As a young child, seven or eight, I remember getting a special birthday present just from my Dad. Of course, my parents gave me presents every year, but it was generally known that Mom always picked them out. This one was different – I knew it was special because even Mom didn’t know what it was! Dad made a big deal out of it by making sure it was the last gift I received. He looked so proud and took loving care as he gently handed me a colored box.
Inside the gift box was a very small wooden shelf with a miniature copper pot, pan, tea kettle, bucket, and mug. I was thrilled! At that age, I loved anything small that I could arrange and rearrange. We immediately found the perfect place in my room, on the wall near my bed, for my perfect little present. I played with it every day for a very long time. Although I haven’t ‘played’ with it in a long time (well at least not the same way as I did when I was 7), it sits on my shelf in my office today. And with the passing of my Dad more than 11 years ago, it is even more precious to me now.
When we work with our clients, we love to hear the stories about the items they want to keep. They tell us about where and when they bought the item, or who have it to them. We learn about what they have overcome, the joys and sorrows of their lives. Revisiting the feelings associated with their stuff helps them decide whether to keep it or to whom they should give it. The process is very powerful and sometimes very emotional.
At The Organizing Mentors, we use the LITL System of organizing for every project, and the first step is “Let it go” – but that doesn’t apply to objects of great significance. We help our clients make tough decisions about letting go of other things so they can reclaim space in their homes to display the things that are most important to them. Those decisions are very personal.
I worked with a widow whose adult children were making her feel guilty about not keeping the master bedroom set she shared with her husband for over 40 years. None of them wanted it, but they felt strongly that she should keep it. We asked her how that bedroom set made her feel, and she said just looking at it made her sad, sleeping was not restful anymore and she did not want a physical reminder of her sadness moving with her into her new home. In the end, she donated it.
Last summer I met a woman who had an unhappy experience with another professional organizer. She and her late husband had traveled the world, collecting little treasures along the way. Many of those items were boxed up and stashed somewhere in the house, so she hadn’t seen them for a very long time. It was easy to get rid of many items, but despite appearances, there was something special about a little statue of a Buddha. She giggled, remember that “it didn’t really even look like Buddha but my husband and I just fell in love with it so we bought it.” The organizer she hired decided that the little Buddha statue was worthless and placed it in the donation pile. When the client said that she would like to keep it, the organizer ignored that request and called the precious memento “trash.”
Hearing that story made me sad and angry. That is not how The Organizing Mentors approach decluttering! We respect and honor our clients, their feelings, and their treasured belongings. We take the time to understand what these little things mean to their owners. We would rather help our clients keep these special items where they can see and touch them to help them feel connected to loved ones and life experiences, especially as memory fades.
I believe that it is vital that people keep the things that truly mean something to them, things that remind them of the past and make them feel good about the future. Take it from a pro – hang on to those objects of significance.