Apartment Therapy on Warm & Cool People

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[Please note that I've re-edited this since it was first published. Thank you for your comments!]

Diana never eats at home. Her apartment is a "crash pad." Her living room hasn't been sat in during the last 12 months, and she spends most of her home time at a makeshift desk in the kitchen hooked up to her email. Her fridge is empty, she has no clutter, and the formality of her one bedroom apartment has never been dented. Her apartment feels cold. In fact, she told me herself that her apartment feels cold and that "it makes her sad." A very efficient woman, she would like to "warm up" her home and be able to invite friends over for dinner.

Cut to Carl and Julia. Carl is always at home. Self employed, with an office in the city, he loves his home and can often be found passing through it at any time of the day.

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Julia is at work during the day, but loves coming home at night though she often finds their home a little overwhelming. It is full of beautiful belongings, keepsakes, pictures from friends and family and everything they have comes with a story. In their bedroom there is a thick pile of magazines and books stretching back a month, and water glasses that stretch back a week. Cleaning is an issue, and since they have always done everything themselves they haven't ever hired a cleaning lady. There is lint under the bed that can almost crawl. Guests love to come over to Carl and Julia's house, as they are great hosts. Between the two of them, however, they don't feel in control of their home.

They wish it was calmer and more organized.

Both of these apartments are the homes of successful people living in New York City. They both have pressing issues with their apartment that nag at them, but which are very different. They are representative of two types of apartment dwellers: warm people and cool people.

WARM PEOPLE

You typically hear about the warm people. These are the ones who worry about clutter and organizing, and who tend to obsesses much more about their homes and love The Container Store. They are often personally warm as well, being friendly, generous and extroverted socially. Their demon is excess and attachment to things and people.

Is this you?

COOL PEOPLE

The cool people do not broadcast their issues as much, partially because they are far more private and far more embarrassed about the failures of their home. More highly strung by nature, cool people are seen as sharp and smart, and they tend to delegate their problems to others if they can, because they feel clumsy dealing with the physicality of their own home. They do not feel great attachment to objects, and are good at avoiding clutter. Their demon is excessive thought and over attachment to ideas, while losing touch with people.

Is this you?

THE CURE

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The cure for each of everyone is always balance. You never want to try to change your basic temperament. It is who you are and it contains your strengths. You want to balance your tendencies by adding something new, not negating who you are, and a little goes a long way.

For warm people, the practice is weeding, since they have too much growing. It is small things like cleaning out a closet, canceling a subscription or taking a load of clothes or books to the Salvation Army, all the while remembering that if you don't keep doing SOME editing, new things won't come into your life.

For Carl and Julie I actually helped them get the weeding/editing started and then recommended hiring a bi-weekly house cleaner to help them keep up with things and to learn that delegating was okay. In addition, simply exploring a few new furniture arrangements shook up the space and made everything seem fresher. They liked it. Now they do a little re-arranging each year. Their home is still filled with lovely things, but it's clean and flowing again.

For cool people, the practice is planting, since they don't have enough growing. Their small tasks might encompass buying flowers every week for the kitchen table, hanging curtains (cool people dislike curtains), and inviting a few friends over for a drink once a month.

For Diana I added more lights to her apartment, and installed fixtures in her closets so that everything was brighter when she came home. I rehung her curtains in her bedroom and spent some time making that room a bit cozier. Finally, I urged her to cook at least one meal at home each week. Her home is still very spartan and neat, but it's had a little fire lit under it and when you walk in it feels welcoming.

Start slowly and seek balance. That is the key. A little bit goes a long way, and nothing you do for your home is ever wasted.

- Taken from The Eight Step Home Cure

(Re-Edited from 2007-09-10 - MGR)
(ReEdited from 2004-10-26 - MGR)

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.