Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Photography by Rebecca Sior Photography
Have you ever met someone who radiates joy? This client is one of those people. She knows how to delight in the ordinary and see the beauty in imperfection and that makes us happy! We can't believe it was possible to make this fun-loving, self-proclaimed "overly sentimental" lady even happier through simplifying her house, but that's what she tells us! In fact, she tells lots of people about it! She is the best hype girl! Read her story and see if her big heart doesn't shine through for you too...
Who are you? Tell us about your family...
I'm Rebecca - a former high school teacher who now works mostly from home as a family portrait photographer. I have three little kids, one in school, one in preschool and one who is home all day. I am not an overly neat and clean person (my nickname growing up was Messy Bessy), but I am someone who is very affected by her environment. It's important for me to feel comfortable in the space where I'm spending time, so I need to like how it looks and feels.
How were you feeling about your home before simplifying? How does it feel now?
Before simplifying, I felt like my home was fine... not great, not terrible, just ok. I liked it, but didn't love it. I felt like I was always one step behind the mess and that cleaning was a full time job I just didn't have the time or energy to keep up with. I wanted to have a clean home, but didn't want to spend all my time cleaning, enforcing strict rules or prohibiting activities that might make a mess. I have always wanted our home to be lived-in and comfortable - a safe place for the kids to explore and have fun and a place where guests felt comfortable! Before decluttering I had a hard time finding the balance between cleaning all the time and just throwing my hands up in defeat, but now I feel great! I'm easily able to keep up with the day-to-day "messes" and rarely feel like I'm behind. Our home is cozy and lived-in, but it's also tidy and welcoming. I love that it never takes more than five minutes and minimal effort to get the whole place looking good enough for visitors. And I also really love that we get to enjoy living in a space that's "visitor approved" every day - not just when we have company!
You used our coaching service. What were the benefits and what was challenging about that process?
I loved having the coaching service. I had always wanted to declutter, but never found the time. One of the biggest benefits of working with a coach was that I was held accountable in a supportive and encouraging way and actually got it done. When I was only ever answering to myself I kept putting it off, but when I knew someone (Amy!) was helping me, I made sure to do it. There were a lot of times that I felt overwhelmed by the task and may have given up or been tempted to take the easy way out had Amy not been with me. She was patient and kind and offered a fresh perspective when I was struggling. The biggest challenge was getting over the fear of letting someone else see the places in your home you usually hide from people. Although I may have been nervous to show Amy my junk drawers and very neglected basement, I quickly realized that it was silly. I never felt judged or ashamed even one time!
What areas of the house make you the happiest?
I love our kitchen! The kitchen used to be our biggest problem area - a place I dreaded more than anything! When we got rid of all the extra utensils and random plates/cups, we found that there was actually plenty of room in our existing cabinets/shelves. I used to think we needed a bigger kitchen and more space, but we absolutely do not! Because everything fits neatly without being cramped, getting to things we are using is really simple. And it has made cleaning up really simple too. I was hesitant to remove all my appliances from the counters, but that is probably one of my favorite things to suggest to people now. It is so easy to wipe down counters when they aren't piled full of stuff so now I wipe them down all the time! And because they're always clear, the kids can hop up on the counter to help out (or play!) without any worries that they'll grab something they're not supposed to! Our kitchen is definitely a HAPPY place now that we've gotten it organized and put systems into place to keep it tidy. No one is inspired to have a mid-afternoon dance party in the kitchen when they're staring at yesterday's dirty dishes... but we don't have to worry about that anymore. Turn on the music!
What has had the most impact on your day to day life?
I love our toy library - it was the biggest game changer of all! At one point in time the only place we could keep baby/kid toys was our living room. Both my husband and I disliked having toys housed in our living room because of the constant mess, but also because we wanted to be able to sit and enjoy time with each other after the kids were in bed. We found it hard to shift gears from kid time to adult time when we were still sitting in a room surrounded by toys. We later thought a playroom was the answer to our problems, but the toys just ended up being in two rooms instead of one! The kids made a mess in the playroom and when the floor was too covered to play in there, they moved it out to the living room just like before. I felt like I spent all my time cleaning up toys just to have them thrown on the floor again. The toy library has been such a welcome addition to our family by everyone! The kids are able to see all their toys and make a choice about what they want - one thing at a time. Because they aren't allowed to get too many things out at once, the mess they have to clean up is never very big and I've noticed that they more fully engage in the toy they have out because they aren't distracted by all the other options around them. Even the two-year-old understands the idea of cleaning up and usually does her part!
What are the really little things that have changed but have made a big difference?
