I have a great book a friend gave me when I first started professionally organizing (way after the days I was sorting the linen closet for my Mom at the age of eight). It is Peter Walsh’s book “It’s All Too Much”, which is a great tome to get a sense of why one holds onto ‘stuff’. It’s a well-written book and I often refer to it.
I look back at the heyday of “nesting” television as I call it, with fondness. TLC had me hooked on shows like Trading Spaces and Clean Sweep. Each week, on Clean Sweep, Peter Walsh went into someone’s very ‘stuffed’ home and helped them part with all sorts of things leading to a successful garage sale. It demonstrated, more than anything, the emotional value people placed on things that others would view as dust collectors.
The challenge for this project was helping a single Mom sort through accumulated piles of stuff in principal rooms and in storage areas. She recently became an empty nester, and also had left a job she held for years, thus giving her inspiration to have a close look at her nest, which she felt had been neglected far too long. It was time to examine piles of things that had been added to and left untouched for years. The guest bedroom had become a drop zone for personal files, gifts, projects for charities and items that were used on a seasonal basis. It was easy to close the door and keep it out of sight. Other areas had accumulated things that didn’t belong in that space, there were unfinished projects and she felt the basement storage areas needed to be overhauled and sorted. A flood had occurred a number of years ago during a busy part of the client’s life, which led to a hasty reorganization after repairs had been completed.
The goal was that the client wanted to bring more breathing space into her home both physically and emotionally. The constant reminders of piles of things and unfinished projects had taken its toll on this busy Mom. And Peter Walsh refers to these exact predicaments in his book.
In this situation the client was highly motivated to make changes. Often times, once an organizing project takes focus, I see a renewed energy in people and their desire to press on. I really believe when it comes to any large organizing project in a home that takes place on a number of different floors that complete focus is necessary. This can boil down to “lets work on these three boxes in this corner of the room for now”.
The client was surprised by how quickly we were able to empty the guest bedroom. The goal was to create a space where a house guest could stay overnight, as well as a storage area for charitable and holiday projects.
The basement storage, had become a catchall for old paint cans, broken things waiting for a rainy day to be repaired, sports equipment that no longer fit or was used, old toys, holiday items overstuffed in boxes, inherited items and more. Especially when it comes to children’s toys there is often a great deal of emotional attachment and enough time has passed where parents look at it as something that will be useful for grandchildren.
This excuse and other excuses to keep these things, which Peter Walsh highlights in his book, are familiar to all of us:
1. might need it one day 2. It’s too important to let go 3. It’s too overwhelming
I might need it one day: The thing is, as Peter says, “clutter stops us from living in the present”. Thinking about and managing all that stuff that may be useful for a future path that is completely undetermined sure takes away from focusing on the now. I rarely watch Oprah, but I did see her one day talking about “living in the present”. It really stuck with me. There’s a lot of talk going on these days about mindfulness, which can come across as a little out there, but it does make sense. It is fine to have things that will help develop your future dreams, but it shouldn’t overcrowd who you are now.
It’s too important to let go: I totally agree with Peter in this area, in that if something is truly valuable for sentimental reasons it shouldn’t be holed up in a basement in a box with mildew around it gathering dust. You think you value it and out of a sense of obligation you have held onto it. Inherited items are another big issue I see. If the item doesn’t suit your lifestyle and really has no meaning other than the fact that it belonged to your parents, then it’s time to really evaluate.
It’s too overwhelming: In this project there were so many toys and games that had accumulated over time with pieces gone astray, Barbie clothes mixed in with doll clothes, miniscule little pieces for board games mixed in with Lego, Polly Pockets and more. This is where extra help can be especially useful. You can almost make it a game to sort through it all! I do believe in recycling as much as possible and most people see huge value in donating toys and games. It was simply a matter of putting Humpty Dumpty back together so decisions could easily be made. And yes, the Polly Pockets did stay but it was a trade off for donating many more other items to some great charities.
The bottom line is that this client got back behind the steering wheel when it came to her home. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and powerless when she came in the door, she felt in control and in a space where she relax and unwind.
Come back and visit to see the final photos of the guest bedroom!
WHAT THE CLIENT SAID “The speed at which we were able to make some significant changes to my home was surprising. Our combined efforts of sorting, packing and transporting items offsite for donating to friends and charity gave me an amazing amount of energy. The feelings of being frustrated and overwhelmed turned into feelings of mental clarity.”