We all know the feeling. The glance around the room. The peek into the wardrobe. The disbelief followed by mounting panic. How did I end up with all this stuff?
For years we may have lived happily with the mountain of possessions spreading its tentacles through our homes. Suddenly it seems overwhelming.
Books piled on the floor. Clothes you never wear. Ornaments you secretly hate. Cupboards full of things that might come in handy.
How comforting then, to find that even someone whose job is helping to clear the surplus acquisitions from other people’s lives requires the occasional declutter herself.
Every so often Melody Ann Wood has to turn her attention to her own life and weed out what she no longer loves or needs.
“You’ve caught me at a good time,” says the professional declutterer whose services are in demand internationally and in the UK. “This is a perfect illustration of what I do.”
She is standing among stacks of books, clothes and shoes she has piled into a bedroom in her mother’s house in Sudbury, where she has stayed whenever her feet touch the ground for the past seven years.
“I have been living a nomadic lifestyle, travelling, following my heart, working, but now I feel ready to create a new home for myself,” she says.
The next step will be to look at each item and think carefully whether it still contributes to her life.
She has already sorted out a small cache of what she calls “jewels” – things with special meaning she definitely wants to keep.
That done, she would be more than happy to tackle the clutter clogging up the living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and workspaces of Suffolk.
“Living in a home, or working in an office, that doesn’t function well can have a huge detrimental effect,” she says.
“We have so much stuff we have forgotten the joy of when we first bought it.”
Melody believes being overloaded by possessions does not just swamp you physically, it can crush you mentally as well.
Her clutter-clearing business, Home and Office Transformations, is still at the fledgling stage but the signs are promising.
Many of those who call her run businesses from home and often are juggling work and family life.
She has already worked with clients in Sweden and Germany, and this weekend she is flying to America to answer a call for help from a high-profile businesswoman.
Today, Melody, 54, comes across as calm and organised – someone with a clear vision of what she wants in life and the ability to help others achieve the same.
It was not always the case. At one point in her childhood she suffered sexual abuse and poverty, and the toxic legacy lingered for many years.
In 1999 she had a nervous breakdown. “That was when I vowed to change my life,” she says. “I saw how sick I was, and how much I hid from the world.
“I made a vow to become spiritually, physically and emotionally healthy, and started to re-educate myself. I wanted to know how a child who had been so curious, open-minded and open-hearted had become so afraid of living. My first question was ‘who am I?’
“When I had my breakdown I had become my own worst enemy.
“My home I shared with my four children, the oldest 17, was stacked to the rafters with stuff I was saving ‘for my grandchildren’ who obviously weren’t even born.
“They say when someone is totally broken the best thing that can happen is a near-death experience.
“What we think of as a horror story turns out to be something beneficial.
“That was when I decided to clutter-clear my life. It was the start of my healing journey.”
She was helped on her way by a chance find at a car boot sale ... a book called Freedom From Clutter by Don Aslett.
“It was life-changing. I ended up taking 12 car loads of stuff to charity shops. I felt I could breathe again,” she says.
She also studied shaman healing and cranial-sacral therapy.
When Melody meets a client the first thing she does is listen, and find out what really matters to them. If she has five days there the first two can be spent doing nothing but talking.
Recently in Sweden she helped a woman in her 60s, whose home and life was out of control.
“Her apartment was chaos, but we did the whole place in 10 days. There were times she just fell into my arms sobbing. People can’t believe their lives can become so beautiful and in alignment with who they are.
“Couples often blame each other, and say ‘it’s all her fault’ or ‘he never puts anything away’.
“They think I’m going to judge them, but I’m not.
“I see clutter clearing as an adventure, cutting through the undergrowth to find the jewels of who they are.”
Melody can be contacted through her website, home