Blog – Declutter & Change

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 5

CLUTTERFREE LIFE TRANSITIONS

This is the fifth article in a series: ‘Preparation of your decluttering/change project’.

CLICK HERE to read all articles.

In the previous articles, we talked about ‘Where you are now and ‘Where you want to be. You’ve also developed a ‘clearer understanding of your home and your belongings and you’ve gained some insights about your ‘clutter hot spots.

The next step is to uncover your treasures.

What are your treasures?

We all have things we truly love, things that we cannot imagine parting with, even if sometimes other people can’t understand our attachment to those special things.

These are our treasures. Their worth is not measured in money, but rather in the meaning and significance they hold for us. Often, they represent very special experiences of our life, and they reflect of what is unique about us.

Treasures are the things that you definitely want to preserve from the past as you move into the next phase of your life.

Only you can identify your personal treasures

However, you have to be careful not to declare too many things as treasures because that would belittle the value of each of them.

The following exercise will help you discover your personal treasures – those of your belongings that are truly and closely attached to your heart.

a) Decide how many items you wish to declare as treasures before you start to select them. – The smaller the number, the better. You might want to constrain yourself to 10 treasures, or 15.

b) Think about which of your clutter-champion categories might hide some of your treasures. – For example, if books belong to your clutter champions, decide whether you wish to assign 3 or 5 of your favourite books the status of treasures. – If your kitchen appliances are clutter champions – you have too many of them or several duplicates -, decide to declare the 3 most used/loved ones as treasures. 

c) Imagine the house burnt down and you lost everything (Only the most important personal documents could be saved.) – Which belongings would you badly miss? Which of them could not be replaced? 

Take all the items with ‘treasure’-potential out, hold them in your hands for a while, try to ‘feel’ how truly important they are to you, and then assemble all of them in a ‘treasure collection area’ or – if you don’t have the space for such an area – take photographs.

Spend some time with your treasure candidates during the next days and evaluate how meaningful they are to you.

You might want to ask yourself questions like these:

    • Is it something that reminds me of a happy memory? Is it related to a special accomplishment?
    • Is it closely related to me, to the very special person I am?
    • Would I be very sad if it suddenly disappeared?
    • Does it refer to my values and to the vision I defined for the next chapter of my life?

Now make you final choice and compile a list of your personal treasures.

This list and the insights gained about your treasures will be very helpful later, when you start to make decluttering decisions.     

Death Cleaning – It’s never too early to get our stuff sorted

Why we should prepare and keep easy-to-find instructions with our sentimental belongings

Some time ago, I wrote about Margareta Magnusson’s book ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning‘ and about my personal experience with ‘death cleaning’ after my mother’s death.

Sorting through the belongings of a loved one is always tough and emotionally challenging.

My mother was very well organised and this made the unwanted decluttering task easier for us. However, there was one category of my mother’s belongings that we struggled to make decisions about.

We found a  collection of the letters my mother and my father had exchanged before they got married. And my mother hadn’t left any instructions or hints about how we should treat this.

Had she kept the letters just for herself so that she could read them again whenever she felt like doing so? Or had she wanted to share the letters with us, expecting us to read them now?

My sisters and I finally agreed on the assumption that she had kept the letters for herself, not for us, – and we burnt them. But even today, I still feel not completely comfortable about it, because we’ll never know for sure whether this really was what she’d have wanted us to do.

My personal set of ‘Death Cleaning’ guidelines

Based on my theoretical (Margareta’s book) and practical (sorting my mother’s belongings) learning experiences, I now follow

Three personal organising rules:

    • I take my yearly decluttering sessions even more seriously because I don’t want to burden someone else with clearing unnecessary clutter after my death.
    • I keep a permanently updated folder containing all our (my husband’s and mine) important papers and documents.
    • I have reduced the number of photos, sentimental items, and memorabilia. And I keep them all in two boxes. On top of these boxes, I placed a note: “Sentimental stuff, just important to me, you (whoever it is who has to sort out my stuff) can throw it away, without any feelings of regret or guilt”.

I think it is very human that most of us don’t like – and therefore try to avoid – considering the fact that our life will end at some point in time.

