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How to avoid turning your home into a manrepeller

There are 51 images of women in your home,’ interiors therapist Suzanne Roynon informs me. ‘They’re strong, iconic women. But they’re all single.’

Oh heavens, I look around my living room. There are four large paintings and prints of lone women, plus a huge Japanese textile emblazoned with a woman’s face, not to mention jugs, vases and cushions decorated with women. I love images of women in art, from Frida Kahlo and Tracey Emin to Marlene Dietrich. They make me feel I’m surrounded by a warrior army.

But I hadn’t realised there were quite so many. ‘It’s the interior of a strong single woman,’ Suzanne says. ‘But what it’s telling people is: “I’m fine on my own. I don’t need anybody else. I am perfectly comfortable as I am. Don’t mess with me”.’

Aha. That may explain things. A date I invited around for drinks recently was rendered speechless by my decor. And he’s an architect. Which did make me a bit thoughtful. Am I unconsciously saying there’s no room for a man in my life?

Interiors therapist Suzanne Roynon, 52, (pictured right) gave Liz Hoggard (pictured left) advice on how to make her flat less off-putting to men

Interiors therapist Suzanne Roynon, 52, (pictured right) gave Liz Hoggard (pictured left) advice on how to make her flat less off-putting to men

Clearly I need an intervention. And Suzanne Roynon, 52, who runs ClutterFree.coach, is the woman to help. ‘When I’ve finished fine-tuning things, there will be room for a man to be here with you,’ she promises.

Suzanne believes ‘interior therapy’ can help us move forward into a new chapter of our lives. Our decor isn’t just about aesthetics; we need to address the psychological and spiritual need for change.

Subconsciously we’re holding on to the past if we don’t reassess after a break-up or major life change.

She practises the KonMari method, developed by decluttering queen, Marie Kondo, where you throw away bags full of excess stuff. But she’s also a qualified life coach specialising in an emotional overhaul of your home or workspace after a break-up and at other ‘times of transition’.

Interior therapists are fashionable. Jennifer Aniston allegedly wanted to ‘purge’ her estranged husband Justin Theroux from the Bel Air home they once shared, and hired an interior therapist to help her reclaim the space and cleanse it from anything significant decided on as a couple.

Here in the UK, we have interior therapists such as Suzanne, and Vicky Silverthorn, who worked as a PA to celebrities, including Lily Allen, before setting up her own decluttering service.

‘Time to ditch the negative memories and move on,’ says Suzanne, who arrives with black bin liners tied with glitter and a white orchid in a pot, symbolic of the rebirth of my home.

The funny thing is I was actually feeling quite proud of my flat. After I split with my ex five years ago, my friend Geraldine, who runs a small design business, persuaded me to remodel my rather chaotic interior as a female palace.

She helped bring in light and colour with bold feature wallpaper, rugs, and quirky furniture.

Suzanne spotted 51 images of women around Liz's (pictured) home, she says the interior is that of a strong single woman

Suzanne spotted 51 images of women around Liz’s (pictured) home, she says the interior is that of a strong single woman

The piece de resistance in the living room is a new portrait. Last year artist Philippa Stockley asked me to sit for a portrait for a competition. She posed me against a brilliant vintage wallpaper Geraldine found on eBay. My friends loved it so much, they persuaded me to buy it. It’s striking — you feel like you’ve come to a slightly bonkers stately home.

But I have noticed straight male guests eyeing it narrowly. Am I living in a manrepeller house?

I’m not going to change my decor just because a date has different tastes. Yet I would like to be a better host. Welcoming, fun, flirtatious. Rather than the frazzled harridan who often opens the door.

Work deadlines mean I have awful life/work balance. My house is full of unread books and newspapers and DVDs I never have time to watch.

There are coats hanging over every stair post. I barely cook. The architect denies it, but he did eye me warily when I cut up the pitta bread with dressmaking scissors.

So what I can do to make my home more loveable? Suzanne says the trick is to clear and streamline. Hanging on to things can be detrimental, she says, as she wanders through my interior, identifying emotional triggers that hold me back. Dear reader, there are a lot.

She doesn’t like my cactus (‘too spiky’) or the fridge magnets and advises me not to have novels with ‘depressing titles’ such as Little Deaths or The Suspect. ‘The imagery you have around you needs to be supportive. And strengthening.’

Suzanne (pictured right) has a background in feng shui, she explained to Liz that different areas of her flat represent a different aspect of her life from money to love

Suzanne (pictured right) has a background in feng shui, she explained to Liz that different areas of her flat represent a different aspect of her life from money to love

She practises tough love and is not amused when I show her a wooden sculpture (entitled Shaky Relationship No 11), where a man and a woman swing back and forth. I bought it to make a joke about my bumpy romantic life.

‘Get it out of the house,’ she hisses. ‘Straight in the bin. Not even to a charity shop. You do not want to give that to anyone else.’

And why do the few images of men in my house look so miserable?

But she is empathetic. ‘You’ve clearly got a lot going on, with many challenges. I suspect a lot of the time things don’t flow as smoothly as you’d like, and I don’t think you necessarily have a lot of support.’

Spot on. I could hug her.

