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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.

Ellie 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, Ellie 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. She called me for help.

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

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

How could we re-organise Ellie’s place in a way that would allow her to move around easier again and make her able to get her housework done on her own?

How discarding and re-arranging furniture can bring back mobility and flexibility

First –Ellie 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 great improvement because now Mrs. Ellie 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 Ellie 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 mostly used household and hobby items.

Ellie 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. Ellie 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 Ellie 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 to come over for coffee and self-made cakes, and how much time she spend with her crafts and other hobbies.

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

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

Entering a new phase in life can be confusing and unsettling. A bold home re-organising project can give your life and ambitions a new direction.


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

In the past, Sue was an ‘all-time organiser’: she ran a busy household, managed the family life (three daughters), and also looked after the paperwork of her husband’s small business.

This phase of her life ended when her daughters moved out after finishing school – and 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 Sue – 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, Sue 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, that they had their own lives and families and would never come back.

She had to (and could!) concentrate on herself and her interests now. 

Sue decided she was ready to move on and she booked some coaching sessions with me to help her find out where she wanted to go.

At our first appointment, we took a tour of the house and Sue presented what she thought was her main problem: 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 the future?

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 finally easier for Sue to make bold decisions.

When we were talking about her home-reorganising project, Sue realised that she felt angry about the mess the girls had left for her to take care of, and that this anger intensified her motivation to get things sorted out. 

She ordered a skip bin and organised some boxes to collect the stuff she wanted to donate.

We got started and she was able to make a series of quick decisions (she was still angry). It took us only one day to create three ‘truly empty nests’.

When I left that evening, Sue 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 Sue called. She was very excited because she had made some bigger decisions and wanted my help to realise them.

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

One decision was to use one of the rooms as a guest room for her daughters and as a playroom for her grandchildren. She wanted to have a dedicated place for them, so she would be ready prepared whenever the kids came to visit during the school holidays.

Sue’s second big decision was to use the other two – now also empty – rooms for – her new business! She wanted to open a sewing school in her home, offering sewing classes for beginners.

Sue had loved sewing all her life. 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.

It was not difficult for Sue to make the decision to start her own business. She had the space she needed – two empty rooms in her home. And she had made space in her mind because all the decluttering and rearranging of physical stuff had helped clear up her thoughts about herself and her future as well.

We didn’t need much time to create a detailed action plan for Sue. And it took her only two weeks to organise the two rooms around her business needs. She added some furniture – and 5 sewing machines for her future students! – in the new sewing training room and a desk in her new home office.

She now has all she needs to become a successful business woman – the space and the equipment and the courage, determination, and confidence.

And, as an empty nester, she has the time and energy to make things – her things! – happen.

Why Decluttering is so helpful in life-change situations

In life-change situations, the creation of a clutter-free home – the active process of sorting through all our belongings and intentionally deciding what we want to keep – can make the transition easier. 

What is clutter?

My favourite definition of clutter is very simple:

Clutter is anything that doesn’t serve us (any longer). We don’t need it, we don’t use it, we don’t love it.’

This short definition is easy to remember and it’s very helpful while we are sorting through our stuff – whenever we need to make a decision, we can just ask, ‘does this serve me?’

Julie Morgenstern’s definition of clutter helps us see why intentional decluttering projects can make life changes easier:

‘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)

Clutter is nothing we should feel ashamed of or guilty about.

Instead of judging ourselves and hating the ‘obsolete objects’ in our home, we can decide to accept the clutter as what it actually is:

A collection of belongings that no longer serves our needs but that was useful to us at some point in time.

Positive effects of the decluttering process

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’.

In fact, decluttering can be a positive and productive experience, an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our values.

The starting point of the decluttering/change process: Awareness

Before we declutter anything, we take the time to thoroughly evaluate and ‘understand’ our belongings.

We ‘study’ everything we own, but especially the clutter, and explore its former meaning and value.

Then we consider and decide what’s of current and future value to us. These are the things we want to keep.

Finally, we are able to intentionally and decisively loosen our attachment to those objects and issues of our past that no longer serve us, and sort them out.

Why the decluttering process is especially helpful during life transitions

We are all human beings and we all have a human brain. 🙂

That’s good, most of the time. But not so much during life-transitions. 

Our human brain doesn’t like change. It wants us to be safe and to stay where we are, and it wants the things in our life to remain as they are. 

That’s why life-changes – moving from what currently is and what we know well to something new and unknown – often create uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety, sadness, and resistance.

Intentionally decluttering our physical belongings can make change less frightening.

While we are taking everything out and evaluating what we currently have in our life, we become more aware of what we value, what’s really important to us, and what we want to take along into the next phase of our life.

The increased awareness makes it easier for us to decide with confidence about what we want to leave behind because it no longer serves us.

We intentionally let go of the things that belong to the past – which frees us up to move on into the future – with more clarity and lightness.