We all struggle with sentimental clutter. However, if we’re being honest, objects are just objects and their value doesn’t magically change just because you have a history with them. Try to remember that the value you’re assigning the object comes from your memories, not the object.
Whether you’re having trouble letting go of old love letters from your high school sweetheart, your children’s artwork or struggling to let go of countless items following the death of a loved one, purging items that have sentimental value is extremely difficult.
Making decisions about emotionally charged objects is tricky. It may bring up emotions, good and bad, reminding you of happier times with family members or memories of those who have passed away.
Then, there are times when you’re forced to make decisions. For example, when you’re moving to a smaller home and have to downsize or if you have to sort through the belongings of a loved one who has passed away.
Whether you’re ready to purge or forced to make decisions,
striking the right balance between how much to keep and how much to let go of can also be difficult.
If you keep in mind that you can’t keep everything, then you’ll be able to part with items that are truly clutter and keep the ones that mean the most to you.
How do you decide what stays and what goes? Here are some ideas for how to keep sentimental items from getting out of control:
Keep the best and let go of the rest.
• Save heartfelt letters, not every card everyone ever sent you
Only keep items you want to display/use.
• Then…display/use them.
If you must have a keepsake chest, limit it to one box and only keep things that can fit inside that box.
• When your box is full, you’ll need to remove something when adding something new. DO NOT ADD ANOTHER BOX!
Be sure the keepsake chest/container is sturdy, pest and water resistant.
• Once you decide to keep an item, take the steps necessary to store it the right way. Do a little research to determine which containers to use to preserve the items. Please note that just storing items in plastic bins is not enough to keep things safe from the elements. All plastic bins are NOT equal.
Keep the memories and let the objects go.
• Photograph or take a video of the objects you want to remember but don’t want to keep. One digital photograph saved on your computer (and backed up in the cloud) is all you need.
Don’t feel obligated to keep something just because it was a gift.
• There’s no obligation to keep things you don’t like, don’t need and/or won’t use.
Avoid feeling guilty.
• It is your home and you have the right to make room for what matters to you most.
Share heirlooms with other family members.
• If you inherited something and no longer want it, ask your family members if they might want it.
When saving items for family members ask yourself these questions:
• Will they want this?
• Do they have room for it?
• Is the item valuable only to me?
The answers will help you decide to save or let go.
Repurpose a keepsake into something new if you’re crafty.
• For example: You can repurpose your children’s baby blankets into a quilt.
Keep one if there are multiples.
• If you know that you won’t use all the holiday wreaths your mother gave you, just pick one that you’ll display during the holidays.
Don’t keep anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to find.
• If something were to happen to you, your friends and family will eventually sort through your things. Don’t keep anything that you wouldn’t want them to see or that would cause them pain or embarrassment or damage their memories of you.
If you need help with this process, give us a call. We’d love to help!
Nearly once a week I get a call from a prospective client that says… “my INSERT BLANK is a hoarder and they need help”. What they are trying to tell me is that that person has a lot of stuff and, in their opinion, more “stuff” than most. That said, although I know what they mean, often, that person is probably not “hoarding”. I hope this information helps clarify some of the misconceptions about hoarding.
The following information is from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (www.challengingdisorganization.org) and from the American Psychiatric Association:
What Is Hoarding:
People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.
Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly.
The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, aka ICD, has devised The Clutter-Hoarding Scale which is an assessment tool to help determine what hoarding is and how to identify the level. This tool helps professionals determine what kind of help is needed. The Clutter-Hoarding Scale is not used for diagnostic purposes or for any psychological evaluation of a person(s).
There are 5 categories and 5 levels of the Clutter-Hoarding Scale:
The 5 Categories are:
1. Structure and Zoning: Assessment of access to entrances and exits; function of plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, appliances and structural integrity.
2. Animals and Pests: Assessment of animal care and control; compliance with local animal regulations; assessment for evidence of infestations of pests (rodents, insects or other vermin).
