With the changing of the clocks comes the winter cocooning season, so I’ve started lining up my winter projects. I’ve had my eye on some of these tasks for years, but I have decided this is the year. With both of our daughters onto their adult lives, it seems time to bring order to the chaos that has come from 25 years of “I’ll do it later.”

I actually started on one task a few weeks ago when I set a goal of removing one or two boxes from the attic every weekend. In those boxes are virtually every art project, notebook, school test and essay from our daughters. They’re full of baby blankets, dance costumes, Halloween costumes and “special clothes,” including those that had to be washed daily so the girls could wear their favorite outfits every day. I’m a big sentimentalist, so it seemed easy and smart to simply store it all as we went along, rather than sort through it at the time, thinking that someday they will enjoy reviewing their past.

Of course, pragmatism reigns. After the loss of both my father and father-in-law, I now realize that you can have too many treasures, so for the past several years, I have tried to get the girls to go through boxes with me, thinking it would be “quality time.” No thanks, mom.

While I’ve got dozens and dozens of boxes to go through, it’s amazing how much lighter and better things feel with just a few of them gone.

When we moved into our house, it was brand new. Now, 25 years later, it’s looks tired and dated in spite of a great deal of landscaping effort, several coats of new paint and a kitchen remodel. I realize that the lack of freshness inside and overgrown landscaping can be stifling as my husband and I return to having time just for us. It’s “dead” energy.

We started our lives clean and clear—little furniture and possessions and, of course, no money. And when we retire, there will be the “big downsize,” which will be very cleansing. But somehow it seems that there is an opportunity now with the kids departing to create a mini fresh start.

The “worn-ness” of our lives creeps up on us if we are not careful. After a while, you don’t notice the piles in the kitchen (you know, the piles that you quickly stash when company comes over) or the paint that’s not as bright as it once was. The furnishings are dated even though the couch is sooooo comfy, and the garden gets a little overgrown in spite of constant attention. You tell yourself. It’s fine. No one is judging you, and you don’t have people over to the house that often.

It’s not about the judging. It’s about the open air to breathe and grow…it is about removing the mustiness that has accumulated through years of juggling careers, parenting and marriage.

When the girls were little, we had their rooms painted with the most adorable stripes and hand-painted flowers and birds. I loved those paint jobs. They were beautiful and brought an energy of growth and nature to their rooms, so I haven’t wanted to cover them. I realize now, however, that it’s time. The girls have long outgrown bluebirds and happy flowers, and now those walls have become a dingy reminder of the past. Same thing for the bright purple bathroom that my daughter and I painted one “boring weekend” when we were looking for an activity.

Some think of winter as the time of hibernation, but I view it as a time to rebuild the home and clear out the cobwebs of the past. That doesn’t mean purging the memories or even purging all of those special clothes and art projects. It does mean freshening and opening up the space so that we can grow in the next step.

For me, this will include moving boxes out…some fresh paint…hopefully new bathroom vanities…and replanted hydrangeas next spring. Nothing major from a time or money standpoint—but enough to help us have fresh air, free from the energetic burden of a tired home. I already could feel the difference after emptying just a few boxes this weekend—lighter…free-er…and with slightly less of a burden looming over my head.

As the world gets more high-tech, I believe there is a counter trend toward our root desire for a comfortable home. It grounds us and makes us feel safe. Allowing that safe haven to slowly erode through benign neglect can be subtly debilitating. I don’t want to think of the next stage of my life as the “downhill one-third” so why bother freshening things up. Rather, I would like to take the time and effort to put my best self forward. As they sang in Bye Bye Birdie

“Oh, Life’s a ball
if only you know it
And it’s all just waiting for you
You’re alive,
So come on and show it
We got a lot of livin’
Such a lot of livin’
Got a lot of livin’ to do!”

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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