Reclaiming your space from clutter and dealing with what it uncovers

A case study on re-organising rooms and emotions

A few months ago, my eighty-something mother-in-law returned home from a weekend away to find heavy rain gushing into the upstairs room which had, for years, been used as a home office. A gaping hole in the ceiling gave a view right up into the loft, the wallpaper was peeling off, the carpet was sodden and books and paperwork destroyed. 

It was an upsetting time, not least because many of the things that had been ruined bore the immaculate handwriting of her husband who had passed away earlier that year. The little office had been his domain and he had been meticulous in his organisation and record-keeping. Over the previous year or so, as he had become increasingly infirm, the usually neatly filed documents and paperwork had piled up, as my mother-in-law’s focus and energy went, naturally, towards caring for her beloved husband.

After his passing, the box room became a place for dumping things, out of sight out of mind. 

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is devastating in itself but the paperwork and red tape that follows can be overwhelming and we can lose energy for all but the basic elements of daily life.

I wonder how long it would have taken any of us, to have sorted that box room had the leak not occurred? Sometimes we need a big prod from the Universe to spur us into action, not just after a bereavement. We actually joked that my father-in-law had sent a thunderbolt to get things moving!

Upset in one area invariably starts to impact on others.

It probably wouldn’t have been too long though, because the interesting thing about having one room in your home not functioning properly is that, eventually, it starts to seep out and other rooms start to be impacted. With the office overflowing, things had already started to spread to other spaces, so when the deluge hit, there was no flood plain to catch the excess and the result was a tsunami throughout the whole of the house.

Over several weeks, with the help of friends and family, the evacuated contents of the office were sorted. 

So much of what we collect in our homes is emotionally charged in some way. 

Whilst many things are easy to dispatch to the tip or to donate to the charity shop, other things are too important to let go of. But these are the things that we need to have around us; our memories of the past and the reminders of the current positives. And we want to see them clearly. My mother-in-law would have previously said that she didn’t want to let go of anything, but when we do that, we end up seeing nothing clearly and everything is a blur. 

What stops us from tackling cluttered spaces?

Part of the unconscious resistance to such a task is fear of what will ‘come up’ for us. As a tsunami stirs up the bottom of an ocean, what emotions will be triggered by stumbling upon that old toy, letter or wedding invite?

But the thing is, those emotions are there, whether we acknowledge them or not. If we let them out, they may indeed bring tears, but they can also bring joy as memories are unlocked. 

As the room was redecorated and we started to decide what was to go back into it, the treasures rose to the surface. Key pieces were given pride of place and, with the flotsam and jetsam removed, storage could be created for the things that didn’t need to be seen but had to be easily accessible. 

My mother-in-law now has not just got her office back, but her whole home. There’s still a bit of sorting to do (who knew one person could own that many notelets!!) but when a room can breathe, so can we. And when we’re breathing, we can do anything. 

If you need support to identify where you should focus your energy to get your home and life working cohesively, please get in touch. 

Sarah Swain

Sarah Swain
Verified Coach
Verified for professional standards and commitment to clients. Read more Close

Sarah is an interiors consultant & coach who helps people live the way they want to live, in spaces they absolutely love. Email sarah@cohesiveliving.com to find out more about Sarah's online coaching or book a free consultation call right now.

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