IN CONVERSATION WITH: Nicola Lewis
First of all, can you tell us a little about This Girl Can Organise – what motivated your change of direction after 15 years in Investment Banking?
The environment of the City had changed – it was once exciting and had a real buzz about the place, but like all industries it had become more and more automated and lost its edge. I was thinking what skills could I utilise in another career, and it came back to the organisation skills I had developed with my mum and my nan growing up! I then brainstormed, used my quick, forward thinking and decisive decision making from investment banking, and started something new! I wanted to embrace me, to do something I loved, and so with the full support of my husband I took a brave step into the unknown and became TGCO, a Professional Organiser.
How easy or difficult was the transition – and were there skills that overlapped?
The transition took time – in fact a year to be honest, as no one had ever heard of a professional Home Organiser. Then in 2018 I opened an Instagram account and things started to change. After six months I had gained around 25k followers, a PA, an agent and was approached by Harper Collins to write a book! All the skills I had learned from my mum and my previous work experience had unleashed some special magic and I jumped on this new wave.
Banking is all about communication, being professional, listening and negotiation. These skills helped me to translate home organising to a bigger and global market place. I was no longer talking about foreign currency or commodities, I was now educating and inspiring others to declutter, organise and reuse items around the house.
Do you think there’s an element of therapy that comes into play when we start decluttering?
This is the main element of decluttering that a lot of people don’t really understand – letting go of items, some very personal items, has to be supported by a form of therapy. Each client’s needs are different, and one size really doesn’t fit all when it comes to this job. So you have to listen. The reason why we are decluttering in the first place is the main focus of the job. If it’s for a bereavement, this can be a slower and more thoughtful process, taking care and time, especially to talk through what items mean and remind of that person. Some people want help because of hectic workloads and family life, so talking through what they hope to achieve is a great cleansing experience for them, and it’s my job to help them make it as successful as possible. All I want at the end of the day is a happy client. We can’t all have Instagram cupboards or wardrobes, it’s unrealistic and very expensive, but having a system that works for you and your family is the goal here. I’m all about keeping it real.
What’s the most common item or items of clutter that people tend to hold on to?
It’s a real mixture but tends to be a lot of sentimental items like inherited items, baby clothes, children’s drawings or shoes, photo albums and ‘bag for life’ bags.
What are your top tips and tricks to minimise our clutter?
Firstly, only get what you need. Sometimes it really is a case of less is more. I always do an itinerary of what’s in the fridge and freezer and plan our meals each week; this way we limit the amount of wasted food and, more importantly, have less over spending.
Secondly, having a clear system that works in various areas of your home is key. What works in the bathroom won’t necessarily work in the kitchen, and so on. When it comes to the bathroom, I divide each person’s essentials into a separate area/container so that they know where their things are every day of the week. Moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush, etc. This can help to give that person a responsibility to refill what’s needed and when, which in turn will help them later in life when they have a place of your own.
And finally, get your outfit out every night ready for the next day. Having all of your clothes in one place ready to put on in the morning really helps take away a ton of stress and anxiety. You see the outfit so you how you will look, and it’s all in one place so you know you won’t have to find anything last minute. This really helps to focus and ease your mind, with less anxiety before you sleep and less stress the next morning. It’s all about the prep.
I know from your brilliant book Mind over Clutter (no household should be without!) that you rarely throw anything out – do you think that as a society we are more aware and active with upcycling and sustainability now, or is there still a long way to go?
We have a long way to go to make more of an impact for our planet, and the infrastructure in this country is still way behind where it should be and where people want it to be. We are all aware of the problems we’re facing and I believe we all want that to change, it’s just a real shame that we are still talking about it rather than doing it.
Companies are making an effort to adapt their products so that they are more eco-friendly, and as families we are all recycling more, but what’s really needed is a change of mindset in government on these Green issues. 2030 will be here before we know it, but with more incentives and initiatives on reusing, recycling and up-cycling clothes, furniture and electronics we can all have a greater impact on our environment. My nan’s generation came out of a war and were always fixing things to make them last longer, so mending a pair of shoes or getting any tops or dresses altered extends the life of an item. As kids we all had to wear our brothers or sisters hand-me-downs – it’s a right of passage, it saves you money and it gives a beloved item a new lease of life. These practices worked in the past, so why can’t they work in the future?
Hardest challenge you’ve had to face?
The hardest challenge I’ve had to face is to convince myself that I could do this! To make a success of my work and a new career away from banking. Self-doubt is the biggest barrier we all face. Why am I doing this? Will they like this? Will they like me? I really did suffer with this – but time has given me more confidence in my abilities, seeing client reactions, the happiness, the tears and the joy – plus all of the positive feedback from followers, as well as the inspiration I’ve given them and that they give me – this is what makes it worthwhile. Just believe in yourself and you’ll be surprised be what you can do!
Your proudest achievement?
There have been so many ‘wow’ moments in my business, but I think what stands out the most is helping over 350 clients in their homes and thousands via social media to understand the benefits of decluttering and organising, and creating a calm and practical space in their homes. Knowing my experience has made a difference makes me very happy.
As founder of Studio10, I’m have to ask – what’s your advice for de-cluttering a makeup bag?
When decluttering your makeup it’s important to note the following:
Know what you already own! At times, especially when we own a lot, we can mindlessly purchase items we don’t need and often duplicate!
Take control! Taking stock of what you have means you will feel more in control, and it may result in you becoming a more mindful consumer in the future.
Keep what you love and what suits you! By taking each item into your hands you are able to make an informed decision about whether the makeup is right for you.
When I declutter makeup items I tend to place them all on a surface and group them into separate categories. You’ll be surprised how many of the same kinds of nude lipstick, glosses or blusher you have, and you only need one of each for your makeup bag.
Clean your products! When was the last time you actually wiped over your blusher or cleaned the edge of your mascara?
Finally, consider how long you’ve actually had your products. Mascaras of any brand, for example, should be changed after six months, otherwise they can cause infection.
The top makeup essentials in your makeup bag that you can’t be without?
I cannot live without Studio10’s Skin Repair Perfect Canvas – it’s so light and creamy and gives me a natural flawless look. I also love the Perfect Bronze Glow-plexion as it gives me a healthy radiant look all year round and I love the glow! And lastly, my mascara for making my eyes pop behind my glasses!
And finally, your favourite quote to live by?
“Always remember to be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde