Everywhere I look, there is a post, a magazine article, or a blog talking about the thing that has so many people baffled. What to do with your stuff. How do you decide what to keep? What exactly does it mean to declutter and what is the fuss all about? And what about the sentimental treasures? There is no one-size-fits-all recipe, but there are guidelines that hold true for almost everyone. They are just vague enough for you to make your own spin on it and to feel successful. And I will happily share them with you now. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest.
If you need it, use it, or if it truly makes you happy and you have the space for it, then it stays. It's that simple!
For me, decluttering and holding on to things for way too long has been a lifelong dance, a bit like fluctuating weight gain and loss. And hey, more on that later, because I see a connection between letting go of "stuff" and letting go of unhealthy eating patterns that by extension allow us to remain overweight. Decluttering isn't something you do once and then forget about. It is a part of a lifestyle that allows you to relish the ebb and flow of the stuff of life. Letting go of what no longer makes you happy or serves a purpose in your present life may bless someone else. And, that makes parting a bit sweeter and opens up a place for something new.
I moved homes several times as a child and as an adult. But one of the most memorable moves was during fifth grade. I am remembering something that happened 47 years ago, so forgive me for embellishing to make my point. What I remember is that one day I was content and happy in my life and in my home of almost 5 years, and then the next I was told we were moving and that I had a few days to sort and pack my room. The idea of organizing my things was completely overwhelming and in a rash moment, I threw away all but a few treasured art pieces and mementos of my youth. I was starting over and I mourned the loss of my neighborhood gang and my schoolyard friends before we had even left the driveway. No amount of paper could make up for what I was leaving behind. I am grateful that I kept letters from my Nana, paper dolls that my mother had played with as a girl, and a few other treasures including a red teddy bear with an eye missing. It made sense at the time to purge and declutter. I was starting over.
But, the lack of physical stuff bothered me on some level; it must have. It would explain my irrational need to keep every scrap of paper from my own children's school days. Sentimental, yes! But, what I have kept of theirs fills many scrapbooks, most of which they will probably rarely, if ever, review. I suspect any psychologist would recognize this attempt to refill a space or need.
As I write this, I feel a sense of closure for the first time about parting with my childhood stuff. And isn't it interesting that after all of this time, my sister reconnected with some of the people from our neighborhood gang which has begun a Facebook reunion. After all these years, the memories of such happy childhood moments are there, with or without the scraps of paper and the boxes of stuff. I am not suggesting that you purge everything. Not at all. Just be ruthless in choosing just enough to make your heart sing, but so not so much that its care and keeping becomes a full-time job. People and events are the stuff of lasting memories. And, yes, I am so happy that Zoe kept this photo, even if I DO look ridiculous with that scarf upon my head!
*photo by Barbara Watkins, taken first day of school, September 1968, used with permission from Zoe Watkins Stigler and Barbara Watkins. Thanks for sharing!