3 Difficult De-Cluttering Decisions You’ll Appreciate Later
De-cluttering efforts usually begin with our own belongings, wardrobe, and paperwork. On the other hand, kids’ art projects, old photographs, and family heirlooms feel more like an emotional archive than clutter. Where are these items right now in your house? How long have they been collecting dust and turning your attic into an obstacle course of cardboard boxes? Unfortunately, we rarely look at or use the “important” items we’ve saved over the years. If you can’t find a meaningful place for something or you’re holding onto it out of obligation, then it’s time to let it go. Here are three strategies for de-cluttering sentimental objects.
Emptying the Nest
If you’re downsizing because your kids have moved out, then it’s time for their things to move on too. Childhood memorabilia, like A-plus papers, sports uniforms, and trophies can bring back many memories for both parents and children, so it’s important that you both participate in this process. The first step is to do an initial purge of anything that is soiled, stained, or broken as you go around the house together and collect their items.
If your child lives far away, send them photos and ask for their opinion on what can be thrown away, donated, or kept. Then, agree on a realistic deadline for them to retrieve their “keep” pile, which can be stored in their rooms in the meantime. If you file their belongings back into storage, it’s more likely to be forgotten all over again.
There are probably things like baby items, children’s books, or nostalgic toys and games that you would like to keep or pass on to future grandchildren. Evaluate your space and limit what you keep to a single storage box or shelf.
Keepsakes Worth Keeping
By editing your keepsakes, you’re able to process the past and make more emotional space available for a fuller life in the present. A good place to start is to think back on the memories each object holds. If you can tell a story about the item and it’s worth physically writing down, then keep it and attach it to the story. If not, get rid of it.
Next, organize your keepsakes into boxes. Decorative containers work well because you’ll actually want to display them in your family room or office, whereas cardboard boxes look better in the basement. You can dedicate each box to a child, categorize them by contents (i.e. clothes in one box, awards in another) or label them by year. It’s important to give each box a purpose and limit the amount of bins you use to the space you actually have to store them. Whatever you can fit on a bookcase is a good rule of thumb.
Lastly, digitize photos. You can share files with your family online or print copies later when you’re really ready to start on that scrapbook. You can also take photos of keepsakes, such as children’s artwork, and continue displaying them in digital picture frames.
Inherited Items That You Don’t Really Want
Hand-me-downs sometimes come in large collections or as bulky items that are often overwhelming and attached to a feeling of obligation. If your grandmother left you a 50-piece set of china, consider keeping one of everything and styling it as a small vintage vignette in a china cabinet. Donate the rest or sell it to an antique store. You could also gift an item or two to other family members as long as you don’t pass on the burden of the whole collection again.
Decorations like pottery, vases, and nick-knacks – we all have that one family member who can’t get enough Precious Moments – can be renewed by its setting. The bright light of a corner curio cabinet can make a piece look, well, inherited. Instead, add it to a shelf with a contemporary shape, like this triangular one, or display it against a bright backdrop, like this colorful cubby.
Furniture is another common item we inherit, but it’s often worn or outdated by the time you get it. If the piece is in working condition, but the fabric is musty, consider reupholstering it. On the other hand, if the piece is broken you can still re-purpose the upholstery fabric on your own furniture. If simply you don’t find any joy in Uncle Joe’s old orange armchair, then strike a pose! Keep the picture, ditch the chair.