However, I do believe that we should feel responsible for the future and take care of our loved ones: We should make sure that they don’t have to ‘death clean’ for us.

I also believe that we should feel responsible for the present and take care of ourselves: Regularly sorting through our stuff can be hard work but consider the benefits for your life:

‘Death Cleaning’ (= Decluttering) can be a very positive and productive experience:

    • It’s an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our very personal values.
    • It helps us to re-focus our attention and energy towards our goals.
    • It clears our space and our mind.

Do you feel inspired now to do some ‘Death Cleaning’?

Take the first step of your mind- (and life-) decluttering journey today.

Schedule your free coaching session

Home organising – What’s your ‘weak point’? – Forget about it!

Nobody is perfect. We can’t (and we don’t have to) be good at everything.

The benefits of getting help in sorting out our home-organising ‘weak points’:

We gain additional energy and time for the things we are good at. And get rid of our clutter worries.

This little story is not about a client (Client Success Stories) but about a former colleague of mine. It’s about my friend Reliable Rita.

For many, many years, Reliable Rita has been working reliably, efficiently and emphatically in and for private households – very different types of households which all have their special needs and expectations.

Reliable Rita meets them all. She is fast and efficient, attentive and encouraging, careful and caring. Her clients love her and feel lost whenever Reliable Rita takes a few days off.

Thus, I was very astonished to hear from Reliable Rita some years ago that she is a normal human being, too. She has a ‘weak’ point. 🙂

When we had a cup of coffee together, Rita told me how much she hated paper. And how much she worried about paper-clutter in her home. She couldn’t manage to get her private paperwork organised. It was a mess. She felt permanently afraid she could lose an important document or miss an important formal deadline.

How asking for help allows us to let go of (some of) our worries

I offered to get that sorted out for her. Rita went home and came back with three big (and really ugly looking) boxes, some overflowing files and lots of loose pieces of paper. – Yes, it definitely was a mess. I understood her worries.

However, it took me just four hours to throw out most of the stuff she had collected. I then created just one folder for all her personal important papers, separated into different categories.

Reliable Rita was very glad to get rid of the mess and just one folder back. And she immediately understood the simple filing system. She took her folder and went off, feeling relieved of any ‘paper-clutter pain’.

After many years – living far away from each other – I met Reliable Rita again recently. She told me that she still has that one folder with all her important papers in it. And that she easily manages to keep it updated (and not to worry about paper stuff).

I don’t tell this story because I believe that I am the most ‘fantastic paper declutterer’ on earth. I know for sure that I’m not. To be honest, paper is one of my personal ‘clutter hot spots’, too. (Read more about ‘clutter hot spots’ here)

I like to tell it because this little story nicely demonstrates that nobody can be excellent at everything.

Sometimes it can be helpful if we admit that we need help in a special regard – the solution to our worries might be closer at hand and easier to get than we assumed.

Death Cleaning – Why we should do it before we die

Take responsibility for your items today. Don’t leave them as a burden for family and friends. And enjoy the process of putting your things in order!

A few years ago, Margareta Magnusson, the Swedish lady aged “between 80 and 100”, published her book ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:

How to make your loved ones’ lives easier and your own life more pleasant’

I am interested in any book that has to do with decluttering. However, I remember that I was a bit hesitant to buy this one when I saw it in the book shop. ‘Death Cleaning‘?! The title sounds really weird, doesn’t it? But I bought it, – and very much enjoyed reading it.

And I learned a lot about decluttering again, this time from a new and refreshing perspective.

This book is not about someone who’s all her life struggled to keep the house organised, and now presents the perfect and the only solution.

Instead, it’s the story of someone approaching the end of life, sharing what she learned by clearing up after family members’ deaths, and why it’s useful to get our things in order before we die. “I’ve death cleaned so many times for others, I’ll be damned if someone has to death clean for me,” Margareta Magnusson writes.

‘Death cleaning’ is not only useful for older people

Clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later, before others have to do it for us. “It is not sad at all,” Margareta says. “I’ve discovered that it is rewarding to spend time with these objects one last time and then dispose of them.”

Make the life of your loved ones easier by having your belongings sorted

Some weeks after I’d read the book, my mother passed away, unexpectedly. Clearing out her home was a very sad and upsetting process for my sisters and me. Only many months later, I was able to think about that process in a less emotional way.

