my husband and I have two very dear friends of 22+ years who live in another state – we navigated the dating phases together, celebrated marriages and the births of our children, supported each other through the deaths of family members and mutual friends, and have always been a phone call away for the day-to-day accomplishments and failures of this thing called life. we are now walking with them as they navigate the uncharted territory of a terminal illness, a diagnosis that has taken a toll on their entire family both physically, emotionally, and mentally.
after learning of his diagnosis, our friends made the very difficult decision to relocate cross-country to be closer to family. i wanted so badly to help them in some small way, so I offered, along with another mutual friend, to use my talent and love of organizing to assist them in packing their home for their future move. they would be downsizing 20+ years of marriage from 1350 to 750 square feet. we originally carved out 2 days with a goal to purge, organize, pack and clean so all they’d be left with were packed & labeled boxes, furniture, minimal kitchen items and some clothing to get them through until their move a few months down the road.
my friend and I showed up eager to begin by separating their stuff into categories: keep, pack, garage sale, donate and trash. i had this preconceived notion that if they didn’t use it, or wouldn’t miss it – toss it, donate it, or sell it. we had labeled bins for each category and went to work. Our plan seemed simple – ready, set, execute!
i very quickly discovered that although my friends understood the task of paring down, they became emotionally paralyzed over the sentimental attachment of letting go. in a metaphorical sense, they were letting go of the life they knew and loved, and were being forced to downsize to a new, different life they hadn’t chosen. all the belongings crammed throughout the many closets and drawers, or thrown in the garage had been touched, used, and loved at some point during their life together.
it wasn’t just a process of letting go of tangible objects – it was a journey of opening the door to grief and exposing their vulnerability in a way our friendship had never known. i found me peering intimately inside their home, inside their chaos, but more importantly, inside their love. It was in that moment that it dawned on me – the psychological and emotional attachment to “stuff” far outweighs the stuff itself, and to let me into their home to see behind closed doors and inside dresser drawers was to let me see into their most private self.
letting go, pushing through is never easy. after four long days of hard work, laughter, and a lot of tears, we broke open a bottle of prosecco to celebrate – it was more than just a celebration of getting the job done; for me, it was a celebration of personal growth. Seeing through their eyes, listening through their tears, and feeling with their hearts gave me a deeper understanding of the true meaning of carrying the weight of clutter.