Later I find myself telling her that the Japanese wall-hanging came from a female friend who sadly isn’t a friend any more. ‘So why is it in your house?’ she asks me with a glint. ‘Every time you see it, it’s bringing you down subconsciously.’

Then a killer question: ‘Is it also in your friend’s interest that you remain single?’ I gulp. Possibly. She’s happily married; while I had the role of the jolly single friend.

Suzanne’s background is in feng shui, the ancient art which claims to use energy forces to harmonise individuals with their surroundings.

She explains that every room in my flat has eight corners (or bagua), which represent aspects of my life from money to love. Health is in the centre of the room. And frankly, I’m in quite a muddle.

Suzanne advised Liz to reduce the clutter in her flat as it stops her brain from switching off and could make her ill

Suzanne advised Liz to reduce the clutter in her flat as it stops her brain from switching off and could make her ill

In my sitting room, a Buddha (an emblem of solitude and poverty) sits in my Wealth corner. In my bedroom, I have a stepladder in my Relationship corner. (What can I say?) I also have far too many books.

‘The bedroom isn’t a good place for books. Bedrooms should be about sleep and love,’ she says. She also recommends replacing the bed and sheets after a break-up.

‘We need to make this room a boudoir to welcome a man into. A space where he feels comfortable and confident. And not squashed out by anything else.’

Removing blockages changes your entire outlook on life, she claims. ‘It creates a space for something new and better to come to you.’

Suzanne is not surprised I have broken sleep.

‘You need to take down the level of stimulus. There’s stuff everywhere so your brain is never allowed to switch off.’

Clutter makes us ill. ‘It creates dust, which creates breathing problems, which create tiredness, which creates irritability. Then that leads to lack of sleep and your family life is impacted. You damage your relationship and your job, and you potentially lose those.’

Oh my God, I think, my life is going to collapse because I don’t fold away my scarves. It gets worse. Clutter makes us fat. ‘You’ll quite often find in the houses of very overweight people, the centre of the house is rammed with stuff.’

Suzanne’s three-point mantra is: ‘Do I love it? Am I going to use it? Do I need it?’

Liz (pictured) was told to select five products that she uses everyday in her bathroom and to box up all other items including suntan lotion and body cream

Liz (pictured) was told to select five products that she uses everyday in her bathroom and to box up all other items including suntan lotion and body cream

She offers ‘wardrobe detoxes’ for clients going through periods of transition. She literally kneels on the floor with me, folding and discarding clothes.

‘We hone the clearing muscles by working in the wardrobe.’

Soon shirts and dresses are hanging according to colour and sleeve length. And one T-shirt with a woman’s face is banned. ‘Why would you wear another woman’s face?’

In the bathroom she makes me select five products I use every day, and box up all the suntan lotion, body creams and medication that litter the room: ‘It doesn’t all have to be on display. Put it in a cupboard and your bathroom becomes a sanctuary.’

She tells me the secret to finding love is to clear your physical and your emotional clutter. ‘If you are holding on to objects that remind you of past love or a bad experience, you will struggle to meet someone new,’ she adds.

‘Objects hold energy and if the energy is negative, it creates stagnation in our lives.’

She prefers to know very little about a client before she arrives. ‘I look around and ask questions. Then all these stories come out about ex-partners and ex-friends. People who have hurt them in some way.’

With clients craving a new relationship, she’ll focus on the sort of energy they’d like to bring in to their home. Rather than focusing on a specific person, she’ll look at the values and attributes of the desired mate.

Interior therapy is also about helping newly single customers rediscover their old tastes, after a period of time when they have perhaps had to compromise and live with furniture and clutter that isn’t really them.

‘You need someone neutral and detached to help you clear. Because if you try to use a friend, they’re thinking about you on a different level.’

Suzanne (pictured) revealed she felt liberated by leaving behind her old possessions when her marriage ended 

Suzanne (pictured) revealed she felt liberated by leaving behind her old possessions when her marriage ended 

Suzanne has been through her own life transition. ‘When my marriage ended, I realised I had been stuck in a rut for eight years,’ she says.

‘I left behind many of my possessions and old ways of thinking and felt liberated to create a fresh start.

‘Seven months later, I had a new job paying double my old salary, a new home and a new optimism.’

Later, she trained as a life coach with The Coaching Academy and noticed Skype clients were often surrounded by clutter. ‘Working with them, one-on-one, to clear everything holding them back changed their emotional state and maximised the impact of coaching.’

One client, Nathalie, 50, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, hadn’t dated for eight years and after Suzanne had cleared her home of mementoes, she was asked out within a week.

Other clients have reported pay rises, improved relationships or better health.

I can only recommend Suzanne’s support and positivity — she’s more than worth the £400 she charges. She knelt in the chaos with me. She never talked about ‘sparking joy’ once (the great Marie Kondo cliché).

But she called me out when I needed it. ‘Apparently I have this eyebrow which goes up when someone is making blithering excuses,’ she laughs.

She wants to see more ‘pair energy’ in my house — pairs of lights, ornaments, candles.

And I need to collect images of couples.’ Once you clear your stuff and tweak things slightly, you become magnetic,’ she promises. ‘People will be drawn to you.’

I’m thrilled to imagine this new ‘magnetic’ me. I just hope she doesn’t notice me sneaking a few solo ladies back into the living room, too.

www.clutterfree.coach

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