Breaking the clutter
A big, comfy sofa takes up the larger share of Shelina Jokhiya’s living room. It’s the “best buy ever”, she happily says.
SORTED: Shelina recommends using boxes, baskets and jars to segregate and store your stuff—and yes, label them so you can find things easily later
Do you have too many things at home you don’t know what to do with? You are not alone: most of us have a hoarding streak and live with clutter in our lives. Shelina Jokhiya, of Decluttr Me, tells mary paulose how we can dump the habit
A big, comfy sofa takes up the larger share of Shelina Jokhiya’s living room. It’s the “best buy ever”, she happily says. Clearly, she doesn’t &believe in the mantra of minimalism — despite running Decluttr Me, a Dubai-based professional decluttering service. “It’s [minimalism] just not feasible,” she explains. “You can do it to a certain degree, but if you look at homes or apartments that are minimally done up, they’re not friendly or homely. They’re just cold and sparse.”
Shelina started Decluttr Me in 2013 — after years of being a lawyer. “I’ve always been very organised, and my best friend and I thought of a ‘decluttering’ business back home in England, about 15 years ago, but didn’t have the confidence or knowledge to set up a business then.” But after moving to the UAE a decade ago, and working in various legal and compliance capacities, the opportunity beckoned again when she realised that professional organisers, common in the UK and the US, weren’t around here. “I researched and found there’s no one doing it here, but there’s a market for it — so that was it.”
Post some smart social media positioning and exposure, Shelina got her first client in Dubai the week after she quit her job. Since then, over two years, she’s worked mostly on homes and with private clients, and a few corporate houses as well.
The secret of her success is a kind of “superpower that lets me see a room or space, and envision the end result, after the decluttering process!”
Cutting out the Clutter
So why is “decluttering” even a thing? Clearing out the inessentials in one’s room or home should be a couple of hours’ task, you’d think. “Well, you’d be surprised. It should be, but many people don’t even know where to start.”
She says she has to pick her battles, literally, with clients. Some of them will refuse to get rid of stuff; there’s also the anxiety of ‘what if I need this later on?’ Things like menus, that we tend to collect, can be found online, so they’re easy to discard. But there’s also the stuff that we’re emotionally attached to.
She can’t push a client too much to get rid of stuff they’re reluctant to let go of. But the bottomline of Shelina’s work boils down to this: you don’t have to declutter at one go; do it in small chunks, and don’t do it in one day if you don’t have to; make small sections to clear up and work on them gradually, one at a time.
Living in the UAE, one grapples with the problem of plenty. A transient expat life, a consumerist culture and the age of disposable living means we accumulate easily, without a thought, and way more than our real needs. “I had one client who would buy the same T-shirt he liked in five different colours, and he had a room full of clothes — a man having a walk-in closet is not something you see often, but you couldn’t walk in, which is why he needed my help!”
Another client had two bedrooms full of clothes. “We took two days to declutter and, by the end of it, there were three bin liners full of clothes, which she gave away to charity. If your clothes don’t fit or are no longer fashionable, just give them away!” advises Shelina.
With “hoarder” clients, she does long-term decluttering, like two hour sessions every month, and she imparts training on how to be organised.
“Decluttering ultimately makes you feel lighter, relieves a lot of pressure, and makes you more productive, bec-ause you can find things much easier in the house. How many of us spend precious minutes just looking for car keys? Clutter can take over your life, and people don’t realise it till they get rid of it. The effect can be felt immediately.”
For corporate clients, Shelina streamlines everything from paperwork to office spaces and employees’ desks, even offering training sessions on keeping work spaces and desks clean.
“Paper is a big problem here, and many companies have kept files and paperwork back from the 80s and 90s even.” Shelina liaises with document management companies to help decide what can be discarded and what can be organised. “If you spend money putting the systems into place, you actually end up saving money in the long run.”
Initially, her job description of “professional decluttering expert” raised many eyebrows, but her legal background helps, Shelina says, in being taken seriously. “It does give me more clout, and now people know this is not some glorified maid’s job. I didn’t &suddenly drop everything in my life to become a declutter expert.” Best-selling author Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever has made Shelina’s work more recognisable and accepted too.
Living out here, it’s impossible to be minimal and stay away from shopping, she says, but choose the right time to declutter. “If you buy something, take something out. It’s that simple.”
Shelina’s Sort-Out List 1. Review the Clutter
Look at the clutter and assess whether you need it in your life. Have you used it in the last six months? If no, why not donate or sell it to give you some space?
2. Take Action
Sort through the clutter and put them into piles: trash, sell, swap, donate or keep.
3. Make Some Money
Split the “sell” pile into items you can sell online, sell at a flea market, or sell to specialist stores. If you are selling online, use the following apps and sites to sell to the masses:
a) Melltoo — This app can be downloaded on your phone and allows you to place your ad immediately and chat with buyers using the chat option.
b) Dubizzle — The well-known website allows you to place ads.
c) Flea Markets — There are flea markets in Dubai and Sharjah every month. You have to pay Dh270 for one table, so make sure you have a lot of items to sell, but be prepared to deal with people who want to pay Dh5-10 for your Dh200 dress!
d) Cash Converters UAE — They take your furniture items and either give you cash at pick up or after they have sold the item.
e) Reem’s Closet — This institution in Mazaya Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road has been supplying pre-loved designer gear since 2008. Worth checking out to sell your stuff.
If you would rather donate your items than make cash, there are various charities and non-profit organisations you can contact to donate. A few organisations of note are:
a) Feline Friends — This non-profit will take your books to sell at Arte Market and other events. They also hold garage sales to sell clothes and household items. All these events help to fund their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) scheme for stray cats and other ventures.
b) Dar Al Ber (Women’s Section) — They are happy to take women’s and children’s clothes as well as toys to donate to those in need.
c) Take My Junk — This Ajman-based company will take almost anything (although, not big furniture items). The items go directly to underprivileged residents in the UAE or the proceeds benefit the labour camps. The service is free, but they do ask for a donation.
d) Dubai Cares — If you have made some money selling your items and want to donate the money, Dubai Cares is one charity worth donating to. They have special initiatives, especially during Ramadan, and provide various ways for you to donate to them.
e) Bin Kitty — Bin Kitty, another non-profit organisation, are always happy to take cash donations to help them pay for TNR schemes for strays.
f) The Animal Project — This non-profit organisation collects books, clothes and household items to sell at markets/fairs. The proceeds are used to educate and inform the community about its social responsibility for animals in Dubai.
Now that you have decluttered, it’s time to get organised. Use baskets, boxes and jars to help you start organising the items in your rooms. If you need more inspiration, there are various blog posts online with tips on how to get organised at home and keep your stuff sorted.
Info Courtesy: Decluttr.me