When I began speaking to my first client about reclaiming her space, she cried.
Having endured 8 months of lockdown in an apartment that was controlling her freedom and stifling her creativity had taken an emotional toll. She had no space.
She lived in a lovely apartment by herself. However, an emotional trauma from a particularly horrible break up had caused her to cocoon herself in belongings. Her clothing was on her table- there was no space to enjoy a meal. The walls were lined with stacks of paper and mostly unused items and there was very little walking space. She needed SPACE. Space to move freely and to just be.
I like to think about the word SPACE. The final frontier. Outer space. Personal space. Breathing space. Emotional space. Holding space. All of these forms of space hold wonder to me. Space is something I think about a lot.
I find that a person’s living space reflects their emotional state. An unkempt bedroom is a sign of sadness. People collect items to fill emotional voids. All of this takes space. In a world where marketing is telling us that a blender, clothing, or beauty products will help us fill the void, it’s no wonder so many are displeased with their living space. As we look for happiness in external items it creates a space that is unwell on an emotional level. This requires some deep thinking and releasing of a broken thought process to mend.
Things do not make you feel better. the promise of how the thing will heal you is the end goal, correct? The guitar will make music, and music is something you enjoy. The treadmill will make you fit, and being fit will bring you love. The 12 bottles of face washing system will make you look younger, and appearing younger will solve everything. Every item has an ideology of improvement attached to it. Most of these things are used for a short period of time, discarded, but yet they are still hanging around. When I say to a client “BUT DO YOU USE IT?” the shame is palpable. So is the relief of letting go.
I had a client that had more than 800 pounds of free weights in his home. When I did an initial consultation with him, I found that he did not lift weights. He WANTED to lift weights. When his daughter, who lives across the country came to take care of him when he took a fall, she was stunned by the state of her childhood home and scheduled a consult with me. When I asked him why he had so many weights, he told me that he was looking for the perfect set. When I worked with this man, I came to realize that he had an excess of just about everything. We counted 35 purple button down shirts in his closet! This clients things were occupying so much space that living in his home had become impossible. The counters were buried, the oven was full, only one of three bathrooms were usable. He confided in me that he wanted his daughter to have to sort through his things when he was gone. He wanted to leave something behind. She, in turn, was terrified by the amount sorrow she already felt, being in her fathers space.
With these two examples I have shared, I see two lovely people struggling with how their homes- which should be their sanctuary and a safe space- became a burden. One was trying to fill a hurt space inside of themselves, and the other was trying to leave a space that spoke of who he was.
We all have different reasons for filling our space with excess, and those things must be addressed or downsizing is a cycle, not a solution. As a professional organizer and downsizer, I find that so many people want to fix the problem with bins, baskets, and labels, but do not want to do the emotional work it takes to prevent this cluttering and collecting to occur again. Many organizers are very happy to take your money and move on. But that is a band-aid. I do not think organizers have ill intentions, I just think many do not understand the importance of what they are doing, and how much better it would serve the client to ask WHY and HOW the space got into it’s current state and how can it be prevented in the future. Understanding that your space is out of control because of an emotional need takes strength. It’s hard work, and it takes self reflection.
So- sit back, take a look around, and think about your surroundings. What does your space say to you?