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Friday, 25 May 2018

Rainbow Red's Privacy Policy & GDPR

25th May is a memorable date.

According to Wikipedia, in 240BC it was the first recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet.  

In 1878 Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London.  

In 1958 – Paul Weller, English singer, songwriter and musician (best known as a founder and frontman of The Jam and The Style Council) was born in Woking, Surrey (not too far from us), and in 1977 Star Wars was released in cinemas.

In 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes enforceable.

Like just about every small business in the UK, Rainbow Red has been hard at work updating its Privacy Policy to reflect our commitment to:
  • meeting our data protection obligations
  • being transparent about how we collect and use data
  • ensuring data privacy is protected

By the very nature of our industry, we often have access to very personal information, and value the trust that clients have in us to respect their need for privacy and confidentiality.

Our Privacy Policy sets out:
  1. What GDPR is
  2. Who is responsible for information we hold
  3. What data we collect
  4. How we collect and process it lawfully
  5. Why we collect and process your personal data
  6. What it is used for
  7. How it is kept safe
  8. How long it is retained for
  9. How we dispose of it
  10. What would happen to the information if the company were sold or shut down
  11. How we ask for your consent to be contacted using your existing data, and how you can opt out of being contacted by us
  12. Your legal rights regarding the data we hold about you
  13. How you can contact us with queries, requests for changes or complaints

Please CLICK HERE to read Rainbow Red's Privacy Policy.

Rainbow Red may change this policy from time to time by updating this document, and will announce these changes via Rainbow Red’s Blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.  There will also be a link to our Privacy Policy in our emails, and our Terms and Conditions document.

Rainbow Red has been in business since 2011, and we've communicated with an awful lot of people since then - which means we have accumulated an awful lot of data!  

We are currently busy working to dispose of information that does not comply with our revised Privacy Policy.

In addition, GDPR requires us to ask you whether you would like us to keep in touch with you (and hang onto your data), and if so how and how often.  

As there's only a VERY small team of us, we still have a lot of people to contact to ask for consent to retain their information, which means it could take some time before we get to you.  

So thank you for your patience!

Meanwhile, click HERE for a link to Rainbow Red's Pinterest Boards where you'll find all sorts of info about Data Protection & GDPR, plus loads of other helpful Hints & Tips on all manner of decluttering, organising and health-related topics.

Finally, to brighten your day, click HERE for a fun little video that might help make GDPR feel less stressful - enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Our Adventures in San Francisco for the 18th International Conference on Hoarding & Cluttering

2018 is turning into one heck of a memorable year!  

So far this year I've attended "Organising Matters" - the Annual conference of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO), plus two conferences on hoarding - one in San Francisco and the other London - and am very much looking forward to a third in Edinburgh in October

Plus our Level 1 Professional Hoarding Practitioner training course has just been launched - starting in July 2018, with more training to follow.

Selfie on the plane
Just after APDO's conference in March, Jo Cooke (of Hoarding Disorders UK CIC), Heather Matuozzo (of Clouds End CIC) and I flew off to San Francisco, full of excitement for our adventure!

Click here for an account that we wrote for APDO's newsletter (The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers), outlining the training and conference part of our trip.

The Berkeley City Club Hotel turned out to be the perfect place to stay, as it's less than a 10 minute walk to the conference venue (the University of California Berkeley), and about a 10-15 minute walk to the local Bart train station.   The line goes straight into the City, and it's easy to get from there to the airport too, with only one change.

The ''Little Castle'' was designed by the architect Julia Morgan, and founded in 1927 as The Berkeley Women's City Club. and is a Berkeley City and California State Historical Landmark.  

It has THE most amazing swimming pool, which opens from 5am - perfect for early-bird Jo!