3. Household Functions: Assessment of safety, functionality and accessibility of rooms for intended purposes.
4. Health and Safety: Assessment of sanitation levels in household, household management of medications for prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Recommendations for PPE (face masks, gloves, eye shields or clothing that protect the wearer from environment health and safety hazards).
The 5 levels indicate the degree of household clutter with Level I being the lowest and Level V being the highest. Below are the criteria regarding two of the above categories: Structure and Zoning and Household Functions. I chose these two as they are the ones that most people can relate to and/or identify with. The others can be found at https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/clutter-hoarding-scale)
The 5 Levels are:
Level I – This level is considered standard.
• All doors, stairs and windows are accessible, plumbing, electric and HVAC are operational; fire and CO detectors are functional.
• No excessive clutter; all rooms properly used, appliances functional; good housekeeping and maintenance.
Level II – Household environment requires either Professional Organizers or related professionals who have knowledge and understanding of chronic disorganization.
• One Major exit is blocked; 1 major appliance or HVAC device is not working for longer than one season; some plumbing or electrical systems are not fully functional; fire or CO detectors are non-existent or non-functional.
• Clutter beginning to obstruct living areas; slight congestion of exits and entrances, hallways, stairs; some household appliances not functional; inconsistent housekeeping and maintenance.
Level III – This Level is the pivot point between a cluttered household and a potential hoarding environment.
• Outside clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than one season,;fire or CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; one part of the home has light structural damage which occurred during the past 6 months.
• Clutter obstructing functions of key living spaces; building up around exits, entrances, hallways and stairs; at least one room not being used for intended purposes; several appliances not working; inappropriate usage of electric appliances and extension cords; substandard housekeeping and maintenance; hazardous substances in small quantities.
Level IV – Household environment requires a coordinated and collaborative team of service providers including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, family, mental health professional, pest and animal control officers, licensed contractors, financial counselors, etc.).
• Excessive outdoor clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than 1 year; CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; structural damage to home lasting more than 6 months; water damaged floors, damaged walls and foundations, broken windows, doors or plumbing, odor or evidence of sewer backup.
• Diminished use and accessibility to key living areas; several rooms cluttered to extent that they cannot be used for intended purposes; clutter inhibits access to doorways, hallways and stairs; inappropriate storage of hazardous/combustible materials; appliances used inappropriately; improper use of electric space heaters, fans or extension cords.
Level V – Household environment requires a collaborative team including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, mental health professional, family, zoning, fire and/or other safety agents, etc.).
• Extreme indoor/outdoor clutter; foliage overgrowth; abandoned machinery, ventilation inadequate or non-existent; HVAC systems not working; water damaged floors, walls and foundation, broken windows, doors or plumbing; unreliable electrical, water and/or septic systems; odor or sewer backup; irreparable damage to exterior and interior structure.
• Key living spaces not usable; all rooms not used for intended purposes; entrances, hallways and stairs blocked; toilets, sinks and tubs not functioning; hazardous conditions obscured by clutter, appliances unusable; hazardous and primitive use of kerosene, lanterns, candles, fireplace/woodstove as primary source of heat and/or light.
Although I have provided information regarding the categories and levels of hoarding, this only skims the surface. If you want more information, please go to challengingdisorganization.org where there is a plethora of information on this subject.
The short answer is NO. Everyone does things differently and, therefore, there is no one “right” way to organize.
That said, the purpose of organizing is so that things are functional and easily accessible..
A good example would be…when it comes to paperwork, some people like to file papers away and some people like to pile them. Whatever their preference is, if they can find whatever they want, when they want it, then they are organized in that things are functional and accessible. It may be considered organized chaos to some, but, if that works for some people then so be it.
On the other hand, if it takes too much time (which is completely subjective) to locate a document or you can’t remember where something is, then perhaps you should consider getting “better” organized.