I realised that my mother in most regards had followed Margareta’s recommendations – without knowing her book!

My mother’s paperwork was orderly sorted and all kept in one place.

Yes, she had taken thousands of photographs during the course of her life and her travels, but they were all well sorted in albums and photo books.

She loved decorating her place and regularly rearranged the interior design of her house. However, she left only one cupboard with no-longer-used decorative items she had collected over the years and not managed to dispose of.

She was a great entertainer and often invited people to her place. But she had only kept the amount of crockery, cutlery, glasses, and kitchenware that was necessary to prepare and organise the meals and parties for her family and friends.

She enjoyed reading in the evenings but had kept only those books she planned to read again and again.

Sorting through the belongings of a loved one is always tough and emotionally challenging.

However, my mother had successfully managed to make this unwanted task as easy as possible for us.

There was only one category of my mother’s belongings that we struggled to make decisions about. Read more …

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 4

CLUTTERFREE LIFE TRANSITIONS

This is the fourth article in a series: ‘Preparation of your decluttering/change project’.

CLICK HERE to read all articles.

So far, you’ve already started to think about Where you are now, and ‘Where you want to be.

And you’ve developed a clearer and more objective idea of your home and your belongings.

The next step is to get to know your clutter better.

What is clutter? 

‘Clutter’ can be defined as any obsolete object “that weighs you down, distracts you, or depletes your energy”. It “is symbolic of your attachment to something from the past that must be released in order to make room for change”. (Julie Morgenstern)

If we consider clutter as being ‘anything that no longer serves’ us, the process of ‘decluttering’ loses its negative image. Instead of being the unpleasant activity of just throwing things away, it evolves as a powerful ‘change assistant’.

Knowing for sure what you wish to leave behind because it no longer serves you, makes it is easier to decide how to move on and what to take along when you enter a new chapter in your life.

In fact, decluttering can be a positive and productive experience, it offers the opportunity to free up space in your home and in your mind. It’s also an opportunity to learn about yourself and your values.

You don’t have to hate your clutter or feel ashamed of it. You can accept it as what it actually is: a collection of belongings that no longer serve your needs but that were useful at some point in time. And it probably still has some meaning today, otherwise, you wouldn’t have kept it.

What are your clutter ‘hot spots”?

Take your notes from your home-discovery-tour and walk from one cluttered area to the next.

Clutter hot spots’ are those areas in your home, those categories of belongings, that contain an accumulation of things that no longer serve you. It’s the stuff that holds you back because it belongs to the past.

It could be, for example,

    • areas of a room or furniture no longer used, such as an inherited armchair nobody sits on,
    • books you are no longer interested in or no longer intend to read, or recipe books from which you never cooked a recipe,
    • piles of paper you never touch but expand by continuously adding new pieces, or papers from former phases of your life, e.g., materials from school years or a previous job,
    • kitchen appliances that don’t fit your current cooking habits,
    • a dresser drawer you never open because it contains out-of-fashion tops,
    • a wardrobe full of clothing that no longer fit you, that you hope ‘may come back in style’, that you don’t wear but keep because it was expensive,
    • a 24-piece cutlery set never unpacked but kept because it was a wedding present from your aunt.

Do you see a special pattern, – certain areas in your home or categories of belongings where the clutter accumulates? These are your personal clutter hot spots. (E. g., areas such as the kitchen. Your wardrobe. The garage. Or categories, such as books. Clothes. Papers.)

Imagine the clutter hot spots had been cleared up and would be clean and neat and free of any obsolete stuff. How do you feel? Are you getting excited and motivated to make your life easier and lighter?

You will become even more excited as soon as you start to uncover the buried or forgotten treasures under the clutter, – the next step of the preparation of your decluttering/change project.

Home organisation – Easy ways to improve your daily life – Re-arrange your home & your routines

Changing the purpose of a room opens up new opportunities.  –  And setting up new ‘rational’ routines & rules can help you to create a healthier life-style.

CLIENT STORY

Dr. Busy Hobby had been a successful dentist for many years but now he enjoyed his retirement.

He was happy because now – finally – he could focus on his hobby: Stamp collecting/sorting/sharing. Over time, his collections had grown to an amazing size. It was time to get them sorted! And now he had the time!

However, his daughter hated his stamps. It was not because she wouldn’t grant her father his excitement about his hobby, as she told me during our first phone conversation. She hated his ‘preoccupation’ with stamps. It took so much of his attention that he didn’t care much about himself.

Dr. Busy Hobby spent hours and hours upstairs in his little dark office. He forgot about everything while studying the history of a special stamp. Or exchanging letters with other stamp collectors.

Most of the time he was so concentrated in his work that he didn’t realize the time of the day. He forgot to drink and eat, and sometimes he even fell asleep at his desk.

How change gets easier if the benefits are clear and attractive

My first meeting with Dr. Busy Hobby didn’t have an easy start. His daughter wanted him to change his lifestyle and to re-organise things in his home. However, he didn’t want to change anything.

Things became easier when I asked Dr. Busy Hobby about his daily life, and about how he organised his stamp collection and kept it sorted.

He then explained his ‘dream conditions’ of working with the stamps. He’d love to have more light when studying the stamps with his magnifying glasses. Also, a bigger working table would allow him to spread the stamps out and sort them into sub-categories.

We started talking about how he could get more light and space for his stamps. And we discussed how he also could also put more attention into organising himself and his days in a healthier way.

This is how Dr. Busy Hobby finally got his stamps and himself ‘sorted out’:

How redefining the purpose of a room can make life easier

The living room with its many large windows and huge dining table became his new office:

First, we cleared it up completely and took out everything that was kept in the many cupboards. We arranged some items from the cupboards onto the kitchen shelves, but Dr. Busy Hobby transferred most of the dishes, cutlery, table linens, vases, etc., and also some of the furniture to his daughter. (She agreed to take everything we sorted out because she so much liked the upcoming changes in her father’s house.)

Finally, we moved all the many boxes and books of his stamp collections downstairs, and all the files and letters and directories which we placed in the now empty cupboards and shelves.

Dr. Busy Hobby was so happy about the changes that he’d have loved to sit down immediately at his new desk to try out studying a stamp in bright daylight.

How setting up new routines can support a healthier lifestyle

But first, we had to go through the second part of our ‘organising agreement’:

We sat down and created a list of new rules and time schedules which we thought would help him better organise his daily life.

The weekly time table was designed to remind him on which days he planned to do the grocery shopping (we also compiled shopping lists), on which days to do the washing (we created washing lists, too), on which days to put the rubbish out, and so on.

An alarm clock and an everyday schedule worked together to structure his days: breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time, and in between reminders for having some water or coffee. And, the most important new rule: no working on the stamps after dinner!

Another person might have struggled to hold to our ‘organising agreement’ and the detailed and strict schedules and rules.

Dr. Busy Hobby, however, was used to organising-structures and -systems, he accepted them as being ‘tools of a rational mind’, and he also was a man who always kept his agreements.

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 3

CLUTTERFREE LIFE TRANSITIONS

This is the third article in a series: ‘Preparation of your decluttering/change project’.

CLICK HERE to read all articles.

So far, you have started to think about ‘Where you are now, and ‘Where you want to be.

Now you take the next step to prepare your project, – you get to know your home better.

How ‘mapping’ your home can help you to understand it – and yourself – better

If we have been living in our home for some time, we tend to no longer ‘see’ how it actually looks like:

    • We don’t pay attention to the order or disorder of things,
    • we don’t think much about how we use the different rooms,
    • and why we keep our belongings where they are currently stored.
    • Often, we forget what we have, and where and why we actually got it.

But all the things in our life profoundly affect us, either at a conscious or at a subconscious level, either in a positive or in a negative way.

If you wish/have to change your living situation, you first have to understand its current condition and core elements. That’s why it makes sense to get to know your home again.

Walk slowly through your rooms. Take notes about what you see, and what you think and feel.

Taking photos also helps you to see your place with fresh eyes. Don’t judge about what comes to your mind, just write it down.

While you walk through the various areas in your home, take three different perspectives

to ask yourself some questions:

First, pretend you are a stranger, visiting for the first time. Ask yourself:

    • What’s this room’s purpose?
    • What do I like about the room? What not? Why?
    • What should be in the room? What doesn’t belong here?
    • What do I think about the people who live here?

Then slip back into your own current shoes and start the second round of observation and discovery. Ask yourself:

    • What are the major activity areas in this room? How often do I use them? What exactly do I do in these areas?
    • Which are my preferred areas? Which are the most neglected? Why?
    • What do I store in this room? Why here and not somewhere else? Do I know what’s in the cupboards, drawers, boxes, behind the wardrobe doors?

Now imagine you have already arrived in the future stage of your life, the time after the change. Pretend you’ve already done the hard work. Ask yourself:

    • Which pieces of furniture and other belongings will no longer fit into my life?
    • What has become obsolete and now takes (storage) space that I should reserve for things I really need, use or love?
    • How would this room look like if it was fully adjusted to the necessities of my new life?
    • Do I actually need this room any longer?

Finally, go through your notes again and ‘digest’ what you have learned about your home and your belongings (and yourself).

Your observations will come in handy when you start to analyse the ‘clutter hot spots’ and the ‘treasures’ in your home.

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 2

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CLUTTERFREE LIFE TRANSITIONS

This is the second article in a series: ‘Preparation of your decluttering/change project’.

CLICK HERE to read all articles.

So far, you have started to think about ‘Where you are now’.

Now it’s time to think about where you wish to be in the future.

Where do you want to go? What’s your vision of the next chapter of your life?

It doesn’t matter whether you came to your change situation voluntarily or didn’t have a choice, you can easily get paralysed if you are not sure what to do next:

    • It’s hard to figure out how and where to move on if your mind is still occupied by the past. That’s one of the main reasons why managing change can be so demanding and frustrating.
    • It can happen that you feel stuck and clueless because you are surrounded by too many options or opportunities, too many choices.
    • Or you might feel lost and desperate because you don’t see any alternatives at all, no way out of the chaos.

Focus on your life after the change

A good way to dissolve the dilemma of feeling frozen and stuck is to separate yourself from your current situation and feelings and instead focus on your future goals.

You decide that you no longer push yourself to find quick solutions today. Instead, you concentrate on your future life, your life after the change. What do you want to do, how do you wish to feel, think and live?

Defining your vision of the future in a very open way – a simple powerful statement, just a word or a short phrase – can help you to get unstuck and active. The vision for your new life provides you with a filter which any upcoming decision has to go through.

How to find ideas for your new vision

Start by describing the theme of your current life phase.

What’s been your main focus of the present chapter of your life? The ‘big-picture’ goal? Your current identity? If your life was a book, what would the title of the current chapter be?

Now continue ‘writing your life-book’ – what’s the header for the next chapter?

Try to define a vision that is broad enough to cover all areas of your life (personal, professional, social, …) and keep it simple. Find an inspiring phrase.

Listen to your intuition and not to what others might expect of you.

And ask yourself questions, such as:

    • What are you hoping to gain from the change?
    • Are there any activities you enjoy doing but neglected for years?
    • Which interests do you have that you would love to invest more time and energy in?
    • Which dreams have you been unable to pursue so far?
    • What do you like about your current life? What do you hate about it?

Don’t rush through the vision-finding process

Sometimes we need time to process the change challenge. That’s especially the case if we experience an unexpected or unwanted change. Only you can know/feel when it’s time to move on.

However, starting to play around with some potential scenarios will ‘loosen the knots’ in your heart and mind. Give it a try.

No matter how confident or sceptical you feel about the new vision you come up with, begin to ‘use’ it whenever you have to make a decision about an aspect of your future life.

Continue the preparation of your decluttering/change project Get to know your home better, and your clutter hot spots.

Decluttering and organising together with your partner – It can intensify your relationship

Decluttering & organising together can be an exciting (and a useful) way of learning more about each other, and about the goals and dreams we wish to share.

CLIENT STORY

Moving in with someone else is a big life change:

We not only transfer our furniture and belongings into the new joint home, but we also bring along our unique personalities and personal habits, and our lifestyle expectations.

Consider decluttering together before you start living together.

