Independence from your clutter


Happy 4th! Here’s an updated post from the archives so you can gain independence from your clutter!

I’ve been doing some research into the positive effects of de-cluttering and organizing*. I came across a great study carried out for, about trends in people’s homes. Did you know that 52% of Americans describe their home as cluttered?

* For more on the positive effects of de-cluttering, see: “The Two Sides of Clutter”

Clutter and Guilt

In the same survey, people revealed that they keep some items they don’t use or need because they feel guilty about getting rid of them. The top items – gifts, family heirlooms, clothing, greeting cards, and children’s toys and artwork.

There are lots of tips I could give about how to decide what to keep and what to “recycle”. But no matter how capable you are of making these decisions, you may have to get over the “emotional divide” first. This is where the thought of letting go of items fills you with such angst that you avoid those decisions, even when you know it’s time to make them. One reason these decisions can be difficult is that, even before you begin, you imagine the pain you’ll feel when you have to get rid of items, and this anticipated pain far outweighs the logical reasons to de-clutter.

Instead, what if you knew you could give those cherished items the send-off they deserve on this (or another) Independence Day? I bet you’d feel much more comfortable letting items go.

Shift your mindset

This simple shift in mindset helps folks see the possibilities of successfully processing “cherished clutter” (memories of happy events) and “obligated clutter” (“I’m the only one in the family with room for Aunt Sally’s sideboard”).

I help families come to terms with this letting-go process. I do it in a way that honors the items and the memories associated with them. I might, for example, suggest we pretend to curate an exhibition for an art gallery. What photos and items that represent important events or eras in your life would you choose? Then you send off the rest with love and gratitude for their service.

With one couple, I proposed an “awards ceremony”. They loved the idea and invited family and friends to help celebrate their past as well as this new, downsized, chapter. The ceremony (which I MC’d) honored the top treasured items they were keeping to represent different parts of their lives, as well as the items they were letting go. Of the ones they let go, I helped arrange for them to be photographed and turned into framed collages as well as digital slide shows, which they could load onto a digital picture frame. In this way they were still able to stay connected to the items and the memories they provided, even if they no longer had the items.

What’s your next defining era?

What are the defining events and eras in your life? What would your awards ceremony include?

As a professional organizer, I can help you and your family plan your own “Independence Day”, either working alongside you in your home, or remotely via email, phone, or video call. Contact me to arrange a no-obligation call to help you see what this might look like for you.

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- Messy home, smothered by clutter?
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Ellia Harris