Have you ever thought, “I wish a natural disaster would strike my house so I could get rid of all my stuff and start over!”? It’s a little morbid, but throughout my life I’ve heard many people utter this wish (be careful what you wish for!)
Of course, no one actually wishes for a disaster to strike their home. Instead, this dramatic dream is the result of feeling surrounded by – stifled by – possessions that hold little meaning for us.
It’s a first-world problem, for sure. However, I do not believe this is a problem only for the privileged. Even in my poorest days, I always took pride in creating a beautiful space that supported me, no matter how much I was struggling and how little time and money I had to devote to the endeavor.
The problem is this – no matter how carefully you curate your décor and edit your belongings, things sneak in.
There’s the typical unwanted clutter. Hand-me-downs or inherited “treasures” from well-meaning (and well-loved) relatives. Books lent to you that you don’t really want to read. Magazines that you intend to flip through or think you’ll reference again. Junk mail. Napkins and sauce packets and extra chopsticks from takeout.
Even trickier are the things we’ve brought into our homes on our own accord. Sometimes it’s a piece of furniture we purchase as a placeholder until we find (or feel we can afford) the piece we really want. Other times it’s a work of art or an element of décor we feel we have grown out of.
It can be much harder to let go of these belongings.
When it comes to the “placeholders”, we often feel that we NEED to keep them, even though they infuriate us on a daily basis. I once had a set of dining room chairs like this. They were old, creaky, and they gave me splinters (truly). Ever on the verge of breaking, they frequently required wood glue repairs and were too large for the table they provide seating for.
I had been looking for the perfect replacements but had struggled to find ones that were the proper size for the oddly-sized table, that were the style I envisioned, and that fit into my budget.
Of course, I wasn't really trying – after all, I had chairs to sit in! As someone who believes in the powers of intention and manifestation (even for something as seemingly mundane as the perfect set of chairs), I recognized that I was sending mixed messages to the universe.
So I got rid of them. I was confident (at least, I managed to feign confidence!) I would find the right ones the same week. Sure enough, I found a set of perfect condition chairs on Craigslist (yes, even decorators shop on Craigslist!) that were exactly what I had been looking for. The fact that I paid $100 for a set of chairs that sell for close to $1000 new made the victory all the sweeter.
When it comes to things we have outgrown, we are equally challenged. Several months ago I redid the art arrangement in my apartment. I consolidated most of the pieces into a single gallery wall in the dining room. I liked it, but deep down, I felt it was a bit much for the small room.
It looked fine, and I had been happy with my own ingenuity – rather than buying new art, I had rearranged what I already had!
One weekend I was talking to my husband and we both realized we were ambivalent (or worse) about many of the pictures hanging on the wall. Some were images I had framed as “like-them-well-enough” art and some had not-so-positive connotations. Some of the frames themselves were vestiges of a decorating concept long since passed. Some were original pieces I had created that I just didn’t connect to anymore.
The next day I started taking down pictures I felt “eh” about, just to see what happened. Before I knew it, the entire wall was empty. I had a huge pile to sell on Craigslist, a pile of photos to put in albums, and two framed pieces to keep.
It seems silly to describe the empty space as liberating, but in some small way, it really was. I realized that I hadn’t consciously chosen art in quite some time.
So I started over. It’s so freeing to have a clean slate. It’s easy to be afraid of that empty space, but if you learn to love it, you will realize that the possibilities really are endless. You will gain the clarity and intention needed to start in a new direction. Before you know it, you will fill the space with pieces you truly love.