Kevin Keep and Claudia Clutter had been living together in their new apartment for about 6 months when I first met them there.

I immediately understood why they had decided to get the support of a declutter life coach. Their tiny space was fully packed and cluttered with stuff. However, this was a problem which could easily be solved. Thus, I didn’t understand why they both seemed to be so extremely stressed and sad.

During our conversation, I soon started to understand better. Claudia and Kevin were disappointed and confused. They both said they still felt being in love with each other but they now feared that they were not able to live with each other.

They both didn’t feel at home in their apartment because it was so cluttered, untidy and disorganised.

  • They never could find what they were looking for and they didn’t know where to put away what they’d just used.
  • Getting dressed in the morning took much too long, having a shower in the cramped bathroom was an uncomfortable exercise,
  • and cooking together in the evening was no fun because the kitchen counters were covered by stuff that didn’t fit into the cabinets.

They hadn’t talked about this with anyone else so far because they felt so unhappy and also ashamed. They felt they should be happy all day. Instead, they had started fighting about actually unimportant issues. And they no longer looked forward to coming home and meeting their loved one and having time together.

I remember that I was very impressed. And absolutely optimistic about the outcome of this organising project.

  • I was impressed by the bold decision of these two young people to ask an outsider for help, and about their willingness to try to get to the root of their problem.
  • And I was optimistic because their problem – although it seemed to be a very tough one to them – was nothing unusual or untypical. They were experiencing what we all encounter when we move in with someone we haven’t lived with before.
    • We have to get to know each other in a new and very private environment,
    • we have to know and openly discuss our values and expectations,
    • and we have to cooperate and compromise,
    • and to coordinate our personal ways of organising our lives.

It took us only two sessions to get them on the right track. From there on they could easily continue organising together without any further outside support.

The first step is to discover and understand the different organising styles.

Keven is a keeper, he doesn’t like to sort things out and wants to store everything in case he might need it in the future. Claudia doesn’t have a problem to give away what she doesn’t use. However, she never comes to that point because she has no interest in getting her stuff sorted, so she actually doesn’t know what she has and what she needs.

For Kevin, the most difficult part of the organising task was to sort and declutter their belongings in the kitchen and living room. When they had moved together, they had just combined all their possessions. The consequence was that they had many duplicates: two coffee machines, two toasters, several pans and pots, too many dishes and cutleries, vases, table clothes, bed linen, etc.

The second step is to find out together what each partner likes and needs.

As soon as we had taken everything out of the cabinets, dressers, and drawers, Kevin and Claudia could clearly see that they had too much of nearly everything. Now the seemingly tough part began: They took up every household item, discussed its necessity and usefulness, and then they had to decide whether to keep it or toss it. This quickly became an exciting process. They realised that

Sorting and decluttering together is a great ‘relationship-improvement-opportunity’.

It helps

  • to get to know our partner better,
  • to understand how and what he/she thinks,
  • and to discover what’s truly important to him/her.

Kevin and Claudia barely noticed when I left them at the end of our session – both still sitting in the middle of chaos on the floor of their living room and discussing things.

When I arrived two weeks later for our last organising session, the apartment had changed its outlook significantly. The kitchen looked neat and tidy (only one coffee machine and one toaster on the countertop!), the little bathroom was perfectly organised, and the living room had become an inviting spacious and comfortable space.

The bedroom was the only problem area we still had to work on. This time, Claudia felt she had a tougher job. Her clothes and shoes occupied much more than two-thirds of the wardrobe and additionally covered the dresser and two chairs.

Again, it was not as tough as assumed. We took out all her clothes and accessories and sorted them into categories. This helped Claudia to see what she had – much too much. And as a natural declutterer, she had no difficulties to sort out more than half of her possessions. Kevin packed them into bags and got them to the local charity.

Don’t do it just once. Sort out your stuff on a regular basis to keep your relationship clutter-free.

Claudia and Kevin know now for sure that they definitely can live together. But they also know that they have to continue to declutter and re-organise their belongings from time to time, together.

However, that’s no threatening task any longer, because they know each other so much better, and how to work with their weaknesses and to combine their strengths to make their organising projects successful. And fun.

