Monday, 30 October 2017

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 and disorganisation is a much more common, debilitating and potentially life-changing problem than you might think. 

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.

I regularly hear of people who feel so anxious or embarrassed about their 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.

And it might not even be your own clutter that causes heartache or health problems - it might belong to a loved one or friend.

So how to ask for help? 

It's common to sometimes feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about going to a GP, especially if we don't know how to start a conversation about lumps, bumps or problems with bodily functions.

And then there's the predicament about how to start a conversation about symptoms that may affect our minds rather than our bodies, like feeling anxious, having obsessive thoughts or not being able to cope with life in general.  

Which is why this new ice-breaker form will help overcome the awkwardness of not knowing where to start the conversation about health problems related to extreme clutter, hoarding and disorganisation.   The idea is that people download and complete the form and present it to their GP, or other medical professional. 

GPs assess and treat patients all the time for conditions which can make organising difficult, such as:

According to the 2014 annual health survey for England, one in four adults has been diagnosed with a mental illness at some stage during their lifetime.

By 2018 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 the list of mental health disorders, although only specialists will be able to diagnose it.  

I heard about a case recently 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 all the boxes except one.

It's estimated that between 2%-6% of the population exhibit hoarding behaviour:
  • Acquire and fail to disguard possessions which appear to be useless or of limited value
  • Have clutter which is so severe that it prevents or precludes the use of living spaces for what they were designed for
  • Have clutter which causes significant distress or impairment for the individual and family members.
And in England* The Care Act 2014 classifies hoarding as self-neglect.  Which means GPs and any agencies coming into contact with hoarders have a duty of care to report patients exhibiting hoarding behaviours to the local authority, so that it can be investigated by its Safeguarding team.
*There may be slightly different arrangements for Scotland and Wales

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.  Which is why the ice-breaker 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 (previously known as a Home Fire Safety visit) and discuss things with the resident such as emergency evacuation plans and fit free smoke detectors.

Which makes it even more important that people whose health is affected by clutter, disorganisation or hoarding visit their GP and use this new form to ask for help. 

I must thank OCD-UK for kindly giving me permission to use the format of a similar ice-breaker that they devised for people worried about opening up about their OCD.

My vision is that GPs will learn about and recommend the services of specialist practitioners (working in conjunction with other agencies) to those who suffer with the conditions outlined above, or are at risk of going on to have mental illnesses as a result of the perceived stigma and shame that many people still sadly associate with living in a cluttered or disorganised home.

So, 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.

Do please let me know how you get on using the form, and what kind of response you get from your GP.  

                     Thank you.

Originally published July 2015 - updated May 2017

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Someone once asked me about what training I've done. So, here are some examples of the main Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training and events I've attended or books I've read since 2014.

July 2017

June 2017
  • Attended "The Autism Show" in London
May 2017

April 2017
  • Started working with Surrey County Council to produce a Hoarding Protocol
  • Attended Emotional Resilience for Practitioners training (Changing Lifecourse Training & Coaching)
February 2017
  • Attended a fascinating talk on Anxiety and ASD by Laura Kerbey of The Curly Hair Project, based on the excellent book "Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety" by Alis Rowe

April 2016
  • Ran a facilitated discussion on "How clutter affects health, and how to ask for help" at Newbury Hoarding Disorders Self-Help Support Group
  • Read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever" by Marie Kondo.  My verdict? Take from it what you think might work for you.  It's unlikely to make much of an immediate difference to people who exhibit hoarding behaviours or suffer with mental health problems.
March 2016 
  • Attended Autism Spectrum Conditions training (Surrey County Council Training Team)

  • Ran a workshop on "How to ask for help if clutter or disorganisation affects your health" at the annual conference of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers - APDO Conference, London

Nov 2015
  • Attended Self-Neglect Awareness training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
Oct 2015
  • Attended Safeguarding Awareness training (Surrey County Council Skills Academy)
Sept 2015
  • Attended Making Safeguarding Personal - Care Act briefing training (Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board)
June 2015
May 2015    
  • Attended Training - Meeting the needs of Learners with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Conditions in the Classroom - Level 3, ongoing (Positive Autism Support & Training)
  • Attended Emotion Gyms with a client (First Steps Surrey/Virgin Care/NHS)
    • Communication & Assertiveness 
    • Self Esteem
    • Anxiety
  • Co-trainer - Hoarding Behaviour Awareness Training for Surrey Family Support Services (Empathic Decluttering)
  • Attended Emotion Gyms (with clients) - (NHS Virgin Care) - Mary Frances Trust, Leatherhead
    • Communication & Assertiveness (NHS Virgin Care) - Leatherhead
    • Self-Esteem 
    • Anxiety
Apr 2015

Mar 2015
  • Attended Mental Capacity Act-Awareness Training (Surrey County Council)
  • Attended Hoarding, Safety & Ethics for Professional Organisers training (Yourganize)
  • Attended Dementia Friend training (Dementia Friends)
  • Presented a workshop on Hoarding and The Care Act 2014 at the Annual APDO Conference, London
Feb 2015
  • Attended Care Act 2014 training – An Overview (Central Training)

Jan 2015
  • Attended a CPD Event - Standardisation & CPD meeting of Prevention, Protection & Safety functions subject matter experts (Fire Service College)

Dec 2014
  • Attended Mental Health First Aid Standard training (MHFA), Kingston

Nov 2014
  • Co-trainer of Hoarding Awareness Training for Professional Organisers (Clouds End CIC)
  • Attended Motivational Interviewing training (Central Training, London)
  • Attended Working with Hard-to-Engage Service Users training (Central Training)

Oct 2014

Sep 2014

Jun 2014

Mar 2014
  • Attended Understanding Chronic Disorganization session at APDO conference (Yourganize)

Memberships & Committees


Saturday, 20 May 2017

"Understanding Hoarding" - by Jo Cooke

"Understanding Hoarding" by Jo Cooke is the first book of its kind in the UK that''s been written by a British author (most of the other books about hoarding have originated in the US).

If, like me, your life has been touched or changed by hoarding behaviours and you'd like to understand more about it, then I encourage you to invest in this book - it's been compared to the international works of Steketee, Frost et al, all of whom are experts and published authors on the subject.

Jos' book is easy to read, sensitively written, empathetic and practical, and includes contributions and case studies from hoarders themselves, families of hoarders, professional practitioners, the Fire & Rescue Service and others.

Jo Cooke of
Hoarding Disorders UK CIC
Jo's insight into the world of hoarding comes as a result of being the daughter of a hoarder - as am I.  

It lead her to eventually set up a specialist social enterprise called Hoarding Disorders UK CIC (Community Interest Company) based in Newbury, Berkshire, as well as two (currently) hoarding support groups.

I hadn't read the book prior to it being launched, and have been absolutely delighted by it - it really does live up to one of the reviews on Amazon, written within only two days of the book being published:

"The definitive book on understanding hoarding.   It is both an easy read and beautifully written. It will become the bible for people affected by hoarding. Hoarders themselves, families of hoarders, and people that come into contact with hoarders such as social workers, housing officers, the fire services and many others.

As well as addressing what is hoarding and why people hoard it gives good advice on decluttering and sustainability.

Jo writes in an easy style with a great deal of commonsense, knowledge and passion.Everything you need to know is in this book, the complete guide."  

Very sadly many children of hoarders fall out with their parents; the stuff can tear resentful families apart.

I wish it had been available as I was growing up, so that I could have learned what might be behind my controlling father's habits.  It would have given me the knowledge to look beyond the stuff and work towards developing a stronger and more emotionally rewarding relationship with him. 

In later life he developed Alzheimer's, which made caring for him (and then clearing out his house once he'd died) a time consuming, financially draining and emotional roller coaster of a journey.

Jo very kindly invited me to contribute to "Understanding Hoarding", and has even credited me in the acknowledgement at the beginning, for which I'm truly grateful!  

So I must thank some very special people, without whom my contributions to the book would not have been possible.

Firstly, my client Peter - for allowing me to tell his story.  Next, Sheena Crankson and Felix Pring of FAST Minds ADHD Support Group in Kingston-upon-Thames - for their support in helping me create the diagram (below) for the book.  

It's designed to give people an insight into the thought processes of the ADHD Brain in the context of organising, clutter, disorganisation and hoarding, and has been well received by people with ADHD.

The day after "Understanding Hoarding" was published, a lady who has the condition (as do members of her family) asked if it would be OK to take it to school to show the teachers, to help them understand how difficult and debilitating it can be to have ADHD/ADD.

Members of my local ADHD support group were very excited to see the difficulties they have with clutter and disorganisation shown in picture form (because pictures paint a thousand words).

Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC (founder of the first social enterprise in England specialising in hoarding behaviours) has been a great mentor and friend on my personal and professional development journey, and has also made an invaluable contribution to Jo's book.

And finally, I must thank my late parents - without whom I would not be writing this blog now.

I will always be grateful to Jo Cooke for allowing me to contribute to her wonderful book, and for empowering readers to look at their possessions, other people's possessions and other people's lives differently.  

