Do you find it hard to declutter the past, family items, memorabilia and such? You’re not alone.
Decluttering emotional areas and sentimental items is hard, often very hard. It takes longer and is more emotionally draining than decluttering the bathroom drawers or closets.
When I work with people to declutter the past they will often literally just stop moving and do what I call “trance.” They drift away and can’t pick up any more items. Their minds glaze over and all decision making stops. And, that’s why I’m there. To help them move past the past, one item, box or heap at a time.
Why it’s so hard
You are making a deliberate decisions and sometimes pain-filled choices to let go and start freeing yourself, and your home, from the weight of these things and the past. Be patient with yourself. Take time. Don’t let go of certain things if you are really having trouble with it.
You know the best answers for your own life. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. Sometimes you have to be brave.
- one storage box of keepsakes
- one lump of photos
- a shelf of knick-knacks
- a cupboard of old toys or clothes from your grown-up children
1. Things to keep (you may need to return to this box again and cull out at least one more time if you’ve kept too much)
2. To give to others (maybe to children, grandchildren, back to where it belongs)
4. Real trash
For each item you pick up, ask yourself these 4 questions:
1. If my house burned down, would I miss this?
Actually, would I even know I had it? Asking this shocking question several times during any decluttering project really does help get our perspective in balance. We hardly remember that we have 80% of the stuff in our homes, especially from the past. So, if you really wouldn’t miss it or care about it, let it go. Burn Your House Down is also the title of my book and workshop on organizing.
2. Does this item mean something to me?
Often we keep things because we think we “should”. Or, because it is representative of good times, fun holidays, our now-grown children or people we love. But does the actual item, the thing you’re holding in your hand mean something to you?
If not, then the decision to remove it from your home should be simple. Decide whether to donate it or throw it away.
DR. DECLUTTER’S RULES FOR DONATING VS PITCHING
If the item has any life left in it, meaning someone else can use it, donate it.
Let the thrift store decide if it can have another go round or is truly trash worthy.
Don’t send stuff to the landfill that doesn’t have to be trash “yet.”
3. What emotion does this item bring up?
If it does mean something to you, study the connected emotion for a moment.
- What is it? Why do I feel it?
- Do I have multiple items that rouse the same emotion? What if I kept one or two that are truly meaningful, instead of blindly keeping everything?
- Can I take a photo of it and look at the photo from time to time, but let the item go?
- If the emotion is painful, it’s a good time to release it so that you don’t keep bringing up the pain, grief, loss, regret, anger, etc.
If there is no strong emotional attachment you can more easily decide to remove it from your home.
4. Would you display the item in your home?
We all keep things that we wouldn’t display in our home. If you wouldn’t display it, then really examine your reasons for keeping it. (Remember, there is no right or wrong here. But the intention is to pare down and simplify these sentimental things.)
RE-DECIDE AND MOVE ON
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions and decided whether to keep the item, donate it or throw it away – you can let go and be happy with yourself.
- Let go of the guilt of removing it from your home.
- Let go of the weight of the thing you are keeping.
- Be proud that you are surrounding yourself and your loved ones with things that are truly meaningful.
- Bring yourself into the present and the future you really want and desire.
PLAN B: If You’re Really Struggling…
If you’re really having difficulties letting go, you can box up the firm “maybes”, write the date on the box and 6 months later, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate it, unopened. (Avoid this if possible though – you are more likely to hold on to things unnecessarily if you know there is a second-chance rule.)
There is no easy way to declutter and simplify sentimental items, but these questions should help as you move through your storage. Also, know that it does get easier. As you begin to feel lighter and happier in your newly simplified home, it will not be so difficult to let go of things. I promise!
If you’re really stuck and can’t seem to move forward on letting sentimental items go, I suggest
1. Help from a Professional Organizer like myself who can care for you in the process of your deciding, and
A new, very cool new e-tool from American Family Insurance — DreamVault.
With DreamVault, American Family’s Web-based home inventory tool, securely documenting your belongings has never been easier.
This no-cost resource from American Family Insurance enables you to upload pictures of your belongings, add descriptions and organize everything in a way that makes sense to you.
Then, should you ever have a claim or need to report something stolen, the information is right at your fingertips – accessible any time, from your computer, iPhone or Android device.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for your house. When’s the last time you cleaned out your wallet?
While waiting in line recently a woman had her wallet open on the counter of the business where we stood. It was a large wallet with lots of credit-card slots. All full. I counted. 19. 19 plastic cards and lots of paper jammed in as well. I couldn’t tell how many were gift cards, reward cards and other plastic, but plenty were credit-cards.
All I could think was, “Man, what happens if she loses that wallet?”
That’s just crazy.
There’s no reason to carry around that much plastic. You’re just asking for a headache; not unlike Marsha, a woman who left her buldging billfold on the hand-drying machine in the bathroom at the gas station in Ft. Morgan, CO. I know about this because I saw it and took it to the guy at the counter. We looked through it for a phone number, because I was traveling the way of her address on her drivers-license and would have been so happy to take it to her. But, no number. So, I had to leave it there. I felt sick for her!
