Naomi is a 60’s chick, self proclaimed. She’s stylish, loves modern art, poetry and jazz. She and I were decluttering her home of 30 years, in preparation for putting it on the market.
She’s planning a six month adventure, putting everything in storage so she can travel the country from top to toe. She’s visited every continent in the world and seen amazing sights, but now it’s people that are most important to her. Old friends and new. Family, distant and close.
We were in the Open Home phase of preparing the house for sale when we started on her personal papers. The house was looking wonderful. We had cleared all the surfaces, just a few lovely things on display.
One of the crowning glories of the house is the spectacular old-school style storage. Huge, capacious cupboards in every hall and room. So of course prospective buyers are going to open them.
The main clutter problem was inside the cupboards and drawers. They were packed with all the things that come with a long and busy life full of interests. A fair amount of it was paperwork, photos, family documents plus Naomi’s teaching materials, writings and diaries, spread all over the house.
Naomi LOVED to remember. Even the tough things, the complicated relationships, the painful partings, she loved to talk about them all. It was very clear to me that she derived great pleasure from her memories. She was completely present with her belongings and everything they meant to her.
But Naomi had a goal with a tight timeframe. A goal to have the house sold by the end of the month!
Our original idea was to sort the paperwork into different types, declutter unwanted things then securely box up what was left for storage. The problem was not only the volume of paperwork tucked into every drawer and shelf, but also the variety of paperwork.
As we started on the first drawer it soon became obvious to us both that this process was going to take a very long time. Naomi was thrilled to discover things she had long forgotten, searching through the piles spread over the dining table. I watched her travel back in time in her mind, almost as if she was there, re-living the events, seeing the people she loved.
It was getting closer to D-Day! Open Homes were happening on both weekend days and visits were being made by appointment fairly frequently. Everything had to be tidied away at short notice. Plus she had a busy life with grandchildren visiting, friends staying overnight, her day to day responsibilities and routines. Keeping the house Open Home ready every day was a job in itself!
This meant that Naomi couldn’t really declutter these special things in a way that made her happy. We’d worked hard to make her house look just right (her agent was thrilled). This was the tough bit and she was overwhelmed.
Her happiness and wellbeing right now was paramount. So I made a suggestion that I believed would serve her best.
~ Roughly sort everything that wasn’t already in a box. Don’t read it! Pack it up, label it well and store it safely. Then when she has her new place, she can indulge in some happy sorting and a little light decluttering.
This instantly took the pressure off Naomi. She could live her life, knowing her mementoes were safe. She could look forward to thoroughly savouring the process of looking at every single object and piece of paper when she was settled again.
Sometimes the person and the situation requires thinking in a different way about decluttering. It’s about being kind to yourself and others. Being thoughtful and present with memories, not rushing the process and causing even more stress.
Healthy balance is key. Mindful decluttering can easily become a sticky honey trap that can hold us back from our goals. It can become an excuse to not do what we know we need to do.
Respect the importance of the pleasure of remembering, in yourself and in those you support. Make space and time to allow decluttering decisions that feel right and feed your happiness.
If ONLY there was a simple guide to decluttering! You know, just the essentials, but with tips only the professionals know.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was an all-in-one, short, easy to read decluttering book with no Woo-Woo stuff in it!?
Tah dah! Here it is!
Click this link Do It Yourself or the photo on the left to read more about it.