Transforming Home As Without, So Within: House Keeping as Coach Therapy By Bobbie Llym
I’ve been a housecleaner for the past 10+ years, but that’s just my deep cover. My real work is helping people transform their lives by transforming their homes.
I’ve explored other professions over the years, as I first completed a Bachelor’s, then last summer, a Master’s degree, in counseling. But I’ve come back again and again to helping people in their homes because, over time, I have recognized a subtle yet distinct phenomenon, one that I find mysterious and gratifying. It has felt like my own delicious secret, and it works like this: gradually, as order and beauty overcome the chaos in my often stressed-out clients’ personal spaces, they begin acting with new clarity and expressing new vitality.
It’s not that I have any special powers (though I’ll claim a flair for breaking big jobs into manageable individual tasks, and for seeing new possibilities in old things), but I know that resolving clutter and organizing spaces for optimal functioning releases blocks. It frees up usable energy, creating openings for newness, and restorative, lively stillness.
My transition from house cleaner to life coach (and the birth of my “secret”) began quite innocently. One day while working, as I was putting away a towel, I found the family’s linen-closet in quite a jumble. It occurred to me that spending fifteen minutes sorting and folding right then would probably save that much time every week for whoever changed the family’s sheets, so I decided to go ahead and do it. In the next week or two, I noticed that the closet was less full; it had been culled for donations and rags. I suspected that maybe my little project had given my client a jump-start on a formerly overwhelming task. If so, this could be viewed as a value-added aspect of my work as a house-cleaner.
I needed to test my theory, so I kept going. And it kept happening. Almost every time I took on some cluttered little corner, my client took it a little (or a lot) further. Of course, after that first time, I recognized that it would be best to ask my clients if they were comfortable with the process, and if there were particular projects I could do that they would find particularly helpful.
Having agreed on boundaries, I enjoyed watching the process unfold. It felt mildly miraculous to me. It was the same “magical, but not magic” process that happens in effective counseling relationships, when a tiny shift in perception serves as the foundation for a whole new reality. Transformation, yes? Marvelous!
I couldn’t resist eventually combining organizing with cleaning for most of my clients, with the same result. A kitchen counter previously crowded with a toaster, a blender, and multitudes of spice tins and jars of bulk grains; now open and breathing, would often become a home for a vase of cut flowers by the next week. The projects, big and small, would move from room to room, then sometimes into the yard, with simultaneous internal shifts for clients as well, evidenced by their stories of newly emerging clarity around some old issue, or sudden enthusiasm for some new undertaking. Sometimes I could just see, in a general sense, new strength, new rootedness in the client’s bearing.
From these experiences, I’ve come to believe that our homes are more powerfully sacred places than I had ever imagined. They serve as both symbolic reflections of our internal light and shadow (as within, so without), and as active containers for our energy and intentions, through which transformational process is available.
Now, I realize some skepticism may be coming up for you. “The causative link between decluttering and human transformation isn’t exactly airtight,” you might say. Well, maybe not. But from a purely pragmatic stand-point, when home feels like an out-of-control mess, we feel like an out-of-control mess. And when it feels like a well-functioning sanctuary, we feel pretty darn good. An orderly, uncluttered space is easier to live in and easier to keep clean. All I’m saying is, I’m pretty sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Baby.
As I see it, our home reflects our light in the love we express there. For example, in the kitchen for cooks or the garden for green thumbs, but most essentially, in the affection and fundamental support we give the beings and relationships in our care. Similarly, our home reflects our shadow in those “I’ll deal with it later” places: the office, the junk drawer, the basement, the attic—wherever we stash stuff and try not to think about how it’s piling up.
For convenience sake, I’ll say that our home assists our transformational process both energetically and physically, though I make no real distinction between these two dimensions. So we can initiate the process at any point and get results. We could define the energetic level as “the vibe” or overall feeling of a space, and say that it is influenced by everything that happens there (the physical): its general cleanliness, order, and maintenance, as well as the emotional and physical well-being of those who use it. Improvements made in any of those areas will positively impact ambient energy, which in turn positively impacts physical and emotional wellness. (Do you see the fallacy in the separation of physical from energetic and of home from life and self?)
