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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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What Are The Possibilities When You Clear Your "Space?"

Possibilities open up when your space is clear. I use the word “space” to encompass not just the physical spaces we live and work in, but also the mental and emotional space that we carry within. These past few months, I’ve been deeply involved in clearing out our family home of 56+ years. It has taken most of my time and energy. As you might imagine, it’s been an intense and emotional process. The home was filled with thousands of papers, photos, furniture, dishes, collectibles, artwork, books, music, family history and memories to process and decide about.

As a family we had to choose, what was being kept, donated, sold or let go of. Tons of decisions were made to clear the spaces and prepare the home for next. Even as things exited, the memories and positive feelings about our family home remained. Those memories go deep and are ingrained within, way beyond the “stuff.”

The clearing of the spaces prepares for memories, possibilities, and experiences that a new family will have in our beloved home. This extreme letting go of the things from within the family home and ultimately the family home itself has been preparing me for a new phase of that is no longer anchored in this home that I grew up in.

So as the layers of stuff have been peeled away, as the floors are sanded and the walls are painted, possibilities open up not just for me, but for others too. What will be is yet to be understood or known; yet I’m feeling hopeful about how things will evolve and shift. And while it's been a highly emotional journey, it's also the natural course of things. We aren't meant to keep our things forever. They, like the people we love, are with us just for a time

What have you noticed when your space is clear? What has transpired within and without from your cleared spaces? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation.






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Reader Comments (20)

This takes me back to a few years ago when my parents left my long-time family home. It was more emotional than I anticipated... all of us had to go and say goodbye! Later I heard the suggestion of taking photographs of special places around the house (favorite tree, doorknob, growth chart, view from the kitchen window, etc.) and making a photo book, which I thought was a wonderful idea. As emotional as it was, it definitely cleared space for the future. The song "Hold On Loosely" by 38 Special often rings in my head. It is great to hold on to favorite things, but not too tight, because we need to be able to grab onto other wonderful things that may be coming along.

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

This post also takes me back .. 8 years ago, after my mother passed away, my brothers, sisters and I went through our family home to prepare it for sale. It was a very intense experience as we divided the furniture and furnishings. I have a few special pieces as do my siblings. The rest we sold to the buyer. Although it was a hard and lengthy process working with my siblings allowed us all to talk through our grief. We shared stories, memories, laughs and tears. I felt as though in the sharing, dividing and releasing of these things we were also celebrating our mother.

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

I appreciate the point about what experiences this process will provide to those who come next. It takes something difficult for you and shifts the focus to how it might help someone else. We went through that with my father-in-law, but it made a big difference to know the young couple expecting their first child were so excited to make their new home in the house he built.

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterShona

This post reminds me of when I needed to clear out my father's home near me and my mother's house in CA. While they only lived in their respective homes for about 5-10 years, I found myself finding items that were just unknown to me. It was easier to get rid of things that I wasn't emotionally attached to, but when I saw a letter from my dad written to me from one of his self-improvement workshops he took, it was very touching, and of course, I couldn't get rid of it. I found that having a smaller home put me in a situation where I had to get rid of stuff and only keep the very best memories. Making the decision on what to do with the item on the spot and taking action right away on that decision made it easy for me to continue through the process. Good luck with your process.

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

We moved several times while I was growing up, so although I'd lived there, I didn't have the same type of attachment to the house my dad sold after my mom passed away. I can only imagine the onslaught of emotions you must have experienced during this project!

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

I've been calling this type of emotional attachment to the house called Baby House Syndrome. When the house you grew up is sold, some feel a greater sense of loss. This can happen at any age. I began to first notice this during college when one of my friends' parent's sold her "baby house". She was really upset and emotionally torn. Since then I have seen many adult children of downsizers (especially when it is the parent's choice, not the adult child) go through this syndrome. Looking back on my earlier childhood, I believe many of the sad and withdrawn 10 to the 13-year-old girl's I met, who had recently moved from their longtime childhood home had extreme difficulty with this also.

I am truly sorry you are experiencing this, but the loss is real. It just takes the passing of time and maybe some of the photo taking and memory making ideas mentioned in the comments above will help.

October 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Prince

@Seana- It's interesting that you said going through your family home was "more emotional than I anticipated." I know just what you mean. As professionals, we think we're prepared for this. Afterall, we help our clients with exactly this...sorting through memories, identifying what's most important, and finding ways to let go when they're ready. But as we know, it's quite different when we're the ones attached to the memories or stuff. I love your idea of taking photos. As you can imagine, I've been taking a ton of them. In fact, it was my brother's idea to have a professional photographer come to photograph the house "as is was" before we started disassembling it. I'm so grateful that we did that. Thank you for sharing your experience. It helps to know that you made it through and that cleared "space" made way for wonderful things that came next.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Diane- Amazing how many of us have either gone through this process or are going through it. It's lovely how you and your siblings were able to come together to sort and prepare the family home for sale. Having each other to laugh and cry with must have been a wonderful way to support each other and as you said, celebrate your mother. Especially when I've been sorting through the memorabilia and photos, I'd take photos of them as I went and share them with my family. So while they weren't physically present, they were there reacting and supporting as I went. And it felt good to share. Amazing discoveries were made like photos that I'd never seen or pieces of family history that were discovered. Quite the process!

