Unhappy Families

As Leo Tolstoy, the great observer of the human condition, wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s easy to talk about surrounding yourself with a home full of furniture and objects that bring you happy memories. But, of course, life is never quite that simple.

I work with clients who, like many of us, have mixed emotions about their past. They may feel a burden of responsibility, rather than pleasure, when it comes to inherited objects. Sometimes they own very little from the past. Sometimes way too much. Here’s some thoughts on how I help my clients (and myself!) work through these complexities.

First of all, it’s important to understand that the furniture and objects that belonged to, or are a reminder of, a particular person are not actually the person themselves. If you find yourself overwhelmed by too many inherited possessions you may be finding it difficult to make this distinction.

It is also not anybody’s responsibility to be the family archivist or keeper of objects if they don’t want to be. Just because you’re the one with the big shed doesn’t make you automatically the one ‘in charge’. Only keep the furniture and objects that fit into your current life and home and give you genuine pleasure now.

Remember how thrilling it is to find something wonderful at an auction or vintage store? Release your unwanted family objects and let other people enjoy that excitement of uncovering a ‘new to them’ gem.

What if your experience is at the other end of the scale? Perhaps you came from a poor or transient background with few collected objects of worth or meaning. Or perhaps there was a wealth of material things in your family home but a lack of emotional warmth connected with them.

The fabulous thing is –  it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. You’re an adult now and you’re in charge.

If family is (meant to be) about a sense of belonging and feeling loved, then the question we all need to ask ourselves is “What do I need in my home now in order to feel loved every day?”. An easy question to ask, but one that often requires some time and reflection to answer. And everybody’s answer will be different.

What’s yours?

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