A Fresh Start

–Finding Freedom, Trusting Friends

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you may choose to stop, drop, and get on a plane. In certain situations, this desire to be free may be so strong that it outweighs the consequences of real or perceived shame, failures, challenges, and hidden clutter in your home. The yearning for a fresh start can drive your actions. You may even be willing to risk your reputation as a “got it all together” person.

A close friend tearfully shared with me the story of one of her good friends leaving for California. A few days after her farewell party, the friend, who had just gone through a painful divorce, boarded a plane with only personal items and left behind most of her belongings in a rental home. She had never done anything like that before. None of her closest friends knew the condition of the house she left.

Twelve shocked women descended on the home and within two days cleared the perilously cluttered basement and all other rooms of the house to make space for the new renter. Her friends gave unselfishly of their time and elbow grease. Their friend, now in California, may have felt embarrassed about the condition of her life and her home. It takes courage to admit to the pain and clutter in our lives, even to our closest friends.

My friend then shared that the situation felt like a wake-up call for her. She confessed she tends not to tell people about the hard things going on in her life or ask others for help when she’s struggling. I don’t think she’s alone in this desire to hide and hold it all together.

We may not want others to know our challenges and how cluttered our basements really are. We may fear we look like hoarders to our friends, and some part of us knows there is a relationship between our lives, homes, and psyches.

Maybe we haven’t invited friends over to our homes for months because of this embarrassment or admitted to ourselves what is painful in our lives. We might think we are alone, so consequently, we exhaust ourselves by striving to appear that we have it all together to fit in and to seem “normal.”

The woman who flew to California may have had relatives who did not approve of her move. It seems she wanted freedom from her past, all of her past, and left it behind in Ohio. Having invested time and love in vibrant friendships, she trusted that these women would be there for her in a time of need even though she hadn’t disclosed her troubles. Compassionate friends will do what needs to be done for a beloved one.

I remember quickly packing the cluttered, disorganized kitchen of a friend who was moving at the same time she was bravely battling cancer. Another friend and I looked at each other when we saw the state of her kitchen. “I guess our friend is a bit of a hoarder.” I nodded. We rolled up our sleeves and threw away a varied assortment of science experiments from her fridge. We opened drawers and placed items in boxes as efficiently as possible. We loved our friend and knew she was doing the best she could.

What if we all realized that most of us have some or a lot of clutter and a handful or many challenges in our lives? Knowing this, could we then breathe, relax, and reach out for some support?

Many of us have faced a home or life challenge at some point. We are not alone. We all deserve a fresh start. It takes courage to slowly dissipate the perfectionist pretense, but your heart might be grateful, and those who care about you most likely will want to help.

Reaching out to others for support in times of challenge might be part of a new beginning. There’s a shared humanity that happens in times of transition. We often see that we are perfectly imperfect and utterly human and “flawsome:” both flawed and awesome at the same time.

The invitation exists to be courageously vulnerable in our lives and, at that moment, we may realize that honest communication with others makes the challenges a bit more bearable. The uncomfortable conversations can result in more meaningful bonds and a realization that we are connected in our love and compassion for one another.

A fresh start often involves gently letting go of shame, embarrassment, mistakes, failures, doubt, and limiting beliefs. It includes embracing our deep desire for freedom, growth, and fulfilling, honest relationships with others. Clutter doesn’t define us. It can be cleared away along with disempowering thoughts that can dissipate over time. The rewards of a new moment, a clean canvas, and a more vibrant home are worth it.

Have you ever walked away or wanted to walk away from your entire life and start fresh? What do you do when you need to let go and bravely start over? Do you reach out for support when life gets challenging?


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy


  1. Beautiful, Laura! You have replaced Marie Kondo in my mind. As we cleared away clutter over the holidays I thought so much of you and your kind, soulful voice whispered in my head. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

  2. Laura, this is a beautiful piece from a beautiful writer. I believe your words will resonate with many. They certainly have with me as you’ve given me much to think about. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Laura, “Keeping up Pretenses” may not just be the name of a British series. It could very well be said of many of us. The way I was raised in Jamaica (a former British colony)and so were many others in my age group, was that you did not discuss your personal business, and especially what happened in your home with ‘outsiders.’ As a result, many of us learned to develop the amazing facade that appeared to everyone that everything was just fine…but it could be exhausting. Learning to break down those walls of pretense is truly liberating, and being able to trust that you have loyal friends who have your back, like the lady in your article, is what we all need.

