Bridget Johns is a professional organiser and declutter coach who teaches women to reduce their mental load by decluttering their homes, phones, calendars and minds. Clutter isn’t just about being overwhelmed by stuff taking up space in our homes, a cluttered mind can lead to mental overwhelm.
In this episode we discuss:
Pressing Pause Episode 94 Decluttering your life and mind with Bridget Johns
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a mindset and positive psychology coach and writer, exploring how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Welcome to episode 94. The day this episode is released, Wednesday 15 December, is the day, well, evening, when I’m hosting my Calm Comfort hibernacle. I learned this fabulous word from Susie Dent, she tweets a word of the day on Twitter each day, and it means a winter retreat, where you forget about the world outside for a while. And that’s exactly what my Calm Comfort online workshop session is going to be, 45-60 minutes of us bringing in some calm, some comfort, some gentle care, while we’re gathered together and to recreate in the days ahead.
The last two years have been a lot and I know that you’re feeling worn out by all of it. And then there’s Christmas on top, the pressure to make the most of it, to feel happy and get together while also not knowing what rules around Coronavirus are going to change at any moment.
So what we need is to hit the pause button, bring down the stress, the busyness, the noise of the world a few notches. And give ourselves some care and attention.
The Calm Comfort hibernacle will be a gentle, soothing gathering online where we’ll look at why it’s a struggle to feel calm and comfort, how we can feel comforted, cared for and soothed, and how we can create more calm in our days, however hectic it gets.
We’ll gather online at 8pm UK time tonight Wednesday 15 December and the recording will be available in case you’re listening to this a day or two later, you’ll still be able to access that as long as you’re registered. You won’t need to have your camera or microphone switched on so you can join me wrapped up in a blanket or duvet, with a mug of something hot and delicious. And we’ll practice a little self-conservation together.
The session is completely free of charge, it will last probably about 45 minutes but definitely not longer than an hour. And the goal is for it to just be a lovely, nourishing, restorative time for you before Christmas.
So, if you’d like to join me, and you’ll get the recording to catch up with if you can’t join me live, go to gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort to sign up, I’ll put the link in the show notes too. We’ll gather online at 8pm UK time tonight Wednesday 15 December and as I said everyone who registers for the session will get the recording to watch in case you can’t join me live.
It will be a lovely, gentle, nourishing pause and I hope you can join me.
Now, for today’s episode I’m talking with Bridget Johns, a professional organiser and declutter coach. She teaches women to reduce their mental load by decluttering their homes, phones, calendars and minds so they can find more space in their homes and time in their calendars to collect moments, not things! And in the process live with more calm and joy…
[00:00:00] Gabrielle: Hello, Bridget. Thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:00:04] Bridget: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:05] Gabrielle: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do please?
[00:00:10] Bridget: Sure. I’m Bridget Johns and I’m one of the new breed of slashies. You may not have heard of it, but I’ve picked all the great things I loved from previous roles and I do two roles now. So I am a mental health coach slash grant writer, and I help women reduce their mental load by decluttering their homes, phones, calendars and mind, so they can free up their time and live in calm, organized homes.
And I do this with women all over the world via zoom from our sheep and broadacre cropping property on the York peninsula of south Australia, um, in Australia. So if you see a map of Australia, I’m in the middle, down the bottom. And I live there with my husband and two children. And I never expected to be a business owner, and, a coach supporting people to declutter and organize.
I actually spent the first 16 years of my career working in local government and regional development roles, supporting economic development, wellbeing, export and trade. So very different from what I do now. But in 2019, I asked myself if time and money were no object, what would I do? And I said, I’d be a professional organizer.
So I’ve taken baby steps to bring my business be simply free to life. And that started in March, 2020 just before the pandemic hit south Australia and Australia. So be simply free is a professional organizing and grant writing business. And I bring my background of business and community, project management, and my love of organizing together to support women, to simplify their lives.
And I adore supporting women to reduce that mental load and free up their time by decluttering their physical spaces, reducing the unnecessary commitments in their calendars and clearing up their minds of that never ending to do list. And on the other side, as a grant writer, I support businesses and not-for-profit organizations to organize their wishlist of dreams into fundable projects and find grants to turn those ideas into reality.
