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Purging the past to make way for the future

July 6, 2011

Been home at my parents’ on Cape Cod for less than a week and have already organized six closets, tweaked the garage, and reorganized another four closets at my sister’s house. Why? While it may sound like a busman’s holiday, I get a real satisfaction creating order out of chaos.

One routine I do every visit home, is sift through the handful of boxes filled with my “stuff” that’s stored in one of the two walk-in closets in my old bedroom. (Note: both closets put together are not much smaller than my NYC apartment). I don’t use the second closet as it has become storage for family luggage, my sister’s wedding dress, and electronic wires my father swears he will one day need.

This routine consists of sifting through the boxes of my past, and finding items to get rid of. It’s a never-ending game. Why does it take a professional organizer several times to do this? Because emotions are involved. Mine. I’ve worked with clients to clean out their parents’ homes after they’d died and they’d stop every so often to share a story triggered by some trinket they’d uncovered. While objects can be a touching reminder, they can also clog up your space. Whether a sweater knit by your grandmother, a pair of loafers you wore in high school, photos of an ex-lover, or even the said ex-lover, letting go of the past can be painful no matter what it is. But like the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Sometimes there’s an item I’m not yet ready to part with and back in the box it goes, only to find itself on the chopping block six months or a year later, where I find myself wondering why I ever held on to it in the first place. Then, with an audible “Buh Bye,” out it goes.

After each of these purging expeditions – which is like a journey back to my younger self – I find joy. Not because I’ve tossed stuff, but because I’m making room in my present life for new experiences. My father jokes that sooner or later I’m going to be left with only one item and eventually even that will go. And he’s right. Until then, I’ll continue to whittle away my past, piece by piece, as my future slowly fills the new space.


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  1. Leah permalink

    Wow, you are truly a marathon organizer! That`s awesome! I love organizing but I`d personally have to take a few day`s rest between zones. LOL 🙂 I`m in a similar situation as you. I want to get rid of the old to make room for the next phase of my life. Especially, since I just turned 30 a few weeks ago! So I`m cleaning out my old stuff and my goal is to have as much stuff out of my house as possible before my final year of college, which starts this fall. Less than two months! I want to get rid of so much useless stuff but I never end up getting the stuff together. Any tips to help me? I can`t seem to get past my super reluctance.

    • Hi Leah, First off, congrats on your last year of college! That’s a great accomplishment, as is turning 30! So, with those two milestones you’re ready for the next phase, sort a speak, of your life and it’s always nice to start off with a clean slate (or at least less clutter.) What is your major? Will you be aiming for a job in that field when you graduate? I ask since maybe you’ve had different jobs before that and have those items you can toss first. If you tell me what kinds of stuff you want to get rid of (i.e. old clothes, books, Tupperware, etc.), that would help me give you tips on getting rid of it. Until then, while it can be overwhelming to get rid of ALL the stuff, try breaking it down: Today get rid of just 5 things. Go in one room or around the house and just put 5 things in a bag. I don’t care what it is – matchbook, old socks, whatever. Do’nt forget to say “Buh Bye” when you do it. Chances are you might keep going. If you have two months until school starts and you get rid of 5 things a day, by the time you’re sitting in class reading the syllabus, I bet you will have accomplished your goal. But do email me specific trouble spots and I will be happy to help.

      One other thing, picture your home how you would like to see it. Clean counters, organized shelves, no dust (a hard one!), etc. And remember, baby steps.

      Look forward to hearing from you again. Thanks. Felice

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