Because hoarding isn't about the stuff, it's about the people.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Cherry Rudge & Rainbow Red in the media & newsletters

Cherry Rudge - owner of Rainbow Red - is a pioneer in the UK decluttering and organising industry, and has been raising awareness of the importance of using an holistic, client-centred, empathetic, non-judgemental, non-confrontational, motivational approach to help people affected by clutter since 2011.

Positions held
Here are a few examples of where you'll find her mentioned in newspapers, magazines, articles or interviews:

May 2017
Thanked for her contribution on the acknowledgement page of Jo Cooke's brilliant new book "Understanding Hoarding" (published by Sheldon Press).  

January 2017

Mentioned in an article by journalist Toby Walne that was published in The Mail on Sunday and The NZ Herald.

Sept 2016
Getting organised outdoors - article in House Beautiful magazine 

January 2015
Featured in Age UK Mobility's article on "How to Safely Declutter Your Home".

May 2014
Brooklands Radio - Interview - Just Women - 20-May-2014
Promoting UK Hoarding Awareness Week - attending Parliamentary launch

January 2013
House Beautiful Magazine (Feb 2013 issue) - The Big Declutter (decluttering supplement)

Brooklands Radio - Interview - Fabulous Women Show 

October 2013
Cherry's hints and tips are mentioned in an article entitled "Organising Outdoors" in House Beautiful magazine.

November 2012
apdo-uk Newsletter - getting organised for Christmas

Healthy Planet (charity) - Stuff For Free Event - North London (Waltham Forest) 24-Nov

October 2012
Surrey Today - 18-Oct - Transition Ashtead helping people clear out for Christmas

apdo-uk Newsletter - office organisation

July 2012
apdo-uk Blog - What does it take to get you motivated enough to declutter and get organised?

June 2012
apdo-uk Newsletter - L of a lesson to beat moving day hell

April 2012
Anxiety UK (charity) website - Announcing partnership with apdo-uk

March 2012
Snapshot from the YouTube video showing Cherry (APDO's then Marketing & Partnerships Officer) addressing attendees at their annual conference.

February 2012
Serene Healing Blog - Feng Shui & "Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management"

March 2011
Radio Wey interview on The Wonderful Wacky Wireless Radio Show - Carers Week

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Why Rainbow Red?

People often ask me why I named my business Rainbow Red.  Well, there are various parts to my answer:

  1. I love rainbows
  2. I love colourful things
  3. I wanted my logo to have an uplifting symbol that makes people smile, and gives hope
  4. Red happens to be my favourite colour
  5. Cherries are red (all sorts of different shades of red)
  6. In colour-therapy, red is considered to be a balancing/grounding colour that is supposed to give courage and strength

Hand on heart I promise I had no idea at the time of all the other connections that rainbows have!  Amongst other things:

  1. The rainbow is a symbol of people who are lesbiangaybisexual, transgender or questioning (their sexuality)/queer (LGBTQ) pride and LGBT social movement
  2. The rainbow-colored infinity symbol (right) is often used as a symbol for the diversity of the autism spectrum as well as neurodiversity in general.
    1. Note:  I now believe that a large proportion of my older clients have undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC)
  3. Junior Girlguides are called Rainbows
  4. There's a fab UK children's charity called the Rainbow Trust
  5. hard rock heavy metal band - not really my cup of tea! 

And then, of course, there's the fab tv show called Rainbow that was a childhood favourite from the 1970s! 

So I'll stick to the association with uplifting rather than ear-splitting images/things if you don't mind, and leave you with a photo taken today at Hampton Court Palace after my husband and I had proudly walked round the gardens to see all 15 fabulous unearthed gnomes (I helped create Umbriel of the Tiltyard, with my friends from the Fastminds and Unique ADHD Groups) - the best way to end a superb day!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Live alone? Worried about being buried by clutter and no one knowing you're unwell, or worse...?

If you live alone and don't have many friends, who would know if something happened to you?  

If an accident occurred and you died at home alone, what state would your body be in by the time someone found you?  

Sadly, for some people, such as the elderly with no family or friends, or those who isolate themselves from social interaction - including some hoarders and those with issues relating to Autism and neuro-diversity - the answers to these questions can be painful to hear, and decidedly unpleasant for the rescuers if the scenario came true. 

Add this to the conscious and unconscious anxiety that often goes along with having heaps of stuff ("what shall we do with it? I don't want it to go to waste; it might come in handy one day so I shouldn't get rid of it"), and the result can be a melt-down which causes people to freeze with fear, and end up doing nothing.

So how CAN people reduce the risk of all this happening?
Here are a few options which could reduce the amount of time that might go by before an alarm was raised about a person's wellbeing and location.

