Sometimes you just need to start

Sometimes you just need to start

There are many reasons for not doing this project, for not starting If Lost Start Here. Want to hear a selection of them?

  • We are not ‘Experts’.

  • It makes us want to vomit.

  • Do projects like this pay?

  • Husband is doubtful.

  • Time to get a ‘proper’ job.

  • Don’t only perfectly-formed people start projects like this?

  • Someone, maybe many people, will laugh at us.

  • We are terrified of putting our ideas out there.

  • When? Like seriously when? And how? Maybe these are the same thing.

But there are many reasons why to work on If Lost Start Here

  • We believe in it.

  • It wakes us up at 2am and gets us to the coffee shop to work on it by 5am.

  • More about mental wellbeing = matters hugely

  • It feels so good and right and necessary.

  • Good things might come of it, for us and others.

  • It might make people look differently at something, to value their own thoughts, to notice who and what’s around them. 

  • So many things in our lives led us to exactly this place.

  • We’d be moving forwards on one of our major life’s ambitions: mental health advocacy

  • Vomit can be cleaned and we’ll be ok even if we blush a little. 

  • We get to decide what we do and where we put our attention, even if we have limited resources.

  • Not to, would be one of life’s big regrets

  • We love doing this together.


  • This is the big one: because of my mum (this is a photo of her from sometime in the 70s—I love how she looks here). For many of us, it always comes back to our mums, doesn’t it?

There was a very clear Before for me: I used to be a curator, in a former art world life, creating exhibitions in museums and galleries that I could have only dreamt of, like Tate Modern, the Serpentine and the ICA in London. It was an incredibly exciting career for a northern girl: I wore a lot of black.

Then something happened that forced me to reassess everything. My mum, who had been my best friend and constant in my life, started to lose her mind. Slowly, then completely. Now she struggles to function in the world. No, I don’t know her diagnosis. No-one does. We’re still trying to figure that out, after years and years of appointments, and ER visits, and specialists, and reading. Lots and lots of reading.

But the loss of my mum, even as she’s very much in this world, did this to me: it forced that question of the After, of what comes next. After I dropped my mum off at a psychiatric ward for the first time, as I drove to my childhood home, I made a promise to whatever entity we want to call it, that this would not all be for nothing, that I would work in any capacity I could to change whatever this situation was in which we were finding ourselves now lost. There is only After when you’ve been through something like this.

I’d quit the art world to train as a therapist. My experience with my mum’s mental health, and let’s add here my own, put the question of how we function as people front and center in my life, and it made me feel that this reified environment of conceptually-oriented art exhibitions didn’t connect with my life anymore. I would become the person in the room. I’d seek out a very clear role for myself.

My year at CCPE completing a Foundational Counseling & Psychotherapy course taught me that I was sincerely drawn to this world of therapeutic thinking but here’s the problem I’m not what I would call people-y. Being a therapist wouldn’t be my outlet, it wouldn’t save me. But bringing that learning together with my curator brain—that roaming, search for thematics on which that profession is built—might. There’s always that tension in my mind between ideas and how they take their form in the world, in other words the human piece. That’s the point of interaction that fascinates me the most. Could I make into that something?

If Lost Start Here began to percolate when I realized that people were starting to do some fascinating things with that tension point. They were starting to build brick-and-mortar places around things like community and emotional intelligence, anxiety and depression, and even the end of relationships and end of life. They were starting to make places that hold our mental wellbeing in ways that the museums that I’d worked in held contemporary art.

I also realized that was nowhere to go to find all those different things. There were, and are, incredible platforms for great interior design, or travel off the beaten path, or wellbeing trends, but there’s nowhere to think about all the different places in the world that are now being kind to our minds and making for better lives. I realized that we needed a guide to this new sector, one that combines wellbeing with curiosity, travel and lifestyle, place-making and socially engaged art, independent cafes and mom-and-pop stores—all approaches directed at making our lives better, and easier, and more fulfilling.

We’re hoping that If Lost Start Here will become the platform that curates the best places that support us as actual people in our worlds. It’s about that practical search for something else, for whatever it is that represents the gap in your life, for the thing that you need. My hope is that you’ll find what you are looking for and what you need. As I’m trying to do for my mum and me. Maybe we can do this together?

There are various ways for you to engage. By reading our online guide of those places that help with our sanity and our everyday lives, and supporting them as and when you need them in your life. By participating in our guide, contributing the places that you know prioritize our mental wellbeing in new and interesting ways. And of course, by sharing—help us get the word out that this platform exists, that there is help out there. Sometimes, we, you, and I just have to find it.

x Claire

Shelf Help | In conversation with Toni Jones

Shelf Help | In conversation with Toni Jones

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