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How to Keep Only What’s Important

Organizing tipKeep what’s important and let go of the rest. Keeping only what’s important will help us stay organized because we won’t be wasting our time with things that aren’t wanted, needed, or used.

Complete these 4 statements to focus on what’s important in life right now.

  1. I want this in my life now, because…
  2. This holds value and significance in my life now, because…
  3. This make me happy because…
  4. This is worth preserving and holding onto because…

Once the 4 statements are complete, take action to remove, recycle, or re-purpose what you can.

photo albums on shelf

Letting Go

Helpful Organizer BlogLetting go of things can be stressful and difficult, especially if they hold some sentimental value. We tend to hold onto things that remind us of precious people and moments from our past. A few years ago I was helping a client organize her bedroom, and we came across some dried, brittle, dusty, yellowed flowers in a vase. She explained that it was her dried wedding bouquet, and she wanted to keep it. I asked her to pause for a moment and tell me objectively what she saw. She did. I then asked to tell me about other mementos she had from her wedding day. When she was finished she understood what I was getting at and said “I think I can let the flowers go.” She understood that although her wedding flowers were an important part of her wedding day, now they were just dust collectors. Since she had other more meaningful mementos from her wedding day, as well as photos of the flowers when they were vibrant and beautiful, she could let go of the brittle, dusty, yellowed version. By taking a moment to look and think objectively we can all make better choices about letting go.

Here are 7 options for letting go that will help you keep the memories but not the stuff.

  1. Keep only the best of photographs, artwork & hand-made crafts to bring greater value to the memory.
    • Set limits (container limit or quantity limit)
    • Set criteria (most meaningful, most representative of personality)
    • Go digital with photos, memorabilia, artwork
    • Share and send photos to family/friends
  2. Keep part of a set or collection: china, glass items, collectables, furniture, nick-knacks & tchotchkes, holiday decorations & decor to bring ease to maintenance.
    • Get items appraised to understand valueplanters made from recycled goblets
    • Set limits (keep half, the best 3, most memorable)
    • Establish a specific place for display or specific use
    • Reduce what you keep (just signatures on greeting cards, every 5th year of journals)
  3. Get creative, re-purpose or reuse to bring new life to items.
    • Re-purpose dishes and stemware as planters or jewelry holders
    • Re-purpose china to make jewelry or mosaic art pieces
    • Reuse fabric from items to make quilts, pillows, teddy bears, mittens, bags, Christmas stockings or other items
    • Use paper items to make place-mats, wrapping paper, greeting cards
  4. Take photos and videos to preserve visually and digitally.
    • Create digital scrapbooks to share the memories and storiesChristmas stocking made from old quilt
    • Use as a screen saver on computer or phone
    • Consolidate images into collages
  5. Share and document story of item to preserve memory.
    • Use on-line digital options to share stories and photos
    • Share stories and memories of items verbally at family gatherings
    • Star in a video sharing stories and memories of family heirlooms
  6. Find worthy recipient to ease guilty feelings.
    • Search on line for specific worthwhile charities
    • Ask family, friends, and social media connections for willing recipients
    • Accept that we may not be able to find the perfect recipient and let it go believing the next owner will cherish it
  7. Experiment and practice letting go.

©September 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®

3D Character and question mark

Keep Criteria

Organizing tipEstablish some keep criteria to use when making decisions on what to keep or not keep. Keep items that meet at least two of your criteria. If items don’t meet any of your established criteria let them go. Listed below are examples of my keep criteria.

  1. The item warms my heart and makes me feel special and loved.
  2. The item is displayed prominently so I can see it every day.
  3. The item is useful and makes my life easier in some way.
  4. The item fits my current lifestyle, decor, and values.
  5. The item is unique, one-of-a-kind, and irreplaceable.
clutter-free desk

Clutter-free Surfaces

Organizing tipIf you took a photo of all the flat surfaces in your home right now what would they look like? Are they cluttered with a bunch of stuff? Can you prepare a meal on your kitchen counter? What would you have to clear off in order to eat dinner on your dinning room table? How many piles of paper do you have on your desk? Can you see the surface top of your bathroom vanity? Is there any available space on top of your dresser, coffee table, night stand, end table? Here are 5 tips to help you create and keep clutter-free surfaces.

  1. Scan and empty surface areas each day in order to prevent clutter build-up.
  2. Clutter-free means that there is some available, usable space. Therefore clear off an 18 x 18 inch area of space on your work desk each night.
  3. Uses these flat surfaces as temporary activity areas.
  4. Limit yourself to 3-5 permanent items per surface area.
  5. Don’t use surfaces as storage areas. Have a place for everything and put it in it’s place.

 

The Joy of Less

Helpful Organizer BlogDuring the past 10 years I’ve been in business, I’ve worked with over 1450* individuals to help them organize, downsize, and de-clutter. Although every project is different, with its own unique goals, the outcome is always achieved by getting rid of some stuff. The process of organizing includes removing what we no longer need, use, or want.3 steps to organizing process By removing stuff we free ourselves from the burden of having more than we can successfully maintain. By reducing the amount of material possessions we own, we have less to organize, clean, and stress about. Having less allows us to spend more time on what is important to us. Spending more time on what we enjoy improves the quality of our lives. The conclusion is we find the joy of less.

Through the years, I’ve witnessed how my clients’ lives improve with less stuff, and I’ve also seen first-hand how having less stuff has improved my life. My husband and I have participated in the Minimalist Game twice, May 2016 and June 2017. Each time we were successful in completing the game and getting rid of 930 things. We decided not the play the game this year, but we are continuing our efforts to have less, buy less, and reduce often. To us, having less means we have enough and aren’t overstuffed or overwhelmed by our things. Having less means we appreciate what we do have and really see the value in it. Instead of being overabundant with material possessions, we are working on being abundant in love, friendship, happiness, kindness, and gratitude. We are continuing to work on finding the joy of less.

Has this motivated you to see what having less will look like to you? What it will feel like? Will it bring you joy? One way to find out is to let go of all that you no longer need, use, or want, and experience the outcome. Keep me posted, I’d really enjoy hearing your story.

* This number includes hands-on paying clients as well as organizing students and presentation attendees.

©July 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved