I recently downsized from a modest home that I lived in with my family for 15 years. This experience gave me many opportunities to reflect on the struggles my clients and members of my Clutter Clearing Support Group talk about. I found myself at times overwhelmed by the many decisions I needed to make. I should have counted, but I would guess up to a 100 an hour easily. I had to decide where to start, what I needed to sort, where I was going to put my "keep" items, how I was going to box them up, where was I going to get the right size box, where to store what I was getting rid of. Then there was the decision about each item itself. You get the picture.
Granted, I was much more experienced in this process than most people, but I still struggled with sentimentality, questions of if I could use something in my new condo or whether I would hold a garage sale or donate all the items. I was downsizing from a 3 bedroom home with an attic, basement and garage, to a condo with a fair size storage closet and garage, but nothing close to what I was used to.
What I learned about myself is that I was really good at storing things. Even though I had anticipated this move and had been “lightening my load” for over a year, when it was time to dig into the depths of my storage spaces, I surprised even myself. I had lots of sentimental keepsakes and different functional, useful items, like extra hardware, tools, sheets, blankets, curtains and throw rugs. In fact, I was very proud of a time when my son was in 5th grade and I was able to quickly provide the musical set designer with many tools and “hardware” items that he had not anticipated needing. I would run home, gather up the stuff and return to his amazement with what he needed. I think possibly he questioned if I had a hoarding problem, but I was just really good at storing things. After all, isn’t that the definition of being organized…being able to find something when you need it and being able to put it back when done. Behind my squirreling away behavior was the desire or intention to be self-sufficient. I want to have what I need to take care of me and mine. However, what my move process put in question is this…even though I was good at “containment,” is that a good reason for holding on to it all? Is there possibly another reason to live with less? My colleague who is a Feng Shui practitioner speaks about the impact of stuff on the energy around us. In particular, attics that tend to hold a lot of forgotten, unloved, unused items result in a heaviness that weights us down, energetically. I like the idea of feeling lighter in life.
So I recognized, I don’t need all the “stuff that will come in handy”, but what about my sentimental keepsakes? Again understand they are all stored very methodically, but when I pull them all out, I had to question what I was thinking. I dove in for some sweet reminders of my son’s school years, but also a good reality check. With my now 19 year old son’s help, we whittled away at school work, art projects, trophies and old baseball uniforms.
Letting go of one item, a Spirograph set from when I was a child, required some personal reflection. I loved that set. I kept it pristine and was proud that all the pieces were still there along with the pens (dried up of course). To let the game go, I had to first acknowledge what it meant to me…it represented a creative time in my childhood and I had wanted to share that exploration with my son when he was young. I had fantasies that we would design drawings together, but alas, he had no interest and was swayed by the allure of video games and transformers instead. So, it was time for me to face letting go of that fantasy. I had a moment of mourning, but then put it in the giveaway pile.
Back to the title of this blog. As I would tell people about my move process, a heard a frequent comment, “It should be easy for you, you are an organizer.” In that one statement, I felt all the exhaustion, stress, and decision fatigue I was experiencing, completely discounted. As if being an organizer somehow exempted me from all the things normal people feel when in the midst of one of the top stressors in life. I finally started replying, “Organizers are human too.”