Are Dumping Grounds Blocking Your Flow?

This week we're thrilled to have Maxwell Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy on our Style Matters podcast.  (We're ridiculously, over-the-top, squealing with delight, happy about this!) Yep, he's the guy who started transforming New York City apartments into little slices of heaven, for regular people.  And he did this by helping them learn how to look for the hidden ways a space wants to be used so that they're not fighting against the apartment's limitations but instead, embracing the challenges to find the flow that works best.  

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

In our interview with Maxwell, he breaks down the layers of design and style that make up a home.  In his view, the bones represent the structure itself: the walls, the floors, the stairs...all of the built environment.  The breath represents the flow of your home and how you've set it up for daily living.  This is what he means when he refers to "design."  The heart is where "style" comes in.  It's the colors, patterns, textures and shapes that are specifically appealing to the people who live there.  And finally, the head.   As Maxwell says, "the head represents our highest aspirations; it's the spirit of the home. "  To have a happy home, you need all 4 things to be aligned.  This is really good stuff, don't you agree?  Go listen to the podcast!  You're going to love it!  And to go even deeper, pick up any of Maxwell's books.  Here's the newest one, just released:

Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home
By Maxwell Ryan, Janel Laban

Inspired by our conversation with Maxwell, we wanted to share an exercise we've developed to help you uncover any of the invisible blocks you may be experiencing in your house flow.  The flow of your home is mostly about the traffic patterns that we develop and how we feel or react to them.  You can often map out a pattern for each person you live with based on where things get "dumped" and the "hot spots" where you, and your guests, tend to gravitate.  You'll notice you're in a house flow rut every time you feel frustrated or defeated by a pile of random stuff that has been dumped somewhere.  You can also be in a rut if your hot spots haven't been set up to accommodate what you naturally want to do there. 

Photo by  Estaban Cortez , courtesy  Apartment Therapy . 

Photo by Estaban Cortez, courtesy Apartment Therapy

First, take stock of your hotspots and dumping grounds.  Look for areas where you're always having to put stuff away to make a particular hot spot look decent for guests.  These are clues that you're in a rut.  For example, is your entryway crowded with not enough room for everyone's coats, shoes, keys, etc?  Do people love to gather in the kitchen but the counters are cluttered with mail, receipts, notices from school, random batteries and hair clips?  Our goal is to change the rut by making the hot spot responsive to what you naturally want to do there.  

Photo by  Seth Smoot  for  Cup of Joe , as seen on  Apartment Therapy .

Photo by Seth Smoot for Cup of Joe, as seen on Apartment Therapy.

In our example of the kitchen counters, rather than fighting your natural inclination to dump stuff there, set up a good looking system for managing everything.  It could be as simple as putting everything on a beautiful tray or as complex as a mini office station.  Either way, you want the spot that's now corralling all of that stuff to look intentional so that you won't have to sweep everything into a junk drawer as your guests are walking in.  But the key is to actively manage that spot!  You'll have to regularly go through everything and either read, file or act on whatever ended up there.  Do this every night or once a week and you'll feel like you've got a handle on your kitchen in a way you haven't felt before!

Now the challenge is to look for other examples in your home and apply the same principle.  Where is the clutter?  What needs to be added or subtracted to manage the clutter?  Go through this simple exercise of questions and answers and you'll feel like your home is starting to breathe!  (After you've had a cup of coffee and been inspired by Maxwell!)

xoxo Zandra