Storage solutions and decorating ideas to help you create a more serene home. Plus, Ruby Wax on how organising your cupboards can calm your mind
Is a tidy house really a happy house? Will organising your cupboards calm your mind? And, does your choice of bathroom décor illuminate the darker corners of your soul? Actor, author and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax OBE shares her thoughts on these questions and more…
Your furnishings don’t lie. They’re an accurate reflection of the state of your mind. There should be house shrinks who tell you who you really are, helping you ‘find yourself’ somewhere between the floor lamp and the coffee table. If you live in an explosion of clutter, chances are your thoughts jump from one to the next like a moth in heat. You can’t stay focused surrounded by a mess.
I know when I’m trying to write, my eyes will drift to anything that needs to be cleaned, moved or filed. I’m able to spot a dust ball five metres away or the flimsiest spider’s web dangling from the ceiling. The problem is, there will always be something to distract me. My house has four desks in various rooms. Can I write at any of them? Nope. I have to go to crowded coffee shops, filled with noise and people. There can be mountains of garbage there and I don’t care – I’m not responsible for cleaning it up.
Recently, I’ve come up with my own solution for living a calmer life by creating a space in my walk-in closet. I’ve hidden the clothes by hanging white curtains in front of them, and added a mattress that fills the entire length and breadth of the floor. In there, I’m cocooned in white; an embryo of tranquillity. I used to write in the closet, now I sleep in it.
I now understand why the Scandinavians always seem so composed. They live in all-white cubes, with a simple plank for a kitchen table and a very chic lightbulb hanging above it.
If you don’t have a walk-in closet, may I suggest moving into whatever size closet you do have? Once you’re in there, it’s a must to organise the clothes in neat rows, and give away all items you don’t wear or store them in boxes (which I don’t recommend: you’ll never open them again). My theory is that you need to be able to visibly locate everything you own in case of a fire, so that you can grab it all quickly. My hanging clothes are organised by colour, with sweaters in separate piles according to thickness and even underwear sorted in order of age. (I’m very sentimental when it comes to pants, so I keep the old ones.)
My other advice to peace-seekers is to keep your surfaces as clear as possible. You’ll notice each time you remove something that your pulse slows down. Also, here’s a tip: think of all your accessories as dust collectors. Which ones do you love enough to clean daily? Only keep those that evoke a great memory.
Some people collect things purely to show off – this especially goes for works of art. You’ll be talked into buying a piece by some hustler/art dealer, who explains its provenance to you, how important it is and how you’ll be able to re-sell it for a huge profit. You might even purchase the black canvas with some mustard smeared on it, or a sculpture made of elephant dung (it exists, I won’t name the artist). Once you’ve hung it up or placed it on a plinth, you’ll never notice it again. And, by the way, no one will ever buy it from you… ever.
Here’s my final observation. If you want to know how mentally stable someone is, look at their bathroom. If they believe they need a chandelier and a toilet that performs more than three functions, something isn’t right. Are you acquainted with those toilets? Lift the lid and it plays Rachmaninov, gives you a squirt of perfume and then, when the lid goes down, says ‘thank you’ in French. (I don’t want to sit on it, I want to marry it.) Freud should have asked his clients how they decorate their bathrooms rather than about sex. Sex doesn’t tell you anything. How you want your loo to look is the real gateway to the unconscious. In the bathroom, no one is a star. Remember this and you’ll become true to yourself – it’s the path to a more tranquil life. Turn the page for our edit of the best storage solutions – bringing order to both home and mind