When Physical Space Becomes Personal

By Teni Odunsi

As 2017 begins, I’m reflecting on the things that have gotten me through a year that I am sure will go down in history as transformative. From our political landscape to the deaths of legends like Prince and Sharon Jones, it’s been rough. For every ideological argument on social media, there is a woman of color trying to find a way to get rid of the throbbing in her head and the tightness in her chest that stems from anxiety associated with a future that (for now) appears pretty bleak.

It goes without saying that there are some things that we can’t control. Have you thought, though, about the mountains that you can move, like the paperwork that’s been on your desk at work for 2 weeks, or the old pile of clothes that you’ve been meaning to donate for the last year? Working through treating my physical spaces with care and respect has gone a long way in helping me to regain clarity and peace post election and into a brand new year. Here are a few practices that have worked well for me, let me know how it feels to give them a try!

1. Tackle your living space. This is where we do so much—host our friends, choose how to present ourselves to the world in the morning, make love, argue, make up and settle down at night. It’s where our lives are truly lived. For me, simple changes like fluffing my pillows and making my bed, ridding my closet of things that I truly don’t wear and rearranging my dresser brought me a sense of accomplishment with each fold. Dusting the tops of my kitchen cabinets whisked away my doubts. And as I framed my son’s first paintingdated June 16, 2015I realized that I was smiling for the first time in a full 7 days.

2. Consider the spaces where you spend time outside of your home. Am I the only one who suffers from imposter syndrome when it comes to my 9-to-5? My prior disorganization of my space where I spend 35 hours a week couldn’t have made this more obvious from papers thrown in disarray in my drawer to sticky notes with reminders that were barely legible framing my computer monitor...it, like me every now and again, was a mess. When I realized this chaos, I stopped to take a breath and I asked myself: how can I make this reflect my new state of mind? I organized, labeled, tossed, recycled and added until I looked up and saw a place where the budding young professional in me would be proud to sit and chat with a colleague. Little knick-knacks like a mini globe (to symbolize the places I’ll go) and a mug with a lower case ‘t’ for Teni from a good friend put the final touches on personalizing my home away from home.

3. Don’t go it alone! Getting your roommates, significant others, and families on board and release all of the tension in your shared space. I’m lucky enough to live with my sister and when we started decluttering out rooms, we laughed, danced and glowed with pride when the job was done. In need of a little inspiration? I checked out Instagram accounts like AphroChic and Nicole Gibbons Style to get ideas on rearranging and picked up ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo and injected my space with joy with each things I picked up.

So, are you struggling with staying organized and minimizing clutter lately? Stop and take stock of your mental state. Stress and a lack of certainty can often be to blame. While we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, we can switch up our approach to our physical world and space immediately around us and feel better.

It’s the little things, folks! Don’t be afraid to do a little rearrangingyou might find yourself on the other side of anxiety and onto strength, one small step at a time. Leave your tips on decluttering you physical space in the comments below!



Teni Odunsi is a non-profit professional, poet and the Podcast Manager for Black Girl In Om. She is based in Chicago, Illinois. In her spare time you can find her drinking tea as a form of self-care. You can follow her on Instagram (@teniola_o) and Twitter (@therealtenio).