Tag Archives: house

Couples and Clutter: Conquering Stonewalling

gull-talk

Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore stonewalling and its antidote.

The other 3 culprits we’ve looked at are criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. Stonewalling happens when a person gets so overwhelmed – flooded – by the negativity of an interaction that they shut down. Rather than continue to confront the situation, they disengage completely- becoming unreachable.

Stonewalling is a reaction to escalating negativity. Stonewalling includes not making eye contact, not responding verbally or physically; giving someone the cold shoulder. The shutting down and turning away is a natural protective response to feeling flooded.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Partner 1: You never put your clothes away. I’m so sick of having to walk around your stuff all the time. Why do you have to be so messy all the time? (Criticism)

Partner 2: “I’m not the one who leaves my shoes all over the place. You’re always blaming me for everything” (Defensiveness)

Partner 1: “I can’t believe I’m married to someone who lives like this. You’ve been a mess ever since I met you! What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it together?” (Contempt)

Partner 2: Turns away, picks up their laptop and starts doing some project even as Partner 1 continues to try and talk to them. Everything about their body language says, “I don’t hear you and I’m not listening to you.” (Stonewalling)

Antidotes: Timeouts and Self-Soothing Activities

It is important to remove oneself from the interaction, take a timeout and do some self care in order to calm the flooding response. It helps for the overwhelmed person to state, “I’m overwhelmed, I need a timeout.” Take a walk, listening to music, going into a quiet room – anything that lets your body reset and allow you to come back to the interaction with a calmer perspective.

The combination and interplay of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are destructive to genuine communication and problem solving. Building awareness of these patterns can lead to healthy interactions and…eventually, to harmoniously organized homes.

Leave a comment

Filed under couples, Decluttering, Perspective

5 Interior Design Tips to Enliven Your Home on a Budget

Rachelle Padgett Design

We’ve asked our design colleague, Rachelle Padgett of Synthesis Interiors and Color to share some tips. We hope you enjoy them as much as us!

Just like a doctor gains critical information using a microscope, an Interior Designer uses visual cues to assess the impact of what you may think is insignificant. We can take what seems small and make it grand in importance (“Your fluorescent overhead lights make this space feel like an operating room, which is why you don’t want to spend time in here.”) and we can turn what feels like an overwhelming prospect (“Our house is too small and we have to move!”) into a manageable project (“Your furniture is too big for the size of the room, and you need more efficient storage.”) While nothing quite substitutes for having a designer into your home, there are plenty of changes can you make yourself that will have a big impact, without breaking the bank.

  1. Get organized. Congratulations! Since you are already reading this blog, you are in excellent hands, and well on your way! Frequently on an initial appointment, a client will tell me they need more space, more storage, more something. Many times, my response is that I feel they actually need less. I give them homework of de-cluttering, after which we can re-assess their needs for that particular area. Sometimes this approach can save people money, if it turns out their current storage is sufficient once they’ve donated long-forgotten clothing and recycled all those old college essays!
  2. Repurpose. Revamp. The list of “re-” can go on and on! Have an old tripod you never use? Have it wired by a local shop into a lamp. A table you like that’s seen better days? Refinish it! An heirloom sofa from your Great Aunt Ida that’s in perfect condition, but doesn’t suit your taste? Reupholster! Pinterest is an amazing resource for DIY project ideas.
  3. Lighten up! Time and again, I’ll go to a friend’s house for dinner, and we sit down to a gorgeous meal under a single, glaring, overhead light. I’ve been known to covertly borrow bedside table lamps and set them up in the dining room while the host is still cooking! The powerful psychological and emotional impact of lighting cannot be underestimated. Think about how good you feel in the fading, early evening light of late summer, or how pretty candlelight makes you look.

Clean your light fixtures. Dust and dead bugs accumulate quickly and can dramatically decrease a fixture’s illumination.

Change your lightbulbs. I prefer these warm, dimmable LED alternatives to an incandescent 60W. Not only are they super energy efficient, they have a pleasant color temperature.

Put everything on a dimmer. Yes, everything. Even the bathroom. Try these from Lutron. They are easy to install with just a screwdriver.

