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Reclaiming Your Space: 5 Tips for Your Post-Breakup Home

Following Netflix's release of Marie Kondo's wildly popular show Tidying Up, Facebook feeds immediately flooded with mountains of T-shirts atop beds or silly satires of leaving only that which "sparks joy," Kondo's famous catchphrase. The recent craze of self-care has taken over in the home department, as people are confronted with their bad, and often emotionally damaging, habits. Our homes can reflect our mental states, and the KonMari method shows us that they also can inspire a whole new beginning in life.

For many, though, this wake up call doesn't come from binging a new reality television show, but from some difficult life transitions. Breakups are one of life's hardest experiences and reclaiming a once shared space as your own can be especially painful. In fact, breakups and homes are often so intertwined that this year, HGTV releases its newest show Unspouse My House with self-proclaimed breakup expert Orlando Soria. It's clear that interior design can be a powerful way to reevaluate and work through transitions towards your own joy. Here are our tips for a better post-breakup home.

1. Know that Transitions Take Work

One of the most shocking parts of Marie Kondo's show is seeing the literal mountains of stuff people own. The horrifying look on most of the client's faces is enough to make us viewers think, "Am I unknowingly doing the same thing?" Yes, you might have piles of stuff that you and your previous partner shared, and yes, it is going to take a while to sift through it all. But if Marie Kondo taught us anything, it is that all the physical and mental labor that goes into reclaiming your life will result in a happier and more peaceful you.

In this Apartment Therapy article about post-divorce digs, Adrienne Breaux writes, "When a huge life change happens, many of us look to our homes to support us. We look to decor not to decorate, but to invigorate." She notes that the home can actually do a great deal to heal, but of course, that definitely doesn't come easily. Going into the change with the mindset that each step you tackle brings you closer to a home that you love is the first, and often most important, step towards a smooth transition.

2. Thank You, Next - Restarting On Your Own

Don't dwell on what was and compare your present against you past. Start with appreciating what was and then move on. Like Ariana Grande tells us, sometimes you just need say "Thank you, next" and then have some you time. Think about ways to delineate your own start, like getting new bed-sheets or saging your space. Elizabeth Sutton, the recently single parent who was profiled in the Apartment Therapy article, suggests clearing out old photos with the ex, even if things end peacefully. She says, "There is NO reason to have photos of your ex in your apartment, or anything belonging to them for that matter. If you insist, put them in a memory box and hide it in the corner of an unimportant closet." Transitions are not about demolishing, but about taking the time to recenter, reevaluate, and restart.

Ariana Grande, Thank you Next, Interior Design, Post Breakup Home tips
Like Ariana shows us, thank all those memories and then make space for YOU time!

3. Decide What Makes You Happy

Thanking what was once collective and then moving on means deciding what is yours. What makes you happy? What makes you feel like you? This is the time to reflect and to look inwards into what defines yourself. When Sutton created her space after the divorce, colors were her joy. The artistic wallpapers and bright tones created a freedom and spirit of complete happiness. Of course, everyone experiences and expresses joy differently, so really think about what that might be for you - whether its displaying your hobbies or collectibles, or having lots of memorabilia and plant friends.

Interior Design, art collectibles, unique, transition design
A recent BVD project for Rosemary, who was transitioning to a new job and knew that she wanted to feature her unique collectible art.

Sutton urges others to be creative and boundless: "Incorporate as much of 'you' into the space as possible: photos, memorabilia, coffee table books you love, artwork, flowers, whatever it is that screams 'you'. When going through such a change, it is important to rediscover yourself and how you create and design your new home is definitely going to be reflective of that journey."

4. Reevaluate What is Essential

A BVD design for those who think less is more.

Once you know what gives you joy, you can eliminate what doesn't contribute to this happiness. Is clutter and general excess contributing to stress and anxiety? Marie Kondo reveals that even those of us that feel we have a reasonable amount of stuff don't often realize the clutter that we have steadily accumulated, to a point where the negative effects aren't even consciously felt. But beyond the KonMari method, there is a recent push towards minimalist living. In this article, Adrienne Breaux writes that, to combat the hectic world around us, we might feel the need to have less, but ultimately "to need less." Training ourselves to not only purge the clutter, but to actually desire less to begin with starts with a conscious reevaluation. Sometimes having a minimal space can give just the amount of peace and specific you-ness to your home.

5. Set Definitions, Goals, and Timelines

Going back to our first tip, we know that all of this takes a lot of work, and thus, a lot of time. This whole process - like Kondo's classic mountain of clothing - is daunting. Setting clear goals, though, creates a light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine your happiness and your vision, and keep that as the inspiration that guides you through this process. Make timelines for yourself and leave some room for flexibility.

Then, this is where an interior designer can become your best friend. Bring them your thoughts on what defines you and your happiness, along with your goals and timelines. Working together with a designer will clarify your ideas and help you envision what your life could look and feel like.

BV working through some ideas for a client.

"Design isn't just about the superficial; it's about crafting environments that allow us to feel inspired, enlivened, and safe." - Elizabeth Sutton

One of the main tenets of our design philosophy at Barbara Vail Design is to create peace through design, making the home a place in which you can discover yourself. Transitions are some of the hardest times in one's life, but they are often also the most important. When big changes happen, we are faced with the task to reevaluate and reinvigorate ourselves, through our thoughts and our steps to create a brighter future. The home is where we start and end all of our days, and it is also the place where we can discover how to wholly and joyously be ourselves.


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