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Got the storage room blues?

Overview

Published: 01/25/2012

by HELLEN BUTTIGIEG

Oh, the things that we keep. The other day,I found myself in our storage room, digging through bins and boxes. I was in
the mood to get rid of stuff, in my ongoing effort to create more breathing space down there (I admit it – it’s an obsession). Although I was tempted to go through the kids’ boxes, I knew better than to do it without them present. I had to take a hard look at my own stuff. These are the lessons I applied when sorting through my stuff.

 

Take baby steps: Over the past few decades, I have whittled my own memorabilia down to just one medium-sized box. It’s been a process (I started with several), and letting go has become easier from one year to the next. Now it was time to reduce the mementos so they would fit into a small, more manageable container.

 

Enjoy reminiscing: Part of what I enjoy about the decluttering process is revisiting the past. It’s funny how we forget
things. Like the comments teachers wrote on our college assignments (“with some structured instruction, you could become a brilliant writer” – I think that was meant as a compliment). Or what our high school friends wrote in our yearbooks
(“to a most inventive, original, gutsy girl” – I never saw myself that way).

These memories can give us clues about our talents and attributes. They’re a way of excavating our true self – the person
who perhaps got buried under responsibilities, a real job and a mortgage. That’s probably why it’s taken me so many years to whittle down my keepsakes.

 

But when the time comes to go to a retirement home (hopefully, many, many years from now), I don’t want to be dragging in Rubbermaid bins full of my past. By then, I plan to have streamlined my bin to just one small shoebox. 

 

Overcoming fear: So here’s what I did – maybe this will give you some ideas if you’re tackling your memorabilia stacks
soon. I had several plaques awarded to me for past accomplishments (like getting the highest mark in Marketing 101). They were bulky and heavy. So I photo-graphed them and then tossed them.

 

I felt a small pang of fear, I won’t lie. Accomplishment is one of my top values, and one of my biggest attachments. But
when that voice inside my head said ‘if you toss them, you won’t have any proof left of how smart you were’, I rebutted ‘Oh yes I will, because I’ll have the pictures of my certificates in a folder on my computer, and I can look at them any time I want, without having to go in the basement and dig through the bin – so there!’ (I’m very long-winded when I talk to myself).

 

This simple step, of photographing bulky items and then tossing them, allowed me to reduce my things to fit the smaller
container. Mission accomplished.

 

Decluttering will make everyone’s life easier. What are you most attached to from your past? It’s okay to keep some of
that stuff, especially since it probably ties into your values. But if you can take some small steps towards reducing the volume, you can make space for more current, relevant stuff. And it won’t be such an ordeal when you want to
revisit the good old days – just open a digital file or photo album.

 

Also, when it comes time to exit this life, wouldn’t it be comforting to know you’re leaving enough to be remembered by,
but not so much that it burdens those you leave behind? That thought may be a little morbid, I know, but as a professional organizer, I have seen families agonize over what to do with the ‘inherited clutter’ – and it’s especially overwhelming
while they are grieving.

 

Here’s something to keep in mind: Decluttering is not just an act of self-care, it’s an act of love towards those closest to you. So if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones.  

 

Hellen Buttigieg, CPO, a Certified Professional Organizer, life coach, TV host and owner of We Organize U, can be reached at 905-829-2219 or info@weorganizeu.com

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