Downsizing – Why we should declutter BEFORE we move

Downsizing – moving from a bigger to a smaller place – is a huge life transition.

That’s why we need time – and courage – to prepare the move carefully. 

When Ellen called me, she was desperate.

In fact, I got quite confused and even worried during the first 3 to 5 minutes of our phone conversation – Ellen was crying so heavily that she couldn’t talk.

She then managed to calm down, and she introduced herself and described her problem:

It was her removal day: that morning she had moved out of her 3-bedroom-house into her new home, a 1-bedroom-apartment in a retirement village.

The removalists had just left her, in the middle of a ‘terrible chaos’ as she said. As she continued to explain her situation I started to understand her distress, and I agreed to meet her at her new place 2 hours later.

Ellen waited at the entrance gate of the retirement village when I arrived at the address she had given to me. She was still very upset, she said she feared she had made a huge mistake and that she didn’t know what to do and that she felt help- and hopeless. She started crying again.

When we entered her new apartment, I took a deep breath.

It was so full! It was understandable that Ellen felt like being in the wrong place!

The apartment was so fully packed with furniture and removal boxes that it was difficult to walk inside and around.

There were no empty surfaces and all around stuff was stacked up to the ceiling. Even the bathroom was not usable, cluttered with containers and lose items. The bedroom and the kitchen – the same.  

We couldn’t sit anywhere and finally walked outside and sat down on a bench in front of the building. I have to admit that I felt very angry with the removalists who had left Ellen – alone – in such a mess. However, it was not their fault, of course.  

The cause of the problem was that Ellen hadn’t been able to let go of any of her personal belongings, she had hoped that they ‘somehow’ would fit into the build-in wardrobes, and into the storage area that belonged to the apartment.

Yes, she had sorted out a lot before the move, particularly several pieces of furniture, such as the large dinner table, chairs and arm chairs, beds and carpets, dressers and cabinets, the huge desk, some bigger paintings, and the outdoor furniture.

However, she had kept everything else, everything that had been stored inside the discarded furniture and built-in cupboards. And had now ended up with all these belongings in a place that had to offer just one quarter of the space that she had had before.

The underlying reason for this seemingly ‘irrational’ behaviour was that Ellen had been so afraid and anxious about the big changes coming up with the move – the new place, the new neighbours, the new life – that she had kept all her belongings as a kind of ‘safety net’. She had thought she would feel o.k. if she had all the things around her that had been with her in the old life.

Also, she didn’t have any plan or idea how her new life would look like, thus she felt unable to decide what she might no longer need.

It was late in the afternoon, we couldn’t do much on that day, but we created an ‘emergency plan’ to help Ellen through the near future and to finally get her problem sorted out.

I didn’t have a client appointment the next day which was followed by a weekend, thus we had 3 days to create a temporary solution – an apartment that was sufficiently cleared up and safe to live in.

These were our short term actions:

  • Ellen called a friend who offered her a bed for the next 2 to 3 nights.
  • We talked with the retirement village manager and Ellen was able to rent 2 additional parking spaces in the garage for the next 2 to 3 months.  
  • We made a list of all belongings that Ellen needed to manage her daily life during the next weeks: all the furniture and things required in the kitchen to prepare her meals, all the personal belongings she needed in the bathroom and in the bedroom, the furniture she wanted to place in the living room.
  • We carried all furniture and other lose/bigger items that were not on the list downstairs, and stored them in Ellen’s 3 parking spots in the garage.
  • We cleared the kitchen table to get a free surface for our unpacking and sorting activities.
  • We opened every removal box and took out only what was related to our list of needed items.
  • We started an inventory and kept notes about all boxes with currently not needed content before we stored those boxes in the garage.
  • We organised all the things which were to be kept in the apartment in the available build-in wardrobes, cupboards and shelves.

At the first morning of our 3 working days, I was a bit worried how Ellen would cope. But she actually managed very well.

I assume it helped her to know that all the belongings leaving the apartment didn’t disappear forever, that they just moved downstairs into the garage.

Ellen also said that it felt good to get active and to do something, she felt no longer so desperate and more in control.

At the end of the 3 days, Ellen could finally move into her now clear and spacious apartment. She had all she needed for her daily life easily accessible and close to her, and anything else safely stored in boxes in the garage.

I had arrangements with other clients for the next 2 weeks, and Ellen decided to use the time to get to know her new living area and her neighbours.

She also agreed to keep a journal and to think about what was really important to her and how she wanted to live now, in this not only new place but also new phase of her life.

She also decided to take notes in her journal whenever she missed anything of the stored away stuff.

When we met again 2 weeks later, … (This is the first in a series of 3 posts – Click here to read post No 2)

Life-decluttering after divorce – Let go of the past and move on with life

A divorce not only affects the two people directly involved.

