As seen in the Dayton Daily News on May 20, 2017
Our homes should be a haven. A place to retreat to when the world around us has us running in all different directions.
To create this haven, start keeping things in your home that give you a sense of peace. Let go of those items that are upsetting to you. In doing so, you’ll find your house becomes more of a sanctuary, instead of a daily stressor.
When you organize your home, assess each item and ask, “How does this item make me feel?” For the purpose of this exercise, necessity items, like a stapler or can opener, are not the type of things we’re evaluating, but instead more personal belongings.
While working with clients, belongings sometimes surface that are upsetting and bring them to tears. They keep these items that make them sad because they think they should.
As you read through the following scenarios, keep in mind people grieve differently. My suggestions are individualized based on what I know about each client. You are the only one to determine how something makes you feel.
While going through some boxes with this first client, I came across a wooden box with a nameplate that read “Goldie.” She instantly burst into tears when she saw the box. Goldie was her beloved dog who passed away many years ago.
As her tears subsided, she said, “I keep her in the closet because it hurts terribly when I see her. I avoid going near the closet because I don’t want to accidentally see the box. Now that I’m downsizing, I don’t know where I’ll put her.”
I suggested burying Goldie, so she could visit her on her terms, instead of unintentionally seeing her while searching for something in her home. She was relieved to find out it was okay to let her go. She buried her and felt at peace.
Another client lost a friend in a plane crash. Parts of his private plane were recovered and given to his many friends. Some of his friends displayed their treasure in their homes, and as time passed could smile when seeing them.
My client could not look at the plane part given to him without becoming distraught, so he hid it in his basement. I came across the part while organizing with him. When I brought it out of the box, he covered his eyes with his hands and looked up at the ceiling. Through clenched teeth, he said, “I can’t stand to see that.”
I offered to take the plane part with me when I left. He replied, “I would love that, but I feel guilty getting rid of it.” We then had a discussion about how the plane part was a memento, not the memory of his friend. Getting rid of the plane part would not erase his cherished memories.
Because we grieve differently, what brings one person joy may be upsetting to someone else. No matter how much time passes, our feelings may not change. Be true to yourself. Don’t allow other people or the norms of society to dictate what is right for you. Keep the items that you love, display or use, and let go of the others. You can love without holding on to things.