How re-organising your home can help you to re-gain flexibility

If your physical fitness and capabilities change, a re-organisation at home can help you to re-gain flexibility and independence.

CLIENT STORY

Getting older is not always an easy job! – It can be hard, for example, to accept and manage changes in physical fitness levels.

Mrs. Agile had all her life been very independent and active.

She had invested her energy into her professional career and had been very successful in her job – which was quite untypical for a woman of her generation.

She also had many different leisure interests and a vivid social life – which helped her to continue her active lifestyle when she retired many years ago.

Now in her early eighties, Mrs. Agile no longer was agile and active: after her fall from the stepladder she had to spend some weeks in hospital and now, back at home, she suffered from pain in her hip, and could only move around very slowly. She couldn’t do her shopping any longer, and couldn’t do all the housework on her own.

She had become so depressed and inactive that her niece worried a lot about her aunt, and wondered how she could help her feel better again.

At my first meeting with Mrs. Agile, we talked a lot about her past, and I got fascinated about the active life she had had! Listening to her lively stories, I could easily understand why her friends had always called her ‘Running-Elli’.

A bit further on in our conversation, we realised that this actually was the root of her problem (and her depression): Mrs. Agile couldn’t ‘run’ any longer, she felt no longer independent and active – she felt like having lost her personality.

How could we re-organise Mrs Agile’s place in a way that allowed her to move around easier again and made her able to get her housework done on her own?

How discarding and re-arranging furniture can make moving around easier again

First –Mrs. Agile had agreed on a reduction of her furniture – we took out what stood in her way: two coffee tables, a sofa and 4 big armchairs from the living room, two chairs and a dresser from her bedroom, and a huge plastic table from her balcony. We also removed any loose rugs and carpets from all rooms.

This was a first great improvement because now Mrs. Agile could use her (wheeled) walker to move easily and safely around her apartment. What she did!

How re-organising all possessions can make them accessible again

At our next meeting, we talked about how Mrs. Agile had spent her days before the stepladder accident happened. We also walked together through all her rooms to find out where she used to spend most of her time, what she did in those rooms, and which cupboards, wardrobes, shelves, etc. contained her most used household and hobby items.

Mrs. Agile didn’t want to give away any of her belongings – she felt she would lose even more of her past life (which she missed so much) if she would discard the things that related to it.

Thus, we didn’t throw anything away but we took everything out so that we could re-arrange all her possessions. Mrs. Agile sorted them into two categories: ‘Used on a daily basis’ and ‘Rarely used/sentimental’.

She could no longer reach out to anything that was placed higher than her shoulders’ level or lower than the height of her waist.

That’s why we sorted the items from the ‘daily-use-category’ only into those drawers, cupboards, shelves, etc. which had the right height.

Finally, we arranged all rarely or never used items in the remaining storage spaces.

I visited Mrs. Agile some weeks later again,  and she told me with a lot of excitement about her ‘new’ life: how agile and active she felt, how often she invited friends coming over for coffee and self-made cakes, and how much time she spent with her crafts and other hobbies.

She had even started thinking about giving away some of her belongings which she no longer used!

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 1

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CLUTTERFREE LIFE TRANSITIONS


This is the first article in a series: ‘Preparation of your decluttering/change project’.

CLICK HERE to read all articles.


The purpose of the series is to help use the home-decluttering process to confidently and successfully manage all kinds of change:

    • Expected or planned transitions (e.g. becoming an empty nester, moving to another place, entering retirement)
    • Sudden or unexpected life-changing events (e.g. loss of a partner, loss of job)
    • Changes of lifestyle or circumstance based on a personal decision (e.g. moving to another country, starting a new career, changing to a minimalist-lifestyle)

By sorting through your belongings and letting go what no longer serves you, you gain clarity, focus and new energy on your journey into the next stage of your life.

The decision to release all forms of clutter (physical/mental/emotional), is the first and most important step in the process of positively changing your life:

You are determined to do the work and to create space in your home and mind for new things and opportunities to come in.

Where are you now? How did you get there? What’s your change challenge?

To plan and organise your declutter/change journey properly, you need to have a clear idea about where it begins. And why.

