Since I started my professional organizing business in 2013, I’ve worked with lots of clients, and I have learned people create certain universal patterns with their stuff.
Today, I present the first 5 of a Top 10 list of those patterns. I will present the other half on Friday. I want you to digest them!
My point in sharing is:
1. To help you recognize yourself in any of these patterns, and how you can change them.
2. To help change the stories you’ve told yourself about your stuff — like, “I have to keep every single wedding gift whether I use it or not,” — and…
3. To change the group-think we’ve been duped into by corporations that sell us all this stuff, like, “If you buy this, it will make you money.” But stuff does not appreciate. (See Beanie Babies or any other piece of antique furniture you own.)
So here we go!
Universal Pattern #1: People hold onto their deceased parents’ and grandparents’ stuff as if it’s Mama and Daddy.
They won’t get rid of it. Even if they hate it. Even if they don’t have room for it. They put it in the garage, forcing their luxury car in the driveway and the elements. Or they put it in the attic, where they can’t see it, but their soul can feel it. I call this “subconscious clutter,” which is worse than clutter you can see because subconscious clutter takes up more space in your brain. And opportunities are blocked because your brain can’t receive new ideas because it’s stuffed with subconscious clutter.
Here is what I tell clients who are ready to release their beloved relatives’ belongings:
“Mama is not in the couch, the platter or the vase. Mama or Grandmama is in your heart. We don’t have to hold onto the stuff to feel Mama and Daddy. They are already around us. And the minute they crossed to other side, stuff became meaningless. Plus, Mama would not want you to hold onto that couch in your garage/attic when someone else could use it, like clients at the Green Chair Project.”
It’s OK to let go of your Mama’s stuff. You are not getting rid of Mama. You are just donating a couch.
Here’s where I always have to say, I am not suggesting you get rid of ALL of Mama’s stuff. If you love Mama’s antique vase, keep it. Just don’t keep her entire household because you already have an entire household.
Universal Pattern#2: People tell themselves they are saving Mama’s couch for their children.
But here is the thing: Your children do not want Grandma’s 25-year-old couch that smells like mothballs. And if you save stuff for your kids, it just grows exponentially. Because you are saving stuff. Then they get married and guess what? Their in-laws are saving stuff for them, too. Then they are left with four couches — yours, the in-laws’, and two grandparents’ — that they don’t want.
Remember, millennials live in shoe boxes and rent bikes to get around town. They don’t have room for the stuff you don’t have the courage to get rid of. Don’t shift the burden to them. Be respectful to your children and donate stuff you don’t want.
Universal Pattern #3: People hold onto ALL their children’s baby clothes, artwork and toys.
I am not sure when this trend started, but it’s out of control. Attics are filled with 25-year-old baby items that are now ruined because an attic is no place to store stuff.
I suggest to clients they have one SMALL bin of favorite onesies and shoes to show their children how small they were. But don’t keep the entire toddler wardrobe, especially when people in our community could use those clothes. The Women’s Center of Wake County is a great place to donate your gently used baby items.
Have another SMALL bin to keep art for all 12 years of school. Not one bin per year. My children regularly recycle artwork. And every August, they go through the art bin and purge what no longer speaks to them, so they can create room for the upcoming year.
I know you say, “I want to keep the toys for my grandkids,” even though your children are 5, 3 and 1. If they are plastic and cheap, they will not last for your grandkids. If they are broken, throw them away. If they are missing pieces, throw them away. A lot of charities won’t take used toys, which is a reason to buy few toys because you just have to throw them away, putting them in the landfill.
Here is a picture of my playroom. It looks like this because my children have very few toys. They spend most of their time outside.
Here is what I tell clients who are ready to release children’s items:
“How many things do you have from your childhood? Not much, right? And you are OK. I personally don’t have artwork or report cards, and look at me. I am totally normal.”
It’s OK to let go of your children’s things. You are not giving away their childhood. You have 8 million photos of their childhood. It’s just clothes.
Plus, see millennial reference above. Your children don’t want their childhood wardrobe or bins and bins of scribble scrabble because they don’t have room for it in their shoe boxes.
Universal Pattern #4: People hold onto wedding gifts.
Even if they hate them. Even if they don’t have room for them. Because they confuse their marriage with the item.
The vase is not your marriage. You are not giving away your marriage. You are giving away a vase. You are still married. It’s OK to let go of wedding gifts you don’t want.
I sold our wedding china to because we NEVER used it since it could not go in the dishwasher. Guess what? We are still married.
Here’s where I always have to say, if you love a certain wedding gift and use it daily, keep it. I am talking about the ones you hate or the ones in the attic you never used, like the 12 silver platters and punch bowl.
Universal Pattern #5: People think their stuff is worth so much money.
I am always the bearer of bad news when it comes to people’s stuff and how much it’s worth. Used stuff is not worth much. The minute you take a couch out of the showroom, it’s basically worth zero. Unless you have a Monet hanging in the dining room, your artwork is worth next to nothing.
Everyone thinks their stuff has appreciated over the years because the corporations have sold us a bill of goods to “invest” in their stores.
I am here to tell you anything you buy at a big box store is not going to appreciate because stuff does not appreciate. Used stuff gets pennies on the dollar. Think about it: Would you want to spend a lot of money on a USED couch? No. So why would anyone spend a lot of money on yours?
Remember how much Beanie Babies were going to net you? A genius at a toy company convinced people that stuffed animals would appreciate. Stuffed animals! (If you don’t believe me that your Beanie Babies are worth NOTHING, read this Fortune Magazine article.)
It’s best to donate your stuff and take the tax receipt. And invest your money instead of buying more junk.
…To Be Continued on Friday in Part 2.