Getting into spring cleaning and tying yourself into knots of sentimentality over what to throw and what to keep? Your worries might just be over with professional 'declutterers' on hand to help cleanse your home of all the many books, clothes and sundry knick-knacks gathering dust on shelves or stored away because they have sentimental value or because you just might need them one day.
Professional declutterers, simply explained, are trained specialists who help you organise your space better, offering advice and working with you to achieve your aim of a cleaner, better organised home and not just in this Diwali season.
It's almost a science and one that is finding increasing acceptance with people struggling to balance their wants with their needs in confined urban spaces. The business is still nascent but the potential is enormous, said some of those who are leading the way.
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"Decluttering is sorting, segregating and designating a space for the things one possesses," explained Gurgaon-based decluttering coach Shivani Gulati.
"We Indians are hoarders. Most of us buy things we don't need but want. But then the space is that much only. Here, we (professionals) come into play. Earlier, most people didn't know what decluttering means, they would ask 'Aap safayi karoge?' Cleanliness is a by-product," Gulati told PTI.
She quickly changed this correspondent's note-pad from horizontal to vertical to explain her point.
"This gives more space to the table," she said, smiling.
The trained interior designer charges Rs 1,000 for an hour and has gone from no clients when she started five years ago to 20 this year. Her ultimate aim is to make people realise the importance of a "minimalist lifestyle", she said.
Media professional turned declutterer Gayatri Gandhi, also based in Gurgaon, has a different strategy. Her guide is the best-selling "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant.
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'Does it spark joy' is the only question we ask our clients. It could be a rag that is with you for past 20 years but if it makes you happy keep it, whereas if there is one t-shirt that you bought yesterday only may be from Louis Vuitton you don't like, discard it.
"This is a very positive approach, where we focus on things that we are keeping and not discarding," Gandhi said while explaining the famous KonMari method by tidying and lifestyle guru Marie Kondo.
Her company Joy Factory is the only certified KonMari consultant in India. It provides 'consultation' as well as 'wholesome decluttering' and charges Rs 2,500 per hour.
Gandhi's mantra is the C2S2 collect, choose, scrap, store technique.
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"We don't tackle clutter by rooms. We pick categories, it could be books, clothes or stationery. The trick is to pick the least sentimental one first and the emotionally loaded one last," she said.
"In one home I found they have kept a box of detergent for over 10 years just because they found it cute," said Gandhi, adding that ?patience? is sometimes a must.
Gulati agreed and shared her own anecdotes.
"Every household I visit has that one cupboard which is overflowing with things people have not used since time immemorial.
"They keep it, thinking 'Just in case'. Please, just in case is never going to be the case," she said.
The kitchen, Gandhi and Gulati agreed, is the most untidy space.
All this is still manageable, said the experts. The real challenge comes when they face the elephant in the room -- the "sentimental category", which includes photos, letters, gifts, souvenirs and keepsakes.
"There was this one client in Mumbai who knew about Marie Kondo beforehand. I thought great now I don't need to go through the initial drill of convincing her ? but since she was so attached to her items it took double the estimated time with her (24 hours)," said Gandhi.
While Gandhi, who also has clients in tier 2 cities like Pune and Indore, banks on Kondo's tried and tested "sparks joy" or not method, Gulati suggested a unique "not out-of-the-box" approach for it.
"I ask my clients to have one box or shelf for such category and keep the best of the lot in it -- like your child's best painting when he was three-years-old. And in future if they plan to add more items to that box then they have to discard some to make space for it,," she added.
The "older generation" takes longer to let go of things and hence requires more convincing.
"The older generation didn't see abundance like this generation has. Many of them have been at the receiving end of partition and so know the pain of letting go," said Gulati.
Gulati and Gandhi said it takes about a week to declutter a 3BHK home with a family of five. Most professionals work five hours a day. Some of their clients are quick learners.
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Like a Gurgaon homemaker who said her sister in London told her about decluttering specialists. She scouted around and found Gandhi.
"These girls made letting go very easy for me. I just closed my eyes and said goodbye to those things. Now, I won't be going back to these people as I can do the thing on my own now," the woman, who did not want to be identified, told PTI.