The Power of a Name

Name tag. Names have power. As you look around your space, take a moment to think about what you call various areas.
Image by BRRT from Pixabay

Names have power. They describe, define and identify. Recently, I have been working on a project that has brought this message home in a fresh way.

One goal of this project has been clearing out the storage room. Many of us have this room: the one where we stash everything that doesn’t have a clearly designated place to live. Typically, this is an attic, basement, garage, spare room, or even a closet. In this case, the client had expressed an interest in repurposing this storage room into a child’s bedroom. (see photos of this “Bedroom” project here)

As we worked, we kept referring to the room as the “Scary Room.” This is the name the room had acquired over time, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the volume of the contents. As we worked and talked, I realized how easy it had become to stick items inside this room… a “scary” room has no constructive purpose, and is clearly a space where you don’t want to spend any time. In fact, according to its name, this is a place you want to open the door, pitch things in, and get out as quickly as possible!

On my last visit, I suggested we rename this room. Instead of the “scary room”, we decided to start calling it by the name we wished this room to have… her daughter’s room. This seems like a small change, but it made us think differently. Items that might live in a “scary” room have no business in a little girl’s bedroom, a distinction that helped us make choices and decisions.

This principle applies to every area of our home or office. By giving a space a vague or disparaging name, we are likely to disrespect that space, allowing the contents to get out of control. Instead, we can choose to name a space for its beneficial, intended purpose. For example, instead of the ”junk “drawer, call it the “desk supplies” drawer. Or, instead of the “messy” closet, call it the “craft” closet or the “coat” closet.

As you look around your space, take a moment to think about what you call various areas. Have you chosen specific, positive, functional titles, or allowed some areas to fall into negative disarray? Sometimes a simple change like a name (especially when coupled with a corresponding, printed label…) can turn the momentum in the direction you wish to go.

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Names matter! Do you have a room, closet or container in your life that needs a new one?

31 thoughts on “The Power of a Name”

  1. That is fascinating. When I was a kid, we had a room called “The Gray Room.” It never was called anything different, and luckily that name didn’t inspire anything bad by association, but I would have hoped we’d rename it otherwise!
    We call one of our rooms “The Story Room.” It’s actually a guest room/potential future bedroom but right now it’s a room full of books, and so, stories.
    Tamara recently posted…Gifting a Memory With Vera Wang.My Profile

  2. I agree Seana, giving a negative name to anything, can only give it a negative mood. I always tell my clients to give each room a purpose, that way it has a positive vibe.

  3. What a great example of how the power of language can reframe our thinking. I was recently with a client and we were working to purge some of her deceased mother’s items. Instead of using the term “getting rid of,” we began saying “releasing it” and it really helped in making that shift to being able to more freely let things go. You’re so right about the power of words being able to change our mindset!

    1. Perfect example, Sarah! “Getting rid of” sounds very negative, while “releasing” is a positive, forward-moving term. That’s exactly what I was trying to say — thanks for the comment!

  4. I totally agree, especially rooms that are large and have different purposes. For example, if you have a large family room, you may have a section for an office, a playroom, a place for entertaining and a place for storage. It is so important that everyone in the household knows what the different areas are so they can also maintain the space. More hands take less work. =) Thanks for sharing.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Holiday Card OrganizationMy Profile

  5. I love how renamining gives new perspective to all things. I also like to use humor to diffuse the name given too. When we reframe, we are motivated and ready to make a change.

    1. Agreed, Ellen. It really changes both motivation and momentum. I think having a positive goal to move toward is so much more energizing than a negative situation to flee from!

  6. Wow this is so insightful Seana! A few years ago when we thought we were going to have more children we stored all of our leftover baby supplies in a room called the baby room. It was just waiting for a baby. Well when that baby never came it was annoying calling it the baby room. So that’s when I cleaned it out, donated the stuff and it became the playroom. Now our son has grown out of most of those toys so it’s becoming the music room. Changing the name kept me moving forward instead of dwelling in the past. 🙂
    Autumn Leopold recently posted…A One of a Kind Organizing Book For ChildrenMy Profile

    1. I love that you morphed the purpose of the room as your needs changed. That is exactly what space should do, serve our needs! I love the idea of a music room:)

  7. Oh, the power of language! This is a beautiful example of how you helped your client reframe her perspective. I’m working with a client on something similar, although it’s not with a room name, but a perception of what she thinks she isn’t able to do. In fact she IS able and I’ve been holding that up to her in a positive way as she accomplishes the things she thought were impossible. The words we use can define how we feel about ourselves, our spaces, our relationships in both positive and negative ways.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…9 Guaranteed Solutions for Restoring Your Life BalanceMy Profile

    1. I’ve so enjoyed the comments on this post. Many great ways to extend this concept to other aspects of life. SO TRUE that the way we name and think about our skills or limitations, and the way this mindset directly impacts our success. Lucky client to have you reminding her that is IS able… that is MORE THAN half the battle:)

    1. That’s the hope, Nancy. That by renaming the space, we give it an identity that is desirable and worth working toward. It also makes us less likely to fill it with random items. Thanks for the comment!

  8. We call our empty bedroom “Tasha’s room” – Tasha is our cat, and it’s where we keep her litter box, scratching post, etc. but it seems like such a waste of space. I once thought of transforming into a space where I can do yoga, but never got around to it. Maybe if I start calling it my Yoga Room, I’ll actually get around to doing that – and doing yoga too.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…Minimalism – an invitation to a conversationMy Profile

    1. I love yoga! I actually have a few clients who have a room for the cat supplies, and nickname the room in a similar way. Just a thought to consider… I would certainly affirm a transformation to a yoga space!

  9. I love your thinking. It is so true. Name the room a positive name and you will have a better chance of making it into a positive, beneficial and functioning room. Great advice!

  10. I see I’m late to the party, but I’m SO with you! I have renamed many rooms for clients….often from something junky or scary to “Studio” as in art, writing, or music. My newest clients have one called “The Armageddon Room”. They actually have enough rooms that the eventual purpose of this one is unclear at this time. Meanwhile, “Organized Storage Room” will be an improvement!
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…The Gift of an Organized Family HistoryMy Profile

    1. I love Armageddon Room… that’s hilarious! Must be nice to have a large house where you can dedicate a room to storage! Certainly if you have this space, ORGANIZED is a desirable part of it’s moniker!

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