Wednesday, April 9

Spring Cleaning: The Deep Treatment With Apartment Therapy

There are two kinds of spring cleaning. The first is the traditional kind, where you clean every single inch of your home (or something that feels like every single inch when you're done). In the second kind of spring cleaning, you reevaluate your home and end up decluttering, reorganizing, and sometimes redecorating. The second one is more fun to do and more interesting to talk about, though in practice they go together well.

While it's the season for spring cleaning, Gordan and I had been thinking about moving. However none of the apartments we came across seemed better than our current apartment. We do like this apartment, even though it's on the shabby side, and it's a one bedroom while we'd prefer two. So we didn't mind staying, and yet expecting to leave meant that everything in here was neglected. As someone with a deep love of interior decorating (and a serious obsessive streak), this was starting to get a little frustrating. Finally we sat down and discussed the apartment. We decided to act as if we were staying semi-permanently, really make this the best home that it could be, and just keep our eyes open for a new home as time passed.

Then the other day I was dawdling in the home section of the library, and picked up Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. I remember looking at it before and being disappointed that there are few concrete suggestions regarding decorating. I'd also checked out the related blog and been overwhelmed with a glut of information. Basically it's a to do list in book form, altogether composing an eight week plan to make your apartment (or house) into a better home--structurally, decoratively, spatially, and/or practically. The tasks are generally open-ended, ultimately geared to getting you to do whatever you feel needs to be done for your home. Since I've been thinking of making some overall changes to our apartment, this seemed perfect for me right now. So I checked it out and took the book home with me.

I was particularly won over by the way that the book breaks down the process of working on your home into a manageable number of weekly tasks. The first week, for instance, starts with listing all the repairs needed in your home, vacuuming and mopping the floors, and buying fresh flowers. There are so many things that I'd like to do in here, when I list them all it feels quite overwhelming. I may say to myself "One step at a time" but that only partly helps. Here, each week has its own list of tasks, and you know that at the end of the eight weeks, it'll all be done.

Another detail that I really like is the way Gillingham-Ryan addresses lifestyle as well as the physical apartment. He doesn't go overboard with this, he simply includes a few relevant actions in his system, primarily buying fresh flowers and cooking. And with cooking he builds up very slowly, which is necessary for cooking-phobic New Yorkers (of which I am one, despite technically knowing how to cook, and despite having moved to Vancouver).

I mentioned above that this system works on the home structurally, decoratively, spatially, and/or practically. He calls these the bones (structure), heart (decoration), breath (space, flow, clutter), and brains (practical, organization) of a home. At first I rolled my eyes a tiny bit at this seemingly unecessary anthropomorphizing, but since then I've found it to be a pretty useful mnemonic device. There's a quiz on page 48 to help you determine which of these areas to focus on. Again, I usually roll my eyes at 'quizzes' yet this one was quite useful. To my surprise I found that more than anything, my home is not organized in a way that supports what I want to do; basically I have no workspace.

And yet all of the aspects of our home need some work. There are also some repairs that need to be done; some decluttering and placement changes are needed, especially in the living room; and I'd like the decoration of the apartment to be more colorful, consistent, soothing, and warm. The next few posts will cover the changes we're making in each of these home aspects.


  1. Cutie, I am trying to reach you. I have a feeling your earthlink account is not working. London is rainy and cold. I need you to send me my essay. Cmok. Gordan

  2. Hey sweetie, I emailed you from your account, to both of your accounts, with the essay attached! tell me if you get it.