Moving home is recognised as a stressful situation. If it’s brought about by the death of a spouse, divorce or separation from a Beloved, it’s top of the pops according to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale.
Whatever has prompted the move will add it’s own complexities e.g. downsizing, change of job, climate, additional or reduced number of housemates – but there’s no doubt that a change of lifestyle and location creates the opportunity to start afresh, prompting the urge to ‘sort out our stuff’ so that we don’t move anything that no longer serves a purpose for us. And so it begins …
Part of the reason this ‘sorting out’ can be arduous, is that we come face to face with our fantasy, or aspirational, life as we go through our belongings.
You know, that’s the life where we have the time and inclination to whip up cordon bleu meals, entertain masses of people at our oh-so-elegant annual garden party (the garden is, of course, in stunning form), learn another language, host Easter Egg hunts for the neighbourhood, preserve seasonal fruit (grown organically in the afore-mentioned garden), attend the type of functions where 6inch heels and sparkly evening bags are the norm, craft hand made Christmas presents, send beautiful and timely thank you notes … sigh.
The reason our aspirational life smacks us in the face, or heart, is because somewhere along the way, we began amassing the accoutrements we thought would be just perfect for when we … (insert your own previously imagined activity here). So we end up with tangible reminders of what’s not happening.
In my case, I had previously lived a rather nice life, which included being invited to very flash functions for which I had my fair share of flash frocks and fripperies. I had hung on to them for years, thinking that one day I’d have a need for them again (even though I hadn’t for over 10 years). And I did so love them (even though they were packed and stored in the garage). And they cost a lot of money (which would be a waste, right?). And the fabrics were beautiful (and decaying by the day). And that dress would be perfect for … yes, what exactly?
My response brought about an admission that I no longer cared for those kinds of functions. And I realised that keeping the trappings of that stage of my life – just in case – was akin to believing that I would wake up one day having grown another 8 inches taller, with naturally blonde hair and miraculously become trim, taut and terrific with it. Yeah – I don’t think so!
A friend discovered, in her last move, that she had 109 cloth napkins. She had been gathering them, and silver cutlery, from thrift and antique stores and garage sales for 27 years. She had a vivid picture of a place settings worth of the cutlery wrapped in a snowy white napkin, tied with raffia (she had plenty of that in a box also) topped off with a rose, fresh from her garden. The bundles would then be elegantly amassed on a weathered table, under the old apple trees in her garden … you get the picture, I’m sure.
At the time of making her discovery, my friend was living in a two-bedroom townhouse with a courtyard garden and was planning to move into an apartment in a large city. She’d never had a yard big enough for apple trees, nor did she particularly like entertaining. Over the years, my friend’s circumstances had changed but she hadn’t been ready before, to let go of her aspirational life. When I asked “You’re keeping them because…?” she decided she was.
As we sort our excess and aspirational reminders into the keep, donate, sell or ditch piles, our internal critic can switch into overdrive with judgmental commentary – anything from “Yeah, right, like you’ll ever fit into that again” to “I really must make that 4 tier bird house” to “What the hell was I thinking hanging on to that?”. And the thoughts, or memories, of a life not lived as hoped can be overwhelming. Hence the stress associated with the task.
A much kinder approach is to reminisce (briefly and hopefully fondly) on the aspects of life that once were, be they imagined or real. And if the items have no place in your next stage, let them go somewhere else or to someone for whom your fantasy can enhance their reality.
Set yourself free to create a life unencumbered by tangible reminders of the past that have either served their purpose or passed their use by date, for you.
In doing so, you get to make room for what comes next, in your real life.
Are you keeping anything for your aspirational life? Do tell below!