I always loved my mom’s wedding ring and I lovingly harassed her for years, after she and my father were divorced, about how she didn’t need it anymore. She’d had the engagement diamond set among the smaller diamonds in the band, and had been single forever, so it didn’t feel like a wedding ring to me. It was a diamond ring that, like me, had its origin in my parents’ relationship but wasn’t really about them anymore.I did not realize the explanation for my attachment to the ring until I wrote about it in a book about making our homes our happy place — homes where we’ve released old ways and old “stuff.”
The clothes that don’t fit, the gifts that don’t feel true, the arts and crafts supplies that are (still) just supplies because they haven’t yet become art or craft. Remnants of life already left behind. Big stuff we avoid.
Our homes need to be a place for living our lives, not simply storing stuff.
Yet for many of us, our homes reflect lives that feel more like we’re simply surviving, with barely enough energy to make the changes we long to make. Our minds are overwhelmed, attention is strained. Our hearts ache for things we dare not even wish for, as the money is not there and, when it is, we fear a future without it.
Our space can sometimes feel like it is closing in on us. The stuff is everywhere, and we can’t bring ourselves to part with it because there’s too little time or attention. Or perhaps it’s the fear.
We’re afraid we’ll miss something in that book or magazine or paper or whatever other clutter we’ve amassed that promises to help us turn everything around.
There’s so much information — so much stuff — it is paralyzing.
The Heart of the Matter
Finding where the attachment lies is a common aspect of the de-cluttering process.
As we audition the items in our physical space, to see if they are of more value to us than the space they occupy, we sometimes discover surprising details of our relationship with those things.
If we ask the right questions, we find the deeper, more intimate details. We discover the secret stories that link us to our stuff.
• Where did this item come from?
• What does it mean to me?
• Do I use this item, why or why not?
• Would my life be different without it?
For years I offered to take that ring off of my mother’s hands, to enjoy it on her behalf. On my 21st birthday, she gave it to me. I was thrilled to have that ring, for a while.
Then there was a time — beyond all of the harassing and the gift giving — when my tastes began to emerge differently.
I was fresh into adulthood and I started to get to know myself. I found out I’m not a yellow gold kind of woman. I like silver and platinum. Before long, my family treasure was spending its days in the jewelry box.
I considered having the diamonds reset into something that I’d enjoy wearing. I could have put it away for my own daughter, which would have been a wild extended re-gifting timeline, because she wasn’t yet born.
As I considered my options, ironically, I learned how much my mom loved that ring. She’d only parted with it because she loved me, too. In the end, I gave it back to her.
That’s the thing about gifts. We give them in love because it feels like a good idea. We cannot know if they want this exact thing, in this color, shape, and size. We cannot assume it will be perfect for them forever. We don’t give in order to harness people with the stuff we thought was a good idea.
It is the same for the gifts you receive. If it doesn’t serve you, or the person it came from no longer does, it is okay to let it go.
Releasing people that clutter life — that’s a whole other chapter.
Christy Diane Farr is author of “Is Home Your Happy Place? The Unruly Woman’s Approach to Space Healing.” This is adapted from chapters in that book. Find her on theunrulywoman.com.