One of the first things I like to emphasize to any client is that personalizing one’s space is a gender-neutral endeavor. Many people get hung up on the idea of having a “feminine style” versus a “masculine style”—yet I also know many cis women with stereotypically “masculine” vibes in their homes, or cis men who prefer a more traditionally “feminine” look.
It’s totally natural for people to want to incorporate certain reflections of their identity in their personal space—and for many people, gender identity plays a huge role in self-expression. Though of course, there’s no universal rule for what the correlation is, or should be, between gender identity and aesthetic style. Personal space is, at its core, personal.
That said, I understand that tapping into personal style can be easier said than done—especially during a periods of transformation (of any kind, really). That’s why before I launch into specific tips about how to reclaim your space, I want to address a few misconceptions…
Just because you’re transitioning doesn’t mean your style is going to change.
The things you surround yourself with should feel authentic. If you’re MTF and you still want to surround yourself with sports memorabilia and other hegemonically “masculine” things, go for it! You may find yourself feeling a certain pressure to feminize or masculinize your space—but the only right answer is what feels right to you.
Changing your color scheme may not be your first priority.
Going with things that are comfortable for you is the best piece of advice for anyone revamping their space. If blue is your favorite color and you find that there’s not enough blue around in your home—definitely incorporate more of it, regardless of your gender. The idea of blue-versus-pink as the man-versus-woman distinction is a reductive construction form the Victorian age. It’s 2016…and we’ve learned a lot.
The person you want to become is not the person you are now—so be present.
Decorating is a process of being in the present, and of reflecting who you are in the moment. If you are MTF and are noticing a desire for a little more softness in your space, maybe you choose a softer fabric for your sofa throw pillows. Maybe you change the pattern on your bedding from one of geometric shapes to softer lines. Change is a process, so don’t try to force anything.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to share some of go-to tips for redecorating during your transition, or really for anyone going through a big change in life.
I strongly believe that revamping your surroundings can bring in the sense of a new fresh era—and I’ve seen it prove to be incredibly empowering for many clients who are transitioning. Here is my X-step plan for bringing in some fresh vibes…
1. Recognize that the past is still part of you.
This first step is more of a mental preparation than an actionable tip. But it’s an essential step in the process—and influences the subsequent steps in the process...
The one thing I always remind all of my clients is that our past is our past, and it’s never going to go anywhere. Trying to complete erase the past can prove to be quite anxiety producing and often makes people feel like they’re trying to erase themselves.
2. Go through your possessions, assess how they make you feel, and devise a reasonable plan of action.
I’ll begin here by telling a personal story. Recently, I went through a bad breakup, and found myself feeling pretty uneasy when digging through wedding photos. I thought, “Maybe I should throw these photos away.” The photos showed me an array of good memories, and yet all I could feel were the bad memories that happened afterward so I felt like I wanted to get rid of them. Fortunately, my current partner advised me to recognize that I didn’t like how I felt with them in my space, but to simply box them up and then revisit them later.
When you’re starting a new chapter, you may want to make some room for new memories, which may involve re-evaluating the things around that make you think of old memories. For most people, going through pictures is a big part of the process.
If you’re transitioning for instance, you may find you want to replace pictures of yourself with newer pictures, or newer pictures of friends if dealing with your own image feels too tough. In both these cases, you’re not trying to erase the past, but simply moving forward in your new life
Finally, when I say to “devise a reasonable plan,” I mean to underscore that sometimes feelings can make you want to act rashly. Because remember: you can always put things in storage.
3. Ask yourself, “How do I like to live?”
OK, I know this sounds like an awfully big and general question, but here’s what I mean…While I’d be happy living in a squeaky-clean glass box, other people I know feel safe and comfortable surrounded by knick-knacks and old mementos. So figure out what your style is. Here are a few guiding questions to help you:
*Do you like to entertain?
*Do you prefer alone time to social time?
*Do you like being stimulated in your space?
*Do you want to prioritize feeling blissful and serene?
Really look at how you live, and see how it maps onto how you want to live. Maybe you’ve always been someone who loves alone time, but you want to entertain more. Take account of that! We can will into existence the life we want to live by the way we surround ourselves with things.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of your favorite things.
It may sound cheesy, but it’s really important to surround yourself with things that make you happy. So to begin, get curious about the kinds of activities, colors, smells, and so on that make you happy. Are you happy when reading books? Or watching sports? Or riding your bike? Find a way to incorporate elements of your “favorite things” into your life. Maybe you decide to display books in a corner of your living room. Whatever it is that makes you happy, let it be a part of your space.
5. Consider your wardrobe, and how it might be able to influence your home.
Color always affects people—and yet many people claim to be “afraid” of color when it comes to decorating. I find it fascinating that I’ve met so many clients whose wardrobes are filled with bright colors, yet who claim to only want white walls and beige couches. That’s why I always ask clients to look at their wardrobes as inspiration for their space
For people who are transitioning, they are often experimenting with new ways to dress—so this question can be a bit tricky. Regardless, though, I find that there is always some style or color or pattern we subconsciously gravitate to. So spend a little time with things you like—your favorite sweater, blanket, cologne, make-up kit, or whatever it is that makes you feel the best among your possessions—and find a way to incorporate an aspect of it into your space.
Above all, there is no correct answer to the question of how to revamp your space or your general style during your transition. But one thing is for sure: bringing in a few elements of newness is a powerful way to introduce some fresh vibes.