Highlights of the trip for me included:
  • Spending a week in the company of two of the most gorgeous and compassionate women I have ever had the privilege of meeting
  • Not only did we have fabulous fun every single day, the three of us got to talk for an entire week amongst ourselves and with others (who are as passionate as us) about how we can help, support and raise awareness of the dilemas faced by people affected by extreme clutter, disorganisation or hoarding - how great was that?!
  • Meeting the amazing Hilary' Kacser and being mightily impressed by her memorable opening one-woman keynote performance of DisordR, The Play - a moving account of some of PakRat Patty's experiences as a hoarder
  • The pre-conference training by Dr Michael Tompkins, author of “Digging Out” and “The Clinician’s Guide to Severe Hoarding – A Harm Reduction"
  • Learning that the UK is actually ahead of the USA in some respects relating to hoarding.  For example, we have a National Hoarding Awareness Week, whereas campaigns are far more regionalised in the USA
  • Spending quality time with some wonderful folks from the US who are all doing amazing work helping people affected by hoarding (and raising awareness of the issues associated with this debilitating subject), including Marnie Matthews of The Clutter Movement, Eileen Dacey of North Shore Elder Services (near Boston, MA); Christa Tipton of NASWCA Technology Council & Orange County Task Force on Hoarding and Jette Selberg from the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Getting my photo taken with the compulsory hippy flowers in my hair - well, Berkeley was where the movement started, so it had to be done! (thank you Jette for being so thoughtful!)
  • Visiting the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco
  • Catching one of the famous cable cars (in the pouring rain!), and having a yummy meal in China Town
  • Strolling around art galleries in Oakland 
  • Enjoying eating our way around the World, with delicious food from places like Japan, Korea, Mexico, USA, China, Burma and Eritraea - to name but a few!
  • The fabulous in-flight service from Virgin Atlantic - especially coming home!
Jo, Hilary, Heather, Cherry
So, it's now time to start planning our trip for the next conference.  Sadly I've just missed the 4th Annual Hoarding of Animals Conference in Danvers, Massachusetts (which would have been fascinating), but watch out San Francisco, we'll definitely be back!
Heather, Dr Michael A. Tompkins, Cherry, Jo
Marnie, Cherry, Christa, Jette, Jo, Heather, Eileen

Monday, 14 May 2018

Professional Hoarding Practitioner Training - developing the next generation

We're SO excited to be launching our new PROFESSIONAL HOARDING PRACTITIONER training at The National Hoarding Conference on Monday 14th May, at the start of Hoarding Awareness Week 2018 
Cherry Rudge (founder of Rainbow Red and creator of the Hoarding Ice-Breaker Form) is delighted to once again have joined forces with fellow pioneering hoarding expert Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC, to create specialist training designed to develop the next generation of Professional Hoarding Practitioners.

This time we're absolutely thrilled to be joined by fellow Hoarding Practitioner Specialist
Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK CIC, author of the go-to book "Understanding Hoarding".

Our new Level One course builds on the historical and highly successful Hoarding Awareness Training that was run for Members of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers back in 2014.  Here's what people said about it:

"The 'Working with Hoarders' training day today in Reigate was brilliant! Thank you both Cherry and Heather (and Andy and Vassoulla). I feel my understanding of my work is improved whether I eventually work with serious hoarding or not."

"Very insightful and I believe a must for everybody working with hoarders or contemplating to do so.  
What a brilliant day!   Thanks so much." 

Thanks Heather and Cherry - found it very useful, not least as it really brought home what 
working with hoarders might involve."

Our Level One training another a one day course, once again designed to give professional practitioners an insight into the types of challenges that are likely to be faced when working with people affected by extreme clutter.  

Topics include:

  • Identifying the traits of hoarders
  • Hoarding disorder - mental illness & other health challenges
  • Conducting interviews and assessments & report writing
  • Introducing the Clutter Image Rating Scale
  • Information from the Fire & Rescue Service about:
    • Fire safety and how to prevent fires in the home
    • Safe and Well visits (formerly known as Home Fire Safety visits), and follow-up actions
  • Legal aspects including The Care Act 2014
  • Safeguarding and Self-Neglect
  • Social housing and Hoarding Taskforces / working with multiple-agencies
  • Social Services, direct payments, etc
  • Eviction and re-housing
  • Practical challenges – getting rid of stuff, short-term storage, etc
  • Hoarder support and self-help groups
  • Safeguarding ourselves as Professional Practitioners

By the end of the day, attendees will have a better understanding of some of the complexities they’d be letting themselves in for by working with people who live with extreme amounts of clutter, and be better placed to decide whether it makes sense for them personally, or for their business. 

