Spring to Summer Sprucing
The word of the day is decluttering—make it your own!
By Beth Peterson
Rumor has it that the spring to summer transition is the classic time for romance—or spring cleaning. Hard to imagine two more unrelated passions, but wherever you feel your energies led, the season is ripe for refreshing. And the hot topic this year, at least in the world of home care, is all about decluttering. Don’t believe me? Take a look at what’s trending on Netflix.
Whether you find yourself tidying up or scaling down, there has never been a better time to embrace a mission of decluttering. Just think about the hundreds of items taking up space in your home. Some things are hard to simply toss into a bin. That box of Christmas cards dating back to 1979? The toaster oven you keep meaning to have repaired? Your collection of “vintage” T-shirts taking up three entire dresser drawers?
Making decisions about what to keep and what to toss doesn’t come naturally to many of us. If you’re like most people, it’s easier to keep stuffing that box of Christmas cards back onto the top shelf of the closet year after year than to try to make a decision about what to do with “all those memories.” In fact, entire rooms—not just closets—can get away from us. Do you have a garage where you used to be able to park a car or two? How about an unused bedroom full of the possessions your adult child keeps promising to come and sort through? You’re not alone. Simply figuring out where to start can feel overwhelming. It’s hard (even painful!) to decide what to do about: All. That. Stuff.
Maybe it’s time to turn to the professionals; maybe even meet Nancy Haworth, a local entrepreneur not unlike Netflix star Marie Kondo.
When Nancy Haworth’s mother passed away in 2011, her father needed help. His plan to age in place required a little bit of organization and decluttering. Nancy took time off from her regular job to help him achieve his goal. Sorting through a lifetime of possessions wasn’t easy, but the reward of enabling her dad to stay safely in his own home was particularly meaningful for Nancy. Her natural talent for organizing, coupled with a desire to help others in situations similar to her dad’s, prompted Nancy to think about ways she could put her experience with her dad to work.
Her background is in communications, but she was only one course away from earning a minor in psychology, which comes in handy. Decluttering is hard emotional work. “It’s not always about the stuff,” Nancy says. “It’s about the emotions.” Sorting through the clothing of a loved one who has passed, for example, can get particularly tough. “When it gets emotional, we take it slow…we work side by side, drawer by drawer, closet by closet.”
If you’ve caught the decluttering bug, Nancy cautions against setting your expectations based on those Netflix episodes: “They show things happening very quickly.” Homes that are neatly organized at the end of an hour of reality TV simply aren’t the norm. The bigger reality is that it can take weeks or months to achieve those results. Again, this is where Nancy shines. “I’m told I’m very patient,” she says. Her strategy: Play the long game when it comes to organization. Her goal is not simply to swoop into a room, whisk it all into a receptacle Mary Poppins–style, and
swoop out again.
Perhaps with her dad in mind, Nancy is more interested in building a relationship first, and then determining the best way to help. She comes into a home, learns about a client and how they got to where they are, and then helps them figure out what their goals are. “I love my career,” she says. “I love that I’m able to help so many people. The personal relationships I tend to form—it’s wonderful to be able to help. It’s a journey to help
them improve their lives. I get to motivate them and coach them to change habits.”
She has enjoyed hearing back from clients after her job is done. Several have lost weight, improved their relationships, even started new careers. “It’s a ripple effect,” Nancy says. “Once you start improving [your home], you continue to make changes.”
Nancy’s business, On Task Organizing, offers free, over-the-phone consultations in which the first organization session is scheduled. At that first session, Nancy and the property owner will do a walk-through of the entire space in need of decluttering. Some clients need help in just one room. Others may need help throughout their home. Whatever the need, Nancy begins right away, working alongside her clients, getting their spaces on the path to order and organization.
She’s helped college students, children, seniors, new parents. “I really enjoy the variety of people I get to work with,”
It seems Nancy’s goal is primarily to teach and to put her clients on a path toward real change. “Declutter regularly. Take care of your things.” That’s the advice she offers to all.