DEAR YOUNGER ME....
A warning to young families from an empty nester:
DO NOT PUT OF UNTIL TOMORROW, WHAT CAN BE DONE TODAY:
Earlier this year, I spent several days in the basement of a client, wanting to get her home ready for a future move. We were about two days in, with seemingly a long road ahead, when she sighed heavily and called out her warning to me. “Whatever you do” she said, “Do not wait forever to go through your stuff and get rid of it like I did!” Her large storage room was packed with the all of the beloved and not so beloved things of yesteryear. Her three adult children had moved out years ago. We had sorted piles of kids keepsakes, stuff to donate, stuff to give to her children, stuff to sell and stuff to keep. She told me that if she only could have known when she was younger what a burden all of her stuff would become, she would have none a better job of dealing with it then rather than letting it build up.
AVOID STOCKING UP ON BARGINS:
“Better yet”, she said, “If I would have known better, I would not have collected half this stuff in the first place.” She pinpointed one of her downfalls to be stocking up on sale items that she couldn’t pass up because they were bargains. She loved to entertain, and in her head, she wanted to be ready for future parties and celebrations. She also wanted to be ready to decorate for upcoming holidays. As it turned out, many of those “great deals” ended up being a waste of money because she never got around to actually using the supplies.
THE LONGER YOU WAIT, THE BIGGER THE BURDEN:
Of course this wasn’t the only thing taking up space in her storage room, it simply added to the ever growing pile. She had accumulated a mountain of stuff that fell into the ambiguous category of “No longer treasures, but not yet trash”. Including old furniture, home décor and framed photos that no longer merited a place upstairs. As the years went by, her storage room became a graveyard of things forgotten from yesterday. I reassured her that her situation was not at all uncommon, many families struggle with the same issue, especially if they have lived in the same home for many years. I commended her for making the decision to deal with it now. She easily could have put it off for another 10 or 20 years. Because this job is a physically and emotionally demanding one, it’s best not to wait until we are 90 to tackle our storage room buildup. I also reminded her that some people leave the job undone forever, placing a giant burden on their adult children.
DECIDE TO DECIDE:
My client does make a very good point though and young families can benefit from not shrugging off her warning. Much of the stuff we store in our storage rooms ultimately represents indecision, and it is tempting to put off all of those difficult decisions until tomorrow. My client suggests that you “Make it your goal to thoroughly go through your clutter well before the last child leaves home”. “Deal with clutter when you see that it is starting to build up.” she says.
LIMIT KIDS KEEPSAKES:
What I have learned from years of organizing is that adult children want only a manageable amount of childhood memories, not a museum of their past. A couple of keepsake boxes and handful of photo albums per child is sufficient. You would be surprised at how many of my clients are holding on to multiple boxes of keepsakes that their children don’t even want.
Take the following 5 steps to prevent storage room buildup:
By taking away a bit of wisdom from my client and becoming more vigilant of what you park in your storage room today, you can save yourself the pain of having to face an overwhelming mountain of clutter tomorrow.
Written By Laura Coufal
Owner: Clean & Clutter Free
Consultant, Clutter Coach
HIDDEN POWER OF MOVING
I often find myself helping others either with preparing for a move, or with unpacking and organizing once they have moved into their new home. But in late February, I moved myself, and was surprised at how much I learned since this time it was my own stuff that I was dealing with.
We See What We Are and Aren’t Really Using
Our move has made me think of Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. When Ryan first made the decision to downsize and join his friend Josh in the quest to live life significantly lighter and more simply, he packed every single thing he owned into boxes as if he were getting ready to move. Then, he only unpacked belongings as he needed them. After 6 weeks, he got rid of everything that was still in boxes. When we move, we are essentially forced to do the same thing. Packing everything we own into boxes has the power to help us see what we are and aren’t really using. In Ryan’s case, he had so much stuff that he realized he only really used about 20 percent of what he had.
In my own move, what shocked me the most is that our family does fairly good job of regularly donating and getting rid of things, but we still discovered that we have a lot of unused stuff. I unpacked our essentials, giving priority to the kitchen, bedroom closets and bathrooms like usual, then within the first week, I eventually removed everything else that we use from their boxes and assigned homes to it all. Once that was done I was relieved to be able to get back to our busy life. But I have to admit that like so many other families, after a month in a half, I still don’t have all of my boxes unpacked. We still have a bunch of boxes sitting in our storage room that have been all too easy to ignore.
Those Leftover Boxes are Full of Hard Decisions
Why haven’t I tackled those boxes? Because we haven’t missed what’s in them one bit. I can’t help but see the irony here, this is the same exact stuff that my clients desperately call me to help them with. But in their case these same kinds of boxes have sometimes been sitting in their storage areas for years after they have moved. They often can’t even remember what’s in them. The stuff they haven’t used hogs all the storage or garage space in their homes. There is more than one reason that we avoid these boxes; for one, in addition to not missing what's in them, other tasks on our to-do lists take priority, or maybe there’s no place to store what’s in the boxes because closets and cabinets are already full. But the biggest reason those boxes don’t go away is this; they hold all that stuff that is so hard to deal with. The boxes often represent indecision. Every single item requires a decision to be made. Are we are ready to let it go? Or out of guilt, do we think we need to keep it? What if we might need it someday? And finally, if we are ready to let it go of it, how do we get rid of it? Should it be donated, discarded or sold?
It Does Not Pay To Put Those Hard Decisions Off
It’s tempting to move onto everything else on our busy to-do lists and put these hard decisions on the back burner. But I know all too well that that’s not a good idea. Just because we are not missing whatever is in those boxes, doesn’t mean they deserve to take up space in our homes for years and weigh heavy on our minds. If you have a couple of boxes like these in your home, they may not bother you much, but if you have a whole room filled with them, I suggest you don’t put off dealing with them any longer. And if you are paying for a storage unit, or unable to use your garage for parking your car, the indecision is costing you money or robbing you of convenience. Decide once and for all to do the hard work of making these decisions and get yourself past them. Because it doesn’t pay to put it off, they will just steal your space and peace of mind.
Let Go of Everything That Has Been Singled Out as Unused
If you are in the process of a move, commit to unpacking every box now rather than later. Take a critical eye to what you allow to stay and be selective. If you have more stuff than you have storage space for, consider letting go of the things that you really don’t use. If in the rare chance you end up needing something that you got rid of down the road, it can usually be easily replaced. Keep in mind that you likely won’t miss 99% of what you let go of. If you decide to keep something, get it out of that box and use or display it. In the end, it will feel so good to get the job done.
Our move has forced us to take a closer look at what we really have, and separate what we use from what we don’t. But, at this point we have to follow through and let go of everything that has been singled out as unused. This weekend I have forced myself to get into my storage room and get through those boxes. Now I have a large pile items ready to be donated. My storage room is finally clean, but it was challenging even for me, because I was the one making the tough decisions about our own stuff this time. I have listed the steps that I took to get though my storage room boxes. Feel free to use these steps as a guide to get you through your own storage space..
5 Easy Steps For Getting Through Your Own Boxes:
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.