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  • Rachel Kodanaz

Touching the Wall


One of my favorite past times, since I was five years old is to swim, a sport that lets your mind wander while following a black line at the bottom of a pool. As an adult swimmer, I swam with “The Masters” swim team, a program offered at a nearby swimming facility. The team had an engaging swim coach that was a remarkable swimmer himself; and one of his pet peeves was when an individual or group stopped swimming at the end of a set 5-10 feet from the wall. He would share his wisdom that touching the wall at the end of a set was as important as swimming the length of the pool. In other words, letting your feet touch the bottom of the pool was a disqualification, one should always swim to the wall as it was the finish line. I would imagine during his years of swimming he too, was reprimanded for skipping out on a few strokes while walking to the wall.

During my many years of swimming (and there were many), I learned the finish line was, THE WALL. My family will tell you when working on a project together, I often use the equivalence of “the wall” to be sure we finish the project. The notion of THE WALL (aka finish line) can apply to most endeavors around the house or at work. For example, preparing and cooking a family meal, the finish line is enjoying the masterpiece and time together. Exercising outside or participating in an online/or gym class, the finish line is the feeling of your muscles as they relax and the much-deserved shower. Or simply running errands, the finish line is crossing the item off of your “to-do” list. The feeling of satisfaction when finishing the task garnishes a feeling of accomplishment and success.

The summer of 2020 is not what any of us could have ever foreseen or planned for. So many of us have been home, rather than jet-setting to a fun vacation, celebrating family milestones together, or just enjoying a baseball game as a rite of passage for a summer evening. Instead, we have been home sorting through closets, drawers, basements, garages, attics and truly all nooks and crannies that can store our much coveting belongings. Proof that this is actually occurring is the lines at your local donation site and the warehouses full of household belongings no longer needed or wanted. Warms my heart, to see the unused-but-perfectly-usable-items find a second or even third home permitting someone else to enjoy an item that has been in the back of the closet for a bit too long. No doubt, the heartfelt feeling is significant knowing the item has found a new home offering similar joy as your once felt to the new owner.

This brings me to the notion of the finishing line. Like you, I have participated in my fair share of ZOOM calls over the last few months between personal happy hours and facilitating virtual presentations replacing the in-person client programming before Covid-19. For me, I found the transition to be challenging at first but once the participants found their cadence the idea of being inside people’s homes was actually very beneficial. The attendees felt comfortable sharing their stories or challenges around their personal possessions and life challenges. While people were physically stuck at home they found an abundance of time to rearrange, sort and donate their personal items that accumulated over the years. New spaces were created for work-from-home offices and school-from-home classrooms for their children. The common reaction from the attendees was the sense of accomplishment by crafting new living space and clearing clutter. The success was very rewarding; however, many were challenged to finish the project, or in my vernacular, successfully reach the wall. There seemed to be a few items struggling to find the perfect home. Believe it or not, the challenge was not what to do with the family heirloom but rather what to do with a few miscellaneous items making up the last 5% of the project. People were fixated on what to do with old photo albums, the high school and college diplomas, the set of dishes where childhood memories were created, or the clothes that still had tags on them. The emotions range from the feeling they were not ready to let go of specific items to placing a monetary value on an item that forbids them from letting go.

Since I personally feel finishing the last 5% of the project requires a commitment similar to swimming to the end of the pool, I believe people need to have the right amount of push or support to reach the wall, just like I did with my swim coach. Believe me, I know the emotional connection to items represents a lifetime of memories. The path in choosing what to keep and what to give away comes with a price: fear and unrest. However, once the stories are captured and decisions have been made, finding the appropriate home feels wonderful. While supporting clients, friends and family, I use the techniques defined in my latest book, Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What to do with yours or a loved one’s possessions. Specifically, The Ten Essentials include creating a project timeline, assembling a supportive team, abolishing all excuses, formulating an elevator speech in response to those who ask one too many questions and creating a list of recipients and items you would like to share with others.

The last 5% of any project is the most challenging and the most annoying. The final decisions are often more complex; no doubt you would have accomplished it already if it was easy. As you plan the remainder of your summer, engage friends, neighbors and even strangers (like me) virtually to help with the final push of your sorting, thinning and repurposing of items. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment associated with a significant project you commenced while remaining “safer at home” during the summer of 2020.


Rachel Kodanaz is a heart-minded professional helping her audiences to Embrace Life’s Challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that comes with life’s transitions. She is also available for virtual one-on-one consulting to help individuals with their current challenges.

Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America.  Her published books Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time, best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, and Grief in the Workplace have received international acclaim. Learn more at rachelkodanaz.com

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Copyright © 2019 Rachel Kodanaz. All Rights Reserved. 

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