Though my mom was the one who adored pithy quotations, my dad had a few choice ones he’d throw out from time to time. One of them was,
“A place for everything & everything in its place.”
His motivation for reinforcing that adage during my upbringing was to ensure I kept a tidy room. But straightening our sofa this morning, his words suddenly resurfaced as I was returning the blanket I’d used last night to get cozy.
We live in a very small house, a guest house, actually. For most of our years here, we had to deal with lots of clutter because there wasn’t sufficient designated space or storage for all our stuff. After my mom’s death in 2015, I had funds to design & commission some wonderful built-ins that, thankfully, took care of that problem.
As I was returning that blanket to the drawer beneath the sofa, I felt an up swell of gratitude for that specific space, for that blanket having its own home when not in use. That specificity felt sacred.
Then another memory was unearthed: When I was living in Olympia & working as a counselor a lifetime ago, I received a call one morning from a distressed husband & father who asked if I could make a home visit to see his wife. She was suffering from unrelenting depression & couldn’t get out of bed. She had remained there (using a bedpan for bathroom needs) for two years–ever since the death of their five-year-old son.
When I arrived at the address, the overgrown vegetation covered much of the entry porch. The man & his second son immediately responded to my knock; with numb faces they motioned for me to enter. As I did, I was instantly engulfed in a sea of stacked, brown, cardboard boxes, some towers as tall as the man. As far as my eye could see—the entry hall, kitchen, living area—all the space was filled as if poised for an imminent move; only a narrow pathway enabled navigation from room to room.
“Oh, I see you’re moving,” I observed.
“No,” the man corrected. “We just haven’t had the time or energy to put things away.”
This was my first experience with hoarding. As I recalled that scene this morning, I could still tap that almost palpable sense of frozen terrain, of energy trapped & incapable of moving in any direction.
The wife & mother I encountered in bed embodied her own kind of stockpiling: She lay motionless & without expression. The husband’s description & a small pile of used Kleenex revealed that tears had only begun to be released. Bless all their shattered hearts, I’ve never encountered a family so emotionally paralyzed after trauma & loss…
As I closed “the blanket drawer” this morning, it suddenly hit me: everything needs a place of its own, a designated safe space so it can function as intended at the right time instead of getting swallowed up & lost in the destructive clutter of denial or avoidance. That includes holding sacred space in our hearts for grief.
If you or anyone you care about has suffered the loss of someone or something precious, I can help. My grief recovery work facilitates the safe & thorough processing of profound loss so that unaddressed emotional business can be completed & life can get unstuck to move forward again.
Thanks for listening.