We have been working on a system for evaluating what is wrong in an apartment clearly. So many people have such a swirl of problems to deal with, that when discussing them it's hard to keep it all straight. Apartment Therapy aims to heal apartments, and the first thing is to see where the problems lie. Conventional decorating only addresses one level, while organizers address another, and a repairman still yet another. We want to see the whole.
In Waldorf education, which has a very holistic and rigorous approach, we have found an excellent model for looking at the different levels of a successful home:
Question: Is it in good shape?
Description: walls, floors, windows
Type of Problem: broken window, cleaning needed
Question: Does it work?
Description: arrangement of rooms
Type of Problem: clutter, ill lit, furniture off center
Question: Does it make me feel good?
Description: decoration of rooms
Type of Problem: no style, no color, not comfortable
Question: Does it support my goals?
Description: focus of rooms
Type of Problem: no good work space, can't entertain
The bones level is visible when you first walk into your apartment, before you have moved in. In New York the condition of your apartment can differ widely, and you want to pay attention to things such as how loud street noise is coming through the windows, and whether there are roaches. This is the foundation level, and nothing else matters if this level is weak.
The breath level is the first thing you figure out when you decide where to put the living room and which wall to put your bed up against. If this is done well, the apartment will flow well and you won't need to revisit these decisions for many years. Breath also relates to how you organize yourself, your papers and books. Like breathing, this level – once in place – becomes unconscious. Everything should WORK, and nothing should be hard to find. You don't want to think about this all the time. This is also a more objective level, and correct solutions are universal.
The heart level is more changeable. What color do you want on the living room walls? What kind of carpet? This is the style question and correct choices will differ from person to person. What is important here is that however you do choose to emotionally tune your home, the choices are clear and focused. If your style is modern, go modern. If your palette is warm colors in the kitchen, keep them all warm. Be consistent (and have fun!).
The highest level is often the one that people neglect the most and never arrive at. It has to do with how your home supports your goals after it succeeds at the lower levels. If you want to entertain more, you need to make sure that this priority is evident in your apartment and that space exists for it. Your life goals should be supported by and evident in your apartment, from the books on your shelf, to the pictures on your mantle to the mail you allow to come through your front door.
If everything in your apartment is pretty and beautifu, but you don't want to touch it and are worried about spilling on the carpet, something is wrong. Homes are meant to be used, and what is important to you should come first. Whether it is family, friends, love or work, anything that doesn't support your highest goals should be edited out. This is the final "alignment" of your home, and anything that detracts from it, whether it is junk mail, clutter, a broken chair or not enough light should be addressed immediately. We say, "Obliterate anything that is not in line with your highest goals." (This from Built To Last - a great book).
So, using this system, take a look at your apartment. You can rate it on each level. Where is it suffering? Where is it succeeding? Start at the bottom. Once you see the area you need to work the most in, focus on it and forget everything else. Then move on to the next. When improving your home, one clear step at a time is the path to not getting totally freaked out by it all.
Or as a good friend of ours says, "First things first. Last things… never."