Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Naomi Seldin is one of my favorite bloggers, so I was delighted when she agreed to write a guest post for my blog. Here's Naomi!
A few years ago, I was living alone in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment with high ceilings, hardwood floors and ample storage space. I had more than enough living space, but it didn't feel like a home.
My living space reflected my state of mind at the time, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Three people I loved had died, including my father, leaving major holes in my life. I'd gone through a difficult breakup and move. Some of my things were still in boxes, and much of it was disorganized. I had a lot of things packed away that I didn’t use or need. I didn't want to be where I was, and it showed.
Facing my feelings (and my clutter) was hard, but it's one of the best things I've done. When it came to things like my dad’s cancer, I was helpless. But I was perfectly capable of getting my stuff under control.
Sentimental clutter was the hardest to tackle, by far. To paraphrase professional organizer Peter Walsh, it wasn't just about the stuff. It was about who or what it reminded me of. But I found creative ways to deal with it all.
Here are four sentimental items I found while getting organized, and what I did with them:
1. The bottle of wine
When my stepfather died, one of the things I inherited was a really good bottle of wine made the year I was born. I was saving it for the "perfect" occasion, which of course never came. So one day, I found it on a closet shelf and decided I was tired of waiting.
I packed it up, flew it home to Colorado for Christmas, and opened it (with great fanfare) with my family. I'd waited too long, and the bottle had gone bad, but it didn't matter. We toasted Neil's memory and shared a wonderful evening. Opening the bottle was the special occasion. And I had one less thing to fit back in my suitcase.
Lesson: Don't wait for the "perfect" occasion to share what you can today. Read more here.
2. The old sweat shirt
When my dad died, the only piece of his clothing I had was the old sweat shirt that he used to wear when he mowed the lawn. It was so torn and stained that I never wore it, but it reminded me of things I loved about him.
I found it while cleaning out my closet one afternoon and decided it was time to let it go. Enough time had passed by then that I was able to see that the sweat shirt wasn't my dad, and that he’d left me more meaningful things. Tossing it helped me make peace with those facts and move forward.
Lesson: You don't need to keep everything to honor a loved one's memory. Read more here.
3. The funeral dress
The dress I wore to my dad's funeral hung in my closet for years. It was a "funeral dress," too tainted by bad mojo to donate or give to a friend.
I knew I didn't want to wear it again, but throwing it out felt wrong. One day at work, I mentioned it to a coworker. She suggested recycling it. So that's what I did.
A friend who can sew took the dress off my hands. Some time later, she stopped by my office with a big paper bag. Inside was my funeral dress, reborn as something new: a pillow. It was beautiful, and her work turned something that once held painful memories into something comforting.
Lesson: Something bad can come out of something good. Read more here.
4. The totem pole
One of the most unusual things I inherited was a totem pole. For years, I kept it in the back of my closet because it never really seemed to fit any of the places I lived.
The totem pole was the first thing I wrote about on my blog, Simpler Living. I wanted to give it away, so I asked my readers for suggestions. Someone named Ed encouraged me to keep it, and said something that's stuck with me since:
"What good is a sentimental item if you’re keeping it in the back of the closet? Day-to-day, it’s like you already haven’t had it."
Ed was right. Once I took the totem pole out of the closet, I realized how much I liked it. And I kept it.
Lesson: Some things are worth keeping. And when you remove the clutter around them, you give the things you keep more room to shine. Read more here.
Naomi Seldin is living well with less and writing about it at Simpler Living.
[Photo of Naomi by John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union]