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Shona- How lovely that you knew the family that was coming into your father-in-laws' house as you were preparing the home. How cool that he built the house...and knowing it was going to a couple just beginning their family must have made him feel very good. For us, it's a big question mark as to who will live there next, but I can only hope that it's a family that loves and enjoys the house as much as our family did.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sabrina- Those things we're emotionally attached to are just harder to let go of. I was reminded again recently that when we physically touch things, we also feel even more attached to them. And as you can imagine, going through the sorting, editing process involved a lot of "touching." There was so much stuff that at a point after the family had made their choices of what they wanted, the rest really couldn't be kept. And this process has made me want to reassess my own stuff. I just want to have less. But I'm not there yet, as I'm still working on my Mom's house. I like what you said about keeping the "very best memories." Some of those memories we hold within, but some we keep those physical reminders (photos, letters or objects) that bring back those happy or significant times. I appreciate your good luck wishes. Thank you.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Janet- Those attachments run deep and it's many decades of living and visiting the family home.So's an "onslaught of emotions." I've often thought about kids that moved a lot or at least "several" times in their childhood and that it probably makes them more flexible. I know it's something I've struggled with. I've lived in very few places...relatively. Even the home I live in now we've been in for over 30 years. And the thought of moving doesn't appeal to least not now.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Terry- Wow! Leave it to you to have developed a name for this...I love it..."Baby House Syndrome." And you're so right. This is the house I moved into when I was 18 months old. So many memories. I've been taking LOTS of of the "treasures" I've been discovering, photos of how the light streams through the windows, photos of collections and details that have been disassembled, photos of the renovation process, photos, photos, photos! At some point, I will put together a book to collect the images and pieces of history. But for now, I'm simply collecting the material that will transform to something else. Thank you for naming this, for your acknowledgment, and support.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I am thinking of you and your family during this time of transition. I know it is going smoothly because of your caring and sensitive nature! Hugs!

Right now our community is dwelling in possibilities. After a flood devastation, the possibilities are big! Families are choosing to start in a new home or repair and update their existing home. I am helping them focus on this as a positive part of this difficult time. I know that change opens up all possibilities.

October 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- Thank you so much for your kind words of support. I can only imagine the devastation your community is facing due to all the recent flooding. How lucky they are to have you help them navigate and figure out next steps. I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be for them and for you too. I can see you as you help them focus on the positive, the possibilities, and the critical next steps. You are helping your community to see and go for possibilities and that's a wonderful thing.

October 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I can only imagine how precious those memories are for you. Because I spent a lot of time in your house, from the time you were that 18 month old girl. Do you know that I met Tod on the playground on his very first day of school at Highlands, and he invited me home for lunch that day. So I met Mrs Machover and had a tuna fish sandwich (probably :-) And the fact that you had two of the greatest parents anyone could ask for, who created such a warm and vibrant home, filled with music and art, communication and love... Countless wonderful times there, it was a legendary place, Linda. Love to you and all of your family.

October 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRich Glauber

@Rich- What a great story! I didn't know that you met Tod at Highlands playground day one of school...or that he invited you home for lunch that day. And I suspect you're right about the tuna sandwich, a family staple. In sorting photos, I came across a great one (which Tod now has) of you and him decked out in your cub scout uniforms...both with huge smiles on your faces. Thank you for all your kind words and lovely description of life growing up. Love your word choice too, "legendary!" Just beautiful. I hope that you and your family are all well too.

November 2, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks for sharing this Linda- I especially liked when you said that we aren't meant to keep our things forever - just like our loved ones- very bittersweet. Wonder if we would be doing our kids a favor by downsizing before we go....?

November 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Deinstadt

@Andrea- You're most welcome. Thank YOU for stopping by to share and join the conversation! You ask an essential question. And after going through this experience and others like it, I think a resounding "YES!" is appropriate. By not managing our things or the "stuff" of life that we've collected, we are leaving it for others to decide it's fate. I know it's not always possible, but I definitely think that the responsible and loving thing to do is to make those choices while we still can to minimize the stress and strife for our loved ones. I also get that for many reasons this isn't always possible.

November 4, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I'm sitting here choosing which photo is just right to put onto your belated birthday card {it gets tangled up with mine}. I haven't been on facebook much lately so thought I'd drop by and see what you and your mom were up to.

56+ years is a long time to review. I"m learning in class about "a life review," which is normally done in our elder years. Aren't we fortunate in what we do that we witness life reviews and can somehow help people process some of that, which they might otherwise do alone or not do at all. I'm glad for you it's happening.

November 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

@Sue- My dear birthday buddy... I too haven't been as active on social media as of late because of "the project." I'm so glad that you decided to drop by to join us here.

I love, love, love that term you shared, "life review!" Wow! That says it all. It's true that we don't often get that chance to do it until the elder years. As organizers, it's one of the beautiful privileges of our work that we get to share that with our clients as they sort, review, edit, story tell, remember, and ultimately decide what treasures are important to keep or release.

Happy (almost) birthday to you!

November 12, 2017 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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