Um, a bit of a, a mix, but I absolutely adore doing both elements, supporting people in their lives and their businesses to simplify and live their best life.
[00:02:17] Gabrielle: Wonderful. Thank you, Bridget. So getting into the decluttering side of things, what does decluttering your life really mean? What does it look like in practical terms? Because I think often we just think of it in terms of stuff, getting rid of the physical clutter, but decluttering your life, that’s a lot more, isn’t it?
[00:02:39] Bridget: Yeah. So I, um, when I started talking about wanting to be a professional organizer, yes, that’s all about the physical things. But when I started to think about it, it’s when we really declutter our minds, that it gives us the time and energy to do the physical decluttering. So when I talk about decluttering your life, I talk about taking a good, hard look at what your life looks like.
So that includes your physical things in your environment, what you do with your time and all the things that spin around in your head. Um, and when a lot of times we don’t take the time to think about. So once you have an understanding about all the things that are in your life, the decluttering element comes in about removing the unnecessary things that are no longer serving you or the things you think you should be doing because society tells you to.
And I think sometimes we can get caught on that hamster wheel of life and keep doing the same thing over and over again and not necessarily enjoying it. Maybe our parents had always done this style of life or society has told us to stay in a job, even if we don’t enjoy it. But by decluttering your life, you can, strip back the things that no longer serve you and really take the time to think about what you want your life to physically look like and how you want to feel in your life.
And yeah, that’s what I love supporting women to do, because we don’t take that time to think. And when I work one-on-one with, women, it’s actually putting time in their calendar to block out an hour each fortnight to think about these things and then come up. It’s all great to think, but it’s actually the action that will make the change and to help you do the physical decluttering.
So thinking about what you want your life to look like, planning out what you can physically do in a fortnight’s time. Doing it. And then having someone, to cheer you on and to keep you accountable and to maybe give some suggestions around, when you come up against a roadblock. So that’s my favorite way of helping people to declutter.
And I suppose in practical terms, I talk to clients about stopping, focusing, and noticing. So we stop doing the same thing over and over again. We focus on what the issue is that we’re coming up against the hurdle and we take the time to write it all down and really get it down on paper and think about it and maybe communicate that with other people in our lives and see if they’ve got any other ideas.
And then notice what our options are for solving it, coming up with a big list of things that could be that take a bit more time than a short time that a low cost high cost. And then just trying one, and giving it a go. So, in practical terms you can declutter your physical spaces, say removing some excess cutlery from utensil drawer.
A lot of people have that potato masher in the drawer that actually stops you closing it cause there’s so much in there. So when I work with clients, we sort, we simplify and we systemize with our physical things. So if in terms of a utensil drawer, we would sort everything out, tip it all out. Then we would simplify by putting, like, with like, so maybe if you’ve got five, wooden spoons in there having a think, can we live with less and really simplify what’s in there and then come up with a system.
So everything has a home and a place and we can just open that drawer. Pull one thing out that we need to save that time. We might not think it takes you much time to move things around in a drawer, but that time adds up over time. And it’s all about freeing up little pockets of time. So you’ve got more time to do things that bring you joy and, have fun with your life.
[00:06:00] Gabrielle: I love the, the mixture of the practical and the mental stuff, you know, the noticing the thinking, the recognizing and then matching it with the action. Because like you say, we can think stuff, but we need to do stuff for there to be a difference in our lives.
[00:06:14] Bridget: Yeah, and we can always, I could get caught myself. I’m wanting to learn more and attend those workshops and master classes, but it’s wonderful to learn, but the action is where the change happens. And that’s why I love the accountability of, helping people through this journey as well. So we can see the change over a three month period.
So a lot of professional organizers will go into your home and help you physically declutter right next to them and make those choices. But I love working with people over three months, so we can make those mindset shifts because if we haven’t put a plan in place to change the habit of the purchasing, when we’re out and about, because shops are designed to make us buy more, if we haven’t made the mindset shift, this stuff is going to continue to come back into our home, but let’s, let’s declutter the mind so we can then declare the physical spaces.
[00:07:01] Gabrielle: Mmm, what kind of themes do you find coming up? That you notice, this is something that I notice this is getting in the way of a lot of people of being able to declutter their lives or what creates the clutter in their lives.
[00:07:15] Bridget: Yeah. So when I work with clients, most people come to me wanting the tips to do the physical decluttering in their home. And we generally come up with three goals that we work with together. And it’s really interesting that 99% of people will come up with a goal to declutter their physical spaces.
There’ll actually be a goal around self care because a lot of women aren’t putting themselves first and making some space in their day, to fill up their cup and fill up their tank. So they’ve got the energy to do these things, and there’s normally a goal around communication with their partners and their family, because we’re carrying a lot of that mental load.
And if you’re the one everyone comes to where’s the toilet paper kept, where’s this in the pantry, where’s this in the fridge. Where can I find my clothes? It’s so draining to do that. So when we make the space to put yourselves first and find some time in your day, I encourage people to look for 1% of their day.
If we think we’ve got 1,440 minutes in every day, 1% of our day is 14.4 minutes. So let’s always try and make sure we’re at least giving ourselves 1% of our day to look after our self care. And when we do that, and when we communicate with others about what our new why for our decluttered life looks like we can bring a team on board and we’ve got the energy and the time to do the physical decluttering together. And then we’ve got more time to spend as a family or do things with our friends that light us up and bring joy into our lives. So, yes, that’s definitely what I see that people aren’t making space for themselves. And that’s sometimes why the clutter keeps coming in because we’re using purchasing to get a dopamine hit from, buying new things and bringing them into our home.
[00:08:52] Gabrielle: I wonder whether in the pursuit of feeling more calm or joy, if people are actually bringing more clutter into their lives, be it physical or mental because they are, they’re thinking that’s, what’s going to help me feel calm and joy when actually it’s doing the reverse.
[00:09:12] Bridget: Yeah, it’s so true. And marketers play on that, that they will tell us that we need to buy this new thing to feel calm or have joy in our lives. But when we stop focus, notice and take that time to really think about what we want our life to look like, because that’s sort of the thing that’s missing. We’re like, oh, this is going to a shiny object that will fix what’s happening in my life, but we haven’t taken the time to really see what that looks like. And when we do that, it’s generally having less in our lives. If you think, when you go to a holiday house, there’s actually not much in a holiday house. Normally there’s four bowls, four plates, four knives and forks.
And it’s actually a lot simpler to live when there’s less things around you. So have a think about that when you you’re next, going to buy something new to add into your home, maybe if you stop, focus, notice it’s saying no to something and freeing up your time that’s actually going to bring you the calm and the joy.
[00:10:08] Gabrielle: Mmm, I’ve just thought, you know how Marie Kondo talks about holding up an item saying, does this spark joy? And I’m wondering if you can stick the word calm in there. Can you hold something up and say, does this create, spark, give calm or joy? I wonder, what do you think?
[00:10:26] Bridget: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. So calm is the emotion of, not having big emotions happening in your life. And I think calm is a great thing to strive for, but it’s also important to have some happiness and excitement and things as well. Um, and sometimes having those hard conversations are important as well, but I love to, when I talk to clients about have the freeing up time and having a calm and organized home, that’s the goal.
Because it, it has more of a harmonious life with your family, like yes, less yelling is the calmer environment. So I definitely think calm is the aim, but it’s also important to have those other hard conversations that may bring up and trigger some other emotions, um, and joy and happiness are important to have in your life as well.
[00:11:12] Gabrielle: Absolutely. Absolutely. So some people really love the minimalist look, that’s what gives them calm, you know, clean surfaces, everywhere, no stuff around, but other people are more of a, I can never say this word maximalist. I that’s. how you you know, they love stuff. That’s what gives them joy, lots of items on every surface, things everywhere. Can you be entirely surrounded by stuff and feel calm and lots of joy? And on the flip side, can you also have a very, serene environment there’s hardly anything on any surfaces, but not feel at all calm or much joy?
[00:11:54] Bridget: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question and something I think about often, and as I said, calm, is that absence of the strong emotions. So I do feel like different people can get that sense of calm in different environments. And I think it comes back to our personality types as well. It can impact what we want to see around us.
So uh, for me, I have quite a, I would say I have a minimalist home, but I call it a cozy minimalist home that I believe we should live in an environment, um, and display things that bring us joy and, use a display things that bring us joy as well. So my husband’s a big Elvis fan. So our lounge room has lots of Elvis memorabilia in there.
And I’m a lover of books so I have some books in here, but borrow a lot of books as well. So I would say I have quite a minimalist home, but I can still feel overwhelmed with the mental clutter floating around and it’s about recalibrating all the things on my to do list, to bring me back to calm.And on the flip side, people could be surrounded by a lot of things, but have a calm mind and know where everything is. Um, and that not causing them stress so they can feel calm as well. So I think that’s a personal choice, but I do believe clutter can rob us of some of our time. When I spoke about we’ve got that 1,440 minutes in our day.
If we have a lot of physical things around us, it may take us longer to find things or as I said other family members may come to you, looking for things and asking you where it is, which adds to your mental clutter. So I think it’s important regardless of the amount of things you have in your home, that everything has a home.
For example, we have a hook where our car keys go. So our whole family, my husband and I, share, our cars. So we swap around, we both know where to go to get the keys. So we’re not searching around the kitchen for where the keys are or having to call each other to find where they are. So regardless of the amount of things in your home, just make sure, everything has a place that everything goes back in that place when you’re finished with it.
[00:13:51] Gabrielle: Yeah, I am nodding along with you because I agree that one person’s treasure could be somebody else’s clutter because you can be surrounded by stuff, but that stuff isn’t clutter, because you know what it is, it belongs in that place. Like I say, it has its home. It has meaning to you, it gives you joy.
It’s got memories, all kinds of stuff tied up in it, and it doesn’t complicate your life because if you need something, you know where to find it. And to me, clutter is, stuff, it’s unorganised, it’s all a bit chaotic. It stresses you out because you can’t find things. It takes up that mental space.
And I agree that I think. It’s comfort and coziness, isn’t it, that is what is going to give you the calm and joy that, you know, we’d all like to, to feel because that’s where you’re going to feel relaxed. And that could be that it’s a very minimalist or a completely maximalist, say that word again, environment it’s whatever is comfortable and cozy and not chaotic and confusing to you.
[00:14:53] Bridget: Yeah, definitely and, people can get caught up on that term minimalism. There is not a number that is a minimalist. It’s working out what the right amount of stuff is for you in your home and different people, as you said, like different amount of stuff. So a little quiz people can do is the Dr Gary Chapman’s love languages. So it actually talks to people about if your love language, your primary love language is acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, giving gifts and I’ve lost the other one, but, um, in our home I’m acts of service. So I’d much prefer for someone to do something for me.
So my husband mopping the floor or, bringing me a cup of coffee. It brings me so much joy. Whereas my eight year old daughter, her primary love language, um, she’s a tie for, quality time and receiving gifts. So she’s our collector. So she loves keeping all her treasures. So we make space in her room.
So she’s got a whole drawer that is her space for all those knickknacks that I don’t see the value in but she absolutely adores and loves, but we have a space boundary around that. So all those rocks and stones and little things she’s kept. She can keep them, but when it’s full, we have to look through it and we make a decision and I help her through that and she keeps what she truly loves because nothing is special if everything is special. So we do that sorting that simplifying and that systemizing with her Probably about every four to six months, we go through that drawer. So that’s a little strategy. If you do have collectors in your home, give them a space boundary for that stuff so it doesn’t expand and take over your whole home.
[00:16:28] Gabrielle: And that’s a great, great reminder that nothing is special if everything is special. Yes. So could you give us just a couple of tips perhaps on how we can start to free ourselves from clutter, physical or mental and by doing so, start to feel a little bit more calm and joy.
[00:16:46] Bridget: Sure. Well, I have five steps to clear the mental clutter and free up some of your time. And the first one is awareness. And to be, aware of what your life looks like and taking that time to think about it. And then step number two is to get real and communicate. A lot of times we think we’re spending our time doing something, but if you get real and actually have a little log of how you’re spending your time perfectly, you do, if you want it to do it really well, you’d map out a whole seven day period, but that’s probably not practical.
So. Uh, you can aim for mapping out 24 hours of your time, or even just look at, from when you wake up until you get the kids to school or you get to work. So that two or three hour period of time, get real, see how you’re currently spending your time and, um, communicate with that with other people in your life.
And then step three is actually map out what you want your ideal week or time to look like. So you can be intentional about how you’re spending that 1,440 minutes in your day. And then step four is to delete some things, automate some things or delegate some things in that to do list of what you want to get done in your week before you actually do it, because it’s much better to delegate and reduce the amount of things on your to-do list so you’ve got more time to do the things that bring you joy. And then step five is to look after your future self. So for me, I tidy up the kitchen with my family each night before we go to bed. So we’re starting the next morning with a clear slate and it’s yeah, sets us up for success, walking out into a clear kitchen.
So work out what that looks like for you. And make sure there’s some exercise in there. Um, you’re drinking enough water, so you’ve got the energy to, to handle the next thing that comes up in your day. Cause we want to set up an ideal week, but most weeks it doesn’t fall out and actually happen that way.
So we want to put strategies in place so we can, um, handle those little challenges that get thrown at us and looking after our future self is definitely a way that we can support us to be our best in challenging situations.
[00:18:51] Gabrielle: Brilliant. That’s so good, Bridget. Thank you so much for all of that. My last question for you is what are you going to do today to give yourself a moment of calm and joy?
[00:19:01] Bridget: Yes. Well, we were just heading before. I’m an early riser. I was a night owl for the first 35 years of my life, but now I do get up at 4:44. So this is how I make space in my day for me time and giving myself the best of me in the morning, rather than what’s left of me at the end of the day. So I used to find I’d get through the whole day and once the kids were in bed, I would, just end up on social media or watching crappy TV at the end of the day.
So. I fixed to my day and slowly got up 15 minutes earlier. So I use this morning time to go out for a walk on our farm. I walk with a head torch on my head cause it’s very dark at that time. I’m getting my cup of coffee and breakfast to nourish my body before everyone gets up. And I can look after myself before the, the family alarm goes off at 7:07. So that definitely sets my day up for success and I’m starting a calm and joyful way. So when my kids do see me, I’m giving them a big smile and a big hug in the morning, rather than being grumpy mom and, um, being on the back foot each morning. So that’s definitely a strategy I use to, to start my day calm.
I don’t always get up at that hour, but, uh, if I can, that’s the best way that I can set myself up for success.
[00:20:14] Gabrielle: Amazing. Thank you. So how can listeners find and connect with you online, Bridget?
[00:20:19] Bridget: Yes. I have besimplyfree.com.au because I am in Australia here. Sojump over there. My favorite way to work with clients is one-on-one by my declutter your life coaching series, and we can connect from anywhere in the world. I’m actually on a client call tonight with someone in Ireland. So I work with people in Australia, New Zealand, and anywhere in the world.
And you can follow along with some free tips on social media. I’m very active on Instagram stories and that’s be.simplyfree on Instagram and besimplyfree on Facebook. And there’s actually a Facebook group where you go to my Facebook page and you can access six free videos around de-cluttering different spaces in your home, including your kitchen, the kids toy rooms and offices. So jump on if you want some practical strategies you can try right away.
[00:21:08] Gabrielle: Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me today, Bridget.
[00:21:12] Bridget: Thanks for having me.
I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Bridget Johns, I hope you found it useful too. If you did please feel free to share this episode 94 and hop on over to iTunes to leave a quick review so that other people can find Pressing Pause and hopefully gain something from it too.
As I mentioned at the start, I’m holding a free Calm Comfort online workshop where we will bring down the stress, the busyness, the noise of the world a few notches, and instead give ourselves some care and attention. It’s going to be a gentle, soothing, nourishing pause taking place online at 8pm UK time tonight Wednesday 15 December and lasting about 45-60 minutes. You can register to join me at gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort and even if you can’t join me live as long as you’re signed up you’ll get the recording to catch up with.
I’ll also put the link in the show notes for this episode 94 which you can find at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. And if there’s anyone you think would benefit from a little self-conversation please let them know they can find out about the Calm Comfort workshop at gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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