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Suffolk's answer to telly's Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners

PUBLISHED: 08:57 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:44 17 December 2018

We all have the guilty place... is yours the garage? Picture: Prill/Getty Images/iStockphoto

We all have the guilty place... is yours the garage? Picture: Prill/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Livi John is Sorting Out Suffolk, as she launches her new business to help us reclaim our own space. Lynne Mortimer meets the ace de-clutterer

Livi John. Picture: Courtesy of Livi JohnLivi John. Picture: Courtesy of Livi John

We all have that room, don’t we?

You know, the one we don’t talk about. The one where we deposit everything that doesn’t immediately fall into the otherwise happy domestic scene. Old correspondence; newspapers with interesting articles; leftover Christmas gifts you might give next year (but never do); enough bed linen for the Household Cavalry... should they ever stay over.

Livi John, born in Lowestoft, educated in Norwich and now living in Ipswich, has looked into more of these rooms than most people and knows exactly what to do.

Her new enterprise Sorting Out Suffolk (SOS) helps people declutter, regaining space and tranquillity in their homes. Along the way, it can also help people towards an inner tranquillity and reclaim their lives.

Before. Picture: Livi JohnBefore. Picture: Livi John

Invited into Livi’s sitting room, it is hard not to immediately check for piles of junk. There aren’t any. There is real Christmas tree near the fireside and Livi, a friendly mum-of-two appears to have trained it not to drop needles − that’s a joke, by the way.

With two sons in the house, it can’t be easy to keep encroaching “stuff” at bay but Livi is relaxed. She is not in the business of following people around with a Dyson. This is not about daily housekeeping, it’s about lifestyle and freedom.

I briefly mention the room in my house that has seven wicker crates of paperwork. An over-worked shredder, piles of books that don’t fit on the shelves (despite an annual ruthless cull) and a coat stand that also houses hats, scarves, ties and umbrellas. I can tell Livi is interested.

SOS is very new − the website is still under construction − but Livi has already tackled a few projects and is looking forward to taking on more. By the nature of her work, confidentiality is important and her terms and conditions explicitly set out her commitment to this.

After. Picture: Livi JohnAfter. Picture: Livi John

With a degree in retail management from the University of Surrey, Livi went to work for the Arcadia Group − with high street brands including Burtons, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Dorothy Perkins. She later moved to Arcadia’s International Department where, as a regional business manager, she was responsible for ensuring brands were correctly replicated in its stores in the Middle East. “Evans did really well in Saudi Arabia,” she recalls.

Then Livi, married to Duncan, had her two sons, Oscar, now 11, and Isaac, nine, and left her job to concentrate on family life although she did undertake some part-time work as a direct seller for a greetings card company.

At the time the family was living in London but, with the boys aged four and six, they decided to look outside of the capital for a home that was a reasonable commute away for Duncan’s work. The obvious choice was to head back to East Anglia and Ipswich, at about an hour and 10 minutes away by train (usually), was perfect. With the London home sold in five days, the family was in its Ipswich home within 12 weeks.

Livi set up Sorting Out Suffolk in the spring of 2018.

Before. Picture: Livi JohnBefore. Picture: Livi John

“I was reading an article about a the APDO (The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers) and I realised for the first time that it was an actual ‘thing’. I have always been able to get people sorted.”

She has long been known among her friends as the one with the practical answers. She is famous for her informal strand: “Top Tips from Livi,” and she continues to collect good ideas and solutions. Her idea for a business fermented in May. As it needed little initial outlay, Livi knew it was worth a go. As for business assets? “I’m the asset,” she says with a smile.

“I want people to take control of their lives and space. You have to work with the client − you can’t make the decisions (about what to keep and what to dispose of) for them. I sort stuff into piles and they work through it.

“I have noticed that over the time I am with them, their decision-making process accelerates.”

Spare bedroom after. Picture: Livi JohnSpare bedroom after. Picture: Livi John

De-cluttering is more than chucking out, re-purposing and donating to charity shops, however. There can be a real shift in perception. “It is as if I am giving them permission to let go of things,” says Livi.

“People realise (clutter) is making their minds fuzzy.”

She admits: “I hate cleaning but there is a massive difference between cleaning and being tidy and organised.”

For example, Livi is very clear that “nothing is allowed in the loft unless it’s seasonal.” Like Christmas decorations? “Like Christmas decorations,” she confirms.

One of Livi's favourite quotes. Picture: Livi JohnOne of Livi's favourite quotes. Picture: Livi John

An aversion to cleaning certainly chimes with me but I inwardly acknowledge it wouldn’t be such a chore if I was tidy and/or organised. Where do you start?

“You find the room that is holding the rest of the rooms back − the one where everything tends to go, or where there’s the biggest clutter. Start by tackling small chunks.

“I recently made a decision that the CDs in a box under the bed had to go. You shouldn’t keep things ‘just in case’.”

As a part of her service, Livi takes away everything that needs to be recycled, taken to a charity shop (she uses the St Elizabeth’s Hospice shop) or dumped.

One client who had her dressing room uncluttered, said that after Livi made a massive pile of discarded items in the hall, “I didn’t give it another thought.”

Another happy client wrote: “I’m beyond thrilled with the results of the SOS clear out that I booked because one-month on its all still tidy and completely organised. Can’t quite believe it.

“I’ve booked in more so I can go through the whole house and not have to worry about what I do with all the stuff. I’m forever grateful because years of bad habits can actually be sorted out and I can live in the home I want to live in.”

Livi sums up: “Once you start people off they go and do the rest of the house themselves. The mindset changes.”

• If you need help with down-sizing, de-cluttering or similar projects Livi can be reached on her mobile: 07966 523315 You can also go on Livi’s Facebook page: Sorting out Suffolk

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