“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned”. Benjamin Franklin
This week I devoted about four (very hot) hours to organizing our attic. As I had plenty of time to think, I recalled some of my clients and the things I’ve learned.
One lady I helped recently made quick decisions as I held up each item from her closet. I was so inspired by her lack of attachment that I spent time going through my closet again and letting go of even more things.
I thought of a project from last year. This client saved everything for a future potential use. We spent quite a few hours together and really connected. We laughed and joked, sometimes in a self-deprecating way. We were Lucy and Ethel. At one point I was literally backed into a closet. I attempted to pull all the discards and donations out, passing them to her as she sat on a wobbly table. While she examined contents of bags and boxes, I started to cry out, “I’m stuck in here, let me out!” It was approaching lunch time and I was, in her words, the benevolent dictator, and insisted that we not stop until everything in the walk-in closet had been evaluated. She was telling me that she had me just where she wanted me and I would not leave until the whole room was in order! I loved her good hearted nature and positive attitude amidst a very difficult season of life. I wanted to have a grateful and cheerful demeanor like hers.
As I worked in my attic, some ideas came to mind:
- It’s okay to take time making decisions about some things. My dad, who passed away two months ago, was a gifted wood-worker. In the attic I found a large wooden trivet, inlaid with decorative tiles, that he’d carefully created. I realized, because of its weight and size, I’ll probably never use it. I gave myself permission to defer donating it, for now, as grief is still palpable.
- An item that’s not loved and used can be tossed. I found the custom made table pad for our antique dining table which we have never used. “I might need it someday” is not a legitimate reason to keep stuff.
- Let go of things if they were designed for a certain season of life. They may have already served their purpose. Bring closure by letting them go. With this in mind, I was able to donate a lot of framed pictures and canvases.
- Cull things that can easily be replaced should you need them some day. I often say things to my clients like, “That old bed pillow can be replaced for a few bucks.” “You can donate your old sheets to the animal shelter. You deserve to sleep on nice sheets!” “Think of the space we’re creating by letting go!”
- Some special items can be displayed as art. Living on the coast, I’ve helped several clients hang surfboards on their walls. This serves a dual purpose—art and a convenient storage system. Oftentimes people lack garage storage space. Guitars and other instruments can be mounted on the wall. Treasures such as classic record albums, vintage uniforms, flags or baby clothing can be framed and mounted,
- For memorabilia limit yourself to one container per category. There is one client who has a two-car garage literally filled with boxes of clothing, sports equipment and school papers from her now adult children. They represent her favorite era—raising kids. I have encouraged her to fill one container with favorite items from each child. Removing the plethora of boxes is a big win for her safety and for space!
I’m honored to have assisted many intelligent, creative and capable people. Sorting through, organizing, and evaluating your own personal stuff takes courage and determination. Folks often need an accountability partner, another perspective, a person to keep them motivated, and ask hard questions.
I leave projects feeling tired, but accomplished. Clients feel lighter, inspired and excited about continuing to create order, beauty and warmth in their homes. We enjoy the process!
Homes are our largest financial investment and the one place we can be ourselves and relax with our loved ones. They are worth our investment of time and effort! What’s your next step in creating a place that truly nourishes and supports your family?
“Our life is frittered away by detail . . . simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau