Post-breakup decoration therapy: Heal your heart by rearranging your furniture

February 19 2014 | Guest post by Julie F.

furniture therapy

Yes, decoration therapy is a thing (or, I'm making it a thing). And after a break-up, it's an awesome thing. The idea is simple: After a break-up of two (or more) persons living together, there's often this person left behind to live in the "old house," filled with memories of happier times or painful fights. Every day, they go to sleep in this bed and come home from work to this dreadful place.

A good decoration therapy session is about making significant changes to this environment and it usually involves friends, booze, and lots of fun.

Going to decor therapy

Choosing to go to therapy is actually the very first step. If you're doing it for yourself, gather a small intervention crew for the project. If you are offering to coordinate for someone else, make sure your friend is ready for these changes in his life. Having a friend throughout the entire process is a good way to make it more fun and usually guarantees a higher success rate, but do not hesitate to do this for yourself if you're more the introvert type.

Diagnosis

Have a coffee and take out a note pad. Walk though the house and list stuff that could use a change. Really, anything goes… It can be functional, like a room that never had proper storage, or emotional, like his/her favorite painting still on the wall. If it feels like nothing is right and everything should be changed (totally normal by the way), here's a couple of question to ask:

  • With the significant other gone, do you miss any furniture? The idea is to identify the holes in order to fill them with something else. There used to be a dresser here? Perfect place for new oversized artwork!
  • Is there anything you always wished to have/do in this place that you never get the chance to do? Life goes by and we often forget about stuff that makes us happy. Always thought the bedroom would look better in purple? Do it! Always wanted a swing in your living room? Do it!
  • Where do you spend most of your time at home? Chances are it won't be in the bathroom. If you have to focus on some areas, choose the ones where the impact will be the biggest on the everyday life.
  • Is there anything that is deeply linked to your relationship? Usually, that involves the marital bed in one way or another but it could be pretty much anything that was specific to the relationship.

Prescription

Ever thought about changing the place of your bed? I guarantee it will feel like a totally different room afterwards! In past therapy sessions, I've moved furniture around, hung up art that had been forgotten in a closet, finished putting the now-gone-significant-other things in a moving box and out of the way, and got a new piece of furniture for free after asking for it on Facebook.

Otherwise, you can make pretty quick and major changes to a room with a minor investment. If you gather a group of friends to help with the therapy, they can all chip in to make it happen! For less than $100, I've repainted rooms, changed curtains, bought second-hand furniture, and covered an ugly sofa with a king-sized flat sheet.

Actual work

Let the fun begin! Now that you have a plan for what you want to do, go shopping and set a date for the magic to happen. Put on some loud music, burn some sage, dance your heart out, and put everyone to work. It's a bit like moving day, except waaaaay more fun. Some people do the painting, some people do the cleaning, the strong ones do the moving around, and I do lemonade. I always do lemonade.

Spoils of war

By the end of the day, you'll have an entire new home to celebrate. Just make sure every project is really done and every tool is put away. Because now is not really the time to leave your friend (or yourself!) with more cleaning chores or half finished projects to do. Open a beer and enjoy the view — you totally deserve it.

Throughout the years, I've been involved in several of these therapy session and let me tell you, it's refreshing, it's fun and it's always very much appreciated. If you're a type A, like me, helping a friend during a rough time by doing something very concrete is what we're best at. I feel like I'm actually doing stuff with visible results to help them regain control on their life and feel more confident about living on their own from now on. It's a bit like getting dressed and shaving everyday even if you don't feel like it — apparently it helps, too.

Oh, and don't forget to take pictures, because you know we want to see your before and after pictures!
Have you ever taken part or done such a therapy for yourself? How did it turn out?

  1. oh, the random octopus!! I had forgotten about it, it's a lovely surprise, so random, it saved my day 🙂 🙂

    (now that I have said that I can actually read the article itself)

  2. This is good advice! I think I've done a bit of this myself after a serious breakup, without realising it was therapeutic. If only I'd known to go about it in your super-organised and committed manner, Julie! Left myself with a bunch of half-finished projects instead.

  3. SO VERY THIS.

    Also helpful for relationships "Under Construction." the Sig-O and I have been wrangling a lot of renegotiations and changing our environment has be enormously helpful, allowing for lots of conversations about "How Should We Live" on even footing.

    • THIS! Decoration therapy also helps couples when one person is moving into the already established home of the other!

  4. I did this after I got married. I had always thought we would own our own little cottage, or at least own, when we got married so still living in, and renting, the flat I had been a student in was hard. Moving everything around helped a bunch. We moved the kitchen table to the living room, the sewing table to the office and the desk to the kitchen. It felt really radical at the time, I mean a desk in the kitchen, but it works great as a breakfast bar. Added to changing some details like cushion covers and lamp shades it now the flat feels less like where we studied and more like a grown up peoples home and I dont feel down about living in the same flat that I did many lifetimes ago.

  5. I've done some therapeutic rearranging after a roommate moved out. There doesn't have to be a break-up to feel a friend-sized hole in one's life. Changing things up made coming home feel less empty.

  6. Absolutely agree with this article, it's such a great way to change the atmosphere of a home/room, especially after a big change in your life.

    I also like to do a deep clean at the same time (usually just a small squirt of grapefruit showergel in a bucket of hot water and then I wipe everything down with a couple of old rags). Somehow it's really satisfying to know that the furniture is in it's new position and it's totally clean behind everything!

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