Hands up if you feel your house is messy. Hands down if you have cleared all your clutter to enjoy a stress-free day. Not so many? No surprise these days with the busy lives that women lead – working, raising a family or living in compact spaces during a pandemic. In major cities like Paris, space is a luxury, and there is never enough closet room.
Living in a cluttered home can sap your energy and waste valuable time. Wouldn’t we all prefer to spend more time with family or friends or complete an assignment in peace? Believe it or not, there is a method to cleaning up the madness.
Meet Rima Nouri and allow her to enter your home space. Rima is an experienced life coach based in Paris who loves to inspire other women worldwide to declutter their homes in order to enhance their lives. A former opera singer, mother of three children and working expatriate in France, she recognized the disarray around her and the need for change. She shares the lessons of her successful transformation through the company she created, “Elegant Alchemy”, offering workshops – many of them free – to women who need and want to make a difference in the quality of their lives.
INSPIRELLE asked Rima Nouri to explain how she teaches people to shed the clutter to find clarity for a happier home.
Rima, how did you end up in Paris? And what inspired you to create Elegant Alchemy?
Like so many people, I came here to study – for three months, that was the plan. Three months of course turned into a year. After one year I simply couldn’t find a good reason to leave…first it was love for the City of Light, then it was love in the City of Light and now it’s been three decades living in and around the City of Light! And still loving it.
Needless to say that I moved countless times. From a chambre de bonne on the eighth floor with a shared bathroom on the landing to a residential home with a 1000 m2 garden and everything in-between. Each home corresponded to, mirrored and shaped a phase in my life.
I’m a trained opera singer, but as the love-in-the-City-of-Light-part had produced three children, I was looking for a different career path without quite knowing what to do. One day about 20 years ago, I picked up a book that explained the effects of clutter on a person’s life. To this day I remember how I turned crimson when I recognized myself… I went home, started to declutter like a ninja and soon reaped unexpected benefits in all areas in my life. So there must be a correlation between a person and their home, I thought. I was hooked and trained as a professional space clearer and de-clutterer, which in turn led me to become a certified coach. For me, the combination of working with a person on their life and in their home is truly elegant, in the sense of beautiful, simple and effective and deeply transformational. Hence the name Elegant Alchemy.
Many of us live in tight spaces in our Paris or French dwellings. Clutter seems impossible to avoid. How realistic is decluttering?
Of course, it is harder to eschew clutter when you live in, say, 65 square meters with 3 small children than on your own in 200m2. Having said this, the answer to living clutter-free is certainly not having more space. You would simply have the same clutter problems, just on a bigger scale! Or put differently – clutter will always fill up the available space.
The real difference is not how much space you have, but getting clear on the way you want to live in that space (which incidentally is the first step to mastering that space) and understanding and owning why the clutter accumulated in the first place. With that approach in place, it’s totally possible to live in a typical Parisian shoebox and to live clutter free!
You offer many types of workshops, often for free. Just how do you teach women to unclutter their homes to improve their lifestyles?
I’m helping women to transform their life with the help of their home.
I offer individual work with a very limited number of clients and I offer group courses, including free ones. In a 1:1 setting, I coach and mentor my clients on a specific topic in their lives they wish to transform – very often it’s about getting clarity and then helping them find the most elegant way to get into action.
I also have an 8-week signature program, “Change Your Home, Change Your Life”, where I teach how to use your home as a tool to create change and transformation in your life. Participants learn how to read the hidden clues in their home, since what happens there is always mirrored in their life, and vice versa. Women are always surprised at the accuracy of this mirroring. They then learn how to intentionally transform certain areas of their home in order to boost and facilitate change in their lives.
What is your first piece of advice to begin a declutter process?
My very first piece of advice is always to stop thinking about the clutter!
Thinking about your clutter will invariably bring up feelings of stress, of guilt, of being overwhelmed, of “why can’t I?”, “I really should”, of shame and self-blame, of “what’s wrong with me?”.
Any action that starts on that basis is doomed in advance, and what is more, will pull you into the wrong direction, namely: “I have clutter, ergo I’m wrong/broken/incapable and I need to be fixed.” Instead, I invite my clients to think about what they truly want. People might say “Duh” reading this, but the fact is that no one really takes the time to think in detail about their vision of their ideal life and who they want to be!
When did you last take time to think about how you want to feel, how you want your everyday life to look like, what self-image you want to have, and of course how the ideal home of the woman you want to become would look like?
It’s on this basis that clutter clearing starts best and becomes an elegant (beautiful, simple, effective) process. I always start my work with an exercise that deeply connects my clients to their vision of themselves and their ideal life before we do anything else.
For those with children and working home during the pandemic, what advice do you have for those who are juggling many things to get through the day?
Create clear zones, both in your home and in your agenda. Make sure that everyone understands and respects those zones (let the others decide on their own zones). Set clear boundaries. Get as much help you can get. Drop what’s not really important right now. Say good-bye to perfectionism and hello to humor! I’m a big advocate of living clutter-free, but in no way does this mean to eradicate every single imperfection in your home and in times like this, even if your home looks more and more like a student’s dorm, mieux vaut en rire (better to laugh)!
What in the world is an “Energy Vampire”?
Can you think about a person you know that makes you groan? Because you can feel how they sap your energy each time you’re around them? That would be an energy vampire. I’m sure right now you have a name in your head, right?
But there are also all sorts of energy vampires in your home! They can be quite difficult to spot, since we create them ourselves. In my free ebook, I share about some of the ones I’ve encountered, many of whom were lurking nearby before I learned how to discover and then dispose of them.
The biggest one in my book (sorry for the pun) is The Unfinished – the wobbly piles of papers “to be sorted” on your desk, the boxes from three moves ago in your basement, the half-knitted sweater or the old curling iron you meant to repair – they not only clutter up your home, they are also incredible intrusive in your mind. Most of the time people do not realize to which extent unfinished things are draining their energy until they get closure on the item or topic in question (hint: my advice for closure is in nearly all cases: the bin!)
How do you enjoy the city after you’ve organized your house?
I didn’t expect how much of a difference it would make! When my home was not enjoyable, Paris was an escape, a way to connect with the beautiful environment I didn’t have at home… but there was always an underlying feeling of guilt, of restlessness, of “I really should…”.
Nowadays, as I can fully enjoy my home, I can not only serenely enjoy the beauty of Paris, I’m also bringing it back home! An idea, a book, a picture, a memory, an inspiration – I feel I can take in so much more of the abundance Paris has to offer since there is clarity and space in my home.