To make a long story very, very short, in the eight months between the spring break of my senior year of high school, and the end of my first semester of college freshman year, both of my parents fell ill and passed away, one right after the other, from separate, devastating illnesses.
As you can imagine, my grades from that time weren't all that impressive.
About a year later, I was all of 19 years old, a newlywed, and a homeowner as I stood on the front lawn of my first house watching a big moving van pull up to make its delivery. Our simple Cape Cod already contained too much stuff--numerous heirlooms and antiques, family stories and treasures--things I held on to with both hands at the time, because I had had to let go of my mother all too soon...
This huge truck looming at the curb waited to unload all of my father's personal effects. The ketchup packets that had been in his fridge door during his last earthly days were unceremoniously packed up in the same box with his mother's best china--no rhyme or reason to its randomness. All the way from the west coast, all parts of my father's material life, whether intimate and important, or worthless and inconsequential, had arrived, packed by unknown hired hands now to be assimilated into the lives of a very young girl and her new (and also very young) husband.
While this story is uniquely mine, all of us experience times like this in our lives…a time of transition or loss that creates a tidal wave of emotion, often followed by a storm surge of STUFF--things left over from a lifetime that has ended or changed course. If you have recently gone through something like this yourself, or are perhaps in the middle of just such a storm, here are some things to remember:
1. Own where you live. I know it took a long time for me to do this myself--to feel that my home is mine and should reflect the idea that my life is in front of me (as is yours). I don't need to act as curator of all things from those who came before me (and nor do you). Under your roof should only be the things that make you smile and give you a sense of the wonderful possibilities ahead--not things kept out of obligation or guilt.
2. Ask yourself if you would buy it again. A good way to know if something that you have from your past has earned its right to be in your home is to ask yourself if you were to come across the same item in an antiques store or elsewhere, would it turn your head? Would you long to own it? This idea has helped me and so many of my clients to really, honestly see things for the first time that are taking up square footage in their life.
3. We are not our stuff. With all of the emotion that comes with life's transitions and losses, it is easy to be distracted by all of the THINGS and give them an inflated importance. It is all just STUFF. Even "valuable" things are just things--if they don't serve you and help you create the life you long for, they aren't of value to you nor do they add value to who you are, you wonderful, amazing-just-as-you-are person, you.
So, whose house is it, anyway? It is yours. And hopefully yours is a home that nurtures and supports you with a few select meaningful things from your past, as well as beauty and peace for the journey forward into your future.