Our aim is to build a community of professional friends and colleagues who follow common best practices when working with people affected by hoarding behaviours, and support each other through what can be challenging and sometimes emotionally draining experiences. 

Cherry, Heather and Jo are all Accredited as trainers by The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and NCFE.

Cost:  £300, including refreshments and lunch, plus a FREE one hour mentoring session. 
          10% discount available to APDO members.

Dates & Venues:   

  • London
    • Wednesday 11th July 2018 - Wimbledon
    • Other dates to be confirmed
  • Birmingham 
    • Dates to be confirmed
  • Leeds 
    • Dates to be confirmed
To book or for more information, please contact Jo Cooke:

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Is clutter affecting your health or wellbeing, or both? Then fill in this form and take it to your GP

Feeling unwell, overwhelmed or at the end of our tether because of clutter, disorganisation or hoarding is a much more common, debilitating and potentially life-changing problem than you might think. 

Chronic Disorganisation 
Chores that some people find easy can be a nightmare for others - like filing paperwork, time-keeping, meal-planning, money management or quickly finding things that have been put away in that safe place - so safe you can't remember where it is! 

Juggling a busy lifestyle or having to cope with expected or unexpected life events doesn't help, and add to that an existing health condition - or one that you may not even know you have - and it can become overwhelming and a recipe for disaster.

We regularly hear of people who feel so anxious or embarrassed about their chronically disorganised homes that they won't allow people in - even when they have no heating, hot water or electricity, and are in desperate need of help and support from trades people such as plumbers, electricians or heating engineers.

It can affect a person's health, their relationships and their ability to function normally - in their home, in their personal life and sometimes at work too.

Hoarding behaviours
And then there's the more extreme end of the clutter spectrum - hoarding behaviours - which involves three main problems:
  • Excessive and compulsive acquisition of items - some of which may appear to be useless or of limited value to many people
  • Extreme difficulty letting them go 
  • Having so many possessions that it prevents or precludes the use of living spaces for what they were designed for

By 2019 the NHS and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which is sponsored by the Department of Health) are likely to have added Hoarding Disorder to their list of diagnosable mental health disorders, although only specialists will be able to diagnose it.  

It's estimated that between 2%-6% of the population exhibit hoarding behaviour.  And in England* The Care Act 2014 classifies hoarding as potentially being self-neglect. Which means GPs and agencies coming into contact with hoarders should report patients exhibiting hoarding behaviours who are self-neglecting to the local authority, so that it can be investigated by the local Safeguarding team.

*There may be slightly different arrangements for Scotland and Wales

It's often concern over a loved one or friend who exhibits these behaviours that causes heartache or health problems, as they are at their wits end to know how to help them change, especially as excessive amounts of clutter creates high safety risks, not only for the people living in a property, but also neighbours and public safety services such as the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) who get called out in the event of an emergency.  

When someone's safety, health or wellbeing is affected, it's time to take action.
The ice-breaker form helps people overcome the awkwardness or embarrassment of not knowing where to start the conversation about health problems related to extreme clutter, hoarding and disorganisation.   

It's important to note that GPs assess and treat patients all the time for conditions which can make organising difficult, such as:

Click here to download a list of examples of some of the medical conditions and other contributory factors that may be encountered when working with people who have clutter, chronic disorganisation or hoarding issues.

So how do you ask for help using the Ice-Breaker form? 
The idea is that people download the ice-breaker formtick the relevant boxes and present it to their GP, or other medical professional. 

