Eileen Jackson helps people make their surroundings a calmer place by living with less

A recent study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that of 60 women who were asked to give a tour of their home (it doesn’t say if they interviewed men...), those who believed it to be overly cluttered were more likely to also feel constantly tired and be showing symptoms of depression. These symptoms were linked to the increased production of cortisol, a hormone produced when we’re feeling stressed.

Fascinatingly, clutter in the kitchen can also lead to unhealthy food choices. A 2016 study showed that when people felt they had no control over the clutter in their kitchen, they ate more biscuits.

If clutter can cause stress, and lead to unhealthy decision making, surely the opposite must be true? Indeed, it is – in fact, it’s physiological, not simply psychological – our brains have only a certain amount of bandwidth, so if your view is one of clutter and chaos, your brain is tied up with processing that. If your view is one of calm and minimalism, your brain has less to do and you feel better.

Great British Life: Before: overwhelming clutter. Photo: Eileen JacksonBefore: overwhelming clutter. Photo: Eileen Jackson

Great British Life: After: a kitchen free of clutter can help with healthy food choices. Photo: Eileen JacksonAfter: a kitchen free of clutter can help with healthy food choices. Photo: Eileen Jackson

For more than 30 years Eileen Jackson, from Alsager, photographed life in Cheshire and North Wales for the region’s newspapers. Among the VIPs she had in focus were the now King Charles III, Queen Elizabeth II, former prime minister Sir Tony Blair, Sir Ken Dodd, Professor Lord Robert Winston, Yuri Geller and Bill Oddie, to name but a few. Then of course there were the countless school photos, line-ups of civic dignitaries and the winners of village horticultural shows, but two years ago Eileen decided to turn that talent into helping people create clutter-free homes, starting a professional home organising business – A Tidy Mind Cheshire.

‘After my son was born 20-plus years ago our house became cluttered with all the things that come along with children: oversized toys too big for our home, clothes and books handed down from well-meaning friends and family but not appropriate for his age so needing storing away - then being forgotten about...

‘It all got a bit much, so I started gradually decluttering, or I called it simplifying; always trying to use the local library, or toy library instead of buying things and really trying to think about everything I was bringing into the house. Then I started helping family or friends when somewhere needed “sorting”, but never thought of it as something that might be a job.’

As for so many, when Covid stopped us in our tracks for a while, Eileen started to re-evaluate her life, deciding a change of career, into professional decluttering, might offer her a more contented future.

‘I thought, life’s too short for the stress that my photography work had become, so why not give professional organising a go? I’d always enjoyed working with people and listening to their stories, and this is just the same.

Great British Life: Before: a chaotic and stressful garage. Photo: Eileen JacksonBefore: a chaotic and stressful garage. Photo: Eileen Jackson

Great British Life: After: soothing clutter-free, calm. Photo: Eileen JacksonAfter: soothing clutter-free, calm. Photo: Eileen Jackson

‘For years I’d followed lots of organisers in the USA on social media then found out about APDO, the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, which has more than 500 registered organisers across the UK. From there I found out about A Tidy Mind and bought the franchise for Cheshire and Staffordshire. I’d been a freelance photographer in the past so I knew that having your own business can make you feel quite isolated at times, but this gives me the best of both worlds, I have my own business but I’m also part of a really lovely supportive team. I trained in Yorkshire with Kate Ibbotson, founder of A Tidy Mind, and have done additional training since.‘

A survey for an insurance company in 2020 found the average family home in the UK contained about 150,000 belongings, while the average 1940s’ home contained fewer than 150 items.

'What changed is that the British developed a strong post-war make do and mend mentality, but then came the rise of cheap retail,’ Eileen explains. ‘For example, people no longer just have a summer or winter coat, they have a coat for every occasion, but we still don’t like to get rid of things.’

Combined with the advent of internet shopping, it means cupboards, wardrobes and other storage areas can quickly fill with purchases that are rarely used or may never be used again.

Great British Life: Eileen Jackson brings calm to cluttered homes, and minds. Photo: Kate IbbotsonEileen Jackson brings calm to cluttered homes, and minds. Photo: Kate Ibbotson

Eileen’s approach is to incorporate sustainability in her decluttering, with recycling a significant part of A Tidy Mind’s service. ‘I help people reassess their needs and items no longer needed are either taken to a variety of charity shops or, thanks to my knowledge of local organisations, I match items no longer needed by clients to people who can make use of them,’ she explains.

‘For example, some camping gear was recently donated to a local scout group, un-opened make up and toiletries in the past have gone to Crewe-based charity Cheshire Without Abuse and I regularly drop off art and craft supplies at Sandbach Art Room – a non-profit organisation using the creative arts to improve wellbeing.’ Eileen is one of eight professional organisers across the UK who make up A Tidy Mind and who are inspiring people to declutter their lives. And as A Tidy Mind Cheshire continues to grow she is planning to take on another organiser to meet the demand locally.

‘I have benefited from having a clutter-free life and I really want to help bring that sense of lightness and freedom to other people, who can now find time to relax, be creative, spend time with the people they love, and even sleep better. Best of all you learn to cherish what you decide to keep and that promotes contentment.’


Great British Life: Introduce the one in, two out rule. Photo: Kate IbbotsonIntroduce the one in, two out rule. Photo: Kate Ibbotson

Eileen’s top tips on maintaining a clutter-free home

Have a place for everything: every little thing that comes into our homes needs a place to live, so think about that before you buy and if you haven’t got the space ask yourself if you can do without it, or even simply borrow it from a friend or neighbour

Cherish what you keep: don’t save things for best or special occasions. Your whole life is a special occasion; use your best china and wear your best clothes

Remember that less stuff equals less stress so declutter frequently

Introduce the one in, two out rule: for every one item you bring in donate or recycle two

Don’t hold onto something because it was expensive and don’t buy something because it’s cheap

The best thing you can do for the planet and your bank account is to become a more mindful consumer