Andrew is a friend of the family; he graces us with his presence from time to time by joining our family for dinner some nights. Having Andrew at the table usually starts out in fits of sheer delightful laughter. He always shares some of his funniest stories, so funny in fact the entire table must steady their spoons so as to not spill the soup as we erupt into laughter.
But the second half of dinner is not pleasure at all. Our amusement quickly turns to boredom followed by frustration as Andrew once again recounts the handful of trusty conversational pieces he brings with him every single time. It’s at this point he begins to complain and one by one you can see the smiles disappearing from the faces of all the dinner guests.
Amongst his favourites are his gripes with technology;
“Just after I had spent hours and hours trying to get the f**** thing to work the little green light finally goes on but the thing’s still not working!”
He would go into a full length explanation about all the ways he tried to make whatever piece of technology work. Even though this particular story happened over two years ago his intense anger makes it seem as though it had only happened today.
If he wasn’t talking about electronics he’d be going on and on about the time he was scammed by an internet retailer almost a decade ago or the plumber who took months to fix the pipes in his basement - an event that took place around five years ago.
His inability to let go of those stories hindered him from moving on with his life. Instead he carried them around like baggage everywhere he went. The penny dropped one day when I finally saw his house; his behavior miraculously made perfect sense to me.
While my very first impression of the ground floor was that it’s absolutely impeccable I realized that some parts of the house were filled with clutter from floor to ceiling. Particularly his study and bedroom; the walk-in closet and bedside table shelves had bent under the weight of 50 years personal belongings.
I could see by the age and sheer number of books, collectibles and clothes that he hadn’t been unable to let go of anything over the course of his life. Not only from his mind and home, but also from his body since Andrew carried around an excessive amount of weight.
Just like his stories, Andrew was unable to let go of anything, he’d hung onto absolutely everything for decades.
Your Home is a Reflection of Your Life
First, we choose our house then the furniture, decorations and personal belongings. Wise people choose very carefully what to bring into their home because they know that each and every item will affect the way they feel and ultimately their life.
A few years ago Danielle and her boyfriend had moved into a home they’d instantly fallen in love with. To their misfortune the broker, who sold them the house, had taken them to inspect it on a weekend. Since they didn’t know the area well and had never been to this part of the city before they were surprised to learn their new street turned into a busy trough-fair on weekdays.
When I first met Danielle she had dark circles under her eyes. She would tell me “I feel stressed out and rattled almost every day. It’s so hard to calm down or meditate at any given time on a weekday with all that noise from just outside my windows. I’m on alert 24/7.”
It seemed all of her energy was being drained by the heavy traffic just meters outside her house. The constant noise made it difficult for her body to relax deeply so that she could restore all her strength.
Kristy, another client of mine, had moved from a small town into the deserted countryside to be with her new husband. Together they have three wonderful kids whom they both adore and an old farmhouse they share with her husband’s parents. The farmhouse offered enough space to accommodate Kristy family as well as her in-laws to live comfortably, but anyone who walked into the farmhouse could see the influence of past generations in the decorations and custom furnishing throughout.
And that was exactly what caught my eye when I first entered their house; there wasn’t a single piece of furniture that was less than 20 years old. Nothing of the decor reflected Kristy - the young modern woman in contemporary clothing.
Upon my arrival Kristy welcomed me into the farmhouse which contained antique dressers, dark and heavy built-in closets that covered every last centimeter of the house and tiles that had been all the rage in the 50’s.
Kristy so wanted to make the house more her own but didn’t know where to start: “It’s like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders that follows me around wherever I go in this house.”
As it turned out even though the house was huge and spacious there was not a single corner in the entire estate that was dedicated to just Kristy. No space in which she could retreat in between raising the boys, their dairy farm and her part time job as a teacher.
Since all the rooms had been decorated by her in-laws, who had recently moved into another part of the house, all the cupboards were still filled with their belongings which they had no intention of ever moving.
Improve Your Home to Improve Your Life
The great thing about our living space is that we hold the power to change it. Sure, your landlord probably won’t approve of you knocking down walls but there are more subtle changes you can make to help improve your living space. Even small changes like fresh colors, new accessories and inspiring wall prints can really cheer up the soul. Or simply letting go of something that’s no longer needed can lead to significantly improving your life.
Start now; write down a few lines about something in your home that isn’t the perfect fit for you right now.
For Kristy, for example, it was about feeling suppressed and having no space to express herself. Danielle felt stressed and could not get the rest she needed. Andrew continued to have the same drama’s, kept collecting new belongings to stuff into his cupboards while still gaining more weight.
Now go back to the few lines you just wrote – read it as objectively as you can. Are there any obvious solutions that jump out at you? Do you see any wise voice coming through between the lines?
When I asked Kristy to do this, she realized that the suppressed feeling came from all the heavy furniture filled with stuff that didn’t belong to her.
By putting her foot down with her in-laws, Kristy redecorated one of the spare bedrooms into her private study and retreat where she could be alone. She had lost her creativity when moving into the farmhouse but her new retreat helped her get her creative juices flowing again.
Danielle realized that there wasn’t much she could do about the noise outside on the road. To get the rest that she and her partner needed they decided to move the bed into the small study in the back of the house where the noise was slightly better sheltered. In the meantime this would give her the strength she needed to search for a new place for them to live.
Andrew, to my very surprise - one day decided to take up the task of de-cluttering his house. He donated three carloads of old books, clothes and collectibles and not to mention some pretty full garbage bags to take to the tip.
It had taken over a year of constant affirmations and encouragement from his entire family and truthfully I had lost any hope of him throwing out a single thing but I’m so happy that he did. Since the de-clutter Andrew has lost some weight and has found himself a lot happier and more open to new experiences. “Things seem to be easier and there’s less weight on my shoulders. It set free some fresh energy.”
The Small Steps Add Up
When it comes to working with the home every little improvement adds up. Decorating, painting and filling your home with items that you LOVE can often take a lot of time and recourses which you may not immediately have.
But it doesn’t have to stop you from taking the first step. It’s often better to go about making changes in small steps, taking the time to do it properly.
Even though you may not think that exchanging a picture in your bathroom will compensate for the ugly lime tiles but get started anyway. The first little change will inspire you to make the next. Those steps add up over time and your home will get more beautiful.
The benefits I have seen in both my own life as well as in others have been enormous. By continuously improving our living space we make room for a lot of improvement in our life. These changes may not be as visible from the outside but they are still happening on the inside.
Has this blog helped you make some changes in your home? Members please tell us about your experiences and changes in the community boards.
Eva Gossenreiter is an interior designer with an architectural background. Through personal experience Eva realized how much the atmosphere in her home could affected her mood and life. Eva brought this concept into her interior design business and uses techniques such as Feng Shui, Dowsing and Clearings to turn living spaces into retreats that delight the soul and rejuvenate the body. To find out more visit evagossenreiter.com