The Ice-Breaker form can be downloaded from these websites
We're delighted that our friends at the following organisations have kindly endorsed the use of the form, which can be downloaded from their websites:
  • Hoarding UK - the UK charity for people affected by hoarding, and organiser of the UK's first National Hoarding Conference in May 2018
  • Help for Hoarders - a website for compulsive hoarders and their families 
  • Clouds End CIC - the UK's first social enterprise for helping hoarders, founded by hoarding campaigner Heather Matuozzo, who was a consultant to the BBC for their 2012 and 2013 documentaries, “Britain’s Biggest Hoarders” (the 2012 documentary won the MIND Media award).
  • Hoarding Disorders UK CIC - a Berkshire-based Community Interest Company co-founded by Jo Cooke, author of the insightful and compassionate go-to book "Understanding Hoarding" that has deservedly received numerous 5* reviews on Amazon.
  • Life-Pod Clutter Management CIC - a Scottish social enterprise founded by pioneering chronic disorganisation and hoarding behaviour specialist and trainer Linda Fay - organiser of the International Hoarding Conference in Edinburgh in October 2018
  • Hoarding Awareness Week - the annual event (originally started by the Chief Fire Officers Association in 2014) to raise awareness of hoarding and reduce the stigmas associated with it.
The ice-breaker can be used to start a conversation about yourself or someone you're worried about if your health has been affected, and includes tick-box statements like:
   It’s hard for me/them to talk about this
   I/they feel alone and need support
   Other people don’t seem to understand
I/they feel distressed, and/or indecisive about what to do to make things better
I’ve/They’ve become secretive/ withdrawn about this situation
   My/their self-confidence/self-esteem is very low
   I/they feel very uncomfortable about/reluctant to change
   It can be hard for me/them to live normally/work/study/travel/pay bills/make or keep friendships and relationships
   I/they have been notified by the Local Authority/my Landlord/other agency that action will be taken if I/they don’t do something soon (explain which agency – eg. bank, landlord, Environmental Health, Family Liaison, boss, etc)
   Family/friends/neighbours have taken (or have threatened to take) matters into their own hands
   I/they don’t feel I/they have anyone to talk to who would actively listen empathetically and/or non-judgementally to my/their concerns
   I feel out of my depth with my knowledge of how to help and/or support my relative/ friend/colleague, or myself 

And asks the Medical Professional to "Please talk me through the types of help and support that could empower me to feel better".

The form also includes an extract from the Clutter Image Rating Scale on the back, as the FRS like to know whenever Level 5 or above is reached, so they can visit and do a Safe & Well visit (also known as a Home Fire Safety visit) and discuss the risks with the resident, advise on actions that can be taken to make things safer, including emergency evacuation plans and perhaps fitting free smoke detectors.

What can the GP do to help?
Helping people whose health has been affected by chronic disorgansiation and/or hoarding is rarely a quick fix.  

Recently we heard about a case where someone (who exhibited hoarding behaviours and had all sorts of health problems due to their complex situation) had completed the ice-breaker and ticked every single box except one.

The GP used the ticked responses in the questionnaire to ask further questions about the patient's symptoms and difficulties, which gave him a better understanding of the problems the patient was facing - which included potentially being evicted.

The GP referred the patient for blood tests; prescribed treatment for various health problems; referred them for counselling for mental health problems (including anxiety and depression), and an assessment for Autism and ADHD.  And because the patient was self-neglecting they were also referred to the local Adult Safeguarding Board.  

A multi-agency team was formed, which enabled the patient to get advocacy help and support, and lead to intervention from specialist Professional Hoarding Practitioners.  

The Professional Hoarding Practitioners used an holistic and practical person-centered approach to empower the patient/client to make decisions which resulted in the number of possessions gradually being reduced, and the safety risks associated with the cluttered property being significantly reduced too - to the extent that the eviction was cancelled.  

The patient continues to have therapy and work with the multi-agency team which is supporting them. As a result, the patient's anxiety levels have reduced, their health has improved and they are now attending a hoarding support group.

Act now, before your health deteriorates any more....
If you or someone you know feels unwell as a result of clutter or disorganisation and don't know who to turn to, please don't poo-poo their difficulties and tell them to snap out of it - it's likely to make them feel worse.

