On April 26th I pinned France on my dream-board map as the very first country that I wanted to visit for my tidying business and wouldn't you know I landed in Monaco on the 4th of September. After only a couple of Skype sessions and seeing the general layout of Suzanne's apartment I flew over the Atlantic ocean having really no idea how this was all going to turn out. But after doing this work with so many clients, I knew it would all be perfect!
A little background on how I came to know Suzanne involves her daughter, Kate, my client in Denver. I've been helping Kate tidy her home for the last several months and one day while we were folding clothes she said, "Oh how I wish you could help my mother get tidy." When I asked where her mother lived she said, "oh just outside of France, too far for you to travel I'm sure." I practically cried with joy and accepted the job without hesitation, applied for an emergency passport and bought my plane ticket.
After 11 hours on several planes from Denver to D.C. to Zürich, I met Suzanne and Aimé (ey-may) at the airport in Nice, France. We quickly said hello, threw my luggage in the trunk and were off to what would be my new living quarters for the next 9 days. We drove about 1/2 hour along a windy road barely big enough for two lanes. When a large fruit truck or van would appear driving in the opposite direction I decided closing my eyes was the best approach. With the most beautiful architecture out the left side car window and the Mediterranean Ocean out of the right, it was very apparent that the inhabitants of this age old part of the world used that view as their muse while they contemplated the design of their coast line. I could barely contain my excitement to be in the very place where I put myself for I created this experience all on my own.
Suzanne and Aime's 2 bedroom apartment was wall to wall parquet flooring with built-in's and marble tile and 2 balconies overlooking the city streets of Monaco and the large Mediterranean Ocean. I learned on my first trip to France in 1995 that everywhere you go there is a distinct smell of coffee, cheese and fresh croissant. Their apartment was no different. I spent the first day of my arrival recouping from jet-lag and the very next Morning Suzanne and I caught the city bus to the beach for an early morning swim. This was Suzanne's normal morning routine and I knew keeping things as normal as possible would help with the process of discarding.
Still shaking off the jet-lag and with the huge jolt of energy from our morning swim, we had a quick bite of cheese and berries then pulled out every piece of clothing that she owned. Two closets full and a few drawers later everything was laid in neatly categorized piles of blouses, sweaters, jeans etc., piece by piece Suzanne held each one in her hands to determine if it sparked joy. The clothing category extended over the duration of 2.5 12-hour days. I was hoping clothing would take a max of 8 hours but I majorly underestimated. I taught Suzanne the benefits of folding her clothes like pieces of sushi and to put her loving energy into it.
We then moved onto books. I felt like a tidying horse that couldn't stop. I was suffering from jet-lag but of course I was determined to get as much done as possible before I had to return to the states. We again pulled everything off the shelves and placed them in neat stacks in the living and dining rooms. Books took another 3 days for I believe she may have had close to 3000 titles. Suzanne was/is very attached to her books. She's an academic tutor to local students and she assists them on maintaining their path to college. After every day of discarding and deciding on what to keep she would return to the keep-piles and discard even more. The tidying at one point became too cumbersome so I had Suzanne sit down in a comfy chair and I would then bring stacks of 10-12 books at a time. Ultimately we didn't finish the book category. She had several books in storage in the basement of her apartment building and we simply didn't have enough time.
On the evenings that we ended our tidying adventures early we went out to dinner. The few restaurants we visited were on the water and the views were breathtaking. Our discussions were about our lives and how each choice we made led to the next and I realized all of those choices landed me in Monaco, owning my own business, being a good mother and living a life with a do or die attitude. On my last night in this magical place the sun began to set and as the night lights brightened I remembered to cherish each bite and each moment as if it were my last. I didn't get as far as I had hoped and was actually disappointed that we didn't get her entire apartment tidy. We've talked of my return and we continue to do tidying sessions via Skype. She's admitted she can only tidy with my urging but little by little I know Suzanne will soon be on the other side of her tidying journey. It can be a spark joy life if you let it!