Start with an assessment of the causes and the consequences of the upcoming transition:

    • Why do you want/have to change?
    • What type of change are you going to go through?
    • Is it a natural transition or a forced/unwanted one?
    • How do you feel about it? Are you looking forward to your new life? Or do you feel afraid and worried about it?
    • Will your life change slightly or significantly? How will it affect your life style and living circumstances?
    • Are other people involved? How do they think/feel about it?

Now think about your current situation, your daily routines, your home and your belongings.

    • How would you describe your living/personal style?
    • Do you feel comfortable when you are at home? Easy to relax? Why? Why not?
    • Do you know exactly what you own, and where you can find what you need/wish to use?
    • Do you look forward to sorting through your stuff? Why? Why not?
    • What items are most essential to you?
    • Are there ‘things’ you feel emotionally connected with?
    • Have you accumulated a lot of possessions over time? Too many? If yes, why?
    • Do you think there is a lot of physical clutter? Things that belong to the past? Or to the present that you’ll leave behind soon?
    • Is there a special type of clutter/disorder you tend to be struggling with?
    • Will it be difficult to make decisions about what to keep and what to discard? Why?

You don’t have to find the final answers right now.

Just start moving around in your home with more attention. Look around in every room and ‘study’ your belongings.

Notice what you like, what you don’t like, what you need and use, what you have neglected for some time.

Now you are ready to think about the future, about ‘Where you want to go. It’s also helpful to look at your home and belongings with fresh eyes, and to discover your ‘clutter hot spots and your ‘treasures”.

How an ’empty nest’ can make space for new developments

Entering a new phase in our lives can be confusing and unsettling. Often, a bold re-organising project at home can give our life and ambitions a new direction.

CLIENT STORY

When the kids move out (and leave their stuff at home)

Some years ago, Mrs. Empty Nest was an ‘all-time organiser’: she was running a busy household, managing the family life with three daughters, and also looking after the paperwork of her husband’s small business.

When I met her, her daughters had moved out some time ago and had left behind three empty rooms in their parents’ house.

However, those ‘empty’ rooms actually were the opposite of empty: posters on the walls, overflowing bookshelves, the wardrobes full of teenager clothes, and the floors covered with plastic containers of toys, music boxes, and tennis rackets and much other stuff.

Becoming an ‘empty nester’ definitely hadn’t been an enjoyable experience for Mrs. Empty Nest – the fact that there no longer was anyone around she had to take care of had turned her life upside down. She felt she no longer had a purpose, or mission, and that her life lacked direction.

Recently, Mrs Empty Nest had become a grandmother, and that, somehow, had opened her mind up to new opportunities. She now accepted the fact that her daughters had moved out, had their own lives and families and never would come back. She had to (and could!) concentrate on her own now.

But what should she do with the stuff in the former kids’ rooms? And how could they, she and her husband, make use of those rooms in future?

We started clearing up the girls’ rooms. Her daughters had decided they didn’t want to take any of the stuff – a very easy solution for them, I found. But it made it easier for us, too, because it made Mrs. Empty Nest a bit angry. This, in return, allowed her to make very quick decisions. It took us only one day to create three ‘truly empty nests’.

When I left that evening, Mrs. Empty Nest said she would call me as soon as she had made a decision about the future use of the three rooms.

I didn’t hear from her for some weeks. Then Mrs. Empty Nest called. She was very excited because she had made a decision – in fact she had made several decisions.

How an ’empty nest’ can make space for new developments

One decision was to use one of the rooms as a guest and playroom for her grandchildren. So she would have lots of space for them whenever they came visiting their grandparents during the school holidays.

The other two now empty rooms she would use – for her new little business! A ‘How to sew’ training business!

Mrs. Empty Nest had all her life loved sewing. She hadn’t done much sewing during the past 20 years but now she’d started again and she enjoyed creating unique clothes for herself and her friends. And her friends actually had brought up the business idea.

She could start immediately because she had space now.

It took us only two days to rearrange and add some furniture and to organise her home office and the sewing training room.

Now Mrs Empty Nest has a new mission: Becoming a successful business woman!

Do you want to get started with decluttering your empty nest?

Get some support!

Take the first step of your mind- (and life-) decluttering journey today.

Schedule your free coaching session