Letting go of sentimental clutter

30 Jan 2013

Stowed away somewhere in the arteries and veins of your home is your 1997 Miss Lovely Legs beauty pageant title sash. It hasn’t been in the presence of an audience for years but you can’t bear to let it go so you keep it tucked away in a box that already houses faded movie ticket stubs, high school newsletters and a thin collection of your childhood drawings.

You can pass along items that are still in good condition to close friends, family or to charity.

Isabelle de Grandpre, professional organiser and CEO of Neat Freak, says the emotional reasons for holding onto various possessions cannot be underestimated. She says a lot of people feel guilty or emotional about getting rid of their things.

She knows that it can be completely overwhelming and embarrassing to ask for help, so here are a few tips to get you started...

What if I need it one day?

The truth is, you haven’t used it in over ten years and you’re better off without it. 

To comb through the stuff you never use you’ll need a level head. That way you’ll realise that in order to use those oven mitts you’ll actually need to start cooking or baking.

Comb through your belongings and weed out everything you don't use.

In your moment of clarity, you might decide against the ‘start cooking’ bit but opt to pass along the mitts to a close friend or relative who can do more than just boil and fry.

De Grandpre says you should ask yourself how the things you are so adamant to keep are adding value to your life. 

So and so gave it to me

No one can ever accuse you of not appreciating the things they’ve given you because you’ve sowed up your living room with an acne of accessories.

Never mind that they’re not stylish or tasteful - you’ve made use of all the old photo frames, all the china, all the vases and every doily you’ve inherited.

A lot of people tend to hold onto things because they were gifts, but keeping every gift and inheritance is unrealistic and potentially hazardous.

But holding onto every gift and inheritance is unrealistic and hazardous. A sincere thank you and a show of appreciation will put you in favour with your loved ones without you having to sacrifice your space and level of comfort.

De Grandpre says your home is meant to be a refuge - you are meant to want to go there and relax and when you are ruled by your possessions, it becomes a prison.

She says having some free and open spaces will give you a sense of calm that is essential to revitalise your body and mind.

I paid good money for it

And now you’re losing hairs trying to keep it from breaking while you dig around for something else.

It’s not lost on your family and friends that back in the day you paid R1.50 for a whole tea set, but every day spent paging through your belongings, is time wasted.

The frustration of trying and failing to find what you’re looking for, braids itself into your shoulders and causes tension you could do without.

The anxiety of nursing porcelain dolls in a house full of active children will also weigh you down.

So let go.

Getting organised is not achieved by tidying up a space, says de Grandpre. She says getting organised is about creating systems that keep it that way.

“Your ability to get and stay organised is directly related to your inability to make decisions. So become more decisive and let go of the clutter.” – Katlego Sekano

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