Empty House: Made For TV Clutter Clearing

I just had an idea for my own television series. It would be the ultimate clutter clearing/take back your life adventure. Each episode would begin with my search for a person or family who will say yes to each of the following questions:

Are you stuck?
Are you sick of it?
Do you believe that releasing that which no longer serves you from your physical environment will free you to make the changes you desire, or are you at least willing to suspend any disbelief to try a different approach to change?

I would take the person or family out to a nice, long dinner where I (and the viewers) would begin to learn about what has them stuck. We would talk about their home and their stuff and what it would take for them to truly enjoy life again. Then we’d have a nice night of sleep, followed by a day of more intense coaching.

I would ask them to envision their home restored to an ideal state. We would mentally walk through the spaces together, crafting a vision, conceiving of new ways to find and keep balance in the stuff-to-space ratio. We would talk about company and hobbies and work and play, and how that home could host more health (physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial, spiritual, etc.). We would talk about storage and cleaning and the different types of areas necessary to accommodate the life that they desire, the life that currently feels out of reach.We’d talk about what life will be like when this process is over–the fun that will be had, the dreams that they will now have the time and energy and space to pursue. If it’s a family, we might consider how it will feel to share space with one another, how they might interact differently after this process is complete. We would explore how what wasn’t working before can now be done differently, more organically, and the peace that it will bring.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a wildly efficient crew would be carrying every single thing these nice people own out onto the front lawn (or other workable space). All of their possessions would be grouped by the room they came out of and would be displayed on tables and shelves and in bins. The house would be cleaned from top to bottom, and just for fun, let’s pretend I even have a small budget to spend on repairs and such.

With the home restored to “blank canvas” state, I would guide them (blindfolded, of course) right through the middle of the yard which is full to the brim with their every possession, and into the middle of their Empty House. I would ask them how they are feeling, invite them to remove the blindfolds, cut to a commercial break, and then return to watch them process the shock that my crew… did not swoop in and “fix” this for them.

I would tell them, “It’s not possible for me to give you the dream but we all came here to support you in giving yourself the dream.” And then, we’d walk together back outside to face their stuff because as we all know, that stuff is where the stuck-ness lives. They will be genuinely shocked at the amount of stuff they own, disoriented probably, and we will begin the journey back to sanity by “auditioning” every single item that they own.

Pausing to consider each thing, whether it is in the house or in the front yard, is still the only way to decide what stays. They would ask again and again, “Does this item serve me more than the space that it occupies would serve me?” That’s how we decide if our things are worthy of going back into (or remaining in) the sacred space, to be a part of the new dream. Yes, I said every single item must be auditioned.

What doesn’t go back in would, of course, be released in the most earth-friendly way possible. We would donate, re-purpose, recycle. We might have a yard sale to turn some of the stuff that no longer serves them into cash. Basically, I always want people to release that which no longer serves them as responsibly as they possibly can.Of course, there would be stories. Oh, how I love the stories of people and their stuff!

This is the wedding dress… it’s been four years since I said, “Never again,” and asked him to leave.

These are the cards my dad and I received when my mother passed away… and somewhere here we’ll find the cards from when daddy died.

I know it seems like a lot of clothes but my weight fluctuates so much that I hate to let go of those. I might need them again.

Um… yeah, I sort of have a book thing?

That’s what we’d do. That’s my dreamy show idea. One home at a time, we’d show those who are sick of being stuck how to free themselves. We would dig around in the stories just long enough to find the hooks so that they can release that which no longer serves them back into circulation, allowing those items to serve someone new.

This show would be about recreating the vision, the dream of their lives, that so often slips away in the old, untended wounds and habits learned from the generation before… and then moving into alignment with that vision. Life happens. We get stuck. What matters is that we find a way to let go of the pain and shame, so we can take back our lives.

To be clear, I’m not talking about another show for hoarders, although that work inspires me deeply (and horrifies me sometimes, too). And it’s not even a show for people who want their house restored, like all of the goodness we enjoy on HGTV. I’m more of a normative chaos kind of life coach, if there is such a thing. I want to work with people whose lives are stuck, people who are reasonably functional but who are not living the dream.

I want the dream.

You know what I’m talking about, right? These are people living like lots of us are living–too tired to write the book, too worried to invest in themselves, too uncertain to try to be the person they dreamed of being when they were little. I want to support people who long to live more simply, so that they may have time for love and health and dancing. We must find more time for dancing.

It’s a positively dreamy gig to me. I don’t know how anybody ever just “gets a show,” but if anyone ever asks, I will be ready. And in the meantime, I’ve just written a story about a pretend show that tells you exactly what you need to do to get yourself unstuck. Craft a vision, hold auditions, and get every single thing that no longer serves you out of your sacred space. There are lives waiting to be lived. Yours. Enough is enough. Get to it!


Catherine B.
Cath B.4 years ago

I JUST want things back in their homes or a home provided. I wouldnt like my books, music or fabrics taken out. actually - I couldnt have that at all. I would like my walls pushed out a bit more to create more space to what I have - probably so I could fill them again with more of the same! :-)

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M.4 years ago

Hello!--sound very similar to Clean House.

Robyn L.
Robyn P.4 years ago

I can see this concept working in a seasonal sense, room by room, as a life coach/therapist assisted action.

Also, I see where Meredith drew the comparison between an eviction and having all possessions on a lawn, and the unwanted exposure that gets evictees.

Definitely a back yard for privacy project, or using a close warehouse.

Michele Wilkinson

Good idea!

janet T.
janet t.4 years ago

not a bad idea but the bonds people have with their things is appalling. In my neighborhood, people have their garages so full of stuff (not lawnmowers) that they cannot park their cars in the garage. And some of them have their yards so full of stuff that they think they can use or recycle, but they never make the effort. Sometimes I think we need an intervention for all of us.

janet T.
janet t.4 years ago

not a bad idea but the bonds people have with their things is appalling. In my neighborhood, people have their garages so full of stuff (not lawnmowers) that they cannot park their cars in the garage. And some of them have their yards so full of stuff that they think they can use or recycle, but they never make the effort. Sometimes I think we need an intervention for all of us.

Elsie O.
Elsie O.4 years ago

I also like the idea of hauling EVERYTHING out of the house, or at least out of the room to be cleaned. That allows for cleaning/painting of walls, cleaning/replacement of carpeting, and a fresh pallette on which to design/rearrange the room.

Elsie O.
Elsie O.4 years ago

I like the question: "Does this item serve me more than the space it occupies would serve me?" That's a very valid and effective way to approach the issue.
I recall another expert who expressed a similar concept, saying, "Clutter is decisions delayed."
My house has a lot of "decisions delayed." I really don't need a life coach, as I'm not especially attached to the items, but I do need to find/make the time to make those decisions.

harriet s.
Heather M.4 years ago

I like the idea. The first ten years of my adult life I moved around a lot and therefore had less stuff. When you have to pack and unpack your stuff a lot you learn to get by with less. Now that I have lived in the same house for 10 years I have accumulated much more. Time to move!

Olivia S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks. Hanging on to stuff to downright hoarding runs on one side of my family...so I am very glad I didn't get that "bad gene". I have a t-shirt from the Thoreau Society/Walden Pond that says "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify"..and I put it on when I tackle "stuff" that seems to be "stuck".