Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s a quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I’ll try again tomorrow. – Mary Ann Radmacher
Organizing your space is like learning: it’s not something you do once and then are done with forever (Marie Kondo may disagree, and that’s okay!). The way you organize your home will change as you move through different stages of your life, and that’s normal and expected.
The need to organize is particularly obvious during times of transition. Transitions are a signal that what you need from your space is changing, and the space must change to accommodate it. Mindfully tuning in to your relationship with your things and how they serve you right now is an essential step during this process.
One of the threads that links many of our clients since 2005 is that they contacted us when they were experiencing a life transition.
Transitions fall into two categories: planned and unexpected. And while unexpected transitions can be distressing or traumatic, even planned transitions can create emotional turmoil and require a great deal of your energy.Prepare for life transitions (having a baby, downsizing) by acknowledging them, identifying what you need to support you, and getting the help you need to prepare your space for change: Click To Tweet
The more organizational systems you have in place that help to keep you rested and healthy, the more you will have the energy you need to weather any unexpected challenges!
Read on to discover ideas, resources and advice to prepare you for life’s inevitable changes! Are any of these transitions familiar to you?
Baby on the way
If you’re welcoming a new baby into your family, you may need to change the function of different rooms in your home. For our clients Joe and Sally, it meant transforming their home office into a nursery, and rethinking their living room space to accommodate office needs.
This is often one of the most joyful AND stressful times in a person’s life. It’s such a big transition that having children can add significant stress to a marriage. Planning ahead (you do usually have 9 months!) to make room for the new baby’s needs can significantly reduce stress and help to make this event a more joyful one.
With today’s medical advances increasing our life expectancy, many people find themselves caring for an elderly relative or someone with disabilities or an injury. If you bring a loved one into your home, you will not only need to make modifications to your space, but will also spend a portion of your time and energy finding appropriate resources for a loved one who may be no longer able to fully care for themselves.
This can be a challenging time of transition, for it will impact your space, your routine, and may bring up difficult emotions. We encourage you to seek support from friends, other family members, support groups or practicing therapists. These resources may also help:
Once your children are grown or your lifestyle changes, you may find yourself ready to live in a smaller space and be responsible for fewer possessions. The large home or yard that once suited your needs may be more than you have the energy to maintain.
While it can take courage to acknowledge that you’re ready to let go of what you have and embrace a new lifestyle, our clients express tremendous relief and gratitude once they pare down their belongings and opt for a smaller space. This is known as “downsizing” and can be a very cathartic!
For more about downsizing, check out our post Question Corner: Downsizing on Purpose, At Your Pace.
As your children grow and eventually leave home, you no longer need to organize children’s toys, clothes and schoolwork. Instead you can focus your organizing time on creating spaces that support your hobbies and interests. The playroom or child’s bedroom can become a sewing room, guest room, a man cave or a home gym. Just be careful these rooms do not become the junk rooms!
It’s important to acknowledge that many parents experience “empty nest syndrome” – feelings of grief and sadness combined with joy and pride that their children have moved on to a new stage of life. You may also find yourself with more time on your hands now that you’re not wrangling your kids!
Remember to be gentle with yourself as you go through this transition, and to acknowledge your feelings and accept them. You may find that you want to honor your kids and keep mementos of their younger years even as you find new uses for their bedrooms. We encourage you to highlight some of your treasured mementos! At the same time, we invite you to acknowledge that not ALL your keepsakes need to be kept. Learn more in Not All Art is Precious.
For tips on decorating for empty nesters, see this helpful blog post from interior designer Mandy Straight!
The Sandwich Generation
Many of our clients have find themselves “sandwiched” between the generations before and after them. These clients often have adult children and elderly relatives living with them at the same time. They may also have inherited clutter from one or more sets of parents.
This is often due to a combination of factors. “Boomerang children” are returning home more frequently due to economic uncertainty and difficulty finding jobs in their field. Elderly parents or relatives may not have the financial or mental stability to care for themselves or live in an assisted facility.
Talk about a full house! If this is your situation, it’s important to consider the boundaries you need to put in place to preserve your energy and make the space work for everyone. Bringing in a professional can help you find creative solutions to new demands on your home.
If you are assisting a senior in decluttering in preparation for a move to a retirement community, you will benefit from this Senior Guide For Decluttering from Redfin.
