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Do our homes reflect our psyche?

Do our homes reflect our psyche?  It’s pretty much a no-brainer.  How could our living spaces not mirror our inner world?  We personalise, decorate, embellish even the simplest spaces.

Inevitably the home can become a reflection of persona – the mask we show to the world.  How do we want people to see us?  What image do we want to display?  My ego shouted all over my old home.  I watched it yell about how I was such a bohemian, such an artistic free spirit with my eclectic tastes and my intriguing ‘objets’.  It bragged about how I was so deep and interesting with my vast collection of spiritual and occult texts.  As I started the process of clearing, ahead of moving out, I realised it also showed how much I was in thrall to the past.  I was keeping things that I had once loved, or felt I should have.  How often do we actually run an inventory of our homes – jettisoning the parts we have outgrown, or which no longer serve us?   I was clinging onto a lot, a hell of a lot, out of duty, nostalgia, guilt, fear.

If you share a house, your personality is bound to be diluted within it.  It’s inevitable that there will be some kind of compromise, a blending of tastes and styles.  When I lived with Adrian, my Buddhas and his beer books muddled along quite equably.  For many people it’s not so harmonious.  Is it your personality that rules the house, or is hiding away in a corner?

When our house in Dulverton sold, Adrian swiftly found a new place – the sweetest, kindest (yes, houses can be kind) terraced house in Exeter.  Yet, despite seeing hordes of places, I couldn’t settle on my own spot.  Nothing felt right.  How difficult can it be, I wondered?  All I needed was a simple place to hang my hat – nothing wild or fancy.  I gave myself a stern talking to every time I walked away from a place – talk about first world problems!  I should be (I was!) bloody grateful that I could have a home at all.

Meanwhile I watched, intrigued, as Adrian’s personality flowed freely in his new home.  In my book, Spirit of the Home (hopefully back in print soon), I talk about how Jung’s personality types show up in a home.  Adrian is an extrovert and a ‘thinking’ type.  He’s all about ideas rather than things, and is mainly concerned about where to put his books and papers.  In contrast, I’m an introvert and an intuitive type – prone to wild flights of fancy and highly idiosyncratic surroundings.  A place absolutely has to feel right or I am deeply uncomfortable.  If anyone’s interested, I can talk more about this – about how to recognise your own type.

Anyhow, one day I found it.  Another simple Victorian terrace, no different on the surface from the many I’d seen before.  Except that this one was run down, tired, trapped in the 70s.  It needed gutting, taking it right back to its bones.  Which was exactly how I felt myself.  My house was broken, just as I was feeling broken.  It and I needed mending, needed coaxing back to life.  As it got sorted, I found something clean and pure about this pared back, empty house.  It almost felt like anathema to pollute it with ‘stuff’.  The day my belongings came out of storage, my spirits plunged.  This clear space immediately felt cluttered.  Did you know the word clutter is a close relative of the Old English ‘clotter’ which means to run into clots?

So another frenzy of decluttering ensued.  Followed by a deep urge to paint the entire house white.  Yes, white everything – walls, ceilings, even the floors.  In the past, my homes have been riots of colour but right now I need the clarity of white.  It will change, I’m sure, but for now I’m soothed by the almost monastic feel of my new home.  The most common comment is that it feels like a student house.  Young people say it with approval; older friends with maybe just a slight raise of the eyebrow.  I hadn’t thought of it that way but I see what they mean.  And, yes, it feels about right.  In many ways I do feel like a student – leaving the parental (marital) home for the first time.  I’m having to find out all over again who I am, what I like, how I feel.  A blank canvas feels just right for this period of inner exploration, of incubation.

How does your home reflect your psyche, your personality?  Is it a soul home or a persona home?  When you think about your dream home, how does it look?  Does this way of thinking chime with you, or do you roll your eyes and think ‘what a load of tosh?!’