A Decorating Guide for the Depressed.

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Warning: Naughty language ahead!

I would like to begin by saying you have the eyes of an old guru, the body of a dancer and the spirit of a really hot cabaret singer and, damn it, it is time your room started to reflect that.

I must assume that you come here because you think your room, apartment, house, RV or what-have-you kind of looks like shit. Let’s be clear: this is a human-to-human guide to self-love. Loving your space in any form is creating a space in which to love yourself.

Go to the place where you sleep and look around. What do you see? Is it empty or cluttered? Is it bright or dark? Close your eyes and take a deep breath. What do you smell? Open your eyes. How do you feel when you stand in this place?

If you are not sleeping in a space meant for sleeping (a basement, living room, backyard, etc), and it is possible to change this and get yourself a proper bedroom, do so immediately. If it’s not possible, don’t despair; any space can become your little castle, so read on.

Let’s begin with the obvious: if your space is cluttered, its time to clean it. I know. I know looking at that mountain of clothing surrounded by mugs with dried tea bags clinging to the bottom and little scraps of paper all over the place kind of makes you feel like there’s a lead weight in your stomach. You would rather slip in and out every evening and morning and pretend not to see it.

Let me tell you a little story: when I was younger, nothing made me feel more frustrated and angry than math. I would look at all the problems spread out like an endless desert before me and feel a horrible sinking feeling. I was constantly on the verge of failing elementary school math. One day, a tutor sat down with me and calmly took my homework from me before I could see how many problems I needed to do. She folded it in such a way that I could only see one problem at a time. One problem at a time, we worked until it was done.

My mother constantly reminds me of this story. “Remember the math problems?” She says of any predicament, “Just one problem at a time.”

Just one problem at a time.

So go over to that pile, or one those piles, affix your eyes on one object, decide whether or not to keep it, decide whether you should wash it, and begin to sort.

As you look at each object, ask yourself: Does seeing this bring me joy? If the answer is no, throw it out (and give it to someone else who needs it or recycle it if at all possible!). I am absolutely serious on this one. If seeing this object doesn’t inspire flutterings of joy inside you, get rid of it swiftly and without regret.

See if you can get a little drunk on this feeling. Sorting, bagging and dragging things to the curb can create a kind of euphoria. See if you don’t feel as if tiny monsters are being dug out of you as each object lands in a cardboard box to leave your room forever.

So what is left? When you look around your room full of joyous things, try to focus on the feeling of your feet on the floor, and slowly return from the induced trance created by the act of tossing out pieces of your life.

What is left? A dress, a few sentimental t-shirts, books, jewelry, bottles of sand from past trips to the beach? Is there nothing left? If there is nothing left (Or, perhaps, if you didn’t have anything in the room to begin with) good for you! You can truly create your joys anew.

If anything remains, into which theme could this object be placed? What place does it take in your life? Does it feed your body, your sensuality, your intellect, your goals, your intuition, your emotional balance, the lessons and nostalgias of your childhood?

Think about your life and the parts that make it up, decide which are the most important. Give each part an element and a color and dedicate some portion of your room to it. Fill your room with meaning, section by section.

Assign all of your things from here on out to one of these zones you have mentally created. Make sure it has a place. If there aren’t any shelves in the place where you sleep, get some. This could be a beautiful bookshelf or stacks of milk crates roped together, it really doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have created space in which to enshrine yourself.

Tell me, what color is the room in which you sleep, and do you absolutely love that color? What colors do you love? Pick something soothing. Pick something that makes you sigh with contentment every time you see it. Go out and get that color. Put it on your walls.

We all hope for big, bright windows so the light can tickle our senses awake every morning, but we don’t always get that, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is living in a dark hole of a room or lounging under some naked fluorescent light bulb.

Invest in some lamps. Also, a shit load of candles. Allow yourself ambience. Find as many creative ways to safely get candles in your room as you can. Float tea lights on a little bowl of water, hang glass lanterns, methodically place candlesticks, make whole sections of desk or shelf space dedicated to candles. Take time to light them all when you are alone in the room and feel as if you are absorbing the soft light into your skin.

Go find a couple of houseplants. Put them in some pretty pots, or paint a big heart or star on the plastic ones they came in. The act of caring for plants can be very meditative. If you don’t feel ready for plants, maybe some cut flowers from time to time. Treat yourself; you always deserve it.

The place where you sleep should smell delightful. The new age kids these days know all about this with their sage, sweet grass and sticks of Palo Santo. Skip the low-grade incense at the corner store; it smells like poop and stains the walls. Your room is a temple: scent accordingly.

The place where you sleep should sound delightful. Open the window to hear the birds. Hang bells around the room. Shut your eyes and allow the sound to guide you deeper into your own body, your own mind.

And now we arrive: the bed. Container of dreams, the place where the arms of the world can cradle you every morning and every night. This is the space in which perhaps you find yourself the most vulnerable, and perhaps you have therefore developed a relationship of fear with your bed. It’s time to heal this relationship. Don’t be afraid of the vulnerability you feel between sleeping and waking, and don’t be afraid of sleeping alone.

See, this is the thing about your bed: you might think you want to transform it into a space where someone would be likely to want to make love to you. This is missing the point entirely. You should feel as if you are being made love to every time you lay down in your bed. Line your bed with furs. Every night cover yourself with the softest blanket you can find. Make a shrine all around it. Hang a lace canopy over it if you have always dreamed of having one. Lounge against a stack of feather pillows upholstered in silk. Give the bed the prime position in the room, flanked on either side by bedside tables covered in special objects. Give homage to yourself when you lay prone to the night and all its spirits and sounds, and to the child you are before you fully awaken.

And then, you will have done it. You will have created a space for self-love. It is an ongoing journey, adding, subtracting and actively transforming a safe place for yourself as your innermost being is also constantly transformed. I know you can do it.

For the time being, sink into a soft place you have made for yourself and stay there. Do nothing, think nothing. Let yourself melt for a moment, let it all melt while a sense of calm rises like steam into your sternum and the world outside drifts.

 

Author: Annie Doran

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Flickr

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The Elephant Ecosystem

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Annie Doran

Annie Doran is a writer, performer, event planner and puppeteer. Born and raised in South Carolina, she discovered her adult self (and got a “proper education”) in Burlington, Vermont. She now lives in Brooklyn with her dog and a few amazing, transformative friends. She occupies her time with crafts, biking, travel, hot tea, Knob Creek on the rocks (all things in moderation, right?), searching for the perfect dance party, performance art, learning practices for healing the self and obsessing over food from the farmer’s market.

Comments

4 Responses to “A Decorating Guide for the Depressed.”

  1. k._.k says:

    If you're able to have this republished or linked to on Apartment Therapy, this is an AWESOME piece!

  2. Gabrielle says:

    This is the BEST article I’ve read on decluttering and making your home your own sacred nurturing space.

  3. Cyndi says:

    Thank you for the wake up call. My bedroom is a mess. It used to be my happy place but I've neglected it of late. I love Knob Creek as well. When I'm anxious, my go to chill pill is one swig of it.

  4. Wendy says:

    I started this process in my bedroom a few months ago! I was feeling great and started to see that I had left clutter! So, I did it again! And a third time! I felt so much lighter and happier each time! I'm adding plants! Thanks for a great article!

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