Since March 2012 the media magnate has been clearing out and rebuilding her house to reflect this new phase of her life. And auctioning off her cast-offs for charity.
It’s exactly what I teach people do in their own homes. (Well, minus the giant charity auction.)
So what made me flip my lid?
It was how her design crew pushed her to get rid of her beloved bathtub.
So, impulsively (and partly out of sheer frustration), I said to the team with their clipboards and rulers, “Okay, take it out. That’s it. I’m done. I’m letting it go.” They cheered. I fled, trying not to cry.
I couldn’t believe it. I was appalled that her design pros would treat her that way.
No one has the right to force you to get rid of things. Especially not because they can’t find a way to make something you love work.
Here’s the thing:
Stuff isn’t just stuff
Everything you own has meaning tied up in it. Not in and of itself, but in what it means to you.
That’s why it can be so hard to let things go, even when it is time.
But no one should be bullied into getting rid of things. It’s painful, and ultimately it doesn’t work.
Almost everyone has been pushed into getting rid of something before they were ready, sometimes by a well-meaning friend or professional. But at other times, it was the tough-love part of themselves calling the shots.
And here I have a confession
I feel a bit sheepish writing these words knowing that I was once that well-meaning friend.
Many years ago a friend asked me to help clear out her clothes before moving to a new place. Since I was ruthless with my own clothes, it seemed to make sense.
But it turned out I was that person many of us think would be a good companion for clearing out. I was dispassionate about her stuff, about what looked good (and didn’t). And at the end of the day she had cleared out a ton of stuff.
But she was also scarred by the experience. She still brings it up sometimes.
Thankfully we’re still friends, and I have since learned how to actually support someone in releasing stuff.
That’s why Oprah’s story got such a reaction from me.
No one can tell you what to get rid of
No design professional – no matter how talented, expensive or well-known – has the right to push you into a decision about your stuff.
Yes, it’s freeing to let things go.
Yes, it’s often a necessary part of moving forward in life.
But it also needs to come in your own time, from your own heart.
Bullying – either by you or someone else – isn’t the answer.
Instead ask what fits you now
There’s no right or wrong answers about what you should let go of. It’s about being honest with yourself about how your stuff fits into your life right now.
Having a home you love is not about mistaking who you are for what you own.
It’s about making your life what you want it to be … by creating a home environment that supports you and the life you envision.
So here are three questions to help you move out the stuff that no longer has a place in that life.
Do I want to continue doing what this item is for?
Life changes, interests change.
Just because you used to use it doesn’t mean you need to keep it. I used to do a lot of things, but now I paint and I sew. If you’re done with it, pass along or sell it.
Open up space for the interests and activities you want to pursue now.
Keeping stuff can keep you stuck in a rut – whether it is old stuff or things you are currently using. So if you don’t want to keep doing something … get rid of the stuff.
Keep things that are current for the life you are creating.
Do I still want the message this thing carries?
I said it before – stuff has meaning.
Everything in your home has a message it conveys to you – because of the story you have about it.
Oprah’s bathtub meant she had “truly made it” and it made her feel special. Now, I think we can all agree that she has made it and she is special, fancy tub or no fancy tub.
She doesn’t need to hold on to it … which is pretty much the point of her article.
But once you recognize that things in your environment subconsciously convey meaning to you … then you can choose more carefully the messages you are surrounding yourself with.
You want things in your home that make you feel good when you look at them or use them. Not because Madison Avenue said they make you special, but because they carry a personal message for you.
This is one of the main reasons I advocate creating your own home.
So decide what messages you want to keep around you – and toss the stuff that is telling you things you no longer want to hear.
Do I still love it?
And now the final arbitrator for all stuff – does it bring you joy?
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the things you use every day. Nothing at all. In fact, I encourage it.
Art has survived because human beings value beauty. We are compelled to create things and delighted to make them beautiful.
So choose wisely and the things you use day-to-day can be a source of pleasure in your life.
Oprah will get another tub – and hopefully she will love it – but no one should have pushed her into getting rid of it. What you chose to keep and what you chose to release is up to you.
It’s about tuning into what you want for your life and then letting go of the things that don’t fit anymore.
Now it’s your turn
So what do you want to get rid now? Does it help to consider how your stuff fits the life you most want for yourself? What messages do you want to surround yourself with?
Please do share – I really do want to know. Besides you never know when your thoughts will help someone else, so leave a comment below.
Do you want support for releasing your own stuff?
I’m interviewing women just like you about where they feel stuck creating a beautiful + functional home so I can develop my business to give you the support and guidance you want. In exchange for answering my questions – I’m offering a complimentary Design Vision Consultation. Click here for more info or email me to say you’re in.