How to Let Go of the Past to Feel More Free Written by Pam Holland
During times of transition, you may notice a desire to change up the arrangement of your home. That is completely normal! Our lives go through phases, and every now and then our spaces need a “tune up.” Read about the process below through the story of our client, Kay.*
Kay and her husband raised two smart and talented children. Both were now out of college and working, and Kay wanted to turn her attention to her house. She knew it was time to make some changes and update the home to accommodate two adults, rather than two adults and two kids. As Kay is a saver by nature, the house was full of schoolwork, clothing, even toys and children’s books, among other mementos. Kay was ready for a more orderly life.
How a professional organizer gets started
Start with a category that requires straightforward decisions – it’s the ideal way to ease into the decluttering process! We also recommend starting with a project that will make a noticeable difference in the way your clutter looks, because it’s very encouraging. With Kay, we began with the paper clutter because it was simple and noticeable.
There were 20-plus years of bank, credit card, utility and department store bills and statements in drawers and closets. Most of the paper could be disposed of since it was over seven years old (see our free resource, How Long Should I Keep Papers? for more information!) so we made quick work of that. Because Kay had a shredder, we shredded and recycled the documents on site.
Tip: find second-hand storage solutions! For the papers that needed to be kept, we used a two-drawer lateral filing cabinet from Craigslist. Kay had never used Craigslist before, and was very happy with the inexpensive find. We filed current statements and important documents in labeled hanging file folders so she could easily scan and access them.
Organize and declutter one room at a time
Break your decluttering process into small, manageable steps. This one-by-one process is important because the thought of decluttering a big space or a whole house can be very overwhelming! When approached one step at a time, the process feels friendly and doable. In Kay’s house, we went room by room, one drawer, cabinet or closet at a time.
As we went through the home, Kay was able to let go of items that she no longer wanted or needed. It’s amazing how simply having less creates more order in a space! However, it’s important to note that decluttering can involve making difficult decisions. For Kay, each box or stack of papers contained sentimental items such as greeting cards with touching messages. Also in residence were teaching materials that had belonged to her mother, as well as clothes her children wore as toddlers. While Kay let go of some of the items, many remain.
Tip: if you don’t feel ready to let go of items even if you don’t “need” them, that’s very normal! Many of our clients find that decluttering takes multiple passes. Each time we revisit a room, our clients are ready to let go of more items. Know that it may take some time for you to get used to the idea of letting items go, and to be mindful and compassionate with yourself.
Out with the old, in with the new!
As you go room by room, ask yourself whether the set up of each room is meeting your needs. Our lives are always changing, and what we need in our homes changes too. We helped Kay replace furniture with pieces that better suited her stage of life: out went her daughter’s bunk beds to make room for a full guest bed. A set of dressers and night stands from Craigslist provided better storage in the master bedroom and made the room look less crowded.
Tip: part of decluttering and organizing is letting our homes and offices evolve. You’re probably used to your home being set up a certain way. It can be helpful to pretend it’s someone else’s home, and visualize what would make the spaces more usable. Creating some imagined distance can help you see what you need from your home at this stage in your life.
Group like with like for easy use
As you declutter and organize, you may find lots of unused items scattered about. In Kay’s home we found unused greeting cards throughout the house. They are now organized by type (birthdays, Father’s Day, etc.) in baggies, and all are stored in one drawer. This makes it easy for Kay to use what she has and know what she needs to replace at a quick glance.
Tip: if you notice unused or like items in different parts of your home, try designating temporary “gathering” places for these items. It doesn’t need to be fancy: a simple basket, paper bag, or shoe box will work! As you renegotiate the setup of your home, you can group like items together in these places and decide how to logically organize them after you’ve decluttered.
Organizing and decluttering is a journey
As we learn and grow, it's normal and right to release items that no longer serve us.CLICK TO TWEETOnce beloved children’s items make room for yoga rooms, music rooms, art and craft rooms and other spaces which support meaningful adult pursuits and allow us to joyfully live life as empty nesters. The love and the memories of the the life lived in the home remain even after old items have gone to new homes.
Kay is delighted by what we’ve accomplished together. She feels lighter, freer and less stressed. And that makes us very happy!
How has your home changed? Share in the comments!
*Kay’s name was changed for privacy