DETOUR DISASTER: SPRING CLEAN YOUR WALLET
Here are suggestions for protecting your hard earned identity and keeping yourself from overspending and overwhelm if you should mislay or lose your wallet.
1. Take your wallet and dump it out on a clean surface, or towel. If there’s a little mess left over after sorting through it all, just fluff off the towel in the garbage when you’re done!
2. Re-decide what you really need to carry on a daily basis and return to their proper spots in your wallet.
3. Limit the number of credit cards you keep in your wallet. Put any extra credit-cards in a safe place, like a specified file in your file cabinet where they will LIVE until you need them.
4. Photocopy or scan all credit, plastic and other such cards, front and back, and keep this information in the file (or efolder) with your other cards that do not go back to your wallet. This way, if something does happen to your wallet, you know exactly what cards were in it and the information to call to stop them from being used by others.
5. Keep minimal identification on you. You only need your driver’s-license or photo ID, your auto-insurance- card, and health-insurance-card in your wallet. Unless you are travelling outside of the country, you don’t need to keep your passport with you.
6. Social-Security-Card: Your social-security-card should be kept some place safe and NOT stored in your wallet or purse unless you know you are going to need it for the day.
7. Clean out your wallet once a week or at least once a month if you are a receipt/paper stuffer kind of person. Many people collect receipts in their wallets. Get rid of all the unnecessary receipts and take care of those items that need your attention now instead of later.
8. Creat a wallet cleaning routine and habit: You’ll probably find that once you get in the habit of cleaning out your wallet, you’ll find yourself less stressed, confused and feeling more in charge of your financial health.
9. Put your phone number in your wallet with a note of thanks for calling to return it! Had Marsha, that woman who left her buldging wallet in the gas station has her phone number in her wallet, she’d have many less headaches, fears and stressors that she did as I would have called her to return it.
Week two into January, and counting!
Are you back to yourself yet? Are you undecorated and into this new year?
Each persons experience during the holidays is relative of course… but many relatives can be exhausting and frustrating to be around for too long!
It usually takes me until the middle of January to defog my head from my encounters-of-the-family-kind and my family-hangover!… I love them dearly, and, whew!
So, one pile at a time . . . and, back to focus, to
- reorganize your home after your joyfilled present wrapping extravaganza,
- get back to eating better and lose those extra pounds (again),
- get thank you’s written and sent,
- photos processed, up or downloaded, attached and sent and distributed to family and friends,
- photo albums scrapbooked,
- reoganize the decorations and wrapping supplies storage area,
- back to your own routine again. Whew!
- Oh, and start to use up those Gift Cards one by one!! (Thanks Suzi, I used your annual gift to me today – Panera Bread GCard!)
FOCUS TIP: Don’t take too long to get all these kinds of things done as they will keep you from being focused and back to your necessary life and flow.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy
It’s too easy to go through a rushed holiday season and forget to keep track of what was really good, awesomely yummy and something you want to bake, cook, or create again next year.
RECIPE AND MEMORY KEEPER
Create a simple Holiday Recipes notebook, scrapbook or index card holder where you can keep all of your recipes in one place, share with others and hand down to your children in the future.
Be sure to add your personal handwritten notes to them too! Those are great to read by the generations to come.
Embellish with photos of your family and friends enjoying them too! Make it really fun to look at and use every year. Keep them clean buy using clear plastic sheets or laminate them.
Happy Holiday Cooking!
Back up your computer into the ether-net. Why? If you use a physical backup on your office, and you are hit with fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, theft, spilling a juicy box on it!… or other mayhem , you’ll have lost it all.
Mozy is an extremely affordable backup system, I use it. Mozy also lets you tap into your harddrive from anywhere in the world. You can’t do that with a physical hard drive sitting at home in your office.
You don’t even know it’s backing up several times a day.
Find out more at Mozy Online Backup
My nephew, Colton, is a great artist – has been so since he was a toddler! For part of his recent high school graduation gift I took three of his doodles and had them imprinted onto new white t-shirts! What a fun gift to give!
My older brother and my mom want the dragon picture on t-shirts for themselves!
Go through your kid’s and grandchildren’s art and doodles and see what gems you find to have imprinted onto t-shirts, tote bags, etc.!
I had them imprinted at Instant Imprints in Longmont. Owner, Forrest Fleming will be glad to help you!
These and similar shops are somewhere near you as well. See the FIND A STORE at the top of their site.
This is very cool!
I’m not great at using photo manipulation software as I don’t take, send and use photos that much, or if I do, I don’t crop and change them, they have to work as is.
Well, hallelujah! Here is a cool site that makes tweaking our photos more than fun! You can crop and type words on a photo and frame them and all kinds of stuff for free — and for fee if you want more, better, bigger doodads. Awesome. Thanks, Picnik! Go to http://www.picnik.com/, click on GET STARTED NOW bar and have fun!