Seven Strategies for Eliminating Clutter In Your Home
By Janet L. Hall and Paula Langguth Ryan
An acquaintance of ours recently wrote to share how her husband and his
siblings banded together to "clean out" her father-in-lawís home,
which she likened to an indoor junkyard. After they had filled the dumpster, her
sister-in-law pointed at the contents and said to her father, "This is what
you were loving while we were growing up. These were the children you were
spending time with and we grew up with them and hated them and were jealous of
He never knew they felt this way. And he certainly wouldnít have chosen to
lighten his load this way. Yet itís sometimes a hard fact that the treasures
and "stuff" we accumulate during our lifetime have a profound impact
on our families, on ourselves and on our ability to have a prosperous life.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to free yourself from the
clutter of the past and mend fences in your family. Start by asking yourself a
few simple questions about the things you are hanging on to:
- Why are you afraid to get rid of these things?
- What do they represent to you?
- How long are you going to carry this stuff around with you?
- How have your treasures and "stuff" affected your family?
- Are you hanging on to some stuff "just in case?"
- Who said you have to hang on to these things?
Take action now to lighten your load before someone else decides to lighten
it for you. Here are seven tips to get you started.
- Invite your children and grandchildren over to come get the things that
were theirs during their childhood. Donate, auction off or simply throw away
anything thatís left. Brenda, a client in her sixties, was holding on to
her daughterís childhood dolls, thinking she would one day want them. When
Brenda asked, she discovered her daughter didnít want them after all. She
was free to sell them, which brought her some extra income and freed up
- Make a list of the treasures youíre ready to part with now. Then write
down the names of friends and family members who have admired these items.
Write down or record a story for each item, then throw a dinner party for
these friends and family members. Share the stories with them as you pass
along the gifts. Or give them as holiday or birthday presents.
- Tap into the flow of giving and receiving by passing along treasures you
want people to inherit, so you can see the joy in giving and in receiving
while youíre still around. Be sure to write down and relate a story about
- Weigh an itemís cost to you in terms of stress and upkeep. If you have a
number of valuables -- such as collectibles, antiques, linens or pictures --
the expense of insurance, the worry of possible theft and the time spent on
cleaning can be overwhelming. One 77-year old woman, Mary, has so much
Depression-era glass on display in her house it takes her three days a week
to dust them all. Whatís your joy-to-stuff-ratio on these items in your
home? Passing along or selling these items now will cut down on your stress
level and save you money on insurance premiums.
- Avoid any fighting and bickering over who gets what items. Write a letter
that states: "I hope we raised you well enough not to argue over
possessions. Your family and dedication are more important than things. So Iím
sure you wonít argue over who gets what." As you tell your tales,
explain why you selected a certain person to receive a certain item. This
will go a long way toward alleviating any ill feelings. Remind them that itís
the memory that matters, not the item itself. Encourage anyone who isnít
the keeper of the item -- but cherishes the item as well -- to get a copy of
the story about the item. They can always read the story, and visit the
- Eliminate items that truly donít have value any more. How many button
boxes or jars of nails do you really need? Most of what youíre saving isnít
probably usable anymore anyway. Partially opened tubes of caulk, cans of
paint or stain, tape, old twine, old spools of thread and elastic all go bad
over the years. Throw out anything that is cluttering up your home and
drawing your attention away from your family.
- Unburden yourself from things that are tying you to the past. Is your
basement or attic still packed with things from yesteryear? One manís
basement had a six-foot mirror that had been shipped over from Europe, and
was still in its shipping crate Ė nearly fifty years later! Do you have a
"shrine" to a late mate or beloved child? Keep one or two
"memory items" and release the rest. Otherwise, youíll always be
indebted to the past instead of free to face the future.
Above all else, donít make excuses, donít assess blame and donít
postpone the need to lighten your load. Too many seniors today are faced with a
limited income and worries about how they will make ends meet. Your clutter is
acting as a stopper to your prosperity. You can generate much needed income and
free up space for even more money to come to you simply by releasing some of
your treasures. Youíll spend less time cleaning and dusting, and have more
free time to do all the things you want to do.
Travel, take up a new hobby, volunteer, play with your friends and loved
ones, create a playroom for yourself or your grandchildren. After all, what do
you want to be remembered for Ė your possessions or your joy for life?
# # #
Professional Organizer Janet L. Hall and Contemporary Prosperity Advisor
Paula Langguth Ryan are the originators of the Enough Is Enough! seminar series
which comes to the DC Metro area October 26. Their unique 3-hour adventures in
money, clutter and time management are designed exclusively to help you tap your
true potential and achieve better balance in your life. For more information
about upcoming local seminars, and their services and products, call
800-507-9244 or visit their website at http://www.overhall.com.
Permission is granted to quote this article in its entirety or in part,
provided attribution is given, in the form of the above paragraph.
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