BREATHING SPACE: the zen of clutter management

Now in her sixth year of working people and their space, Joanna Rueter is very pleased to have the opportunity to help you make your home and office work for you. Please call or email your questions and organizing dilemmas to Breathing Space c/o Planet Vermont or 802-365-9600, or

Dear Breathing Space,

I have a weird problem- a bedroom that seems too large! How can having space be a problem? Am I nuts?

I feel lost in the room. I rented out the smaller bedroom and took the bigger room for myself because- hey- it is my house! But my stuff sort of spreads all over and I’m miserable. I can’t seem to make the room feel like home. I’ve almost been envying my renters. Please help me!

Lost in a big room

Dear Lost in a Big Room,

You are absolutely not alone in this problem as odd as it may seem. I was just working with a couple who were struggling with exactly the same thing. When I went into their bedroom I had a kind of lost, no “nest” feeling. People need nests! Nooks!

Take heart. This CAN be solved without building walls or moving out. First, take a moment to ask yourself what you like about the room. Disregarding all furniture and “stuff,” notice what parts of the room feel tucked in to you—cozy, safe, almost like a cat settling in for a nap. Move around the room, then allow yourself to MOVE things around until the room feels good.

The couple and I decided to rearrange their room. We moved the bed to a different wall and made a bedroom space in one half of the room and a dressing area with the bureaus in the other half, with a sweet sitting area and gentle tree giving a sense of separation between the two. In reality it was still exactly the same room but it felt completely different. You would have been amazed! Suddenly it felt like a place where Saturday morning in bed with hot coffee, muffins and a good book would be a complete pleasure. Yahoooo!

Make yourself some nooks— and do let me know how it goes.

Dear Breathing Space,

Have you ever heard of a book called Breathing Space? Did you write it?


Dear Curious,

Don’t I wish! I only heard of the book recently when my daughter did a web search and found Davidson’s book called Breathing Space: Living and Working at A Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society. I was planning to buy it but hadn’t yet when a client reached into the sea of books in his attic during our initial consult and handed it to me, saying, “Here’s a book that might interest you!” Well, yes!

It’s excellent! Written in 1991, it does a great job of clarifying why we feel such a lack of breathing space in our lives and gives some specific recommendations for making life more manageable. It’s a super companion to my hands-on work with people. I find myself so often asking my clients “What is the reality of what you can get done? How many of these magazines can you really read? How many ‘whatevers’ can you manage well?” If you get a chance to read Davidson’s book, do!

Thanks for asking.

Dear Breathing Space,

I don’t think in your answer to Down in the Darkness you mentioned candles. But it is possible to buy very safe, long burning candles that really cheer up a space. Candles gives such a sense of warmth! Hope you’ll mention this to your readers.

Kudos, One of your fans.

Dear Lit by Candles...!

Absolutely. Thank you for mentioning one of my favorite kinds of light. Of course some situations rule out candles, but if you can have them, they are a wonderful low cost way to enhance your space. A lightly scented candle can be a gracious addition to any room. I recently heard that many Scandinavians light candles on the breakfast table as well as at dinner as a way to bring light into the darkness of winter. Even in the daytime candles can add a sense of luxury and grace.

Thank you again for writing!

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