Archive for the ‘Paring Down’ Category

Why People Hold Onto Stuff

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Why people hold onto stuff

“Y is a crooked letter.”

This was my grandfather’s standard response to the basic question of childhood “Why, Grandpa?”.  My interpretation of that expression is that the answer is complicated.  And, when it comes to human behavior,  it almost always is.

Why do people hold onto stuff?

The answer is complicated because there are so many different kinds of “stuff “, and there are so many different kinds of people.  No two individuals are alike.   No situations are alike.  Each is unique in their environment, and although you may empathize, you cannot compare your situation to theirs, nor can you judge them.  You, the reader, may suggest “Why don’t they just toss it?” 

These are SOME of the reasons:

Lack of permission
Lack of instructions
Lack of knowledge
I didn’t know it had a deadline
Not aware of an alternative
I borrowed it, and don’t know if they want it back.
Out of sight, out of mind
I may need it someday
Can’t waste
Someone else may need it
Belief that it is, or will be, useful
Don’t know where to begin
Unable to bite off small pieces to downsize
Not ready; waiting for the right time
Not a priority
Fear of letting go
This is not the first thing on my agenda

I remember a client who received an envelope in the mail marked “Do Not Discard”.  She didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to throw it out, and asked for my direction.  The envelope dictated “Do Not Discard”.  The envelope contained a promotional offer which she was not interested in, but the envelope dictated TO HER “Do Not Discard”.  Most people would ignore that demand, but she was confused.  The instruction “Do Not Discard” meant do not discard, period.  It’s a real story, yes!  So, you don’t believe that there are people who could think that way?  This case may be an extreme, but this is the perfect example of the #1 reason why people hold onto stuff.  Many people simply don’t feel that they have permission to get rid of things. They need to be reassured that they are adults, and it’s their stuff to do with as they like.

Clearing out a garage, a closet or a home often requires empowerment.

I had another client who presented me with shopping bags filled with mail (some unopened) and assorted papers.  She can’t decide WHAT to do with each piece, and asked me to explain what they were, so she could make the decision to keep or toss.  Lack of knowledge (“something MIGHT be important that I’m not aware of.”) or instructions (offer expired last month) kept her from making decisions. And this is the #2 reason why people hold onto stuff.  They simply can’t imagine how to proceed – it’s overwhelming. Attics, basements and garages are filled with boxes of past taxes and paid bills because the owners don’t know when they can discard or shred the material.  Pantries, refrigerators and bathroom cabinets are filled with expired food items, medicines and cosmetics.

Where do I start? What’s important? What if I make a mistake?

The future is a mystery to everyone.  “ I may lose the weight, and get back to that size.”  “What if I gain weight again, and need the larger sizes?”  “What if I need it someday?” “I once wanted to travel to those destinations.”  “I used to like to participate in those hobbies.”  These are familiar comments and questions from those who hold on to old clothing, accessories, papers, books and household items.  Closets, cabinets, files and drawers are filled with hope and future possibilities for many.

The environmentally conscious individual will always be concerned about waste.  They wonder if someone else could use the items they own.  Therefore, they will hold onto their stuff until they know the answer.

Some individuals cannot distinguish whether a book or collection is clutter or a treasure.  You might think of clutter as you might consider a weed in the garden.  But, some people enjoy weeds, a.k.a. wild flowers.  Defining irrelevance is not cut and dry. 

My grandfather knew that education is a necessary response to the most tough questions.   The answer to “Why” is complicated, and helping someone to let go of their stuff (or to organize their belongings), begins with learning more about themselves.

It’s a virtual cycle. Clear your mind and then reorganize.

Reorganize and in turn, your mind will feel clearer.

Plus, you may even remember where everything is!

(Reprinted from Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today)

The Right Strategy for Paring Down

Monday, October 9th, 2017

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”
– – A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh

Before you tackle your next organizing project, will you plan and strategize?  What motivates and inspires you?