Remember what Carolyn Myss says about circuits of energy? That unfinished emotional business maintains “circuits” that draw energy from your body’s (finite) available daily supply, sending it toward that past emotionally charged situation. Your clutter, wherever it lives in your home, is part of your emotional past. And you have a feeling response both to what it is, (e.g. stuff from your parents’ house that you can’t quite say goodbye to) and the fact that it’s piled up somewhere in your space. That draws from your energy budget every day. The amount depends on how strong the emotional charge is—but even a small “drain” will, like the hum of the refrigerator, be noticed when it stops.
I’m not suggesting that it’s unhealthy to keep old things, only that the unfinished business around the “stuff” you live and work with functions as a leak in your supply of available daily energy. Certainly, keep your treasures. Bring them into your living space. Objects that invoke fond memories and loving connections are an energy source. Just finish your work with the “stuff” that either brings up negative associations for you (or that you flat-out don’t like) and let it go. Close the leaks so you can get your energy back.
When we add health, beauty, and order, and subtract the energy drains, we re-calibrate the vibration in the space to a higher frequency. This creates that restorative lively stillness mentioned earlier. And, the effect is cumulative! You’ll feel it more as the percentage of tuned up areas in your home increases. It’s also more noticeable, incidentally, when drawers, closets, etc., are completely emptied and well cleaned before items are replaced.
Our homes are also transformers when we consciously arrange them with our current needs and goals in mind. How well does your home support the reality of your life right now? Is each room arranged to serve its various purposes and be as easy to maintain as possible; or do aspects of the current arrangement actually hinder your current needs and goals? (For example, you want family dinners at the dining room table, but it’s always piled high, because it’s currently the dumping ground for just about everything that comes into the house.)
In considering what you could do to help your home better serve you, ask yourself this series of questions: “What feelings would ideally be evoked for me when I walk through my door?” (My answer would be “peace” but of course your answer is as individual as you are.) Another slant on this question is, “What ‘feels like home’ to me?” Then ask yourself, “What specifically evokes those feelings for me in the context of my physical surroundings” (My answer would be: objects from nature that inspire me, so that my home reminds me of the extravagant beauty of life on Earth.) The next question then is “What specific steps can I take to the create the home I want?” You may find it enlightening to ask other members of your family these questions, or at least how “at home” they’re feeling.
Transitioning now toward your particular functional needs, ask yourself, “How does the current state of affairs around here actually support my vision for my life: my core values and aspirations; as a partner, lover, parent, friend, playmate, artist, manager of time and money, practitioner of spirit and career?” I know this is a tall order: it requires that you first define those core values and aspirations, then figure out how your home could support them, then how well it does support them. This is a powerful process for determining what is and is not working for you and your family, and what optimal support would look like. It also provides a terrific litmus test for deciding which stuff in your home is actually serving you, and which is clutter, serving nothing, and ready to go.
The next question is, “What does the current state of affairs around here cost me: financially, physically, and emotionally?” For example, have your “I’ll deal with it later” areas grown to the degree that there are living areas you won’t let company see, or important events you miss or late fees you end up paying because the mail piles up? Ask yourself what the barriers are to reasonable maintenance in those areas. How well does the current balance of benefits and costs work for you?
Here’s a tough question: if your space and your life are quite chaotic, ask yourself what your chaos does for you. What deeper truth does constant busyness or perpetual crisis protect you from? Do you focus on one area to avoid a painful truth in another?
If you think that I suggest your home be a “show house”—perfect in every way, all the time—or that you should live in it as if it were a temple (only “special”, pious behavior allowed), then you misread me. The process of decluttering and organizing your spaces serves in both obvious and mysterious ways to bring you into present time, and your life and relationships into clearer focus. The point is not a perfect looking home, but one that supports you and everyone in your care (woman, man, child, dog, cat, fish, and plant) to be your healthiest, most naturally content selves. If your home doesn’t do this, begin to transform it. In so doing, you just might unleash its power to transform you, and your life.
Bobbie Klym M.S., N.C.C., former house cleaner, now life coach in private practice, can be reached at: [email protected] or 503-359-8879.with your comments on this article