Lessons Learned from Liquidating My Household


The wisdom teachers are right when they say not to worry about things ahead of time. When we first decided to move to Nicaragua we debated whether or not to get a storage unit. But given the open-ended nature of our plans, it just seemed odd to be paying several hundred dollars a month for a tiny room of dusty stuff in Dallas.

Even so the idea of liquidating everything tripped my stress circuits. My husband Rich and I had the conversation about it shortly before I left for my retreat in Mexico and honestly I couldn’t absorb the idea or imagine the process of selling everything then.

But when I got back and we had the conversation with the kids — and they surprised and delighted us with their enthusiasm and the ease with which they took the news — somehow the stuff got a lot easier to let go of.

It reminds me of a lesson I learned from Ms. Maggie, Coleman’s first preschool teacher in Boston. As I completed grad school and we anticipated our move to Dallas with Coleman who was not yet two, she told us to prepare him for the transition by gently reminding him that “we are home” whenever the three of us were together: at the grocery store, at the park, in the car.

Home is felt sense. People more than a place.

And sometimes to say yes to the next phase of your life you have to blow up the box or dissolve the box you are in.

Now selling everything and starting fresh is not always the best solution. In fact I’ve done it a few times before when I was younger and more mobile, only to have regrets about things I had to repurchase.

But this one feels different. Maybe the third time is the charm? It feels very clean. Like Elvis has left the building. The home juju just isn’t in these material possessions any more. And to hold any one object up and weigh it against a Nicaraguan sunset. Or more time in the hammock. Or more just saying yes to my kids, or hiking and exploring new areas of natural beauty. It is as if each item is rooting for me to let it go and yearns to be in the “for sale” pile.

At the estate sale this weekend people kept asking if I was doing OK. Or almost apologizing for walking around our house. We kept telling them, no one has died. You are doing us a favor!

And I was surprised how emotionally light the process was after I found a home for a few special (almost sacred) things: my mandarin, kumquat, and fig potted trees, my garden Buddha and dove, vintage turquoise glider, and fountain. Plus the kid’s art and our framed art collected through the years and photos from our Peace Corps era and wedding. A few old letters and the like. All of which my sister will integrate into her new outdoor living space or store for us in the attic.

The rest – is ready to move on. With the exception of the vintage desk on which I write these words. Selling this beauty smarts a little. When I got it I thought it was the desk I would have for my whole life. But I am trying to just be with the feelings and listen for a solution. It is too ginormous for my sisters to babysit for us. If you have any ideas let me know! I’m flirting with the idea of donating it along with some other furniture at the end. Somehow that might make it easier.

Now we are in a gloriously awkward in-between phase. Here is a tip: make sure you have the suitcases before you disgorge your kids clothes and sell their dressers. There are clothes everywhere.

Plus of course I stayed up too late prepping for the estate sale and with all the dust swirling and countless hands and people I interacted with I came down with a summer cold.

What I am learning makes this all easier is to create little oases of calm. We are keeping a few important pieces of furniture until the end — sold to friends or others willing to wait to pick them up until the day before we move. My bed is one. (Helpful as I’ve been living in it with a box of tissues and diffuser nearby.) Our kitchen table another. Our favorite couch a third.

In the wake of the sale with so much emptied out I can really see the bones of the house again and am reminded of when we first moved in. I feel such gratitude for this house we bought when I was pregnant with my third and had a  two and four year old. It literally has been the space in which I raised up my young, kept them safe, and equipped them for the wider world.

I’m sure I am way too close to this process to distill anything down to easy “tips” or life-coachy expertise. But I can say that it has been such an affirmation of the way the outer and inner life mirror each other. And in both spheres in certain moments what tastes the sweetest is not something you can hold in your hands, but simply the space for the new.

Love and all the good,

Courtney

PS I do want to thank each of you for your kind and encouraging words last week — it meant so much to me. I’ll keep you posted, each and every step. Also my second beta test for the FLOURISH 8 step Coaching program is off and super fun! If you would like to learn more about this powerful coaching program (with group and one on one coaching, excerpts of my forthcoming book plus the bonus of participating in my upcoming Nica retreat in October) grab a complimentary discovery session here and I’ll share all the details!

xo Courtney

Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the creator of the 8 step FLOURISH Formula Coaching program and publishes a popular blog on soulful living. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram (a personality map), meditation, and mindbody practices to reduce stress as well as supporting busy women who want to unlock their greatest gifts and thrive in their personal lives. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. Interested to learn more? You can schedule your complimentary discovery session here.

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