    • Thank you so much for these thoughtful contributions, Yvonne. I often thought I was the only one raised with a fortress of pretense that “all is well” while great darkness (in my case) happened behind closed doors. Don’t let the neighbors know! This can feel so confusing especially when we want to live with honesty and wholeness, vulnerability and tenderness (and less exhaustion!). I appreciate that you see the liberation in breaking down the walls while knowing others will have your back. I appreciate knowing more about Jamaica-that this pretense holding happens in other places too-probably a human thing that gets perpetuated until we break free!

  4. Laura,
    the best nugget of this story might be to realize that people are usually doing the best they can in every situation, and while we tend to want to judge them from the lens we see the situation from, there is almost always more to the picture than we can ever know. Instead of judging, we need to be supportive and compassionate toward them regardless of the situation, much like the friends who cleaned up the apartment were in your writing. Assume positive intent, and help others regardless. Thank you for this great story!

    Rich Gassen

    • Beautiful! Thank you for focusing on the non-judgment nugget of this story because that’s what struck me-the friends who took action, who continued to love their friend who took flight. If we deeply knew what another person was actually living through, I really believe many of us would hold great compassion. This has become an important practice in my life when I notice I want to judge-I shift to being curious about the larger backstory for a person that informed the choices she or he makes. I appreciate your thoughtful reflections and gleaning that important message inside the story, Rich Gassen!

  5. Very nice article.
    Make a radical decision about your life, get help, overcome the fears of a change and a beginning. There is a lot of stuff.
    Letting go and leaving seems like a dangerous choice, because we don’t know what awaits us after the jump, or we have a vague idea. Losing health, smile and serenity, on the other hand, is not so scary, strangely! It’s not scary to waste your time, and to grow old without leaving a mark, because these are things we are used to. They are comfortable problems, which we know. In practice, in order not to face problems that we do not have yet (and perhaps we will never have) we hold onto those we already have. We underestimate the damage of “not acting, we think that letting go of everything is unconscious, we are afraid of making mistakes and / or we have little faith in ourselves or, again, we give too much weight to the opinions of others or seek other excuses.
    Of course, asking for help is not a form of weakness or shame.
    But here it is not a matter of deciding whether to pretend nothing and continue everything as before, or give up everything and leave, or even simply face the change we need, whatever it is. This is a detail. Here it is a matter of deciding whether we want to lose the challenge with fear again, or, for once, face it.
    The decisions we make define us as people. Who we want to be: this is what we are deciding.

    • Oh, I very much appreciate all your insights, thoughtful reflections about the layers of this topic. Like the trapeze artist swinging from the bars-we take a huge risk letting go, flying through the air, not knowing -really-if the other bar will be there- Reaching for that new life really does require letting go, being suspended in mid-air, and reaching with faith and trust. Not for the faint of heart and well worth the experience of liberation! Thank you so much for all your rich comments, the way you’ve thought through many different aspects of this multi-dimensional topic. Grateful.

  6. Laura, I am at the dentist‘s office, so I can’t say too much right now. But I absolutely love the idea of “flawsome”! More later! Oh, but when I dictated flawsome, what I got was “floss them!!! Too perfect!

    • Hilarious, Susan! Of course this would happen at the Dentist’s Office! LOL! I appreciate your humor so much!! Floss those pearly whites and live a flawsome life!! :) Hope all goes well. I’m due for my dental check up!

  7. Great article Laura. We’re all guilty of wearing that “I’ve got it together” mask, even with friends and family. Cultivating friendships in where we are free to be transparent is so important. That involves risk, but it’s always worth it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Mike! Being vulnerable with “safe” people really does make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. I appreciate your thoughts and honesty about that mask wearing “got it together.” challenge for most of us and contributions to this discussion. I’ve noticed that transparency can become a way to live life….holding up that mask can become utterly exhausting….