Joining or Combining Households
A very joyful and sometimes challenging transition is the joining of households. I worked with one professional woman who needed help to make room for her fiancé in her one bedroom D.C. apartment. I was impressed by her caring and foresight in tackling this challenge a few months before the man moved in. I feel certain he was grateful for her thought and advance planning!
When my husband and I married we were both in our 30’s and had not only two home’s-worth of household items, but some well established habits and ways of living that required adjusting. We were renting a large home at the time, but for folks with small townhomes or apartments this can be particularly challenging.
Working with a professional organizer to ease this transition can greatly reduce stress on the relationship and the space. I worked with a D.C. artist to organize his art supplies while his wife was at her office (she came home to a newly organized space!). They both reported that marital stress was greatly reduced by our work together.
Many people are choosing or changing life partners later in life, and sometimes one or both partners have children from previous relationships. This can be a challenge on your space and require tough conversations with kids and each other about what to keep and what to let go. Interior designer Mandy Straight offers 4 tips for combining stuff when you “move in with that wonderful person in your life.”
Moving is on all of the lists of stressful life situations, so planning ahead is important. I get calls almost weekly from people who have boxes from when they moved that have not been touched for anywhere from 3 – 25 years!
We strongly recommend paring down your belongings before you move to save money and time. By NOT packing the things that you no longer need or love to spare yourself the financial cost of moving them and the energetic cost of packing and storing them. Begin the decluttering process well ahead of your move to reduce stress and make your (and your realtor’s) job easier. It can also pay off financially!
Be sure to plan ahead and reach out for support from friends, family and professionals to create the least stressful move possible. Based on anecdotal evidence from friends and clients and my own experience of moving twice in the past year, moving will be accompanied with some stress no matter how well you plan ahead. It is never too early to start (a year ahead makes things much more comfortable). But it’s not too late, either! If you haven’t started yet and feel overwhelmed, do yourself a favor and get support starting NOW.
Finally, be sure to plan for regular self-care in order to weather the inevitable storms of moving. For ideas, check out 7 ways to reduce the stress of moving. We love suggestions # 1, 6 and 7 🙂
If you’re in the throes of preparing to move and sell your home, two other another resources you might find useful are: 31 Home Improvements that Add Value (and 7 that Don’t!) and How to Increase Your Home’s Value!
Accidents, the death or illness of a friend or family member, the loss of a job and other unexpected life transitions can be weathered more easily if you have systems in place and your home and life are organized. During these trying emotional times, the less “other” stuff you have to deal with the better!
When you find yourself facing an unplanned transition, it is critically important to carefully evaluate your workload and other commitments. In fact these times can have the effect of making it crystal-clear what is most important and urgent in your life.
Be sure to give yourself time and support to grieve whatever it is that you are experiencing. When it comes to handling the clutter that can come with unexpected transitions, there is no need to rush yourself! Read our article Handling Clutter from Trauma or Loss for more support.
For a thought-provoking take from Swedish culture, you might enjoy Americans are pack rats. Swedes have the solution: ‘Death cleaning’.
Life goes on
Life transitions like these always take time for everyone to adjust to the change. We find that mindfulness and clear communication are great allies during such times. Be sure to notice and name your feelings as you go through transition. It can be helpful to keep a journal, see a therapist, or have an accountability partner to check in with.
Be sure to be gentle and compassionate with your feelings, even when you feel frustrated and impatient. You are doing your best – and so is everyone around you (even when it doesn’t seem like it!). If conflict occurs during your transition, the best approach is to put any defensiveness aside and clearly communicate your needs and expectations. It’s also important to listen to those around you to understand their needs and expectations.
And remember: it won’t be like this forever! Times of upheaval eventually settle to a new status quo. Whether you are facing transition, in the midst of it or gratefully out of it, you know how valuable it is to have organized systems and processes to support you. If you desire any guidance or coaching, we are here to help! Our founder, Pam Holland was one of the earliest recipients of a transitions specialist certification from the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals so we do know a bit about transitions! Have a chat with Pam to see how our team of experienced professionals can help you through your transition.
Discover more ways to mindfully DECLUTTER your home or office here! >>
Discover more ways to mindfully ORGANIZE your home or office here! >>