Cultivate a friendly neighbour
Maybe have an agreement with a friendly neighbour, postman or firefighter or police officer whereby if your curtains aren’t pulled back by a certain time each day, they phone you or knock on your door to check you’re OK.
  • You may want to make it a reciprocal arrangement and give them a key, as my elderly father did with his elderly neighbour, supporting each other.
  • A firefighter or police officer might be a good person to befriend, as it would probably be they who would be the ones authorised to break in if nobody else has a key, or knows the code for a key safe

Phone call check-ups
CareCalls is a telephone reassurance call service where - for just £3 per week - you can get up to 4 automated phone calls per day, seven days per week.  And if they don’t respond someone else (who you nominate – preferably with a key to your property) is informed.  
  • I can’t vouch for them personally (yet), but it seems a great idea
  • If you’re often out and about (including holidays), choose a time for the calls that would suit your schedule. 
AgeUK also offers a “Call in Time” service, where you get to actually talk with someone, although that’s primarily for people over 60.

Neighbourhood Watch/religion/culture watch
Perhaps ask your local Neighbourhood Watch group, local religious or cultural group for some advice or support.

Lions Club Message in a Bottle
I organise for all my elderly or vulnerable clients who live at home alone to have a LionsClub Message in a Bottle (usually available from local community or day care centres).  

The idea of the scheme is that people entering your home in case of an emergency have access to personal information about you, such as Next of Kin and what medication you’re on.

Legal stuff - Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) & Will
Appointing an Attorney to act on your behalf if something happened to you would ensure someone can make decisions about your affairs (health and wellbeing, finance and property) if you are incapacitated (ie. not dead but unwell – eg. had a serious stroke).  

Crucially, a solicitor can act as an Attorney, which could be appropriate for anyone who doesn’t have any close relatives or friends who could act on their behalf.

Here’s a link to some information about LPA's on the Government’s website.

Consult a solicitor to create a Will; this will ensure that your funeral and disposal of assets are carried out according to your wishes.

Fit a Telecare System
Having done Surrey Fire & Rescue Service's excellent Dementia training, we're massive fans of Telecare systems.

They provide a 24-hour emergency call system, which empowers people to live independently in their own home, safe in the knowledge that help is at hand at the touch of a button.
The equipment is easy to install and consists of a small base unit linked to your telephone socket and a pendant trigger, which can be worn discreetly around a resident's neck or wrist.  They can simply press a button in an emergency and an alarm call will be sent to their alarm centre, which is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Consult your local authority for details of your local scheme.

Safe & Well Check (also known as a Home Fire Safety Check)
Reduce the risk of fires in your home, by speaking to your local Fire & Rescue Service about them visiting to carry out a Safe & Well (Home Fire Safety) check.

The visits focus on three key areas:
·       Identify and be aware of the potential fire risks within your home.
·       Know what to do in order to reduce or prevent these risks.
·       Put together an escape plan in case a fire does break out and ensure you have working smoke alarms.

The inspection of your home is not as intrusive as it sounds. The Fire & Rescue Service will visit your home, sit down and talk to you about fire safety issues in your home covering areas such as electrical safety, smoking safety and the use of electric blankets.

Then, with your permission, they’ll look at the various rooms within your home paying particular attention to areas such as overloads plug sockets or wires trapped under carpets. They will also ensure that doors shut correctly and advise you of any remedial work that they feel may be in order for you to become safer within your home. You are welcome to ask any questions that you feel you need answering in respect of your home safety. They will also run through an escape plan if you do not already have one.

In addition to the above, you may qualify for free smoke alarms to be fitted within your home. The Fire & Rescue Service will carry this out completely free of charge and can fit them in a matter of minutes, ensuring you are safer from the moment they leave.

Ask a trusted person to help you declutter your piles
Areas of your home that attract mountains of clutter (like newspapers) can become a death trap if avalanches occur. 

A declutter buddy must be empathetic, non-judgemental and have your best interests in mind, rather than their own agenda. 

And if you can’t find a declutter-buddy to help you, there’s bound to be a professional organiser nearby who can.  Find one here.  Not all of them work have experience of working with hoarders or people with mental health problems, so be choosy and do ask lots of questions until you feel comfortable you’ve found the right person.

Use the ice-breaker form
If any or all of this becomes just too overwhelming and makes you feel ill or at your wits end, fear not - all is not lost. 

Download and complete this ice-breaker form, to start up a conversation with your GP or other medical practitioner to ask for help.  If it doesn’t say exactly what you want to say, don’t worry – nothing is perfect; write on it and play around with the words until it says what you want it to say. 

Find out more about it here.

It’ll be a starting point that will give you something to talk about, and could mean that if something happens, you won’t be alone in your home - lost amongst the piles - for too long before help arrives.

Do please let us know how you get on.

First published July 2015 - updated June 2016