Because after all, a home is the empty space of possibilities in which you write your life. ~ Dawn Ritchie.
This is the longest I’ve gone between posts, and you know what? The sky hasn’t fallen. My kids will be back at school soon and summer’s already fading, so I’ve been limiting my time online, loving my family better and blessing my home with a thorough clean. After a week of broadband, browser and server problems, it hasn’t been such a hardship to shelve my cyber life for a bit.
I planned to write a post on Sunday – began it even – and then, as I was sitting curled up in the sofa, jotting down notes, I looked down and decided I wanted to swap our living room rug for a lighter coloured one that’s stored in the attic. Suddenly, out of the blue, it seemed very important to get into the attic and find that thick rug; hand-woven in the colours of sea shells and sandy beaches, we’d bought it in our first year together in Portugal.
My husband lowered the loft ladder, climbed up and started stomping around. He banged his head and cursed as he looked for it behind Christmas boxes and kids’ keepsakes. I joined him in the search then my heart sank as I saw the mountain of vacuum packed bags.
I’m fairly ruthless about keeping clutter tamed in the house, but fabrics are one of my danger zones. I shouted down to my son and started tossing the plastic bags down the loft ladder, not sure what on earth I was planning on doing. He carted each one off into the living room.
I was horrified when I saw just how much I had. My husband shook his head in disbelief, then quickly went off to put the kettle on. The living room smelled of mothballs, reminding me of every house in Greece I’d ever visited.
There were bags of curtains I still like but have rotated; curtains from my old house which don’t fit the windows of this house; bright woven blankets and cushion covers from Greece; sentimental scraps of old fabrics from previous clear-outs that I’d planned to make wall hangings with (I used to sew) and my precious bag of antique lace, cut threadwork sheets, embroideries and doilies.
I inherited those from my mum, my mum’s cousin, and many a Greek lady who wanted to add to my dowry. I took out every piece, admired every stitch, then carefully smoothed them and repacked them, ready to put the bag back up in the loft. These little hand-crafted works of art give me immense pleasure. Lives are woven into them, daydreams and moodlings, memories and wishes captured in every stitch.
Each bag contained its own stories. I found the blanket that had covered my bed before I met my husband; the baby patchwork quilts that had covered my babies in their cots; the jeans I was wearing the day I met my husband, the suit I wore to the interview that got me my first post in Greece and my first job in a university; the sparkly red Lurex top my mum wore for ‘posh’ at Christmas; the dress I’d made and worn to my graduation in Athens and to church for a baptism. I hugged and laid aside the Lurex top and the cot quilts.
Overcome with ruthlessness, I decided that most of what the bags contained was dragging me down, anchoring me in the past, connecting me with other homes, other lives and the stillborn dream we had a few years ago of moving into a new-build home here in Scotland. We were able to input into the standard design so the architect’s plans included a front porch, lots of interesting landings and small windows as well as larger windows and a sun room opening onto a sunny south facing back garden. (The contractors let us down and sold their business; the house was never built, and the curtains never hung.)
My husband, dreaming of a safe and empty attic, brought in a roll of bin bags, knowing that there was a brief window of opportunity before sentimentality stalled me, We’ve worked together so often in the past, he knows my system. One bag is allotted to each of the following:
- car boot sale or antique shop
- charity donations or charity jumble sales
- the rubbish bin
- raw ingredients for creative craft projects
- gifts to friends
- things to be kept
My system is simple: an object gets kept if
- …I think it’s beautiful and it never loses its positive emotional charge for me or becomes ‘invisible’.
- … it’s been used at least once or twice in the last year.
- …I want to give my children the choice of whether to keep it or not when they have a place of their own and they’re old enough to make the decision
- …I’d replace it in the event of damage or theft.
I no longer hold on to objects to honour a memory; I honour those I loved and lost by living as fully as I can. For many years now, I’ve also refused to hold onto unwanted gifts that other people have given me; I’m more afraid of the unhealthiness of emotional blockage and physical clutter that I am of offending folk.
Only three bags went back into the loft, each of them filled with dreams that inspire me to move forward, memories cherished, or practical items for rotation in this existing home. (Swapping rugs, curtains and cushion covers every season gives me colour co-ordinated flexibility and freshness without spending a fortune.)
Blogging has distracted me from a lot of things in the last five months, and gutting my home is just one of them. But as always happens, the minute I cleared that corner of the loft, I longed to log on and share it with you. I have some guest posts lined up with colleagues, but in the next few weeks, I hope to be doing a lot more posts about getting clean, clear and unstuck. Whether you’re a writer, a homemaker, a coach yourself or someone who works from home, I hope you’ll find something to inspire you to get that vacation-home feeling for yourself.
Today, my son was online and came in saying he’d found a house with a porch in Canada and a few homes in our town that he thought I might like as much as the one we nearly built. (My son and I are spookily connected when it comes to houses.) There are rarely any homes for sale within our price range where we live, yet he found five. I suddenly realised that the universe had nudged me into the loft to make room, room for new dreams and possibilities. We’ve built a good life in this house, but when synhronicity speaks, I sit up and listen. We’re going to check out a few of those houses this week.
In homelife coaching, areas of the home can be seen as symbolic. Some say the attic can represent ideas or the future.
A crammed storage space blocks your personal and professional development. It acts like a lid that prevents your tree of life from growing. If you get rid of old souvenirs, keepsakes, worn-out clothes, and other things, you will discover new perspectives that you never dared even to dream before. ~ Tiki Kustenmacher
A Feng Shui colleague of mine once said “Clutter holds your dreams.” What could you get rid of right now to clear some space for new dreams and possibilities?