06 Apr Neat Freak – All About Me
This month I’m delighted to be celebrating my fourth year as The Neat Freak!
Yes, we’ve now been in business for four whole years – but unofficially I’ve been the ‘neat freak’ for a lot longer than that. I wanted to celebrate our fourth birthday with a blog all about me and who I am, why I do what I do and more about how I started and what The Neat Freak as a concept is all about.
If you don’t know me already, my name is Cheryl and I’m ‘The Neat Freak’. Mother of three grown-up boys (and a gorgeous doggie called Bentley!), wife of six years to Phil and natural born organiser. I live, breathe and love what I do – and I can’t wait to share my story with you today!
Neat by name, neat by nature
Since as early as I can remember, I have loved organising things and having all my belongings perfectly in place. As a little girl I used to spend a lot of time alone in my bedroom, moving my furniture around and reorganising things. As I grew older, friends would say ‘can you come round to help me sort out my wardrobe?’ or ‘can you help me rearrange my clothes?’ I often found myself in people’s cupboards, sorting stuff out. I’d even check their bathroom cupboard and make sure all their bottles and boxes were facing the right way! I love things being perfectly in place and neat and tidy – although not officially diagnosed I have known for a long time that I live with a form of OCD – but it’s always something I have seen as a positive and used for good in my life as opposed to something that is a negative influence.
A career in organisation
When I left school I won a scholarship to secretarial college, which I completed and with qualifications in hand left 6 months later to start work in the big smoke. The work I took on there was a variation on the secretarial role I’d been trained to do – instead I was undertaking PA duties. I found myself at a young age working for some quite high-profile clients – organising not only their offices and work affairs, but their home lives too. After several years I took a short break from my role as a PA to explore some exciting (and quite varied!) alternative career paths – including holistic therapist, fitness instructor and reiki master. I just love working with people, but my career has followed a theme of helping them too, whether they were becoming the best version of themselves, improving their fitness or enjoying a relaxing massage.
Becoming ‘The Neat Freak’
Eventually after moving up to Manchester 25 years ago I began working for the prison service. I found that this varied role really challenged me and developed my skills working with even more types of people, from many different walks of life. Most of these roles required sensitivity and empathy, discretion, common sense and quick thinking – all skills I use every single day in my role as The Neat Freak.
Just over four years ago at the suggestion of a friend I started trialling the business – and it snowballed from there. I soon found I had to quit my job at the prison service as my books became busier than I ever could have imagined. My once little business has grown from humble beginnings to an (at present) 8-week waiting list!
More than just decluttering
Often I’m referred to informally by clients (and their spouses) as ‘the tidying lady’, ‘the cupboard tidier’ (or worse, the ‘cleaner’!) But whilst I do specialise in decluttering, my job actually involves taking care of so much more than that for my clients.
In my role as TNF I work with a huge array of different types of people – from highly professional people, well-known people and celebrities to normal, everyday people just like you and me and people with specialist requirements and concerns. I also often support women in business, helping them to manage and balance work and home life.
I became used to juggling things during my time in London as a PA – and often my job involves taking on multiple tasks for my clients over the course of one day. As well as my role as a declutterer and professional organiser I also provide monthly maintenance visits, top-to-toe cleans and staging for property sales. I even carry out PA duties for many of my clients.
Going the extra mile is something I offer as standard. Anything that’s needed, I do my best to organise it for them including contractors and overseeing work around the house, arranging flights and travel and sifting through paperwork. Anything the client needs to make their life easier I will do to the best of my ability – and if I can’t do it, I’ll do my best to find someone who can.
I really do love what I do. I love the physical transformation from messy to tidy, or cluttered to clean – but also the emotional transformation that often takes place when people take control of the clutter in their lives and reorganise their homes.
Many of my clients struggle with their mental health – which paradoxically is exacerbated or even caused by their cluttered surroundings or struggle with staying organised. I work with people with different traits and additional needs and considerations – including PTSD, OCD, anxiety disorders and bereavements. This is where sensitivity, compassion and empathy are hugely important aspects of the support I provide. I’m there to hold someone’s hand as they trawl through a deceased loved one’s belongings. I’m helping them meticulously comb through paperwork and letters to make sure we don’t throw anything valuable away. I’m working with them at their pace, noticing if and when they need a motivational boost or a break to recover and restore their energy levels after a particularly difficult patch. Non-judgemental, respectful, kind and sensitive support really is key here. Often people feel ashamed of their clutter, or unable to work through it alone due to emotional weight of the items, not just their physical volume. I want my clients to feel they can come to me with absolutely anything without fear of judgement – and they can explain and open up as much or as little as they are comfortable with.
I also pride myself on providing a ‘full service’ support – which includes selling items on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, arranging charity pick-ups and much, much more.