While I’d been preaching the virtues of intentional living every day to everyone else, I discovered, when it came time to reinvent myself again, that I’d not been paying attention to my own accumulation. Up until I created the TV show, I’d always lived a somewhat monastic lifestyle in the arts, being a firm believer that he who has less travels farthest. As a result, I’d had an amazing life thus far.
Now, with two homes in LA, a production studio, a marketing company and warehouses full of props we’d used for TV makeovers I, for the first time had inadvertently fallen into the same traps I’d continually warned my viewers about. How did this happen, especially to ME of all people?
For years doing makeovers all across the country, the worry was never about getting them done on tight budgets and even tighter production schedules. The biggest concern and hassle was getting rid of homeowner's existing stuff. Getting them to part with the things they’d hoarded, editing out the things that no longer told their story accurately, was always the hardest part of the process.
I can’t tell you how many times the crew and I would scratch our heads wondering “how did these homes get so out of control?” Now, facing the biggest downsize of my own life, I had a far better understanding and deeper empathy of how possessions can so easily take over.
When I made the choice to leave TV, still at the top of our game, I wanted to live simply again, privately again, and as far away from the spotlight (which never suited me) as possible. However, now in the worst economy ever, trying to liquidate under the radar screen became a nightmare. Not only was dismantling a mini-empire a herculean proposition but also having to worry about the press misconstruing my deep desire to purge, get the hell out of dodge and reinvent, as a business failure could complicate the downsize process even further. The last thing I needed was to read suddenly a headline, “America’s most trusted designer goes bust.”
Frankly, I didn’t care what they thought; I’d reinvented many times before. This time, however, it was more about the potential invasion of my privacy, which would greatly hinder my ability to disappear quietly back into the behind-the-scenes shadows as I’d always done before. Plus, I felt I owed it to all those amazing viewers not to tarnish all the good will we’d shared together by ending up on tabloid covers as salacious fodder.
I can’t tell you how many times I searched my heart and asked for spiritual guidance as it became clear that if I really wanted the ability (and privacy) to reboot once again, I’d have to be willing to literally walk away…leaving everything I’d built and millions of dollars on the table. Had I been any younger, I’d not have blinked an eye. I’d already had a long history of never being motivated by fame or money. I’d walked away from many projects as a result. When the spotlight got to close to me, I’d always ducked. I’d watched fame and wealth destroy too many of my performing arts and celebrity friends and vowed it would never happen to me.
This time, I'd all but have to put myself in my own witness protection program and now even forgo the nest egg I’d worked hard for, I was at one of the most difficult crossroads of my life.
Was my continued spiritual growth worth the risk? Could I return to a life of simplicity after having the best of everything at my fingertips? Would I be willing to put everything on the chopping block in exchange for personal freedom?
The answer for me personally was yes. I’ve never been happier nor more productive because I trusted the very same method I’d developed and taught to others over a lifetime. I’ve gotten the gift of solitude back. I’ve enriched my faith having tested it. I reminded myself that only my core values truly define me and when they’re finished with us here, I’ll be happy to continue the journey elsewhere.