Friday 17 November 2017

Meet the Irish gurus who can change your life - from decluttering your home to ending a career rut

Never mind new age exercise classes and mindful meditation - from decluttering your home to getting you out of a career rut, our reporter tracks down the Irish experts who can really help you to change your life

Image consultant Aideen Garvey pictured at her home in Dundrum.
Photo: Steve Humphreys.
Image consultant Aideen Garvey pictured at her home in Dundrum. Photo: Steve Humphreys.
Jane Downes from Clearview Coaching pictured at the offices on Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.
Niamh O'Reilly. Picture: Frank McGrath
Declutter expert Breda Stack.

Orla Neligan

Do you ever feel that you don't know where you're going with your career? Or that you're struggling with parenthood? Or even that you're overwhelmed by your own wardrobe? Do you ever wish that someone else would just swoop in, take over and help to sort everything out for you? Well, now they can - for a price, at least.

Self-help may be a huge global industry but it can be hard to fully engage in the mindful pursuit of happiness when your house is a stressful jumble, your personal or professional confidence is running low, and you have a toddler screaming all night long. So why not get yourself some outside help?

Personal effectiveness and problem-solving is no longer reserved for the spiritual domain. Today, a multitude of specialist professions have developed to help people navigate the personal crises that often accompany the demands of modern living. Career coaches, image consultants, childcare experts and more are poised and ready to help you sort out immediate and overwhelming problems, or even just to teach you more efficient and effective ways of navigating everyday life. Here, we meet four of the new gurus…

The career coach

Jane Downes from Clearview Coaching pictured at the offices on Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.

Jane Downes (39) is one of Ireland's best-known career coaches and author of The Career Book - Help for the Restless Realist. She owns Clearview Coaching Group, a career coaching and training business, which she established in 2004. She lives in Dublin with her husband Clive and children Anna (9) and Olivia (16 months).

Talking with Jane Downes, it's hard to believe she once had a fear of public speaking. "I used to hate presenting or speaking publicly while I was in college," says Jane who set up Clearview Coaching, one of Ireland's first career coaching organisations, 12 years ago. "Now, the larger the audience the better, whether TV, radio, or convention centre."

So, what's the secret? "Self belief is vital, as is being passionate about your subject and knowing you can stretch out of your comfort zone." This seems to be the root of being career-happy too. According to Jane you owe it to yourself to be brilliant not just mediocre - life's too short - and also to understand that there are common pitfalls in how we approach our challenges.

"My late father used to say that everybody has a job to do in their career which is to make an impact, however small that may be. The point being to decide on the impact you want to make. I also believe if you do the work that's natural to you, you won't ever feel like you have worked a day."

The most common reason for why people seek Jane's services is because they are disappointed and feel 'stuck'.

"I help people to help themselves by analysing and correcting whatever it is that is holding them back from achieving more." Coaching offers perspective, time out with someone independent, an objective and a chance to build confidence and personal effectiveness. In years spent honing her skills in HR and recruitment, Jane always knew she was destined for a career that focused on bringing out the best in others and developing people.

"My work is never dull, the absolute best bit is seeing people making positive changes and the happiness this brings."


1. Examine what needs to change and put a value on yourself.

2. Ask yourself what do I need to start and stop doing to move forward.

3. Transfer the power and time you are giving this difficulty into career planning time.

The declutter expert

Declutter expert Breda Stack.

Known as The Declutter Therapist, Breda Stack (39) from Cork, is the founder of Ireland's National Declutter Day, Declutter TV and author of Declutter Therapy: Ultimate Wardrobe Decluttering. She lives in Limerick with her husband Ronan.

Breda Stack knows all about 'letting go'. The very concept has formed the foundation of her declutter therapy business, which assists people with the emotional aspect of letting go as well as the practical elements such as personal style, organisation, storage, décor, design and lifestyle. "LET IT GO is actually my business tagline," notes Breda.

"There is a great lack of understanding around the difficulties people have with letting go and a sensationalism around 'clutter' that invites shame and guilt. I teach people to break free from overwhelming clutter so they can enjoy simpler, happier lives - it's all about being healthy and balanced."

Breda herself knows first-hand the negative effect clutter can have. In her 20s, her wardrobe was a mishmash of sizes, styles and eras, most of her clothes didn't fit or flatter her. "I learned to declutter my wardrobe and gained control and confidence as a result." This inspired her foray into her career as a life coach, stylist and eventually a declutter therapist.

