Rachel Attard, now based in Melbourne, has a unique role as a professional organiser. I’ll let her explain. I asked her a bunch of questions and her answers made me smile.
Tell me Rachel, what drew you to the organising industry?
I had a lightbulb moment mid 2019 when I realised I wanted to declutter full time. I’d been working for the Salvos for 9 years at that stage, mostly in rural areas. I noticed people from the community would call the Salvos and ask if we help declutter homes. This was something I had always done as a hobby for family members (even my brothers’ bedrooms when I was a child). I jumped at the chance every time we received a call at work. I realised there was something special about the one-on-one interaction, and how the physical stuff would promote such deep sharing of memories and stories. I count it as a real privilege. During lockdown I studied the Hoarding Home Solutions course and started decluttering in my role now at the beginning of 2022 when I moved to Richmond.
What was the pivotal moment for you starting out as an organiser?
Realising how much supporting someone in decluttering can empower them to make decisions. One woman I worked with left the main cupboard in her bedroom empty because her late husband wouldn’t share it with her. She resorted to buying a little makeshift cupboard to squeeze her clothes into, which she still used years after he passed. When asked if she would like to use the main cupboard (with much more room) she jumped at the chance. All she needed was a little encouragement to reclaim her space.
Who do you work with?
I specialise in decluttering in my work with The Salvation Army. While I manage some basic emergency relief one day a week and fundraise for the work we do as a team across the Richmond and Brunswick Salvos (say hi if you see me collecting at the MCG!), most of my time is set aside to declutter with people in the community. Referrals mostly come from different Salvo departments, my own workspace (our emergency relief program) in Richmond, Salvos Aged Care, Salvos Moneycare etc.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client is someone on the lower socioeconomic scale. Those more vulnerable members of the community who often do not have the money for an organiser. I love to work with people to create a safe and organised space that they are proud to live in, especially when they feel they can enjoy having people in their home again. Community is so important. I also love addressing underlying factors that motivate people to collect items.
What’s your favourite thing about organising?
Seeing not only the transformation of home and self and the satisfaction that brings, but the sharing of memories – both good and bad – that happens along the way.
What is one habit that helps your life run smoothly?
Setting reminders on my phone! Between raising two neurodiverse primary school aged boys, managing my different responsibilities as part of a Salvo team, and anything extracurricular, I rely on my reminders quite heavily.
Is there any area of your life or home where you are not organised?
The laundry drawer always ends up disorganised, no matter how many times I organise it.
What’s a guilty pleasure of yours?
Salt and vinegar chips. Once I start, I can’t stop.
What is one thing people may not know about you?
I’m an ordained minister (like all Salvation Army Officers) – surprise! I don’t usually like divulging this piece of information about myself as I find people are often more guarded with me once they find out.
What would you say to someone just starting out as an organiser?
In a sense I feel like I’m still starting out as an organiser myself. My best piece of advice so far would be don’t wear your best clothes to a new client’s house. The first place I went to belonged to a heavy smoker (inside the home) where the walls and curtains were orange from nicotine. They also owned a cat who did its business all over the carpet.
Is there something else you think people should know?
I pinch myself every day that I get to do a job that I love. I’m very aware in my role with the Salvos that this is not something to take for granted.
Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel! Your unique way of supporting your community by decluttering is indeed something to be thankful for, even (or perhaps especially) when the environment is challenging.