As you’re going through the process of decluttering your home, some stuff is just that, “stuff”. If you don’t feel connected to a item, such as an old phone bill or a waffle maker you haven’t used in years, it is easy to part with these things. When decluttering, you may come across emotional types of clutter that are much harder to process.
Emotional types of clutter are linked to significant memories, experiences or people in your life. Often, keepsakes and memorabilia become “clutter” when there’s just too much of it for your space, and when the items are linked to negative memories or experiences that you’d like to move past, but the clutter is holding you back.
Here are some examples of emotional clutter I have come across when working with my clients, and how they dealt with these particular things.
Medical supplies used for a late spouse during Cancer treatments.
Just looking at this box of medical supplies was heart wrenching for my client. She decided that these memories did not need to stay in her storage area. Unfortunately, these were not sealed and unable to be donated, so my client threw them away.
A wedding album from a marriage that ended in divorce years ago.
Because my client has children from this marriage, she placed it in the corner of an extra closet, and may give it to her children when they are grown. There was no reason to leave this album somewhere she’d see it frequently.
Old past-due notices from a dozen years ago, which resulted in credit repair services being needed.
These notices were mixed in with other keepsakes, so they were weeded out and placed in a “to shred” box. My client hired a shredding service to destroy the boxes of old mail that brought up nothing but bad memories.
Divorce records that must legally be retained.
My client doesn’t want to think about this divorce that happened decades ago, but since she legally must retain them, the records were placed in labeled folders inside a file box that was stored on the top shelf of an infrequently used closet. The papers are out of sight, but they are still there if needed.
A beautiful and large collection of a china set inherited from a late aunt.
My client chose her favorite pieces to display in her dining room buffet cabinet. Since she had boxes and boxes of this china, she offered the rest to other relatives. She was lucky enough to have a sister and niece who wanted most of the collection.
Handwritten love letters from World War II written by late parents.
These were scanned to be shared with other relatives. My client kept the originals in a labeled binder so she can access and read the letters whenever she likes.
As you can see, there is no one right way to deal with emotionally charged clutter. Some of these things truly are not clutter, others are ready to be discarded. As you approach belongings like these, take time to process what the object means to you before making a decision about what to do with it.
Sometimes, an objective outside observer, such as a professional organizer, can help you in this challenging process so you can declutter and let go with acceptance and peace, or so you can honor that object and memory in the right way for your personal situation.