The Hardest thing to do – to DeClutter

An attic in disarray

An miniature attic in disarray – they could use some help de-cluttering!

I participated in a Decluttering Expo last week – the first I had ever attended. It was held here in Edmonton and featured service providers who represent different aspects of the “industry”. Lynn Fraser, a member of the Professional Organizers of Canada, was one of the organizers and primary speaker. Her business, “Balance your World with Lynn Fraser” revolves around what she called holistic de-cluttering. I liked the sound of that because it has been my experience that most of us are way too attached to our things and separating ourselves  from objects that we feel are so much a part of our identity can be very difficult.

Objects that are inherited from an ancestor can take on almost mythical importance and sometimes what is needed is a dose of cold reality. By that I mean finding out what those things are worth on the market today.

There are many other strategies for gently extricating yourself from the memories and the guilt that often accompanies letting go of objects that we have treasured at some point in our lives.(See the list below)

Collections can be hard to part with - both emotionally and financially

Collections can be hard to part with – both emotionally and financially

It is very easy to accumulate collections of almost any kind, especially when you deal with antiques, and I have more than my share –  however I have made a concerted effort to reduce the items in my home. Since being invited to be part of this event about a month ago I found myself motivated to tackle my own ‘hotspots’ as Lynn would call them. I finally went through letters, photos, vintage clothing, and clothing I had woven when I went to art school. On one hand it was kind of sad to say goodbye to these objects, but I told myself that I still had the memories. I didn’t need the stuff.

The things that I refused to get rid of, at least for now, are my journals. I have written in a journal ever since I was eleven years old and continue to do so on a weekly basis. Did you know that these types of papers can be donated to community archival groups? It is somewhat depressing to realize that we live in a world where things we write on line will live on forever yet what truly survives when that communication is only digital? There is no substitution for touching a letter that was written by a loved one.

El Rastro Flea Market in Madrid Spain

Could you sell your items to someone who might appreciate them? Don’t toss them out – find them a good home.

When we give things away or sell them we are not “getting rid of them”. We are simply finding them a new home. What do you think?

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Is this item actively enhancing my life right now?

2. Is this something I’ll want my children to see one day? Will they even care?

3. Do I already have several of these? Do I really need more than one?

4. How much would it cost to replace if I needed another one at some time? 

5. Can I organize these items so that they at least take less room?

6. When I wear this, do I feel good or is it just taking place in my closet?

7. Is there someone who might want this or use this more than me?

8. Would I bother moving this to a new home? Paying for storage?

9. Does this item take more maintenance than it’s worth?

10. Might someone want to buy this?

6 responses to “The Hardest thing to do – to DeClutter

  1. I cringe every time I hear/read the advice to “get rid of it”. I have very little to show for my parent’s lives and nothing for my grandparents. Nothing. It’s proven that children have a better sense of self if they know “where they came from”. I see no reason to “get rid” of family memorabilia just so you have a little more empty space. If you have a family member who is interested in genealogy or family history, by all means give it to them now! Otherwise, hang on to it. I was 65 before I became interested in family history. My children have no interest but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop researching and I certainly won’t be getting rid of anything.

    • I hear what you are saying and agree when you say that if there is a person who is interested in genealogy or the family history to give them the memorabilia. If people hadn’t hung on to letters written to them there wouldn’t be the material available to authors and researchers. I filled that genealogical role in my family however it became too much. I solved part of the problem by giving back some of the letters and pictures to the people it related to and I culled my photographs by about 500. In the past we all took two or three pictures of the same thing in case something should go wrong, and then of course we had to pay to have them developed. Then, we ended up with three of everything. I spread the wealth around. It is completely useless to have photos of people that are unidentified so I always tell people to write the names on the back in pencil… you just never know…

  2. Thank you Johanne…you have helped me immensely! I come from a family of antique collectors, and have inherited collections from 3 households (not including my own stuff)! This article was certainly timely as I am definitely in a quandary as to how to detach from “things”.

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