Sarah helps to cast off the clutter and give your life a spring clean

LONG MELFORD: 
Professional declutterer Sarah Boxall.
Picture Mark Westley
LONG MELFORD: Professional declutterer Sarah Boxall. Picture Mark Westley

Spring is in the air.... daffodils blooming, brighter evenings, the distant hum of a lawnmower.

Indoors, our eyes suddenly light on things we have been trying to ignore for months or possibly years.

LONG MELFORD: 
Professional declutterer Sarah Boxall.
Picture Mark Westley

LONG MELFORD: Professional declutterer Sarah Boxall. Picture Mark Westley

Into sharp focus come the piles of “stuff I’ll deal with when I have the time”.

Likewise the drawers crammed with bits and bobs that might come in handy – some so old we have forgotten what they are.

And don’t forget the wardrobe that could single-handedly stock a charity shop.

Now, we tell ourselves, is the time to do something about it. A surge of spring-clean fever is often all it takes to grips with the challenge.

But, for all sorts of reasons, what to dump and what to keep might not feel that simple. Confronting the muddle can reach the point where it is overwhelming.

Sarah Boxall doesn’t have that problem. Family, friends and workmates have always known her as an efficient organiser.

And now she is using her talents to help people daunted by tackling the chaotic state of their homes or their business accounts.

Triathlete Sarah, who was one of Bury St Edmunds’ 2012 Olympic torchbearers, aims to be a beacon of hope for those who risk falling at the first hurdle.

The mum-of-one, who ran the London Marathon in 2013, has become a professional organiser and declutterer.

She specialises in helping people after major life changes like bereavement or a relationship break-up.

“I’m not a life coach. It’s about things,” says Sarah, who lives in Long Melford with husband Ben and two year-old daughter Emily,

“But I want to help people, and I have always enjoyed problem-solving.

“It’s about turning a house or business that’s becoming a burden back into a home, or somewhere you can flourish.

Her decision to go into business crystallised after painful experiences of her own including the death of her father.

“I lost a lot of close relatives in a short time, and found I was quite good at dealing with the practical side,” she said.

Her father Bob Farley, fostered her love of sport by taking her to the Olympics in Beijing and Salt Lake City.

He was also a dedicated stamp collector and chairman of the Society of Olympic Collectors.

“My dad died in 2015. He had a whole room devoted to stamps. That was my first real experience of organising a lot of stuff.”

Sarah, who grew up in Acton, worked for 13 years at the Greene King brewery in Bury, finishing up as a buyer.

She took redundancy when they decided to move the buying team to Burton on Trent.

“I’d wanted to start my own business before but thought I couldn’t afford it. My redundancy money gave me the financial cushion I needed.

“I discovered there was an Association of Professional Organisers and Declutterers with 130 members , but only three in East Anglia.

“The more I read about it, the more I felt my natural strengths were organising and keeping everything uncluttered.”

She became a member and set up a company, Starfish Organisers Ltd, and website.

Her job allows her to work flexible hours. “It means I can take Emily to Tumble Tots, and swimming, and do the important things with her,” she said.

Some people’s possessions get out of control because of a traumatic life event. Others are simply so busy they just put off sorting them out.

“It can seem like you head is cluttered, not just your home,” said Sarah. “I know how it feels if I’ve had a busy week.”

Order is her watchword but her aim is not to go through her clients’ possessions like a dose of salts. Her goal is not a minimalist effect, or the perfect ‘capsule’ wardrobe.

“I’m not bossy. I’d never tell anyone to chuck something out,” she says. “Some people think declutterers should be ruthless and minimalistic, but I’m not like that.

“I always say if it’s got sentimental value and it makes you smile then keep it. I still have my wedding dress on a mannequin at home.

“But if you don’t know why you’re keeping it, and it’s taking up space and collecting dust, then maybe it’s time to give it away.

“When I start we have a chuck pile, a charity pile, and keepers. If they can’t decide about something I say put it in a box in the loft, and in a year think again.

“I’m not a style advisor, but with clothes I’ll encourage them to keep classic items that don’t date.

“Often people say ‘my home is a right mess’ but 99 percent of the time it’s not as bad as they think.”

Sarah limits the number of personal clients at any time, and works with them no more than four hours a day.

“It’s about being able to give them the time they need,” she says. “If someone’s suffered a bereavement it’s such an emotional thing that they can get overwhelmed.

“If they need emotional support you almost become a friend.”

Business organisation is a big part of Sarah’s work. Her first job after school was admin and accounts at Howlett’s Garage in Lavenham, and she did freelance book-keeping before starting her company.

“Tradesmen often don’t want to take a day out of their week to sit at a desk doing paperwork,” she said.

“I can do it for them – either just getting it straight or on a regular basis.

Sarah, who has been a competitive swimmer for most of her life, still makes time for sport.

She and Ben, a plumber, are members of the TRI Sudbury triathlon club.

True to form, Sarah also organises the club’s marketing and PR.