The Story Behind the Stuff

We recently had our interior painted, and as you can imagine, that caused some chaos in our home. There’s nothing like moving things off of shelves and out of closets to show you your organizational weak points. I knew we needed to do another purge of our kids’ toys, but I had no idea how much other stuff needed to be tossed until it was pushed and piled into the center of every room. We also eliminated some shelving in our boys’ room and the basement office, which meant craft books, dated copies of Dwell, CDs from college, and knickknacks were added to the mix. Deep down, I wanted to just take all those piles of stuff, put them in my car, and drive them to Goodwill without even looking through them. I know that seems crazy to many, and careless to some. But when I get rid of things I feel ten pounds lighter. Even when I regret donations, (like the time I got rid of all the top sheets in our bedding sets) I still get a secret thrill from finding ways to be resourceful.

That’s not necessarily the same sentiment that my husband and sons feel. Of course, they also like to be resourceful, but when they see piles, they suddenly see treasures. These treasures are so enticing to them that they get even more excited about all of these things they haven’t wanted or noticed in the past six months. My husband’s Pepsi-can-turned-secret-spy-container was one of those items. He bought it at a toy shop in 1990 and he bestowed it upon our son as a prized heirloom. When I saw it on top of the pile I thought it was a no brainer recycle. Is it bad that I also thought that after I realized it could function as a container?

The well-known Japanese Organizer, Marie Kondo, writes about getting rid of piles of unloved and unwanted stuff to reveal a space that is in line with who we are. But what happens when we don’t love the same stuff? What happens when we don’t agree on what will reflect our true selves?

When it comes to clients, I find it easy to remain an impartial guide as I help them achieve their goals for a space. With my family, it’s not always so simple. I’m learning that it’s important to listen to what matters to them even if it doesn’t seem meaningful to me, and make space for what they love, too. Sometimes that may be a Pepsi spy container, and sometimes it may be my own tattered copy of Let’s Go: Italy from 2002. Every item tells a story, and finding room for them at home is important. While the organizer in me isn’t sold on the idea that we need things to tell our stories, the writer in me knows that everyone has their own way of expressing where they’ve been and who they are. Honoring that is what makes us feel seen and heard as humans.


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