Forget spring cleaning! From the emails I’ve been receiving lately, many of you tackle your cleaning during the summer months. The most common complaint I hear? “How do I get rid of all of this stuff?”
I thought it might be helpful for those of you up to your eyeballs in un-necessary clutter to read part of a column I wrote in 2008. To bring you up to speed, my husband’s dear godfather had died and we had to clear out his home. It was a monumental task, physically as well as emotionally. But the process also taught me some valuable lessons. Perhaps my experience will offer you some insight about why you may be struggling with this difficult situation.
I wrote …
This brilliant man was a retired professor of Slavic languages, his specialty was Russian. He was also passionate about the arts. Therefore, his house was a treasure trove of scholarly works, art pieces, and a vast music collection. And, speaking with love and respect for this dear, departed friend, I also can tell you … his house was also a real mess!
I spent the first day, and I mean all eight hours of it, cleaning out the antique Viennese sideboard that now sits in our living room. You wouldn’t believe what it held. Among other things, there were: hundreds of random receipts; every letter he and his favorite aunt had ever exchanged; opening night tickets to the Hollywood Bowl performances from the forties and fifties; decks of playing cards from countries throughout the world; even small art pieces from his travels.
Obviously, part of why it took me so long to navigate my way through the contents was because they were both fascinating, as well as a reflection of the man we were missing. But what also slowed me down was the sheer volume of items that needed to be evaluated in terms of emotional and financial value. It was a daunting task and one, I vowed our children would never face.
Well, here it is nearly 20 years later, and I find myself looking around our house with a critical eye. I wonder what stops me from clearing out all of the things we don’t need/want?
Obviously, there is the emotional attachment we have to our “things.” But really, will the box that held a ring my husband gave me on our 15th wedding anniversary mean anything to anyone else? Nope! And do we need those all of the extra blankets I keep in the family room closet? Right now I could easily bed down an arena full of revelers. Or, how about this flawed logic? “I can’t get rid of this broken tea cup. It was my grandmother’s!” The reality? My Granny was a “mug” woman who had no patience for the prissiness of a tea cup. I have far more precious belongings to keep her memory alive in my heart.
It is so easy to believe we actually need to surround ourselves with stuff! Think again. Try taking off the blinders. It can be a truly liberating experience. If you don’t know how to take the first step, there are many helpful books on “de-cluttering” available. Still stalled? Hire a professional organizer. if you don’t have the money for these options, ask your family and friends fro help. It may be easier for you if you don’t have to do it alone.
While I hope to have a few decades to get this house in order, I’m starting to sort now. And let me tell you, it feels really good.