After nearly 35 years of living in the same home it was time for my parents to downsize. Before they moved, my dad had a unique but slow-paced way of decluttering. Every time we went for a visit, he’d offer us something, I would say yes, and my husband would cringe. I didn’t take everything but I do have a hard time turning down antiques and eclectic memorabilia (except for the creepy Santa doll circa 1960).
Most of the time people have too many things for the space they have, according to professional organizer, life coach and TV personality Hellen Buttigieg. The key to decluttering is finding what’s meaningful to you. “Get rid of all of the weeds so you can enjoy the beautiful flowers,” says Buttigieg. “Very often the things that don’t matter to us block us from really enjoying the things that do.”
Let it Go
You’ve decided (realized) it’s time to eliminate the unnecessary. How do you let things go? Some of us may be attached to the past; others might be overwhelmed with paper; or perhaps it’s the kids’ toys that are the issue. Or you don’t really like grandma’s prized doll collection but feel guilty about giving it away. “It’s not about the stuff – it’s about what the stuff represents,” reminds Buttigieg. If you have trouble letting go of something, like your wall of trophies and plaques, she says that the memories are still going to be inside of you. The solution might be to take a picture of them and keep it on your computer. “If (inherited pieces) work in your space and make you happy, terrific; but if you’re paying for a storage locker for the rest of your life that’s not benefitting anybody,” she advises.
Buttigieg’s way of helping clients weed out the unnecessary is to ask lots of questions. “Very often the questions are what leads to them really understanding what they need to do. I will ask questions like: how does that item make you feel? When was the last time you used it? What is it about that item that makes you hold onto it? Talking it through really helps people determine whether the item makes them happy and needs to stay or it’s just weighing them down and cluttering up their mind and their lives and needs to go.” Storage areas are often cluttered because they are places where things can go ‘just for now’. “That’s what leads to clutter is all of those unmade decisions,” she says.
The key to proper organization is to match a person’s organizing style. Buttigieg says clients are usually visual, kinesthetic or auditory learners/organizers. “If I’m working with someone that’s an auditory learner and we’re filing things, I’ll get them to tell me what they want each label to be called. By saying it, it helps them to remember when the time comes for them to look for that file,” she explains. “If I’m organizing a closet for a visual person, I may remove the closet doors because they feel more comfortable being able to see everything they have.” The final step is to incorporate the types of systems that will work best for quick easy access and tidiness, such as bins (clear or opaque) and maximizing storage space vertically, which she says is an often-overlooked opportunity for storage.
It might seem daunting but professionals like Buttigieg will confirm that it’s worth the reduction of stress in your life. “It’s an investment in your self care and ultimately your joy.”
By Becky Dumais