How to make your home a haven…

Smiling woman sitting with legs crossed on living room floor, looking at camera.

Here’s a question. Why is it that so many people are well organised at work but struggle to literally keep their house in order?

Smiling woman sitting with legs crossed on living room floor, looking at camera.I often wonder why so many people live in an environment they can control, yet accept living in a way that is far from pleasant and actually causes them stress.

To bust a myth, organising and decluttering isn’t about having an immaculate home, creating a minimalist environment, throwing things away, tidying up for its own sake or being pressured in to live in a certain way. But it does bring with it a whole host of benefits.

You might notice you save money. You spend less on clothes if you have a tidy wardrobe, and are less inclined to buy what you don’t need. Children are often more independent if they have room to play, and take responsibility for putting their toys away in a designated place. And you might not need to make that planned extension if you can create some more room in your existing space.

I enjoy making space comfortable and beautiful, but I am also interested in the effect the process can have on people. Everyone has their own reasons for decluttering. Some are doing it to improve the comfort of their homes, or to make it more aesthetically pleasing to potential buyers. Others may have to clear out the home of a loved one who is moving to long-term care or who has sadly passed away.

The emotions behind the clutter

A disordered home is often a reflection of people’s feelings, with their state of mind mirrored in their home. It isn’t just those who hoard to the extent that their home is unsafe who may have unresolved issues. For those who live with too much ‘stuff’ their issue could be the perception that they don’t deserve something nice.

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For others, their clutter may be a form of rebelling against a very rigid and authoritative upbringing. And some people fill up their external space as a way of compensating for the emptiness they may feel on the inside.

I’ve noticed that a lack of physical space – due to disorganisation and clutter, not the size of a home – often parallels how someone thinks about their life.

“There isn’t enough time (space) to… eat healthily, exercise, clean up, go out with a friend, have a family dinner, play golf, book a holiday…”

But this perception that there is no time and so much to do is because the brain can only process so much. So clearing the clutter in the house could contribute to clearing the clutter in the mind, as there is no longer a lot of visual ‘information’ or ‘noise’ to process. Once you’ve freed up space in your home, you’ll become more open to the possibility of using your spare time for pursuits you enjoy, rather than trying to bring about order at home and never quite managing it.

Pile of clothes on the floorHaving too many possessions can also make you drained and lacking the motivation to make changes – this can happen to those who like cosier environments as well as minimalists.

Organising and decluttering can be a catalyst for change. But you’ll need to change your behaviours to keep it this way in the long term.

It’s important to identify the underlying reasons why you hang on to things. Making the first step is often the hardest part of the process, but the best way forward is to start with something simple, for example, removing all rubbish and recycling from the house and dealing with it immediately.

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It’s a bit like starting a new diet, in that it can be difficult to start and slow to progress, but once you get going you really notice the positive changes.

Your home, your sanctuary

Sanctuary in the context of the home is a word often used in television programmes and other forms of media. Swap sanctuary for other words, like refuge, shelter, haven, protection and it is easy to see how important our homes are to us.

Many people are so busy that they desperately need a haven from external pressures. How nice is it to shut the door on the outside world and cocoon yourself in your home? But if the inside isn’t comfortable, uplifting and re-energising, it makes it more of a challenge to recharge ready for another day’s assault in the outside world.

I’ve often heard people say they feel ashamed about the state of their house when people pop in, but the house needs nothing more than organising and cleaning.

Finding the motivation to improve the organisation at home might seem like a big effort in an already busy day, but the downsides of living in an uncomfortable space can occupy your thoughts and leave you feeling frustrated with your home.

So try not to think of it as boring or a waste of time. Getting your house in order can make you feel better, enhance your emotional wellbeing and give you the haven you need at the end of a busy day.

Gail Scattergood

About Gail Scattergood

I'm a professional organiser, helping people clear out their homes and offices or preparing a property for sale. Find out more at my website, The Space Angel or follow me on Twitter. Before that I was a manager in education for 10 years. When I'm not working, I love playing the classical guitar, running, going to concerts and the theatre, and Interior and garden design.