Q&A With Helen Sanderson

Empatika Helen Sanderson

Helen Sanderson is a renowned interior designer, artist and decluttering expert.  She has recently joined forces with Empatika to deliver an exclusive interior design and organisation service, created to make sure clients get the most of their fitted furniture.  Here she answers some questions about her work, inspiration and interest in all things mindful.

When did you realise you had a talent for interior design and decluttering spaces?

My father owned a fabric business, so I used to play with the samples in the boot of his car when I was a child! I think when you grow up with something like that it becomes second nature to you, so colours, fabrics and designs are in my blood and I am happiest when I have some paint, materials or tiles to play with.  Not only that, I really appreciate order and harmony and I think this is one of the fabulous things about artists and designers – they bring aesthetics into our lives, help us to see the world differently and enhance it with beauty. That is what I am great at doing.

The decluttering came later in life. I had a friend who had a lovely big house, but one room was full of junk that he had accumulated over the years. It was his dump/junk room – where he put things he didn’t want to make a decision about or deal with. I told him I could help, as intuitively I knew I could. I was good at sorting out my own stuff – I got a buzz from it and it energized me, so I knew he would feel good after we cleared the room together. This is where I began developing my simple step by step process; ever since then I have used it over and over with a diverse range of clients with great results.

You have studied intensively within the fine arts, integrative arts and psychotherapy.  How has this influenced your work?

The arts have formed the foundation of my life really, and understanding design principles and aesthetics is essential for anyone working within art and design. I was always fascinated in the cultural influences of the time, and how current culture influenced the psychology of the artists producing the work. When I was studying at art college I remember being so inspired by the art movements, but even more by the ‘why’ in an artist’s work; a piece of art was a response to the world around them. To me creating quiet rooms is a response to the world we live in today; a very fast paced, noisy and demanding world, where we have forgotten how to slow down, rest and press pause.

As I said earlier, art, design, beauty and aesthetics are in my blood and I find people interesting. I like to understand why people are as they are, why someone is stuck and how I can help, hence my training in psychotherapy.  Understanding the needs and feelings of the people I work with is so important to the job, and clients tell me that this is one of the most valued things I offer. I think that we have been conditioned to believe that we should sort everything out alone, whereas I think as humans we thrive better with support and understanding, with empathy, understanding and companionship. This is what I offer clients about to undertake a big decluttering project.

You have helped small clients in domestic homes and worked on large scale commercial projects for the NHS and The Guardian.   What has been your favourite space to transform?

I love the variety of working with the personal space of an individual client and the public space of the larger organisation. To me our outer space is a reflection of our inner space so getting your space sorted will give you greater clarity of mind. Equally a beautiful calming and uplifting space helps us to centre, reconnect and still the mind to gain greater clarity. This is why I work with both as I know the inner and outer are so deeply connected and it is so important that we make space for our humanness – in private (at home) in addition to in public (at work or out shopping etc).

In today’s hectic world, people have so little time for themselves that they dismiss the need for calm and stillness.  How do you persuade people to let peace into their lives?

This is an interesting question! I don’t really have to convince anyone, as the people who request my services have realised the need for it already. People know they need calm, they come to me for help and tell me they want more peace of mind. The clutter that we have in our space, we carry around in our head all day; there’s a constant nag telling you to do something about it and yet there is usually a blockage, an obstacle that stops someone letting go. I help people work through that, and it’s a very results based process. We can talk about clutter all day, but I am interested in clearing it physically. I know once it is gone, anything is possible.

With regards to the workplaces, companies know that their staff, their human capital, needs to be nurtured and that a clear mind is a more productive mind. That is why “mindfulness” has become so popular today, especially as our minds are constantly being bombarded with technology, noise and marketing. We all know that our minds need some care and attention, just as much as our bodies do. I hope that companies recognise the need for a ‘mind space’ as much as a ‘body gym’, sooner rather than later. When the mind is given space and calm, it is actually much better at problem solving than it is when it is constantly under pressure or demand.

You have recently teamed up with Empatika, who deliver a boutique fitted furniture service.  Why is it essential for people to have the appropriate storage space in their homes in order to declutter?  

If people don’t have adequate storage, then the clutter soon builds up again and all the hard work was for nothing. Clearing is one thing, but putting away is another. Clients often cite the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place” and that is what they long for and aspire to. A great storage facility makes that possible. Individuals come to me for these main reasons:

  • They have too much stuff
  • They feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or they have tried and just create a mess and get disillusioned
  • They live in an old house with little or poor storage facilities

Often when I work with people they do so well to let go of things, but then we find we have a pile and nowhere to put it. This is where Empatika comes in. The team are very people-focused and will create something that fits in with the quirky corners of most properties, at the same time accommodating the needs of their clients’ personalities and lifestyles. We recently worked with a couple of publishers, and their house was full of hundreds of books!  After decluttering the space Empatika put up some great shelving units for them. Their flat looked so stylish; the change from a student pad to a professional’s home was impressive. It was lovely!

I am so pleased about this partnership, as now I know that the right solution for my clients is just a phone call away and that they will receive the best service and good quality results – something that is custom built for them and won’t fall down or wobble like the cheaper alternatives do. I love the results Empatika create; clean, stylish and functional. Perfect!