Lately I’ve gotten into the business of helping clients declutter their homes. This is something that really matters to me because I am a homebody and most of my life has been very home-focused. (Not to mention I have four planets in Virgo in my career house, for those of you who can guess what that means.) I love creating beautiful spaces and I believe that our homes are a reflection of who we are and the state of our being, but not only that they can be a reflection of our dreams and what we value and want in life. This is something to strive for.
This past weekend our historic neighborhood (history is relative, remember—our homes were all built in the 20th century but are still considered ‘old’) hosted its annual Home Tour. We feature five neighborhood homes each September and about 200 people buy tickets to walk into them, peek into our lives, and see what we’ve done to make our older homes livable for the 21st century. Our home was on the tour in 2009 and it was a great experience (I wrote about it HERE and you can see photos of my home there.)
George and I volunteer to be tour hosts in one home each year and this year we had a wonderful time in the home chosen for us. The house was a 1950 Colonial, a humble house by many standards, but certainly beautiful and livable. What was really wonderful about it to me, however, was that the owners had obviously put their whole selves into their home. They value the earth and the outdoors very much, regularly doing things like hiking the Appalachian Trail and teaching kayaking, and they have completely renovated their home with that in mind.
The house has recently been insulated to meet high energy efficiency standards. The couple has redone the original wood floors and installed cabinets and painted walls, all with low or no toxin finishes. The entire description of their house provided to the visitors that day was about how this older home had been updated in environmentally friendly ways, in line with the family’s values. A super efficient new furnace, tankless water heater, recycling space built into the new kitchen cabinets, composting bins, insulated shades, and the list goes on. It was obvious they used creative ways to make their home reflect their core values.
I love to see this and believe all of us can do it. It doesn’t have to involve large amounts of money or a complete eco-friendly renovation. I wish we could all do that! But, I know we can all do little things to further live out what we value in our home.
Here’s one thing I did this week: cleaned off the dining room table. It’s been a mess for months. George and I will often set our laptops on it and use it as office space. It collects clutter from work, school and life in general. It was the large surface available for piling. (The FlyLady would call that a ‘hot spot’.) Yes, our dining room table had become a hot spot, indeed. And a spot where we could no longer do what you’re supposed to do at a dining room table: gather for family meals.
So I sat with myself and asked, did we really need that table as our home office or would it better serve us to be eating there again? We can cram into our little kitchen table, and often do that, but several nights a week I found we’d been eating in the living room watching the TV, or spread around the house. That is NOT the family life I have envisioned, and it’s not what I value.
So, I decided to clean off the table and find a new spot to serve as office. (Actually, I am typing this from my laptop on the dining room table, but George and I have committed to cleaning off what gets put on the table during the day, so we can eat dinner here.)
I love our dining room table. George made it himself and it’s such a solid, warm piece of furniture. It deserves to be the place we gather for dinner, and now I feel like it’s in its rightful place. I still love using it to write on too. Earlier in our family life it was the crafting table for the kids and me, and the table on which we colored or painted. It has a lot of character from years of family life, and that’s just right. It makes the whole dining room feel warm and homey and centered, and it lends to the handmade, creative aspect of our home that we also value so much.
What piece of furniture or room in your home would you like to better align with your values? Is there a spot in your home that’s really been bothering you? Here’s a technique for making a change, and it’s from Lauren Rosenfeld’s book Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home. She calls it the SLICE method:
- Stop and Listen
- Clear the Energy
You start by stopping and listening to what’s bothering you. In my case, it was the messy table and the fact we hadn’t been eating as a family as much as I want to be. It wasn’t in line with my values and the feeling around it was disappointment.
How does your messy spot make you feel? Stop and listen to that. Journal about it if that helps you. Paint a picture of how you feel, or take a photograph and really sit with the feelings that come up. Don’t run away from this step. How does this room or spot make you feel? I needed to feel my own disappointment because it motivated me to do something different. I needed to re-clarify for myself that I have a strong value around eating meals together on a pretty table.
Next, intend. What do you want for this space or the ‘hot spot’? Lauren has her clients pick at least three words to describe the energy they want to create in their particular room or space.
In my dining room, I picked four words for the energy I want to create and they are:
It’s important that my dining room table be at the center of this ritual where we eat dinner together, and that it be clean so I can put a table runner or some placemats on it, light some candles and maybe decorate with some flowers so it feels homey and pretty. That all makes me feel so good, and like I’m being a good mom.
The third and final step is clear the energy which is, simply, clearing out the clutter and cleaning up the space. Lauren puts it beautifully in the book: “clearing out the possessions that do not resonate with the energy you intend for your rooms.”
I love that word ‘resonate’. As a coach I am trained to listen for resonance in my clients. When we hit on an idea that resonates, we usually know it. We feel it in our body, our energy goes up and our face lights up.
In the case of my dining room, I cleared off everything and found new places to put it. Office supplies went in a drawer in the dining room hutch; papers went into the filing cabinet; and laptops get put on a shelf when we aren’t using them. Those things didn’t resonate with my value of the ritual of eating a nice dinner on a pretty table so away they went. And it’s perfect.
Such a simple thing, and a good way to start is with one hot spot or one small room. Or start with the room that makes you feel the most dissonant energy. Which space in your home is really making you want to run away from it? Is it time to face it? How do you really want that room to feel? Set your intentions and go from there.
Remember you have tools and you can Stop, Listen, Intend and Clear the Energy. It’s so simple. And I can work with you if you want coaching around this topic-either in person where we’ll actually physically clear the clutter together, or via Skype where I can be your accountability partner. I’m ready and eager to work with clients to help them create homes and workplaces that reflect their values and dreams. It IS doable. Simply go here to contact me for a free consult.