Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Moving House, Moving On

April 2nd, 2017

A lot can happen in seven days. A week ago I was skiing in Aspen, enjoying the scenery …



and the company …


Today I am working from my new office in my new rental flat, all thanks to my new guardian angel, Nicola Isdell-Carpenter.

Nicola runs a company called The Mastery of Moving, but she could just as easily be a top general. She is supremely organised, knowledgeable, resourceful,  good-natured, and tough when necessary.

Like all of the high-ranking generals I know, Nicola motivates her troops (movers, cleaners, various suppliers i.e. telephone and broadband), and can be tough when the opposition (landlord/estate agent) plays dirty. No detail is too small,


no task too big. It’s time for me to downsize as my youngest of three Julia is flying the coop this summer. Nicola  got us  moved out of a six-floor London house into a two-floor rental seamlessly within days, the same days that Julia heard from US universities, and I dropped my iPhone into the toilet.

Somehow Nicola kept our teetering emotional ship afloat, helping to transform an empty, grim rental with no heat or hot water into a proper home. She made it so easy I can imagine doing it again. A nomad is born. I like this new fluidity and freedom.


 The most important task of all is to get rid of items you don’t want to unpack in your new, empty home, advises Nicola. It’s a clean slate, don’t let your new life inherit your unwanted stuff.

The week before I went skiing, Nicola and I started wiping my slate clean. We whisked through my house, room by room, object by object. Does it spark joy or is it time to bid au revoir?  It’s much easier to do this with another person. The task can be lonely, depressing, nostalgia-filled. Not with Nicola, whose military efficiency is softened by her terrific sense of humour and sweetness.

Out went the crutches, the waffle maker, the cocktail napkins I never liked, and the extreme weather backpack. I may be a travel writer, but backpacking in the Hindu Kush is only going to happen with an Aman hotel by sunset.


Do I really need three sets of china for 24, five identical manicure scissors, or one never-been-used vegetable juicer. Even the wedding dress is going, going, gone  It all went, and it felt great.

Julia is not so fond of de-cluttering. Below is her new bedroom. There’s a bed in there somewhere.


As a rule of thumb, Nicola suggests getting rid of  the pile of envelopes that no longer stick, the kitchen China that’s not a full set, the collection of mismatched mugs, old business cards, foreign coins – take them on your next flight and donate them to the airline’s charity effort – and flat pack furniture. It’s not designed to be dismantled, especially Ikea. If you can’t take it in one piece, don’t take it at all.

For those objects which are less obvious, Marie Kondo author of the aptly named The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, suggests,

Think carefully about (an object’s) true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role… In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.

I discovered that treasured objects, the ones that made the cut, got a second lease of life in our new surroundings. Change, it turns out, is good for objects as well as people. I am  sad to say goodbye to our old, now empty home,


but I am equally as excited for the next adventure.

April, 2017