy place, to centre ourselves and to relax’ says Yorkshire decluttering expert

Perhaps MPs could take a leaf out of decluttering expert Kate Ibbotson's book.
Perhaps MPs could take a leaf out of decluttering expert Kate Ibbotson's book.
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The nation is going decluttering crazy, inspired by 
Marie Kondo and her Netflix series. Catherine Scott meets Yorkshire’s 
own expert.

Marie Kondo urges us to declutter by holding items to our hearts and asking ourselves if they ‘spark joy in our hearts’ before deciding whether to keep, give to charity or throw away.

Kate Ibbotson

Kate Ibbotson

If we decide we cannot live without something then Kondo moves onto the next part of her decluttering KonMari method, folding, folding, folding.

For mum of five-year-old twins Kate Ibbotson it is nothing new.

Ibbotson, 37, has been a life-long studier of human behaviour and for five years has been helping people get their homes, and their lives in order.

She believes that the state of our home is directly linked to the state of our mind.

Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo

Prone to anxiety from being a child, one of her coping mechanisms was focusing on her environment and creating order.

“I remember giving my bedroom a makeover as a child, clearing out the clutter and colour coding my wardrobe. I immediately felt more secure and as if I had my own refuge from the world,” recalls Ibbotson from Ilkley.

Later in life, she adopted better ways to cope and accepted that it’s impossible to control everything but the seed had been sown; by creating a clutter-free, organised home and only allowing positive people in her life, she learnt she can apply appropriate control in a valuable way. With a calm, functional home, when challenges come along, she has more energy and focus to deal with them.

Kate’s interest in people led her to complete a degree in psychology and soon afterwards at 22 years old, qualified as a life coach. At 24, she took these skills into a 10-year career as a probation officer. Her ability to connect with people and her belief that they could change, along with practical support, helped them rebuild their lives.

“Throughout, I was constantly aware that creating a comfortable, organised home environment is a vital stabilising factor and a key element to a calm, motivated mind. We all need a ‘happy place’, a place to centre ourselves, relax and energise.”

From 2010 onwards, Ibbotson found herself looking around at modern society (herself included) and in particular at the rise of affordable retail.

“I saw how we were acquiring more and more ‘stuff’, yet were more discontent than ever.

“I felt compelled to train as a professional organiser and to launch A Tidy Mind in order to help those who are overwhelmed by their clutter and disorganisation. I use my expertise on time management, decluttering, storage, systems and styling alongside a range of coaching and counselling techniques.”

When she launched A Tidy Mind she became her own first client, she says. The journey that she encourages her clients to take is the same one which she took herself, and there are similarities to the KonMari method, although it is not so extreme.

Eventually there was a point where she cut down her possessions by 70 per cent. “It was freeing, cathartic and empowering,” she says.

“I came across Marie Kondo’s book when I was looking into how to declutter my own home and life. Her techniques are great but aren’t for everybody.

“I work with a lot of referrals from social services, with people who have a hoarding disorder and are vulnerable and her technique wouldn’t work for them.”

It’s never just about physical things though. For Ibbotson, part and parcel of the process was dealing with her insecurities and an inner feeling of not being good enough.

“If we have too much “stuff” and live in disorder, we lose track of what adds true value to our lives. If we have too much mental clutter or are too busy, we stop appreciating the present moment and feel overwhelmed,” she says. “The solution is simplifying both home and mind in order to create space to enjoy what really matters.”

When Ibbotson had twin babies in 2013 she immediately began to reassess her career options and her purpose in life. Parenting was her biggest challenge yet and as she navigated her way through caring for two babies at once, one of whom had a serious medical condition, she had to hone her organisational and decluttering skills even further.

Working for herself had been a long-standing dream and she decided her vocation was to help others who craved a sense of order and calm in their homes but who had tried and failed to do it themselves.

“It was while reading about decluttering that I read an article about someone who was a professional declutterer, I had no idea you could actually do it for a job, but I have never looked back although it has been a hard slog at times.”

In 2015, she became a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO) and was quickly talent spotted by their president and asked to join the board, where she served two years as head of PR, before moving on to the role of head of social media, helping to grow the following of the association.

A Tidy Mind sees Ibbotson working one to one with clients in their homes.

“People think they can declutter their home in a weekend. It just isn’t possible. I will spend six months with a client going into their home one day a week. It is lengthy process and not a quick fix.”

She is currently expanding the business through franchising and this year it set to launch Tidy Habits which aims to help people plan their lives better.

“I think people are turning away from apps and technology and going back to good old fashioned pen and paper and I want to help them.”

Kate’s top decluttering tips

Start small. Don’t try to do an entire room in one go.

Start with something small like your make-up bag or handbag and build up.

Don’t start with sentimental or emotional items. Do your bathroom or somewhere neutral first.

Don’t start with paperwork as it is extremely time-consuming.

Kate says she spends a lot of time redistributing people’s items after a decluttering, mainly to charity shops and women’s refuges, to reduce the amount of things going to landfill.

Once you have decluttered, make sure you give everything a home.

Make sure you put things back in their place when you have finished with them.

www.atidymind.co.uk.