When it comes to closet organization, the same rule applies. Some people like to hang everything, others like to fold things and put them away in drawers. Yet, others like to color code. Again, organizing is whatever works for you (as long as it’s functional and accessible)
Sometimes getting organized is a matter of just making a few changes. Sometimes it’s a matter of making more space. Sometimes things just need an over-haul to accommodate your ever-changing needs.
Here are some GREAT tips to get and stay organized, no matter your style:
1. If you take something out, put it away when you’re finished using it.
• Example: If your kids are playing with toys, have them put them away before they move on to the next activity. (NOTE: show them how and help them the first few times so that they understand).
2. If there’s no room, make space. Here’s a few things you can do:
• Purge things you no longer need or want
• Archive anything that is not needed on a daily basis (ie.,put olld tax returns in a bankers box and put it in the attic for safe-keeping
• Add Shelving for additional storage
3. If something doesn’t have a home, it will always be considered clutter.
• Figure out where things should live when not in use and put it there (ie, tools should be in the tool chest which can be kept in the garage rather than in a junk drawer in the kitchen)
4. If whatever organizational systems you’re using aren’t working well, change them.
• Just because you’ve been doing something one way, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Situations change and our systems have to change as well.
5. Keep like items together.
• Examples: towels and sheets not in use should be kept in a linen closet; all Tupperware should be in the kitchen in one location)
6. Less is more!
• The less you have, the less you’ll have to clean, take care of and keep organized.
7. Just start! If there’s an area that needs some organizing love, schedule time on your calendar to get it done.
• If the project is overwhelming (ie, the garage), break it down into reasonable chunks. (ie., consider just getting rid of true trash the first time…true trash meaning anything that is ripped, soiled, stained, missing a piece, broken, expired)
8. Organizing is a Process. Keep going. Organizing isn’t something that you do once.
• It’s something that you do, a little bit, every day.
9. Get others involved.
• Whether you’re organizing at home or at the office, if there are other people involved, show them what you’re doing and ask them to respect your work by helping you maintain the systems you’ve put in place.
10. Ask for help. If you need assistance, CALL US! We will bring our unbiased perspective and humor to help you get “better” organized.
• With the help and guidance of a Professional Organizer, getting organized will be easier and quicker!
We would LOVE to be of service!
As you can imagine, my job requires me to be in other people’s homes on a daily basis.
Before starting work for the first time, we do a walk through so that my client can show me around, show me what’s bothering them and talk about what they want organized or “better” organized as the case may be.
What I find interesting is that I see things that they don’t even though to me, it’s obvious.
I think we all, myself included, get so used to our surroundings that we no longer see what others see when they walk into our homes or offices for the first time. Clutter is basically hidden in plain sight:
- The books on the shelf can’t be seen or retrieved because there’s too many framed photos in front of them.
- There are so many papers or mail on part of the kitchen counter that those living in the home no longer use that space for what it’s intended…LIKE a place to eat.
- The shelves on top of the cabinets or bookshelves have decorative items that are there because it never occurred to anyone to change them (or, please forgive me … clean them).
- The garage is full but nobody seems to care because it’s been that way for sooooo long and, isn’t that what the garage is for anyway?
- The files are exploding in the filing cabinet so you just start putting files elsewhere because there’s no more room.
It usually isn’t until the walls are closing in or someone brings those things to our attention that we do something about it.
FYI, I am one of the most organized people I know (if I don’t say so myself) and it happens in my home too. Even though my home is extremely organized, once a year I have one of my assistants come to my house to assess and provide some suggestions as to how things might work or look better. Each and every year something is changed and the change is always for the better. For me, it makes a world of difference.
These are just a few of the many reasons why hiring a Professional Organizer is helpful. They see things with a fresh set of eyes, provide a new perspective and then implement those changes to maximize efficiency and productivity. Better yet, having someone else help you is much more fun and is so much quicker.
If you are feeling cramped in your space (any space), need an update (think filing system) or a do-over (think garage), give me a call and let’s talk about the many ways we can be of service!
We’re ready when you are.