Often, it’s a huge life-change challenge for other family members, too. A bold decluttering project can help to redefine relationships within the family.

For many years, Stephanie had been very good at organising her busy life.

As one of three senior partners in a law firm she was used to work not only full-time but extremely long hours every day.  Until recently it hadn’t been a problem that she had had only the weekends to spend time with her family. Her husband had managed the daily family life and taken care of their two teenage girls.

However, life had changed for everyone in the family 6 months ago when her husband moved out. They had both suffered in their unhappy marriage for some years and had decided to get divorced.

Now Stephanie struggled to find her way into her new role as a single mom.

Keeping the household running and taking care of her daughters’ daily needs was very demanding.

And her relationship with the girls had changed and become difficult after the divorce.  She had endless discussions with them about the separation and why it had been the right decision (or, in her daughters’ opinion, the wrong decision).

Stephanie felt lonely and overwhelmed, and her daughters felt angry and wanted their father back.

When I met Stephanie for the first time in her house, she told me that she wanted to make bigger changes in her home which – she hoped – would make life easier again.

Stephanie wanted to declutter, massively, and as quickly as possible.

When she took me on a tour through her home, I understood: The kitchen, the living room and especially the home office and the basement were really ‘stuffed’, up to the ceiling.

Stephanie wanted to ‘get rid of everything’ and asked me to order a skip and ‘just’ get the house cleared.

But then we had a longer conversation, and she changed her mind.

She began to see that the decluttering process could become a ‘healing’ process for herself, and hopefully also for her relationship with her daughters.

She now wanted to get the girls involved and asked me to organise the decluttering activities as a ‘team project’.

We decided that I would take the role of the ‘neutral’ organising expert who would treat Stephanie and her daughters as three ‘housemates’ with equal rights.

We invited her daughters to our next meeting.

When we all were sitting around the dinner table, I presented the plan:

  • The main goal was to create a home in which each of them could feel relaxed and happy.
  • The basic requirement for achieving this goal was that each of them felt responsible for the creation and the maintenance of the new order.
  • The bathroom, kitchen and living room were declared as ‘shared spaces’ and the design, furnishings, decorations and contents of these rooms would be discussed between all of them. Everyone should make suggestions but also be willing to make compromises, if necessary.
  • The girls’ rooms were completely their responsibility. They were free to re-arrange their rooms if they wanted and they both got a budget to be used for any desired changes or renovations.
  • The basement was full of stuff nobody any longer wanted to keep and would be decluttered and organised together, over a long weekend.
  • An action plan and a time schedule had to be agreed on.

At the end of my presentation, nobody said anything and I got a bit nervous.

The success of this project depended completely on the willingness and motivation of the two girls to be part of the team. We didn’t have a plan B. Stephanie also looked nervous.

However, suddenly the girls both started to talk, at the same time. And they were as excited as we had hoped they would be! Yes, they wanted to be part of the decluttering/organising team!

We could get started!

Of course, during the decluttering process – which finally took 3 months – it wasn’t all ‘rainbows and daisies’ all the time.

We could only work on weekend days and in the very beginning it couldn’t go fast enough for Stephanie’s daughters.

After some working sessions, however, everyone’s motivation levels went down and we needed more frequent breaks with ice-cream and burgers.

Also, the girls would have wanted to work on the redesign of their rooms first but the action plan determined that the basement and the shared spaces had priority. They didn’t like that.

It was actually a lot of fun for them to clear out the basement – most of the stuff ended up in a skip we had organised. But we took the time to sort everything with care and carried a lot of still useful items to a charity shop. The girls also collected some of the things that had belonged to their father in 2 boxes and took them along to him. (Which he very much appreciated.)

However, the decluttering and reorganisation especially of the kitchen and the living room required many – sometimes very heated – discussions and arguments. Yes, and some difficult-to-digest compromises.

The biggest fun came up, of course, when everyone started to declutter and re-arrange their rooms.

Stephanie, too, enjoyed this part. Yes, she shed some tears when she cleared up the master bedroom. But she took all the time she needed to find out what was really important to her now and how she wanted to feel in this – her! – room in future.

She felt excited when she then started to design the room completely according to her very personal ideas and needs.

We all agreed that the ‘after-divorce-decluttering project’ was a success:

We had achieved the main goal: The house was decluttered and freshly organised, with open spaces and clearly defined activity areas.

However, even more important was that Stephanie and her daughters had successfully ‘decluttered’ their relationship, too.

Everyone had been part of the team and had contributed to its success. Stephanie and her daughters were more aware now of their respective strengths and weaknesses, and they all felt responsible for what happened in their home.

Stephanie no longer felt lonely – she felt closely connected to her daughters.

