Several years ago I began to clean out my home of all the items I didn’t love or need. I wasn’t sure what the goal was at the time or where this process would lead I just knew it felt good.
Part way through the process of decluttering my home I came across an article about a professional woman who had downsized her life and career to the point where she had only two keys. She talked about the freedom that came from reducing her belongings to the point where she only needed two keys to protect, or operate, the items still in her life.
I stopped and looked at my key ring. I had more than two. There were the keys to the apartment, my car, two keys for other people’s cars (my sons asked me to hold a spare in case they ever locked themselves out of their vehicles), a key for a fire safe box which held important papers, I had a key on my key ring that I would never use again but it was sentimental to me and even two keys that I hadn’t removed in decades because I hadn’t figured out what they went to. I kept telling myself that as soon as I removed those two keys and disposed of them I’d learn they went to a very important item.
That night I removed the two keys which seemed to belong to nothing and tossed them out. It’s been seven years and I still have no clue what those keys meant to me.
A few months later a few more keys were removed when one son moved away and took his spare car key. I decided to live car-free and gave both my car and its key away. My other son realizing that without a car of my own he might do better to find another key holder for his spare and that was removed from my key ring.
Once I had downsized to the point where the fire safe box held odds and ends instead of important documents I gave that away which necessitated removal another key from my key ring.
I was left with two keys. The one to my house and one that had sentimental value.
The sentimental key
As a child I didn’t have a good home environment and had to find a safe place to live. I was taken in by relatives so I could attend and graduate high school. Upon graduation I moved out, actually I moved to the other side of the country. I removed the key to their home and gave it back to them with thanks for taking me in four years earlier.
I went through a period of trying to find a place I loved more than my hometown and so moved around quite a bit. Each time I returned my relatives would hand me back the key to their house. They told me I was family and if I ever needed to stop in, even if they weren’t home I was welcome to do this. Giving me the key to their home was their way of proving I didn’t need to only stop when they were there. Each time I moved I gave the key back only to have it returned to me when I returned to the area.
When I did find a place that I loved more than my hometown, forty-five minutes away, I attempted to return the key I was told I needed it even more and to keep it. The reasoning was that I would come back to visit either them or friends in the area and should have a safe place to stop when traveling.
My relatives are both gone now and I miss them dearly. In their will they made special provision for me to take any items I may need or want from their home but I had enough, I had a key to the only safe place I could call home growing up. Strangers live in that house now and whether or not they replaced the locks to the house I will never use that key again but that key was love and it will forever remain on my key ring.