Your home has the power to change how you feel. When you alter any aspect of it, an emotional shift takes place.
Feelings change how we behave, therefore, changing the appearance of your home can change your life. Which means, after a long term relationship break up or divorce, your home plays an important role.
It can hold you back in the past, or be your space for change.
Home was where the heart was
Divorce brings the concept of home into sharp focus, because, in most cases, the marital home will have been the venue for the decline or ending of the marriage and hence there will be many emotions associated with it.
Letting go can be so difficult. On the other hand, starting afresh can be exhilarating.
Making choices for yourself means you don’t have to compromise with your ex’s style opinions. But it can sometimes be daunting as you’re used to having a sounding board (even, if at times, it wasn’t a helpful one!).
But, whether your partner has moved out or it is you who has found a new place to live, bricks and mortar can help the process of moving forward after a breakup.
Start creating your space for change
The clichéd style change in response to a break up is a haircut, and for good reason – it’s an instant pick-me-up, it’s quick and signifies a change of mindset.
By all means, start the ball rolling with some quick wins around your home. Then look to make changes where you can positively thrive in your own space over the coming years.
The room by room appraisal
When I work with a client, we always start with a tour of their whole home. This might seem daunting, but when it’s broken down you can start to see that each room is a piece of the jigsaw and each piece adds something different to the bigger picture.
What is your home currently telling you? Walk around your home and pause in each space.
1 – Emotional appraisal
Take a deep breath and look around you.
What do I see?
How do I feel?
What thoughts am I bringing into the space with me?
Naturally this will vary depending on the nature of your split and it will always be multi-layered, but this process allows you to start reconnecting with yourself so that you can re-set and re-build.
2 – Physical appraisal
What are you noticing about the physical space?
Are there gaps left by your ex-partner moving out?
What new opportunities do you have now there’s more physical space, i.e. wardrobes that can go?
What pieces could be repurposed for other rooms?
3 – Style appraisal
Is the wall colour one that sparks joy in you or just serves as a reminder of your ex and their choices?
Did you compromise with your ex on the choice of sofa, or length of curtains?
Does the colour scheme no longer reflect who you are?
4 – Practical appraisal
Use of each space
Are you spending lots of time in a particular room or space? Why is that? What is that space providing you with? Is it about physical comfort or practicality? Peace and quiet?
When you’ve worked that out, you can prioritise that room as your starting point.
Your grown up needs vs the childrens’ needs
If children are involved, looking around your home may make you realise that you are subjugating your needs for theirs; their toys and rooms taking priority over your things and your room. It’s natural – there can often be a lot of guilt about what they’ve been through and you want to feather this new nest so that it feels like home for them.
But you can create a home that works for all of you. Consider storage for toys so that living rooms can revert to grown up spaces in the evening and think of the boundaries (psychological and physical) between zones.
Time to declutter?
It’s also not uncommon to hide behind clutter. Disorganisation means there’s always something to do….whether you’re doing it or not! It can be used as a way of preventing yourself from moving on.
And that’s emotionally challenging. If letting go of things is difficult, start by looking at the things you want to keep – the things that bring you happy memories and will nourish you as you move forward. Other, less important, things will then start to fall away more naturally.
What do you need now?
Once you’ve connected with your space, you can start to think about what you need from it. Here are some examples of where your focus could be:
Splitting up can be tumultuous, but even an amicable break-up can be destabilising.
Do you need a relaxing place, where you can feel safe and calm?
The American singer Kelly Clarkson recently talked about cleansing her home after her divorce – for her, painting everything white and light colours was cathartic and relaxing.
Less work, more play
Some people might bury themselves in work as their relationship breaks down.
Do you really need a desk in every room as one of my client’s had, which just made it easy to default to working? Consolidating his work into one home office area cleared both objects and energy from social spaces – which then became freed up for relaxation, playing music and spending time with family.
Re-establish your friendships
Friendships can take a higher priority again.
You may be socialising in a different way now, so is your home conducive to having friends round in a way that you enjoy? Making the dining room a happy space, ready to entertain in, means that spontaneous suppers are easy.
Open to new romantic opportunities
And if you are open to the idea of a new relationship, having a comfortable space with different textures and versatile lighting will help a romantic atmosphere.
Reinvention is fun!
Like a new hair-cut or a change of wardrobe, we can reinvent our homes to support us as we move forward and either create a new identity or reconnect with the person you are.
I know people who took great pleasure choosing all the décor that they love, with the extra frisson of knowing their ex would have loathed it. If that is liberating for you, then go for it. For others, the changes will be more subtle – a rearrangement of artwork or a change of room usage perhaps.
As you walked around your home, hopefully you will have had the opportunity to reflect on what you need most from your home and what steps you can take to enter into a virtuous cycle and create a supportive environment for your next chapter.
This article was first published in The Coach Space