Small-steps decluttering – The benefits of 20 minutes sessions – And how to organise them

Is your decluttering task too big? Overwhelming?

If we own a lot of stuff and if most or all areas of our home are cluttered with too many things, the ideal solution would be to conduct a massive decluttering project, clearing up our home completely, and at once.

The idea that we have to do it all in one go can become the reason why we don’t start at all!

    • If we are in an extremely busy phase of our life we might just not have the time for a decluttering project that will take several days or even weeks to get completed.
    • It could also be that we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the decluttering task – we don’t feel able to plan and organise the work, have no idea how and where to get started. Thus, we procrastinate and postpone the project-start again and again.
    • There might be other reasons why we don’t feel physically or mentally able to go through a complex energy- and effort-demanding project.
    • Or we don’t have enough space for a big decluttering project: If our home is very small or fully packed with stuff, we might not be able to arrange the free flat working areas necessary for the sorting and organising processes.

The solution could be to give up the idea to sort it all out in one go.

We can decide to commit ourselves to conduct a series of shorter decluttering sessions over a period of weeks or even months.

The benefits of the small-steps decluttering approach

    • The small-steps decluttering approach allows you to achieve fast and visible results.
    • It’s easy to integrate the decluttering sessions into your daily life because they are short and have a clearly defined duration.
    • Scheduling the sessions as appointments in your calendar helps you to take them seriously and to develop a regular decluttering routine.
    • Regular decluttering sessions have a similar effect as regular exercises: you practice your decluttering skills and build up ‘I-can-do-it’ confidence.
    • At the end of your decluttering journey your home is – Clutterfree and Organised

How to get organised for the decluttering sessions

    • Determine the duration of the daily decluttering session. (20 minutes? Or 30?)
    • Schedule the declutter sessions as important appointments with yourself in your calendar.
    • Create a list of the rooms/areas in your home you wish to declutter and organise. (See below for suggestions)
    • Decide in which room/area of your home to start the decluttering.

How to do the decluttering sessions

Get started

    • Go to the small area that’s your first session’s focus. (See below for suggestions)
    • Take photos of the cluttered area.
    • Switch the timer on (for the duration you’ve determined for your sessions).
    • Take everything out from the chosen area and distribute all items on a flat surface (the floor, a bed, a table).

Sort and declutter

    • Sort out what’s broken or no longer usable and put it in the rubbish bin.
    • Sort what’s left into categories of like items.  (If applicable. This might not make sense when you, for example, declutter the counter top in the kitchen. It is necessary, however, if you, for example, declutter the cleaning stuff under the kitchen sink, or the underwear drawer.)
    • Sort out unnecessary duplicates.  (Directly into the rubbish bin or donation box.)
    • Sort out what no longer serves you

This is the tough part. Take everything that’s left into your hands and ask yourself: ‘Does this really serve me? Do I need, use or love it?’

If you can’t answer with a clear ‘yes’ it might be time to say goodbye to that item. Let it go. Into the rubbish bin or donation box.

    • Sort out what belongs into another room. And get it there.


    • Clean the decluttered empty space.
    • Take everything you decided to keep and place it back where it belongs.

You might wish to organise what belongs together in suitable space-dividers, such as little boxes, containers, baskets.

    • Clean your working area, get the rubbish/donations out.
    • Take photos of the decluttered area.

Final steps:

    • Celebrate the completion of this decluttering session!
    • And look forward to/plan the next session.


CLICK HERE to learn from an example decluttering project:

I used the small-steps decluttering approach to declutter and organise the drawer that I use to keep my office supplies organised.

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 5


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

My new 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.


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 ourselvesRegularly 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 future and our goals.
    • It clears our space and our mind.

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

My clear and simple 3-step decluttering approach can help us manage the ‘death cleaning’ process successfully because

    • it helps us become aware of our values and priorities,
    • which allows us to make decluttering decisions with confidence,
    • so that we then – based on our increased awareness and decisiveness – can take action and get the belongings out that are related to the past and no longer serve us.

Let’s talk and find out how you can use the 3-step approach and my support to clear up your home and life.

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Schedule your free Getting-Started Session

Death Cleaning – Why we should do it before we die

Take responsibility for your belongings 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 …

The 3 steps into a clutterfree life

My clear and simple 3-step decluttering approach can help us manage the ‘death cleaning’ process successfully because

    • it helps us become aware of our values and priorities,
    • which allows us to make decluttering decisions with confidence,
    • so that we then – based on our increased awareness and decisiveness – can take action and get the belongings out that are related to the past and no longer serve us.

Let’s talk and find out how you can use the 3-step approach and my support to clear up your home and life.

Click this button to book 

Your free consultation call with me

Clutterfree Life Transitions – Preparations – Part 4


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.


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


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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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.


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.


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!