Have you ever stopped to think about your house, and the rooms within it, as a metaphor of your life? What is your relationship with your space -- do you love it, just live in it, or wish it could be different? How do you feel emotionally in the different rooms of your home? According to Jill Butler, author of Create the Space You Deserve, taking the time to explore how we feel in different rooms can become a profound inner journey.
Butler went through a divorce, downsized, and documentd her "Extreme Makeover" process of creating her dream space -- the space she deserved. Transition is often a time that triggers the need or desire for a new living space -- any sort of inner shift, celebration or milestone -- and while for some it is a new house, for others it starts with a single room.
"Take a moment and think about your favorite room in your house," Butler said, "And notice how you feel when you are in there." For me, my favorite room is my dining room, of all places. It was recently painted, has big windows, lots of light, and I love the family gatherings we have there.
Next, Butler advises that you think about the space in your house that you most dislike. How is it not working for you, and how do you feel in this space? For me, it is the joint office I share with my husband. Overloaded with unused software boxes, kid memorabilia, and papers everywhere, the space has a definite feeling of chaos. Often when I am writing, I just avoid it all together and sneak into my dining room with my laptop for my most creative work.
"This question about your relationship to your space is not a problem-solving issue but a naming issue," said Butler. "There is a reason people leave junk in their bedroom for 10 years that is deeper than simply being too lazy to shove them in the basement. It is reflection of something bigger."
Interestingly enough, some of the issues we grapple with in our lives are clearly reflected in these trouble spots within our homes. One woman shared that her basement was the space she struggled with. "Everything else is light and just the way I want it be," she mused, "but the inner world, the deepest inside parts of me, are not so bright and cheery at all." She later shared a revelation she had: her basement was linked to an inablilty to let go of worrying about her children, even though they were grown and gone. She is now considering revamping her basement into an art studio, just for herself.
For some, the challenge with a particular space is not so much the room itself but the stuff in it. "I think the whole country is re-evaluating their relationship with their stuff," said Butler. "We are all realizing we cannot afford so much stuff, and it doesn't make us happy in the end. Clearing crud is one of the hardest parts until we realize it drags down our energy and makes us feel bad about ourselves."
One couple decided that they had to "clear the clutter" in a spare room that doubled as a storage space and an office all at once. The husband had lost his job and was studying for a Master's degree. "I couldn't concentrate there!" he laughed. The coupled decided to have a "dumpster party." They pulled up a huge dumpster to the base of their house, opened up the window screens, and literally threw junk out the window, delighting in the sound of the crash as unwanted items landed in an ever-growing heap of relief. Sure enough, once the room was cleared, the thesis paper was completed in record time, and a job offer immediately followed.
With the foreclosure rate the way it is, many Americans have lost their homes or have had to consciously downsize. But the term "downsize" has such a negative connotation. Rather, how about "right-sizing" our homes? For Butler herself, moving from a 5,000-square-foot home to a 1,400-square-foot home was a celebration. "It is very freeing to let go."
Try out the exercise of identifying a room in your house that you dislike, and imagine what you can do to make friends with this space once again -- how can you "repair the relationship"? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1) Decide: Decide to change the space in some small way to get started, or in a large way like grabbing a dumpster. Making a choice to make a change in your physical space also initiates the inner process of change.
2) Look Around: Step back into that room with a fresh awareness of how it has become a reflection or metaphor for a part of your life that needs changing. Without having to spend a lot of money, what needs to be done first?
3) Rearrange: Sometimes nothing drastic has to be done, just a little rearranging. Maybe a single piece of furniture has to be moved around, removed, recovered or added to change everything entirely. I had a room that no one ever used, and I couldn't figure out why. By accident, we inherited a new leather chair I had no idea what to do with, and shoved it in this room temporarily. To my surprise, it created a harmony that was not there before, and suddenly the kids started reading in there, my husband and I started having after-dinner chats, and the room came to life.
4) Make Friends with What Is: Sometimes you inherit a house or a room that you can't stand, and there is nothing much you can do about it but change your attitude. One woman shared a story about how she sold her dream home to move out of state, hated it, and came back. The only house she could find was not at all her taste, but she had taken it and had silently resented it for years. With a new awareness that it was time to make peace with her house, she bought some sage, smudged the space, painted one room, bought some flowers, and that was enough. She claimed her space.
How about you, HuffPost readers? Is there a space in your house that is a "problem child?" what insights can it offer, and how have you changed your space structurally that led to a change personally? Love to hear your comments below.