A Thousand Little Good-Bye's and One Big One

My job is to get rid off things. Some things to the recycling bin, some in the donations box, some to friends or family. It’s a thousand little good-byes. They are quite easy for me. It’s other peoples’ stuff. Sometimes, I see a freckle of a client’s childhood burn a bit when they know it’s time to let go. And sometimes they can’t let go in that moment. We quickly enter these tough decisions, even though my clients begin as strangers. Yet I feel that I know them once I take my first survey of their home and hear about what lead them to this point.

I get rid of things for myself sometimes too. I’m always analyzing if my physical world best represents my current goals and the things that make me most happy. So every donation box or garbage bag contribution is a good feeling. I love all of those good-byes because they represent a refocus, they represent renew, and lead to recharge.

Then I had an unexpected moment with a client. We’d been working together for two months to prepare for her move. She retired this year, was planning to sell her home, and move to another state. I was so excited for her. She’d be moving near family, downsizing quite a bit, and I thought she’d be quite successful with her home sale. After a session or two, her perspective changed from focusing on the difficult aspects of such a transition to excitement as well. She worked really hard to be thorough and take advantage of this opportunity to prepare for her next chapter. We worked on visualizing her new place and the bigger changes she could make in the way she lived.

At the end of our last session, as typical, we sat down to recap and review any remaining to do’s and next steps. That’s when I realized something peculiar: It was time for me to say goodbye, to her. We completed our work together, she is moving, and I am likely not going to see her again. 

I had helped her say a thousand little good-byes, and now I had to say a good-bye that filled me with, perhaps, a similar reluctance to what she’d experienced over and over through our work together. When you are in the business of helping people get rid of old things, you forget that sometimes saying good-bye to the people with whom you’ve created a new relationship is part of the job too.