One of the littlest things that has truly made the BIGGEST difference is my mindset. There were some habits and routines we settled into and accepted as the way we had to do them, when, in fact, we had the power to change them! A few things, like dishes, laundry and making the bed were things I just hated doing... so I didn't! One day I timed myself emptying the dishwasher and realized it took less than 3 minutes. What an eye opener! I was spending hours dreading doing something that took a few measly minutes. I figured the same was true for making the bed and quickly realized that I could do it a few seconds flat (because I don't care about making it perfectly and we don't have any decorative pillows.) Getting in the routine of doing these tasks only made them easier... and I really do enjoy getting into bed a lot more when it has been made!
Shifting my mentality about how I was running my dishwasher was a catalyst for change throughout my home. Simply holding myself accountable for running the dishwasher on a nightly basis so it was ready to be emptied first thing in the morning, allowed me to keep my sink and counters clear throughout the day, eliminated the chore of "loading the dishwasher" because we just do it as we go about our day, and it completely saved my
How has cleaning and daily household routine changed for you since simplifying?
I don't mind doing it!!! I remember before we did this, that my husband and I would get the kids to bed and then we'd spend at least 30 minutes (often times longer!) cleaning up before we could relax. I was so tired and absolutely dreaded it. Now we don't spend any time cleaning up after the kids are in bed!! NONE! They can clean up their own items and we can pick up miscellaneous stuff while they're brushing their teeth and we're all done!
Are you still using vertical folding a year later? Why?
Definitely! I'll never go back! We fold all our clothes, kids included, vertically. The kids don't make messes of their drawers searching for what they want to wear because they can see it all! It doesn't take any more time than the traditional way of folding once you get the hang of it, so there's no reason to stop!! I also really like that it's much simpler to keep inventory of my items because I can see everything all the time.
Reuse small boxes like these shoe boxes to organize tiny kid clothes in a drawer.
What, specifically, was your favorite part of working with us?
I loved learning new ways to use the items I already had in my home. I was never interested in buying a whole bunch of new containers just to make everything in my pantry match. I loved how innovative and creative you were with reusing what I already had and thinking about the way we do things or how we were were using certain things in a whole new way.
How do you feel about messy endeavors of living such as cooking, crafting, throwing parties, since simplifying?
Messy endeavors like cooking and crafting are no longer daunting. We take them all in stride and aren't intimidated by them because we both have the space to do them and have systems in place so that clean up is simple!
What was your biggest fear before you hired Dwell Happy? Did it come true? If not, what happened instead?
I was afraid I'd feel like I needed to get rid of everything and/or feel guilty for wanting to keep things. But that definitely didn't happen!! Now I know it's about so much more than getting rid of stuff. It's about being intentional about what you want in your home. You can keep whatever you need or want! There's nothing wrong with keeping items you need and/or love and you certainly aren't forced to get rid of anything! I think the initial evaluation and purging of items I no longer needed was really important and helpful, but the real help came in the lesson of maintaining that sense of simplicity and peace in our home in the future. I was once stuck in a cycle of purging a lot of items and then slowly accumulating more of the same type of things so I ended up needing to purge again. After working with Dwell Happy I have learned to evaluate what I bring into my home BEFORE I bring it into my home so I shouldn't really have to do a big huge purge again!
If you were to recommend this experience to your best friend, what would you say to him/her?
Working with Dwell Happy truly changed the lives of everyone in my family. It was a lot of work, but I never felt like I was alone or didn't know what to do. Dwell Happy takes the giant elephant (your home!) and helps you see how to eat it: one bite at a time! There were a lot of changes I was expecting to notice, like being more organized, getting rid of things we didn't need and having a tidier home, but I got so much more out of it! I learned to LOVE my home as it is and how to feel immensely grateful for what I have instead of always wanting something bigger or "better." We are all happier!!
Anything else you wanna say?
One of my first "ah-ha!" moments was a few months after working with Dwell Happy. My husband had been out of town so I was managing the home and kids on my own. After school, my daughter had ballet class so I had basically gotten her off the bus, threw some snacks together and then got everyone ready and ran out of the house. The plan was for us to go to ballet and then come home and make dinner. While we were out a friend suggested grabbing some dinner and eating together since we were both on our own that night and we picked my house as our meeting place. We both went straight from ballet to my house - she even got there before me so I had no time to run around and clean up or shove things behind the couch to make it presentable... but I didn't even have to! When our friends came over, the house was in perfectly fine condition even though we hadn't been expecting anyone and had left in a hurry. I know for certain that would not have been the case before my Dwell Happy experience. I know my friends wouldn't mind a messy house and they'd never make me feel bad for it, but I don't like the feeling of inviting people to my home and not having it be the way I want it to be. I don't keep a tidy house to impress other people. I keep a tidy house for myself!