Some years ago in early Spring, a friend of ours stopped by our home a little after 5 pm on a week night–on her way home from work.
She noticed how nice our living room was, thought our galley kitchen was a work of craftsman’s art, and our family room a place to take a nap in. As she surveyed our home, she said that she was thinking of moving out of her home, where she and her husband had raised four children. Her husband had died a couple of years ago and she was feeling like maybe she should make a move. We could tell that she was worried/conflicted/feeling doubtful, but we couldn’t understand exactly where
her anxiety was coming from.
We invited her to stay and have dinner, but she seemed distracted and declined, leaving without ever having sat down. After she left, my husband and I agreed our friend was searching for answers that seemed to be focused on whether or not she should leave her home; but we suspected that “home” was not actually the focal point of distress.
Summer brought its usual pace of frenetic activity, and as always, passed quite quickly. In mid-August our friend once again stopped at our home, on a Saturday morning. Her whole demeanor had changed. She seemed energetic, cheerful and looking to share happy news.
“I thought you might like to know that I decided to not sell my home,” she began.
“Oh . . .”
“Well, the whole story was. . . .” she looked bemused, and continued, “I started getting the house ready to put on the market. I went through twenty-five years of boxes, closets and the attic. The more I threw out and gave away, the more I realized that it wasn’t the house that was the problem–it was all the stuff that was crammed into every nook and cranny of the place.”
We must have smiled–sharing in dilemma of a post-child parent: how to dispose of memories–or keep the darn second grade doodles.
“I took six loads to the dump and three to Goodwill. I called my kids and invited everyone home for a party on the 4th, and when they left, they all had a few boxes that they’ll have to deal with.” She laughed and clapped her hands, “They didn’t like having to find room for their stuff, but I feel free for the first time in years. It’s good to not have to carry the whole load around, you know?”
We invited our beaming friend to stay and share some lemonade, but she was busy and had to get on with her day’s agenda. She had wanted to reassure us that she was fine and able to cope with life again.
When our accumulation of stuff begins to burden us with its silent, screaming demands–it’s time to stop procrastinating and time to tackle the first closet–after that, it feels so good, that I’ve found it hard to stop my need to “tidy-up” the whole place. (Of course I’m glad that my husband is not a keeper of memento’s, so what goes from house into garage, eventually continues to go somewhere beyond our property lines–whew.)
Be gentle with your memories–don’t let them keep you from moving forward.