I’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book, The life-changing magic of tidying up, and while I found it interesting, I agreed with some practices and have contradictory perspectives in other areas. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Kondo when she says “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” However, I do believe the means to the end is different for every client, and there is not a standard set of rules that can be laid out as a one-size fits all approach.
Know what works for you.
Everyone is different. Our thresholds are different – what some may call clutter, others may call collections. Some may be bothered by a few clothes on a bedroom chair and want things to be tidy, others may say it feels comfortable. Are you a minimalist and like everything stored away neatly, or do you like sugar canisters, utensil holders and appliances gracing your countertops? Do you feel lost when your papers are filed away in folders out of sight; do you feel like you might miss something?
Know your space.
Do you have space? Maybe you acknowledge that you have too many salad bowls and serving platters, but if you have the kitchen cabinet space, is there a problem? My answer would be no as long as you use them and love them, unless you are indeed moving to a smaller home.
Do you want to live in the past or present or a combination of both? Many of my clients have boxes and boxes of photos, personal letters and what we refer to as mementos. Mementos is by far one of the more dangerous categories. I find as I work with a client that we start a box and label it mementos. As we go through room by room over the course of several sessions, when the client picks up something they don’t know what to do with, they often say put it in mementos. So, too easily the memento box can become more than one, and then they are moving all their tangible items that bring back the memories such as travel logs, personal correspondence, and tchotchkes that they have bought over the years….. That is when I have to remind them that the memento box is not a storage unit with unlimited space! I agree sometimes letters and photos do bring back memories of an event that you had since forgotten. Yet, after reviewing the letter, ask yourself am I ever going to look at this again? Does the memory fade when the letter is gone? Is it an important memory to keep? How many letters is a realistic number to have as keepsakes? Typically, we tell our clients limit yourself to one large plastic see through memento box of very precious correspondence, awards, gifts from a grandchild or loved one, diplomas, yearbooks, and thesis.
Take a look at your life. When it comes to clothes or entertaining, keep this in mind. Do you have a closet full of long gowns, silk dresses (some with shoulder pads maybe?), and high heel shoes that you can barely walk in without twisting an ankle? Maybe you don’t attend so many galas and benefits anymore and can donate or consign a lot of your clothing. Are you a stay at home Mom, and your closet is stuffed with blue and black business suits from your banking days? If you return to the work force in a few years, isn’t the fashion or business culture going to be different? Maybe your new company will have casual Fridays and many of the suits can be donated as you probably will buy new ones if ever needed again. The same holds true with entertaining. Do you have lots of formal dinners? If you have three sets of formal china (of which one set is probably your Mother’s or Grandmother’s), determine which set you love and use. If you hate Grandma’s china, then ask family members if they want it, and if not give yourself permission to donate it. Grandma’s intention was not to have her china sit in a box in your basement. If you like it, use it, and if not let it go!
Does the item bring you great joy? Be realistic. If you were to never see the item again would you be heartbroken? For some items, you will clearly say yes! For others, they might be a gift someone gave you that you don’t really care for and find it hard to donate. Or, an item that you spent too much on and certainly can’t give away! Or conversely, an item that was a bargain and you just have to keep it! It comes down to not where or how you purchased or acquired the piece, but present day, does it bring you joy?
Why did you ask for help? Why do you read so many books on how to organize your life? What is the specific challenge you face? Ask why it became this way and how can it be solved? You have obviously reached out for a reason and that is the first step in conquering clutter.