Goodbye for now: Reflections on the Attic Project

Our pioneering Attic Project is coming to an end (for now). Charlotte Powell looks back at the last three years and shares some stories in this blog.

Over the last three years, the Attic Project has helped people aged 50+ to make space in their homes. This has helped prevent falls, enabled safer discharges from hospital, and made room for vital home improvements and repairs. Our staff and volunteers have worked alongside vulnerable people in their homes, helping them sort through belongings, talking through the memories behind treasured possessions and enabling them to decide what to do with them.

The project’s funding comes to an end this week. As I pause to reflect, I feel a few hundred words really can’t do justice to communicate the lives we've touched and the difference we've made. There are so many moments and memories which I’ll carry with me from the project, but I wanted to share a few of them with you.

I’ve been struck by just how anxious and stressed people have felt when they need to get rid of things that mean so much to them because of a changing health need. Naomi had a huge passion for flower-arranging, and had shared her skills with others. We helped remove 30 years’ worth of materials, so her downstairs utility room could be made into an accessible bathroom and she'd be less likely to fall.

Knowing where to start when removing a massive chunk of your identity from your home can be overwhelming. I’m humbled by how compassionate and empathic our team has been when helping people with that process. Seeing the relief come across our clients when the work is finished is always a touching moment.

Many of the people we help feel lonely and isolated, and seeing relationships grow has been heart-warming. I remember a particular group meeting where a volunteer brought along one of her clients, who hadn’t left her home or had visitors in 6 months. A big step which surely can’t be underestimated. Hearing people talk at this meeting about how they had found their “tribe” through the Attic Project was a powerful moment. It felt like the project was doing something right for people beyond the practical aims of decluttering homes.

I’ll remember the stories people have shared. Some are stories of painful trauma, domestic violence or bereavement which led people to feel comfort from having a home full of possessions. And many stories are full of joy; hearing people in our reminiscence groups bond over memories of growing up in the same suburb was lovely.

When helping Mrs Smith sort through her late husband's extensive book collection, she found an entire book he had written and bound himself. It was all about their relationship, the times they had shared and how much he loved her. She had no idea this book existed. There are so many of these profoundly beautiful moments, and it's a real privilege to be able to share in them.

Everyone who has been touched by the Attic Project wants to see it continue and we’re working hard to make that happen. We're applying again to our current funders, the National Lottery Community Fund, in early 2021. We're also looking to set up a social enterprise, so we can make the project more sustainable in the long term.
Hopefully, this is just a ‘goodbye for now’ from the Attic Project and not the end of the story.