I have helped 600+ individuals to successfully accomplish their organizing goals with solid plans and strategies.  I believe that there is no “right” strategy.  As your personality is unique from your friends and relatives, so are your styles to succeed.  We cannot compare our stuff with others’, nor can we compare our ways and lives with that of others’.  Each project and each individual is unique, and there are so many different strategies to pare down and/or organize your “stuff”. 

Recently, a new client asked for my help.   Sheila (fictitious name, real person) had experience paring down possessions, but this time it was too emotional for her to do alone.  Her mom had passed away, and the home needed to be cleared out.  Sheila was afraid that she would procrastinate and it would not get accomplished.  Her budget was limited, too.

Sheila accepted my first recommendation which was to complete a specific task on her own within one week.  Sheila completed her assignment successfully. She trusted the idea to work with me virtually to achieve ultimate success, and keep her expenses low. Her next assignment was also completed on time. I estimated the project to complete in six months, this was agreeable to Sheila.

With my feedback, advice and encouragement, Sheila was motivated and held accountable for her success.  Her organizing/paring down project was completed in 3 months….way ahead of schedule. The strategy, that I recommended to Sheila, worked! 

Part of our strategy was to start with easy decisions.  The easier the decision, then the organizing process flowed.  If you start with the hard decisions, one could get stuck.  I vote for easy, and small changes over time.  Leo Tolstoy, the great author of War and Peace, knew that great success was achieved by taking baby steps. He said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”   Taking baby steps give us a chance to experience the changes in our lives.  When we give ourselves time to make decisions, (to keep or eliminate our things, relationships and/or relationship(s) with things or people), we have great opportunities for success.

The industry of Professional Organizing officially began in 1985 by a handful of bold women.  Today, there are thousands of professional organizers in the world, each having a specialty, unique personality, style and philosophy. Marie Kondo, a new popular author of simplifying, emphasizes that if “the thing” does not resonate with you, “it” no longer belongs in your life.  That makes for an easier decision to keep or eliminate. 

Be successful at organizing your space and your life.  Make thoughtful decisions to keep or eliminate, and organize the “best way” for you.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends gave everyone, at every age, a sense of joy, adventure, loyalty and accomplishment.  Allow them to be inspiration for your next organizing project.

The Rewards of Organizing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The Rewards of OrganizingThis story is true but the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent.

Given a choice, would you choose freedom or burden?  Pierre chose to fly like a kite, free from the burdens of his “stuff.”

Pierre is 60 years old.  For decades, he ran a successful business and was the family member in charge of multiple generations’ history.  Can you imagine the collection of papers and artifacts that accumulated in his home, office and multiple costly storage rooms?

Each storage room cost Pierre $4,800 each year.  The thought of facing the contents of the room was stressful, causing daily anxiety.  He was determined to simplify his life but overwhelming feelings influenced his procrastination.  Finally, with lots of caring, non-judgmental support and the dedication of 5 hours organizing with me to sort through and make decisions, here are the results:

  • Emptied one storage room.
  • Found forgotten items to be used today.
  • Enjoyed various memories.
  • Connected and shared with assorted family members interested in artifacts.
  • Employed a shredding company to shred 25 boxes of old tax info and dated material.
  • Made charitable donations of supplies, electronics and furniture to a local children’s after school center.
  • Added tax deductions for donated items.
  • Received help from an intern in exchange for a well-deserved college recommendation.
  • Saved $4,800 per year on storage bills.

Pierre is now relieved of much stress and anxiety, feeling lighter, happier and energized.

As you can see, simplifying and organizing is not only freeing, it’s giving, sharing, connecting, and empowering; in addition, it’s making others happy and successful.  It’s also cathartic, emotional and strengthens relationships.  The costs of storing “stuff” are more than monetary.  They can take their toll on our emotions and relationships.

Pierre chose to take the time to reduce his burden and feel the freedom.  Can he tackle another storage room and gain more freedom and joy from the burden of excess?  I think he knows he can.

Now that you know what is possible, think about your “storage costs”.  Is it overwhelming?  Now, count to 10, and recapture your senses from the burden of your own overwhelmed accumulations.  Can you tackle your stuff, and rejoice in the same accomplishments that Pierre achieved?  The rewards of organizing and de-cluttering are beyond monetary.