We are talking today with Nicola Rodriguez, more affectionately known as Essex House Dolly. Nicola shares with us how the difficulties she has faced with her mental health, gave her the drive to change her life.
Please could you introduce Essex House Dolly and what you do.
I’m a professional declutter and reorganisation expert, cleaning influencer and qualified Interior Designer. I also offer a Personal Assistant role too whereby when I have worked with a client. Helping them to maintain what I have done, as well as checking in on their mental health if they have confided in me that they are struggling.
Essex House Dolly is such a wonderfully unique concept. How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always had an interest anything to do with the home. From a young age I used to control my anxiety through continually cleaning my bedroom and rearranging my furniture. I found this coping mechanism when I was 11 when I was struggling with life.
My nickname has always been Dolly where I am very small, so in 2021 when I decided to turn my hobby into a business. The Essex House Dolly was created.
We’ve spoken previously about your own mental health journey. I know it’s had a huge impact in where you are now. Would you be happy sharing that with us today?
Yes of course. Because I have such an understanding of mental health, OCD and Anxiety, being diagnosed with both, it is a useful tool to have when I am working with clients. I also am very open that I take medication daily to help me with how my brain works too.
How do you think your personal experiences have influenced Essex House Dolly?
It has made me the person that I am today. I have experienced a colourful life being a single parent twice, having a child with autism, juggling running a business whilst being a parent and being a domestic abuse survivor from my last relationship (2019-2021). This has all given me the tools to help my female clients if they are going through any of this.
You’ve mentioned OCD being a massive influence in starting Essex House Dolly. Do you use any particular strategies to manage your OCD at home?
Yes I do. For my mind to be focused on what I am doing that day, I have certain rituals that I must do. These include having beds made, toilets bleached and nothing out in the kitchen (ie dirty breakfast items). I will also double check all the doors are locked and then when I have locked my front door, I will check it again before I get in my car.
It is literally impossible for me to leave my home without these things being done. I’ll find it agitates me that they are not done and I am coming home to them. My home is presented like a show home. When I am at home I make sure everything is positioned correctly. This includes plug socket switches turned down when they are not being used.
I structure my housework so that I do set things on set days. For example laundry, ironing, dusting, cleaning floors, bathroom, inside of cupboards. This will include a day for my garden. I also have to balance my work life through a daily diary. This includes The Essex House Dolly during the week and volunteering at an amazing rescue and rehoming centre for exotic animals, Get to Know Animals in Epping. They have changed my son’s life and he volunteers there weekly, so I wanted to give something back to say thank you.
It is clear that helping others manage their mental health is important to you. How do you feel Essex House Dolly provides this?
I think it is because I get it and understand. Bereavement is an area that I do not have personal experience from so I use the skill set from my qualification in Stress Management & Anxiety Disorders. Making my client feel that they are not alone and there is light at the end for them is important.
I’m currently working with a client who is going through this and as a result, she has not cleaned her property for 3 years. Not only am I working with her once a month to help her get on top of what I am doing, but also checking in on her mental health and being someone she can talk to.
It was so rewarding the first time I went in and deep cleaned her kitchen living area and bathroom and rearranged her items. She had a sparkle in her eye when she came in and said she no longer felt embarrassed to have her friends over anymore. We are now working towards decluttering her property and going through her late husbands items. This is going to have to be done sensitively. I have already come up with an idea of using some of her late husband’s clothing of turning it into a patch work blanket or a teddy.
We are so excited for you, as in October you have been asked to be a keynote speaker at a huge event. The Clean & Tidy Home Show! How did this come about and what will you be discussing?
Yes it so is!! It will be my first speaking event and will be on 14th October at the London Excel.
I have been asked to talk about my life with anxiety and OCD as well as being a survivor of Domestic Abuse. Fleeing my abusive ex partner in September 2021 and the journey since, has given me a lot to talk about. I feel strong enough now through the therapy I’ve had to talk about what happened. Also highlighting cyber stalking, coercive control and mental abuse.
At the show I will also be talking about how to stay safe in your home. Another topic will be how I help women in these situations.
What is the favourite part about being Essex House Dolly?
I’d have to say the decluttering and reorganising part. My clients laugh at how excited I get when I get to reorganise everything. Not to mention using my label machine! I also love the feedback my client’s give me too.
I enjoy the press work that I get asked to do. It’s amazing to see how much my brand has grown in the last 23 month. Being featured in FORBES was definitely a fantastic highlight.
Do you have any other tasks when working, that you get really excited about?
Deep cleaning something that is filthy. Obviously, as I have just mentioned, the decluttering and reorganising. Giving a room a makeover for a client that has just given me a colour palette to work from is also brilliant.
What tool in your cleaning kit, could you not manage without?
This is easy…… my silicone rubber gloves from Cleanako!!! They are like marigolds but thicker. They’ve got bristles on the palms and fingers. They actually made me some in pink!
The Wonder Collection
The Wonder Checklist! We believe self-care is vital to great mental health. What is your go to self-care activity and why?
For self care I love playing solitaire on my phone with no noise or going to the cinema on my own! When I had recovery therapy from my last relationship, I had to begin enjoying my own company. I learnt that a mistake I had been making for years was where I couldn’t be on my own.
The Wonder Playlist! What song/artist do you find uplifting and listening to it/them boosts your mood?
I love classic garage music from the 90’s so I always have this playing on my Spotify album when I am working. My clients say they feel like they are in a rave if I have it on loud without my ears pods in!
The Wonder Bookshelf! Do you have book recommendations for our readers? It can be a fiction title, non-fiction, something to help them learn more about the topic at hand or even one of your own books.
I read The Secret which I thoroughly enjoyed and my second choice was Drama Queen – it is about the author finding out in her early 40’s she was autistic. I’m currently waiting for my autism diagnosis so this book in particular was a great read to understand a lot of my behaviour I was reading about!
The Wonder Sketchbook! Being mindful is a not just rewarding but can also be a lot of fun. Drawing helps stimulate the brain and can produce dopamine, improving concentration and making you feel more motivated, as well as being the hormone that lets us feel pleasure.
Draw anything – a self portrait, a plant, doodle, absolutely anything.
You can find out more about Nicola what she does at Essex House Dolly. Don’t forget to check out her Guest Author article too, How To Detox Your Wardrobe and Improve Your Mental Health with Our Top 6 Tips!