Many of my clients have reached that age when their children are moving away from home or have been out of the house for a few years and they are wondering what to do with all of the stuff that has been left behind as their young adults fly the nest.
I know from personal experience that this is an uncomfortable space both physically and emotionally. As you purge and recreate spaces to suit your life, you will take steps to declutter: repurpose, donate, and recycle. Only, some of this stuff was your kids' stuff, the stuff that made up your family life, and even the seemingly trivial of things take on a larger than life value. How can I part with all of this? Who am I without it? Does parting with it negate its former value? Does letting go make me a bad parent? What will I forget if their stuff is no longer within my sight or touch? If you are like me, these are some of the questions lurking and haunting your brain.
The thought of losing your purpose as you part with the stuff of your life is very common. It can be enough for many people to cling too tightly to too much for too long. Whether your children have taken what they want and have their own stash of sentiments boxed for treasures' sake, or are just beginning the shedding process, there comes a day when the empty spaces stare back at us. Instead of feeling a sense of possibility and excitement, we may feel overwhelming sadness and a sense of loss. I have heard this breaking point referred to as "The Wall of Panic." Ironic, because this is the point where there is actually enough space to really make changes that will move you forward into the next chapter of the book of your life.
I encourage you to trust that you are going to fill the voids, if not with things, with memories, experiences, and discoveries. There IS life after 50. But it takes great courage and faith to believe that when the dust clears, and there are empty spaces staring back at you, that you are making way for something really good. Not better, just different. Less stress, more joy! Not erasing what was important, but making room for our lives and our hearts to expand.
Here are a few ideas from friends and clients for honoring memories while limiting the space required to house them. Feel free to share your favorite ideas with me.
Digital scrapbooks/memory books. One of my favorite examples of this is on erinfarrellphotography.com
Scanned photographs, slides, and negatives done at home or better yet, by a professional. I trust Nelson's Photography in Little Italy to do a great job!
Pieces of favorite garments crafted into a quilt. This can be made using anything from baby clothes, favorite rock concert t-shirts, to your father's favorite silk tie. If you don't sew, hire your favorite quilter to make it personal for you.
Review old cards and letters, keep a few favorites in a pretty box on display and recycle the rest.
Make it fun when you purge with your adult children. Crank up the music, have tasty snacks, and your favorite drinks close at hand. Letting them decide alongside you, may be all that is needed to let go and to bless someone else with the bulk of it.