The pandemic, cost-of-living anxieties and the ease of online shopping have all led to a rise in household clutter.

Anita Fortes, from Overstrand, runs A Neater Life, a business specialising in helping people organise and declutter their homes. 

Mrs Fortes, 60, said she had seen some homes so cluttered they had a serious impact on their occupants’ lives. 

Eastern Daily Press: A cluttered loungeA cluttered lounge (Image: Supplied by Anita Fortes)

She said: “One of the women I work with has a diagnosed hoarding disorder. There was just a pathway from her front door, through the hall to the lounge.

"She couldn’t actually get into her bedroom and was sleeping in an armchair in her lounge.

"But we’ve come a long way and her home has been transformed."

Mrs Fortes launched her business in 2018, after previously working as an advisory teacher. 

Eastern Daily Press: Anita FortesAnita Fortes (Image: Ella Wilkinson)

She said the number of people needing help to declutter their homes had risen over the past few years. 

Mrs Fortes said: “The pandemic had a massive impact. I work with people who have complexities or mental health issues in their lives.

“They tended to lose their support systems in the pandemic, and it exacerbated the problems they have with over-purchasing things.” 

Eastern Daily Press: A cluttered loungeA cluttered lounge (Image: Supplied by Anita Fortes)

Mrs Fortes said January was often the time of year people reached out to her for help after realising they had too much stuff - which is often driven by the rise of internet shopping. 

She said: “Online shopping has made it so much easier for people who compulsively shop.

"I’ve worked with people who have got piles of unopened packages from Amazon blocking the kitchen, the hall, under the bed and under chairs, all because it is so easy.”

Eastern Daily Press: A cluttered spare bedroomA cluttered spare bedroom (Image: Supplied by Anita Fortes)

Mrs Fortes said there were many reasons why people accumulated too many things.

She said: “They might have a particular passion for something. For others it might be because they struggle to let things go because they attach a lot of sentimentality and meaning to things.

“One woman I work with accumulates a lot of clothes. It is almost as if every item has a meaning - something she once wore to a festival, or certain coats she wore to certain places. 

“Other people have a make-do-and-mend mentality. They don’t want to get rid of things because they think they can find a use for them.

“For example, they may keep a lot of packaging material and cellophane, because they think they will come in handy. But they often lay around the house for years, never being used.”

Mrs Fortes helps about four or five people in person and five or six online each week, working across Norfolk. 

She said her clients came from across society.

Mrs Fortes said: “They’re very often intelligent and creative people who hold down good jobs, but when it comes to the home, that’s when things fall apart a bit. 

“They often don’t want to have people in their home because they feel too ashamed. 

“I guide them, motivate them and hold them to account.

“I truly believe that by adopting good strategies and keeping going with them until they become habitual, anyone can learn to be better organised. 

“But don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come easily, it will come with practice.”

More tips can be found on Mrs Fortes’ blog, which is at

Living neatly: Mrs Fortes’ top tips

1. Write it down: Most people lead busy lives, and trying to hold it all in your head is not only stressful but a waste of energy. Write it down and you are already halfway to being more organised.

2. Prioritise: Choose a small number of tasks to focus on each day to help you be more productive.

3. Declutter: Have a good sort out and donate or recycle items that are taking up space. 

4. Shop mindfully: Remember that the dopamine hit we get from shopping is very short lived.

5. Have a place for everything: Get into the habit of putting them back after every use.

6. Do a reset every evening: At the end of each day, do a quick tidy of the lounge and kitchen.

7. Keep essentials together: Leave keys, wallet, mobile phone, sunglasses, and other accessories you carry daily in the same place every time you walk in the door. 

8. Lay out clothes: Deciding on clothes the night before saves you time in the morning when you are rushing to get yourself (and others) ready for school or work.

9. Deal with mail: Designate a specific place for incoming mail, so it’s not left strewn all over. 

10. Plan your meals: Planning meals ahead of time can really take the stress out of your daily routine.