  1. Paint. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to make a huge change! What colors make you happy? For cues, go to your closet and pull out what you wear and love the most. Look around at your art and your favorite things. Go outside. Thumb through National Geographic. Color inspiration is everywhere!
  2. Decorate with fabric. A beautiful textile can cover up a multitude of sins, and is one of the most affordable and easiest art objects to bring home from travels abroad. Etsy and Ebay have great deals, too. Don’t be bound by the description on the tag. Fabric is fabric. A handwoven Mexican tablecloth folded in half can offer fantastic color, pattern and texture to the end of a bed or the back of a shabby sofa. A table runner can serve as a wall hanging in an awkwardly narrow space. Embroidered or hand-painted napkins can be laid on the diagonal over a dresser, creating a perfect spot to rest delicate jewelry while protecting the wood.

I know good design isn’t just about making things look pretty (though, of course, that doesn’t hurt) but about having a sometimes profound impact on your well-being; from health and happiness to rest and productivity. Make a few changes in your home, and see what happens!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

How Much is Enough?

Honoring the limits of containers makes for an uncluttered home.

Do you really want your home to turn into a library?

Books, CDs, toys, clothes, office supplies…how do you decide how much is enough?

Facing the challenge of purging any collection can be daunting. How can you bear to let go of things you still like or are still useful – even when they make your home feel cluttered?

If you’re having trouble setting boundaries around certain types of items one tactic we find useful is “Container As Arbitrary Limiter”. The idea here is to make a firm decision about where a collection is going to live and use that defined space to set the boundary on how much to keep.

Let’s take books as an example. Many people love their books and hate parting with them. Clearly, books live best standing up on shelves. So the available bookshelves in the house can be the “container” in this case. When the number of books owned overflows the available shelf space, a decision has to be made either to add more shelving, or get rid of some books! Which choice you make is up to you – it’s your home and you get to decide how much wall space is dedicated to storing books.

Do you have lots of great books that won’t fit on the shelves? Probably! But limiting the collection to ONLY what will comfortably fit on your shelves is an arbitrary way to set a boundary for yourself.

Setting a clear boundary that your book collection has to fit in the available space helps clarify why you are purging.

  • Making conscious choices around limits is important if you want less clutter in your home.
  • Having a clear limit helps objectify the purging process a little.
  • Honoring those limits is a way of respecting your values and goals around how you want to live in your home.

If the collection starts to expand outside the boundaries of the shelves and you find there are books on the floor, coffee table, wedged into every available gap – that is a sign that you either need to re-assess the collection or redefined the limits.

If it’s difficult to determine when your collection is maxed out, a container provides objective feedback, letting you know how much is too much.

Read our related post: Aack! I can’t get rid of anything!

2 Comments

Filed under General Organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies

Where Do You Start?

alt text

Lost in a forest of clutter and tasks? Don’t despair!

Ever get that “lost in the forest” feeling when facing starting a project or thinking about all the things you have to do? We lose perspective and feel overwhelmed because we get lost in the details. Suddenly every task feels urgent and it isn’t clear where to start or how anything will ever get done.

  • Example: I need to submit my vacation request to work for the next 2 months by the end of the week, my kids have 2 different soccer schedules, the school calendar, my husband travels for work and has mileage points expiring soon that we want to use for a vacation – where do I start?

 1. Establish a timeframe to evaluate

Do you need to figure out what to do in the next hour or are you trying to figure out a much larger project? How far back do you need to step to get the perspective that will help you move forward?

Large scale time: what kind of life events are coming up? Graduations? Births? Changing schools? Moves? Small scale time: the next half hour, or the current day, or this week.

There’s no one right answer for every person – it’s individual to each person and the situation you’re trying to work on.

  • Start here: The most important time frame is between now and when the mileage points expire; then the time frame that the request covers – the next 2 months.

 2. Decide what your immediate goal is.

Once you narrow your timeframe, think through what the main goal is for that timeframe. What is most important to you?

  • Start here: Figure out if a vacation is even possible before the points expire, given the family schedule constraints.

3. Decide which tasks are most important to achieve the goal

Brainstorm a list of all the steps to get to the goal. Then identify which ones are most important to do and decide what order makes sense. The result should tell you exactly what your next steps are!

  •  Start here:
  1. Print out or view a calendar of the timeframe in question
  2. Eliminate any days that have kids’ soccer or husband’s work commitments
  3. Review school calendars for possible holidays/commitments during the timeframe
  4. Review available days to decide which would work best for vacation. Confirm with husband.
  5. Complete and submit vacation request
  6. Start planning vacation!

 

2 Comments

Filed under General Organizing, Strategies