The things we collect during our lifetime can help to strengthen our memories and reinforce our sense of identity but they can also devolve into clutter that is difficult to part with especially during times of transition.
“There are two basic types of memory when it comes to clutter,” said Wendy Smith president of SWOT Services. “There is memory clutter. Those are things that remind you of the past. It might be of a trip you took or photos of your kids when they were babies. Then, there are the some-day clutters and they are the things you won’t let go of because you think you might need them some day.”
Smith said decluttering is good for your physical and mental health and she has the science to back it up.
“There was a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience,” she said. “They measured the stimuli of the brain to clutter versus an uncluttered environment and proved that you think clearer, you are more rational and less irritable when you are in an environment without clutter.”
Decluttering is just one of the services Smith provides to clients who are going through transitions in their lives. Other services include assistance with estate dispersal, downsizing and moving into a retirement home.
“Basically, I charge by the hour and do as much or as little as you want,” she said. “I roll up my sleeves and get in there. Whatever needs to be done throughout the process I do or coordinate it.”
Smith was born in Guelph and studied hotel and restaurant management at Sheridan College. She lives in the city with her husband Ian Smith and has a daughter and son from a previous marriage.
Her opportunity to provide professional downsizing services came after she herself was the target of corporate downsizing.
“For most of my career I was at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce as senior manager of operations,” she said. “They did some restructuring after 20 years and I left because my position wasn’t going to be there anymore. It was time anyway. I had no real problem with it.”
It gave her time to clear her mind of corporate clutter and transition into a new and rewarding career.
“I was trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up, basically,” she said. “What is my next chapter? Did I want to get back into corporate? I decided not to and that is where everything evolved.”
When a family member’s husband died Smith was able to apply her training, experience and time to help her.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Smith. “I have always believed that. I wouldn’t have had the time to help as much as I did if I was still at the Chamber because I was often working 65 to 70 hours a week.”
The idea for SWOT Services came out of her experience helping the grief-stricken widow and her family through the process of settling the estate, downsizing, selling the home and eventually moving her elderly relative into a senior’s residence.
“There is obviously a need out there and that is what started to percolate,” she said. “The whole task can be overwhelming. You don’t know where to start and what to do.”
Her work has led to the discovery of forgotten treasures.
“I found a 10oz gold bar in a basement drawer,” she said. “I found $35,000 in one home in the Eggo box in the freezer. The senior had passed away and their kids didn’t know about it. It is so easy for people to just start tossing out food. If it’s unopened it can go to the foodbank but a lot of the time it is just tossed. I am trained to look in there.”
Parting with cherished items and memorabilia can be difficult for people especially during periods of grief. Smith helps them through the process and does her best to keep things of value out of landfill.
“I am busy right now dealing with a candelabra for a client from the 1800s,” she said. “We think it is worth $4,000 but I have to find an appraiser for it.”
She enjoys hearing her clients’ stories and the variety of experiences she has gained since launching her business a year and a half ago.“I really enjoy it,” she said. “I am very organized. I wouldn’t have been in operations for 20 years if I wasn’t and I enjoy the seniors.”