“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin” – Mother Teresa
A new year is beginning! What have I been lugging around in 2016 that I don’t need in 2017? That’s what I’m asking myself.
I’m sorting through my stuff. It’s hard. I need a hug. Since I often suggest to others that they begin with a non-emotional category; linens, for instance, I take my own advice. I quickly find that the linen universe is against me. Two shelves in the small linen closet are filled with hand-crocheted pillow cases, sheets, doilies, and more doilies. Why couldn’t I just find old worn out sheets?
A couple of hard-honed truths come to mind.
- Sorting through other peoples stuff is a LOT easier than sorting through my own stuff.
- My life experiences–all of them— are my teachers. They are specifically designed to give me empathy for other people.
After I cull some things in the linen closet, I move on to the room I’ve been avoiding most. Taking a step in that direction is a victory. “Don’t give up! The beginning is always the hardest!”, I preach to myself.
This was the boys’ bedroom. A favorite memory is the time John “personalized” the comforters.
He was about three or four-years-old when I’d placed two new matching comforters on the twin beds. So as to be clear about where he and Ben would sleep, he’d written, in Sharpie, with bold letters, their names on each comforter. He was so proud of his contribution!
In recent years, the room has served as a craft room of sorts. Katherine and I covered the floor with a drop cloth and spent many hours painting signs, canvases and furniture. The items I’d hoped to use some day for making art– those were hard to toss.
After my parents passed away, the room became a repository of antique picture frames, boxes of more antique linens, ancient photographs, etc. There was a painful time of letting go when we cleaned out my parents’ home, but there were still things I couldn’t quite part with.
Thankfully there is something magical about getting started and creating momentum. As I wade through the plethora of stuff I begin to place less and less value on things I thought were important. I’m growing weary of ALL the stuff!
Some thoughts that you may find helpful:
- We procrastinate going through our things and the task becomes a behemoth in our minds. As I say to my clients, “This is not insurmountable!” Preaching to myself!
- Toss items that can be replaced (if needed) for only a few bucks.
- For “some day-maybe projects” tell yourself you can afford to buy the necessary components if and when you decide to tackle the project some day.
- Donate old linens to the animal shelter.
- Donate old blankets to the local homeless shelter.
- Fabric remnants, sewing and art supplies, scrapbook paper, can be offered on Craigs list under the Free heading.
- Give away items on Facebook.
- When confronted with sentimental items, I keep reminding myself that the treasures weren’t meant to be passed through generations. My grandmother, while spending many hours on her beautiful needlework, was not imagining her future adult granddaughter saving her creations for years in the back of a closet. She was creating beauty for her present life and that of her family. She, no doubt, gained much pleasure from her work.
- Folks often keep stuff because of the original cost. That money is gone, and it paid for the item to be enjoyed for a finite amount of time. Its usefulness may have expired. What would someone pay for the item today?
- If something has a story you want to remember, take a picture, write about it, and then pass the item on.
When you’re stuck ask these questions:
1) Would I buy this item today?
2) If a natural disaster occurred, what belongings would I try to retrieve? What things would I be relieved to find gone?
3) Which clothing items would I be devastated to lose through a bleach spill?
4) Does this thing add value to my life? Would the space it requires be more valuable to me than the object itself?
5) Would it be helpful to invite a friend over (or an organizer!) to help evaluate stuff?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris