Article by Ceri Wheeldon
Our latest ‘fab woman’ Helen Sanderson shares her midlife reinvention story, as she becomes self employed as a professional organiser and creates and launches her home declutter kit.
About Helen: I live in London, engaged, no kids. I am an Artist, Designer Entrepreneur and Professional Organiser
What prompted you to start your business/ take up the challenge/follow your dream?
The need for freedom. I didn’t like working for other people and all the psychological dynamics that go on in the workplace. I am quite strong willed and creative. I value autonomy and creative expression highly, above security and belonging.
How old were you when you started?
I started my business late, when I was in my 40’s.
Did you have to take any courses or training to do this?
I had done several courses over the years to develop my skills. I also took a business course to learn about marketing and business strategy.
What does your business / dream /job/challenge look like today?
My business has evolved and changed over the years, I started off doing more interior design jobs and now it has flipped full circle and I do more declutter consultancy work for people with cluttered homes.
What has been the best aspect of your journey so far?
I would have to say meeting and working with amazing people. I am always very touched and moved by the stories people tell me about their lives and the ways we overcome adversity when we work together.
What was /is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is of being misunderstood. I am quite a private person and through my business I have had to be more public and outspoken. It is easy to misinterpret things the way the social media is going, it is all so fast paced these days.
Did anybody in particular inspire you?
No one in particular, but I am inspired by people who have had great success and then they use that to teach, support and inspire others and put something back in the world.
The challenge of working for yourself over 50
What difference has it made to your life?
Working for myself has challenged me so deeply, it has been the hardest thing I have ever done! When things went wrong, I only had myself to blame and I had to take the consequences, which has been tough. It has however made me more confident, stronger, more determined and I feel more fulfilled in life.
What challenges did you initially face? How did you overcome them?
My initial challenges were learning about business which didn’t come naturally to me, especially being a creative. I had to challenge some of my beliefs about money and sales and marketing. I realise now I had resistance to it that was related to a lack of self-worth. Selling your services is all about selling you, and so I have had to learn that I had value and when people didn’t want my services; not to take things personally.
How did you come up with your latest business idea?
Having worked with people who struggle with a cluttered or messy home for several years and spoken to hundreds of people about the paralysis and overwhelm they feel when faced with doing a declutter project, I fully understood what was needed to solve the problem. I have created the Home Declutter Kit which includes a set of beautifully illustrated cards, and a book outlining the method that I use in my work. This gives people a practical solution to solve a practical problem. It helps with overwhelm by breaking down the decisions into small manageable and easy ones so the harder ones can be approached with more calm.
What other opportunities have materialised as a result?
I have been featured in several media publications and appeared on BBC Radio which has been fun. I hope to develop more products to inspire and support people to create a home that supports them.
Which of your previous experiences (if any) did you draw upon the most?
The experience I draw upon the most would be a combination of psychotherapy training and my interior design skills. Understanding the psyche and the and knowing how to get the most out our interiors.
What are your next steps?
My next steps are to get the Home Declutter Kit available to buy in the USA, Australia and NZ. To publish my book and develop my workshops and an online offering. And try and fit in a holiday here and there!
How have friends and family reacted?
My friends have been very supportive and encouraging, in fact, I couldn’t be where I am without them!
Setting up a business that requires me to be on location, means I have to travel around a lot and I can’t work remotely. Gives me less freedom than I wanted, but something to work towards in my future business planning.
What 3 tips would you give other women over 50 looking to do something similar?
- Work with a coach to get a clear overview of what you are committing to.
- Write a business plan and have realistic expectations about building a business.
- Know that it takes a lot of work and commitment and will challenge you to the core.
Go for it!
A little bit more about you……
All time favourite book or film? My favourite movie is Dead Poets Society. I love the maverick and how society struggles to accept their different way of doing things.
How would you describe your own style? I like to be a bit different, to challenge convention and to express myself.
Three words that sum up your life over 50: Busy, exciting, fulfilling
You can find out more about Helen at helensanderson.com/declutter