I just finished teaching a series of home staging classes. Typically, people take this course because they’re planning to put their homes on the market to sell, and staging gives them an advantage. As always, I ask the students what they hope to get out of the classes. Usually, the answers range from “I need to move the house quickly” to “we’re planning ahead and want to start preparing for eventually sale.” This time, however, I had two students who don’t have a specific plan to move but rather want to enjoy their home while they’re in it. One woman put it beautifully: “I want to live like that NOW.”
This is a story about STUFF.
Throughout the class. We discuss how to take one space at a time and determine “what stays and what goes”. We talk about the psychology of stuff, the power it has over us, and how hard it is to let it go. I’m always honored when folks risk vulnerability and share their concerns about how their stuff is weighing them down.
I personally didn’t have a lot of “things” growing up, so what I did have mattered. I had a plastic doll named Sharon. The first time Sharon started falling apart, one of my parents “fixed her” with black electrical tape. Over the next couple of years, as she was well-loved, Sharon acquired quite a bit of that black tape. Did I think that tape made that doll less valuable? Of course not.
As a child, I used to drag a little, brown suitcase full of “Golden Books” around the house. I’m sure they helped fuel my love for reading. By the time I left home, those books had all been passed down to other children, but I remembered them. One year, for my birthday, my dear friend Denise searched online and bought about thirty 1950’s and 1960’s Golden Books as a gift. Over the years of our friendship, she had heard the story and decided to “bring back that history”. What a gift. Those books sit on a shelf in the family room, and remind me of how it feels to be loved.
Not growing up with a ton of possessions has its advantages. You learn to recognize which things really have value and which are merely the “stuff” of life.
When I was a young mother, money wasn’t a commodity I had a lot of, but I always did my best to make our home beautiful. I bought a big, blue vase. It was about 18” tall, and during the spring and summer it was usually filled with flowers from the yard. When my daughter, Erin, was about six-years-old she decided to carry the “big blue vase” outside, fill it with water and put some flowers in it. You can guess how the story goes. It was too heavy for such a little girl, she dropped it, and it broke into a LOT of pieces. Of course she was upset. Of course, my immediate response was a panicked “are you alright Honey?” Did I, even for one second think, “wow, what a shame the big, blue vase broke?” Honestly, no. How fortunate was I that my child didn’t get hurt? How blessed was I that she wanted to surprise me and bring flowers into the house?
My little cape cod was broken into twice when we lived there. The first time, anything we owned of value was taken. The second time there wasn’t as much there, but what had been replaced was stolen. Those experiences not only reaffirmed what really is important but also gave me an opportunity to say “Thank You God” that we weren’t home when it happened. Of course it was traumatic and scary. And, of course, losing the bracelet my grandmother gave me, or the jewelry the girls made for me when they were in grade school, truly hurt, but I had what mattered most—my precious daughters.
My grandson, Ethan, has a really small, stuffed gingerbread man that’s important to him. “Jack” can be found either sitting on his bed or sometimes, in his pocket. One day, one of Jack’s legs got torn. Ethan was crying and he took Jack to his Mom. She didn’t say, “it’s only a two-inch toy that doesn’t matter”. She didn’t say, “why don’t you throw it out you have so many other things?” No, she got out a needle and thread and put Jack back together. Ethan has many more expensive, “flashier”, toys but for some reason his six-year-old heart values that little gingerbread man.
I do have attachments to some “things”—the photos of my girls growing up, the drawings and gifts my beloved grandchildren, the heartfelt notes Larry or my dear friends have written to me, my notebooks where I write my hopes, dreams, joys and ideas. But most of the things in my home are just that…things. They’re replaceable, unlike moments and experience and relationships.
Sadly, for so many people, possessions become the center of life.
We honor things, hoard things, say that we can’t live without things.
We often take care of things better than we take care of each other.
How much of the “stuff” in your home do you really either love or use?
How many things do you own but never touch?
How much more breathing space would you have if you could stop cleaning, moving, and stepping over those things?
How much security and joy are you getting by surrounding yourself with possessions instead of people?
Would you be willing to let go of one thing each day for one year?
Would you be willing to get rid of two things for every new thing you “just have to have?”
Take a chance.
Keep what really makes you smile, but let go of some of the “stuff”. Who knows, you just may make room for some other people.
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