Change the purpose of a room to open up new opportunities. – And setting up new ‘rational’ routines & rules can help you to create a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Baker 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. Baker 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 on 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. Baker 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. Baker about his daily life, and how he organised his stamp collection and kept it sorted.
He then explained his ‘dream conditions’ of working with the stamp collection. He said 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. Baker 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 with his stamp collection and his books downstairs, and all the files and letters and directories which we placed in the now empty cupboards and shelves.
Dr. Baker was so happy about the changes that he’d have loved to sit down 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 timetable 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, lunchtime, 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. Baker, however, had all his professional life used 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.