For the past year or so I’ve been on a mission to reinvent myself as a writer, creative person and all around better person. I’ve been knocking around ideas for a series of interviews with people who have reinvented themselves and also to feature ways in which you can reinvent other aspects of our life. For the opening piece to this feature, I’m starting with something near and dear to our hearts: Our homes.
Comedian George Carlin once said a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it so we can go out and get more stuff. In my neighborhood it is practically unheard of to park your car in your garage. There is a family two doors down from us whose garage is packed full of failed dreams, auto parts and vending machines. Another family has turned their garage into a man cave while they park their expensive vehicles on the street. When did we let our stuff become us? Is clutter good for us? Why do we let our Beanie Baby obsessions crowd into our living space and why is my office such a mess?
I turned to Indianapolis-based massage therapist and professional de-clutterer Jennifer Baron, to get her ideas on how we can reinvent our homes or just a small corner of our houses to help us be more creative.
1. I have often bemoaned to anyone who will listen that my office is uninspiring. I have a few interesting pictures on the wall and things that make me smile, but it’s really cluttered. How can I make it more inspiring?
First, take time to de-clutter. Clutter will distract you, cause anxiety and waste your time because you’re looking for things and clutter will suck the inspiration out of any room. Once you’ve de-cluttered I suggest painting the room a shade of orange, which sparks creativity, or yellow which lifts your spirits, to take the room to the next level. Color affects us, so use this inexpensive trick to your advantage. Next, hang a corkboard with things that inspire you like pictures from your favorite destinations, fabric or wallpaper swatches that tickle your fancy or pictures of people that you admire.
2. So, most of us don’t have thousands to spend to re-decorate our houses to where we want them, what are some simple things we can do?
De-clutter, change your paint color and rearranging the furniture placement are three simple and inexpensive tweaks you can make that have big impact. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I’ve gone through my entire house and let go of things I don’t use or love and the feeling of freedom I have is fantastic! Generally speaking, cool colors like shades of blue, green and purple are soothing and calming and warm tones like orange, red and yellow are energetic. Decide the feeling you want a space to elicit and find a shade that speaks to you. Most of us push all our furniture up against the walls because we think it creates more space in the rooms or because we’re not sure how else to arrange it. Try other arrangements and see how they look. This one simple tweak can completely change the flow, feel and energy of the room, and can make it more cozy and conducive for conversation.
3. Got any hard fast rules for whether to keep or throw it away?
I stick to the “one year rule.” If you haven’t used it, worn it or missed it in 365 days then let it go! Only keep the clothes that flatter and make you feel good about yourself, not the jeans you hope to get into “someday.” “Someday, later, and what if” keep clutter in your life and keep you stuck in either the past or future but not living in the present. Going through your things with a professional or good friend will keep you honest and on-track. Sell or donate the things you no longer use to get some cash or help a charity. That’s a win-win situation. There is one exception to this rule. If you have a special item from a loved one who has passed away, keep it but make sure you find a way to honor the item rather than stuffing it in a drawer, closet or box.
4. I was reading a book in which the author talks about Shadow Comforts (internet, TV, etc) and how they can zap your time and energy. Can clutter or a messy house/workspace do the same?
Absolutely! The average person loses 7 hours every week because they are looking for things they can’t find. That’s huge and not OK with me. Your life is precious and I know there are other important things you’d rather be doing with your 7 hours instead of looking for your keys, child’s permission slip or important photograph. Clutter also has a negative energy about it. If you have a cluttered room or space, how do you feel when you’re in there, I bet not well. Clutter has a way of draining you of your positive energy and it leaves you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated.
5. The author also talked about how these Shadow Comforts tell us we aren’t good enough to be creative. What can people do in their everyday lives to de-clutter their minds?
Many of my massage clients have what I call “gerbil wheel mind.” It just spins and spins and they have a hard time slowing it down. I’ve found a few things that have helped with my own “gerbil mind” and they are journaling, jotting down a to-do list and getting outside into nature. Every night before bed I write my to-do list for the following day. That way I don’t have to fret or worry about trying to remember something through the night. I’ve got it jotted down and I sleep so much better for having taken a few moments to get it out of my head. The act of writing or typing allows you to let them go so your brain doesn’t have to work to hold onto them, and it also helps to release some of the energy surrounding the things on your mind. Taking a few minutes to walk outside especially with a buddy really helps to clear your mind, get a new perspective about an issue and delivers fresh oxygen to your entire body, which is calming and rejuvenating.
6. Do you think reinventing one’s house can help them in their own reinvention of their lives?
Absolutely! For me there was a line in the sand, I had enough and the light switch was flipped in my head and heart. And as I started to make the changes in my home I noticed shifts in my thinking and perspectives. I began to de-clutter my busy schedule, doing only the things I really enjoyed and was interested in and started giving time and attention to new interests, hobbies and friends. As we let go of material and non-material things that no longer serve us, it creates space to breathe and/or room for awesome amazing people and things we weren’t even dreaming of.
7. How have you personally reinvented yourself?
People and helping them improve their lives are my passions. I’ve been doing Massage Therapy and bodywork since 1995 and love it. Residential Organizing is also a love as are all things interior design and decorating. Our spaces either lift us up or bring us down. As cheesy as it may sound I feel like caterpillar that has gone through, and continues to go through, her own metamorphosis mentally, emotionally and physically. As I change my thinking and perspectives I take action and then experience a delightful outer shift in my spaces and even my weight.