"Most people associate decluttering with deprivation whereas I see it as holistic. So much can be gained from getting rid of items that don't serve or make you feel good: freedom, relief, greater confidence, happiness, peace of mind, creativity, confidence and clarity."

For those that find it difficult to part with possessions, Breda advises a gentle approach. "Clutter and hoarding is typically an emotional response to something but the word 'hoarder' is greatly overused and people think their clutter is much worse than it is. The reasons we keep things can be complex and deep-rooted so it's important to be kind and gentle with yourself throughout the process."


1. Establish what clutter is to you - one man's trash is another man's treasure.

2. Believe you can become clutter-free, you can learn the required skills.

3. Distribute unwanted items in a meaningful way. Giving to others can lessen the guilt.

The image consultant

Image consultant Aideen Garvey pictured at her home in Dundrum. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

A long-term interest in personal development and a desire to be at home with her children led Mayo native Aideen Garvey (43) to set up her own image consulting business in 2013. She lives in Dublin with her husband Ken and four children Rory (12), Emily (10), Ailbhe (9) and Isabelle (6).

As a mum-of-four, Aideen Garvey admits that keeping up appearances while dashing from school to extra curricular activities can be tricky, especially when asked what she does for a living while standing on the side of a football pitch in her wellies. But then, personal style must take into account your lifestyle, says Aideen who swapped her 20-year career as a chartered accountant for image consulting three years ago and is now busier than ever. "We all have an idea of how we'd ideally like to look if time and money weren't an issue, but looking good doesn't need to cost a fortune."

Her work involves establishing a client's style personality through questionnaires and meetings, figuring out their best colours, showing them clothing lines and textures, patterns and proportions and finding what suits them best via a wardrobe analysis and personal shopping session.

"I leave them with a clear sense of their own style and image that reflects their true potential. Looking good is not a frivolous thing, it alters our state of mind and makes us feel good and that's a powerful tool."

Many of her clients report feeling more self-assured and confident. Recently, a client sent Aideen a photo of herself on the red carpet with Johnny Depp in an outfit Aideen had styled, a proud moment for her. "I love that I can empower people to feel their best by giving them the tools to look their best."


1. Invest most in the items you'll wear the most.

2. Only buy something if you already own three things it goes with.

3. Always wear your best colours, they make you look younger and healthier.

The baby whisperer

Niamh O'Reilly. Picture: Frank McGrath

A regular in the Irish media, Dublin native Niamh O'Reilly (42) is a sleep expert, baby and childcare guru, author of The No Fuss Baby & Toddler Sleep, and the answer to many parents' woes.

"My role as a PA for a large bank was often like childminding," laughs Niamh O'Reilly, one of Ireland's best-known childcare experts. While running her daycare business, The Nursery, she discovered common difficulties parents shared establishing good sleep patterns for their children. She is now a full-time consultant working with families in their own homes, helping them get their wide-awake babies to sleep.

"My job is not to tell people what to do but to offer them alternatives and support through a process of change. Often that is the part that most parents say they get most value from. I never judge because there are so many factors that lead people to be exhausted, who am I to say what's right or wrong?"

Even when parents admit to lying on the floor of their children's bedroom all night with one arm reaching into the cot? "No two consultations are the same; there has been plenty of exhausted, desperate parents but if everyone is ready to make a change, I'm there to hold their hands."

According to Niamh, sleep and behavioural issues are closely linked, so by solving a sleep issue it's likely you will see behaviour improve. But she admits it can be challenging when mum and dad are not on the same page and she becomes a 'mediator' or when a child tries every trick in the book not to stay in bed. "There was a little guy who was the cleverest I've ever seen; he tried everything he could think of including needing a drink, the toilet, a bottle of ketchup from the kitchen, to say goodnight to the entire contents of the house, so I used to video chat with him at bedtime and he would promise to stay put. It took weeks."

Niamh has worked with hundreds of families and while the issue may be the same sometimes, the dynamic in every family is different. "My favourite part is spending time with the families and facing the problems head on. I love seeing texts saying 'She did it! We got through the night with no interruptions'." And, for those sleep-deprived parents, Niamh is encouraging: "Lower your expectations and try to be consistent, things won't change overnight but in time, they will. To quote Maya Angelou: 'You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better you did better'."


1. Relax - not all sleep issues need fixing, they can often coincide with a developmental leap.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

3. If both parents are involved, be sure you are on the same page. A good cop/bad cop routine can lead to confusion.

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