Taking Back a Space

I worked with a client in her family's library. All four walls were filled with books in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There was a couch and a chair in the room. The air in the room felt stale. She felt diminished in this room. I sensed she felt intimidated. I asked her if her family uses the room much. She said no one reads in the room and that the room mostly goes unused. I asked what her family does when they want to read. She said they buy the book online or buy it in the store and they keep the book in their room.

I had her get her husband and son. I had them sit on the couch.

I said, "We're going to go through the books in this room and make decisions on which ones to keep and which to let go of." The husband and wife were resistant. They felt overwhelmed at the prospect of having to make decisions about these books. I said, "That's because you're seeing all these books at once and it's too much. This negative feeling you're feeling now is affecting you when you're not even in this room. You can't afford to keep living that way. You'll feel better when the books that no longer matter to you are gone. We'll go through one at a time. Imagine we're at Borders and you're deciding which books to buy. I think you'll have fun."

I like to tell my clients we'll have fun because it will not feel horrible like they are imagining. Plus as it goes along, the momentum kicks in and they enjoy the relief that comes from letting go. Also, it often makes them laugh.

I quickly grabbed ten books and sat on the floor. I held up the first book, "This one, do you want to buy this today, or can we let it go?" No one answered right away. Initially it's hard to let things go. We get some satisfaction from having things, even if we're not using them. We often see our value in the things we own. Plus we are taught to acquire, not get rid of. I said, "Is anyone reading this?" The husband said he read it. I asked if he could let it go. He said he didn't want to. I asked if he was going to reread it. He said no. He seemed sad. I said, "When you let things go that you're no longer using, it opens up space for something new to come into your life. That new thing could be like this book was when you bought it and started reading it. It will bring a new fresh feeling into your life. But if you let things sit around that are no longer a fresh part of your life, they spoil your life now. You look sad and pale as you're considering this. It's natural to want to hang on, even if it suppresses you in some way. I'm pointing this out to help you see the effect things have on you, and to help you choose in a new way that makes you feel good."

He said, "Let it go."

There were a few more tough decisions like this one. But the process soon kicked in. They were saying, "Let it go", "Get rid of it", and "I don't want it" a lot. I think when people have the intellectual understanding along with the experience, the breaking and shedding of old habits is a lot quicker. They were looking a lot brighter too. There was a strong feeling of vitality coming into the room. I figured that helped give them energy to keep going.

When they were done, pretty much most of the books were let go of. They decided to donate them to the library. The room felt new. They didn't know what they were going to do with the room. They decided to wait and see what the room became for them.