Instead, why not suggest that they click here to download this simple to use ice-breaker document, fill it in and hand it to their GP at their next appointment?

Because life's too short for your health to be ruled by clutter or disorganisation.

SURVEY:  Please let me know how you get on using the Ice-Breaker form by completing this survey (click here).  

                     Thank you.

**UPDATE** Check out our stand at The National Hoarding Conference on 14th May 2018, at the start of National Hoarding Awareness Week.

Originally published July 2015 - updated May 2018

Click here to return to Rainbow Red's website

Friday, 5 January 2018

Let's Face It - a free photographic exhibition exploring facial Pareidolia & raising awareness of Autism

I met a lovely lady
Anna is her name
She had some virtual goggles on
As we played an Autism sensory game.

She's a very caring lady
And bright as bright can be
So I'm looking forward to her photo exhibition
To see what she can see.

By viewing inanimate objects
Which look like other things
And seeing the positive aspects of Autism
And the possibilities they bring.

She's reaching out in a non-verbal way
To connect and make people smile
Because communications that make you feel good 
Make life so much more enjoyable and worthwhile.


Anna Vaughan-Spruce's free photographic exhibition is on at the Parochial Hall, Earlswood Road, Redhill RH1 6HE from Friday 19th January (1.30pm - 3.30pm) to Saturday 20th January (11am - 3.00pm).

The event is kindly sponsored by The Henry Smith Charity (Horley), which aims to bring about lasting change to people’s lives, helping them to benefit from and contribute to society.  They achieve this by funding organisations that work with people to reduce social and economic disadvantage.  


According to Wikipedia, Pareidolia is "a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists (e.g. in random data).
Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the Man in the Moon, the Moon rabbithidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans."
Anna and I first met at The Autism Show in London in 2017 - we happened to be standing side by side wearing goggles and headphones whilst watching The National Autistic Society's brilliant virtual reality video about the challenges faced by some people on the Autism Spectrum when they go shopping.  
We instantly hit it off.  

As someone who is on the Autism Spectrum, she totally understands the need for the type of planning, organising and decluttering help offered by Rainbow Red and specialist members of APDO (The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers), and similar organisations worldwide.

Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red is delighted to have been invited to contribute to Jo Cooke’s book “Understanding Hoarding” (published by Sheldon Press in 2017), to talk about her experiences as the daughter of a hoarder.

She was a founder Member of APDO’s Hoarding Advisory Team and a member of The Chief Fire Officers Association’s Mental Health (formerly Hoarding) Working Group, and helped organise the first ever UK Hoarding Awareness Week in 2014, attending the event launch at the Houses of Parliament in London.

In 2013 Cherry became APDO’s Chair and Acting President, later stepping down from all her APDO roles in 2014 to care for her father who had Alzheimer’s. 

She became a Dementia Friend in 2015, and devised an ice-breaker form to empower people to discuss with a medical practitioner the affect that clutter, disorganisation and/or hoarding has had on their health, so that the most effective treatment and holistic recovery pathways can be signposted.

Cherry is an advisor to Surrey County Council, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, and a volunteer at FastMinds ADHD/ASD support group in Kingston-upon-Thames; she helped co-ordinate their participation in the 2016 Gnome Project at Hampton Court Palace

Cherry undertakes regular Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training to enhance the holistic services offered by Rainbow Red, and offers training and workshops to help people understand chronic disorganisation and hoarding behaviours, the types of medical and situational situations that can cause it, and techniques that can help people affected by these complex factors make decisions and take practical, sustainable control of their homes, and their lives.

For further information please contact Cherry Rudge - Phone/Text: 07931 303310 - Email:

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Challenges of clearing a hoarder's home

If you've ever had to clear out the home of a loved one after they've died, you'll understand how time consuming and emotionally draining it can be sorting out the legal red-tape stuff (probate), making decisions about what to keep, what should go where/to whom, etc.

So imagine having to do that for the home of a hoarder.

