I love to host. I love to brew tea to pour in small tea cups, coupled with sweet treats. I like to cook meals and create a gathering place, with a peaceful ambiance. I never call it a night if the chatting is rich, or a good cry needs to be consoled. I have an air mattress if someone needs to stay over, though I don’t have special guest sheets and towels, just the one extra set I keep. But I set them up lovingly.
Catering to our family and friends, and helping them feel at home in our own, is a part of building healthy relationships and creating simple, yet enriching, life experiences. Providing them with other types of support is important too. But sometimes these good intentioned behaviors can become excuses for keeping too much stuff in your home.
When helping clients downsize, I often find that they keep items for potential guests. Sometimes this is an excuse for keeping something, in that, they don’t have a pressing reason to keep it for themselves, but the idea that it’d be for a guest creates such a reason. This is common with toothbrushes, sample sized toiletries, international flight freebies, and extra sheets and towels. It’s unnecessary, especially if you live in an area where you can acquire basic conveniences within a short drive (or walk!). There are alternatives to make your guests feel welcomed without holding onto random stuff. You can be a caring host without saving items for these what if scenarios.
Taken a step further, I’ve had clients and friends who get excited by the idea that they have the perfect thing for someone in need, at the perfect time. They relish in being the hero. This makes them feel useful, smart, and valuable (and serves as reinforcement for their pack rat tendencies). These are all good feelings and mostly well-intentioned. But sometimes, this activity becomes frequent and impassioned enough that it becomes part of their identity. When we identify with these types of actions, they take on a meaning of their own, and they prevent us from making the best decisions in our lives. They hold us back, in a way.
Having the right thing at the right time for someone may hurt more than it helps because to replicate this good feeling and identify with the hero role, you keep unnecessary items. This creates a storage unit or store component of your home, and doesn’t allow you to keep your stuff focused on just what you need and want and will use. Multi-functions of a home can be distracting. They can reduce a sense of peace and comfort. They encourage materialism in some form and add self-imposed responsibility in the form of organizing and storage, retrieval, keeping track of what is loaned and to whom. This is an insidious harm, hard to see, but it is there.
I’m not encouraging you take on my own personal way of showing love and care with my friends and family. We’re all different and show our usefulness and support in differing manners. Chose methods of care that don’t involve being a holder-on of stuff you don’t otherwise need or use, or feed into the hero identity. Simply by being your true self, offers the greatest value to all those around you.