Why you need to declutter your home now

by Beth Graham
Decluttering and organization

After the laborious, and quite frankly, sad, task of cleaning out my mother’s home when she passed away, it got me thinking about all of my own stuff and how to alleviate this burden for my own children. My mother’s aneurysm incapacitated her quickly which meant she had no time to “get her affairs in order.” So dealing with disorganization in the midst of downsizing was challenging. If you’re facing that daunting task of decluttering your home, read on!

And as the only daughter, the task of sorting through her 80-plus years of stuff fell on my shoulders. My mother was a saver. Not a hoarder-type of saver, but a sentimental one. I found a yellow plastic salt-and-pepper shaker set on the top shelf of her closet and vaguely remember a story about her honeymoon and breakfast at a Howard Johnson’s, but the details of why she kept it escaped me. As I sorted through her drawers, cabinets, and closets, filling boxes labeled “Keep, Donate, Toss,” all I could do was mutter under my breath, “I’m not doing this to my kids.” So the time for decluttering your home is now!

decluttering and organizing tips

Fast forward to a week later. As I was unpacking the “keep” boxes, I found myself surrounded by her Depression glass collection, my father’s (who died 30 years prior) coin collection and antique cameras, her three sets of vintage fine china, and hundreds of cards and journal pages, not to mention the actual sewing pattern from her elaborate wedding gown that she made herself in 1957. After days and days of scouring the Internet to identify and catalog patterns of glass, china, and coins to determine their value, I repacked everything into “keep” boxes, thinking to myself, “I’ll let my kids deal with this.” (By the way, I did not. I set up an Etsy shop to find new homes for some of her treasures.) 

My kids are not this patient. They’d probably just toss everything anyway as they’re minimalist Millennials. So, I set out to organize my own affairs and eliminate the burden of this process for my kids. Here are my tips for decluttering your home.

Tips for decluttering in midlife

  1. Don’t be afraid to let it go. In the words of Marie Kondo, “if it doesn’t spark joy…”. If you know that something is going to ultimately be thrown out, go ahead and do it now, like those high school yearbooks you’ve moved from garage to garage. All those boxes of your kids’ “everyone gets a trophy” sports memorabilia? Offer them to your kids or trash them. I kept one of each and tossed the rest. It’s not as if my kids will ever think, “Whatever happened to that generic trophy I got for sitting on the sidelines of the soccer field when I was 5?” Get real. They don’t want it, and you don’t either. 
  2. Identify and catalog valuables. I find myself in possession of several pieces of valuable china and crystal. I usually have a tendency to throw things away, but the way my mom lovingly packed certain items indicated to me that they might have some monetary value. How could I have known that this glass dish was worth hundreds of dollars to collectors? I’m aware that some thrifters take advantage of people like me who unwittingly donate valuable items. Therefore, I’m planning to create a detailed list of my valuables, including their worth, and provide suggestions for what my kids might do with them. I’m in the process of photographing and cataloging my (few) valuable items in a neatly packaged binder for them.
  3. Write notes. I’ve saved some things from my kids’ childhoods. When they open that bin and see the Blues Clues Halloween costume, I’m sure their first thought will be, “What the heck?” I bought two large plastic bins, one for each of my kids, and packed away the mementos from their early years that were special to me. I wrote individual notes and attached them to each item with the story behind it and why it meant something to me. Otherwise, how could they possibly know that the reason I kept that particular Halloween costume was because I made it by hand out of their footy pajamas? I plan to give them each their bin when they have children of their own and can appreciate the sentiments of childhood. When it came time to donate my mom’s clothing and other useful goods, I considered different causes. Domestic violence shelter? Red Cross? Homeless shelter? No, my mom was an animal lover. So for me, there was no question: I took more than 20 boxes to the local animal shelter’s thrift store. Since I tend to like animals more than (most) people, I think my kids would do the same, but I did state this “for the record.” It’s just an extended way to honor your parent by ensuring that their mementos go somewhere meaningful.
  4. Talk about it. This may seem obvious, but in situations like mine, you might not have the chance to ask about family heirlooms. It doesn’t have to be a sad occasion, like talking about death at a family dinner. It could be a casual chat as you’re decluttering, or a snowy day when you reminisce with your kids. My cousin recorded conversations with our grandparents before they passed away, and it’s great to listen to them. The idea is to share your stories now so your kids can connect items to their memories and won’t have to guess your wishes after you’re gone. Plus, it will give them stories to pass on to their own kids. And before you judge, I kept many of my mom’s keepsakes. I’m not sure what I’ll do with her sewing pattern or my dad’s childhood teddy bear, but if they brought a tear to my eye, I’ll find a way to honor them.”

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More