17 February 2014

Organization: It's Just Stuff

I'm still knee-deep in sorting through boxes from my parents' house. I'm also working through our basement storage area in an effort to pare down our own stuff to make room for some of the things I brought home. The bottom line is this: There is WAY too much of it. 

Why do we hang onto things? After all, it's just STUFF. We all know that RELATIONSHIPS are what's important in life, so why do we cling to STUFF?

In talking this through with my grief counselor, she pointed out each thing is a linking object to someone, or something, from the past. We're afraid to get rid of the object because we fear losing those connections. We're afraid we'll lose the memory if we let go of the object. Or worse, we're afraid we'll dishonor the person -- or the memory -- if we don't hold onto it.

So yeah, it's just stuff, but it's way more complicated than that.

I recognize that I have a problem with this. I cling to objects because they take me back to a childhood I can never revisit. They bring me closer to my mom. Or my dad. Or my grandma. Or my great aunt. Or they link me to a great great grandma I never met. The reasons are many and complicated.

On the flip side of this problem is PRACTICALITY. If I had unlimited space, I could keep everything. But the reality is, I don't have that luxury. So I have to make choices about what to keep and what to let go. And truly, there is no perfect combination of STUFF that will make me feel better.

I've been doing some Internet reading about this problem and found three really good ideas to share. I've been doing some of these to a certain extent but definitely need to do more. All of these ideas make it easier to let go of linking objects.

1. One Category Per Day
"My best recommendation is to only (at least in beginning stages) to only deal with one type of item per day rather than a particular area. So shoes to Goodwill on Monday. Books to library sale on Tuesday. Magazines to laundromat on Wednesday. Old food to compost on Thursday..clothing to consignment on Saturday. Old kitchen stuff and whatever to Goodwill on Sunday. Just go to one place per day and work on one type of clutter...much easier...probably fastest way to get volumes of stuff gone. Set aside valuables or sentimental items for later on in the process."

 This is an EXCELLENT suggestion and enables you to move through a lot of stuff quickly. The key is to set up several labeled boxes or bins for sorting quickly. I recently sorted through all the books in our house using this method.

2. Take a Picture
"Technology is your friend! Take photos of your awards, scan those notes etc, upload/save them to a mementos folder, then discard the originals. That way you can still enjoy the memories without the clutter of the original items. Take pictures, put them in a scrapbook, and keep on your coffee table. You'll look at the scrapbook a lot more than you ever looked at the keepsakes kept in a box in the closet."

Another great tip! I used this often -- and am still using it -- to get rid of some of the bulky items. Do I really need these trophies? No, but I want to keep the memory. A picture does the trick. Eventually those pictures will go in a scrapbook.

I struggled with letting go of my doll buggy this summer. But look how big it is! Where in the world would I keep it? So I took pictures and let it go to a good home with a little girl who was thrilled to get it.

3. Do It for Your Kids
"My most potent motive to declutter and stay decluttered is the memory of clearing up after the deaths of both parents and my aunt. Each was a master of the "useful to someone somewhere someday" principle. Multiply that times three, add in the stuff they had saved from their own forebears, and the result was a huge nightmare. I do not wish to inflict that on my own children, and I relish the prospect of cleared spaces and cleared head to enjoy in my own old age."

This is my primary motivator, and something I'm still trying to achieve. Circumstances prevented my parents from clearing out their own clutter, but they absolutely didn't want to leave it all for me. There is absolutely NO WAY I'm going to leave all of this stuff for my daughter to handle. It's a huge burden, and I won't inflict it on her. 

If you're struggling with letting go of your own linking objects, I hope you'll find some of these tips helpful. I'm the first to admit that it's not easy, but I am finally making some visible progress. And it feels good.


Anonymous said...

I'm fighting the same battle. I actually bought a book to help me get started: "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh. Yes, that Peter Walsh, from the TV show, Clean Sweep. It has given me several ideas...I just haven't put them in action yet :( Just wondered...what did you do with the trophies? I have some items like that...don't really "need" them, but they're "too good to throw away".

Janet said...

Thanks for stopping by! I've heard about that book! I may have to buy it! :)
I actually sold those trophies (and another older batch) at our auction. I was very surprised they sold. I pulled off all of the metal labels with names, dates, etc. and took some good pictures. My hope is to make a scrapbook page with the photos and the metal labels.
I've also seen trophies for sale on eBay. Best of luck with your organization! :)

Kimberly Marie said...

You've suggested some very good ideas for organization that I'm sure will come in handy as my husband and I are doing the same thing with a lot of extra "stuff" we've had stored in our garage!