I've just done exactly that – it’s taken my family and I over two years to clear the property of my late father (who was a hoarder), visiting virtually every weekend; it’s just as well that I’m self-employed and was able to have the flexibility to fit other visits around work, and have a supportive family and professional organising and hoarding practitioner colleagues who were able to help.

Between us we've probably collectively spent over 1000 hours working on this exhausting project.

What I find incredible is that my dad’s hoarding behaviour was mild compared to what I’ve seen professionally in the homes of other hoarders.  Goodness knows how long it might take to excavate and dissect some of those homes in the event of the person passing away.

My heart goes out to family members who – like me – have to take on this challenge, and the burden of responsibility and commitment of time and energy that goes with it.

Children of hoarders worldwide who have had to do the same will no doubt relate to the following story.
There's been:
·      on average at least one trip to a charity shop or tip per week
·      umpteen bags of shredding (paperwork like car insurance documents dating back to 1952)
·      three removal vans full of unwanted furniture
·      several bonfires of furniture the charity folks won’t take
·      a stack of stuff that's been sold online (including three 1950's wooden TV sets that went to an opera school in London, a box of 1970's/80's Smurf figures that surprised us as they turned out to be quite collectable), and assorted computers from yesteryear)
·      53 original Oxo tins
·      a wash tub that turned out to be so old that it’s been donated to a museum
·      several hundred books and newspaper/magazine clippings
·      five decades of part-dismantled lawn mowers, washing machines, car parts in the garage, barn and four sheds, plus cans of oil that had been drained from cars about 30 years ago, together with assorted mechanic and DIY tools in varying degrees of rust or disintegration
·      a loft containing loads of radio transmitter equipment, vintage valves and transistors dating back to the 1950’s
·      Enough wood to build another shed!
·      LOTS of rubbish and dust!

And that’s not including:
·      the vast number of boxes containing photos, my Mum's paintings, assorted family memorabilia and yet more paperwork now stored in the loft/garage/spare rooms of various family members waiting for us to sort through over the coming months (hopefully not years….)  
·      the massive piles of assorted paraphernalia that’s been piled up in the house and garden waiting for the clearance people to deal with prior to the house being demolished because of years of neglect and disrepair

So my wonderfully supportive family’s journey (and time needed to reach a point of closure in order to finally grieve) continues....

Along the way the exercise has been likened to an archaeological dig, which is about right because of the layers of decades of paperwork, newspapers and technology we’ve found.

Occasionally people have told us “just put it all in a skip”; what they don’t realise is that the contents of every book, drawer, cupboard, box and disintegrating confetti-like carrier bag needed to be checked in case there were things like money or personal memorabilia inside. 

We would have missed all sorts of treasures, such as drawers containing money, jewellery, or family memorabilia and medals belonging to ancestors who fought at Gallipoli - which we hadn’t known about.
I count myself fortunate to a professional understanding and patience about hoarding behaviours and why I believe my father was a hoarder – because many other families aren’t able to accept and forgive when coming to terms with this debilitating disorder that can – and does - tear families apart. 

Thank goodness for specialist Professional Hoarding Practitioners like Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC and Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK (author of the excellent book “Understanding Hoarding”, that I contributed to with a story about my experiences as the daughter of a hoarder) who are skilled at working with people who exhibit hoarding behaviours, and help them reduce the amount of possessions that they own before it becomes the job/chore of family members and friends to clear a property once someone has passed away.  

They're also busy training personnel from local authorities, housing associations, charities and the next generation of Professional Organisers and Hoarding Practitioners - thank goodness, as Rainbow Red has had so many enquiries this year from people asking for help that we can't cope with the demand for our services.

So, as I'm publishing this blog on New Year's Eve, you may be wondering about my New Year’s Resolution?

It's to plough through my parent’s possessions as soon as possible, reduce the amount of my own clutter and theirs, get my own home in order and ensure that whoever ends up sorting out my belongings and affairs when I die has a quick and easy job to do. 

Hopefully this blog will be thought-provoking enough to help you think about doing the same….

Wishing you a happy, health and as clutter-free New Year as possible!