Generally speaking, my work involves helping each client through the process of letting things go. I even wrote a poem for this:
Do I love it?
Do I need it?
Does the law say I must keep it?
If the answer is a “No,”
Then the stuff has got to go!
© Adele Massena, 2013
The things you LOVE bring you joy. I have a Pillsbury Dough Boy™ on the edge of my sink. I adore him; he makes me giggle. I don’t enjoy washing dishes by hand, but he makes the job go faster.
The things you NEED are the useful items that help you perform tasks and get through the day. A set of dishes, a bed, soap, and a clean change of clothes would fall into this category.
The LAW requires you to keep your tax returns for seven years and the deed to your home for as long as you own the dwelling. Find a good safe, file those papers, and then forget about them until you need them or can destroy them.
Let’s examine some problems that often arise.
What about that vase your favourite aunt gave you for your birthday ten years ago? Do you love it? To be honest, you never really cared for it to begin with. But surely you can’t just give that away! She would be insulted… wouldn’t she?
Actually, she may have forgotten all about it. Do you remember every present you’ve ever given everyone? Do you expect the recipients to hang onto those gifts indefinitely, even if the items are of no use to the owners?
We need to banish the notion that a gift must be kept forever. While it may represent affection, gratitude, or respect, the gift is not the giver. Letting go of an item does not mean that the person who offered it is unloved or underappreciated.
It also helps to understand that once you have given something to someone else, you no longer own it. It is not up to you to decide how it will be used. If the recipient chooses to re-gift or donate it – or even throw it out – that is her or his choice. And you have the same right to determine what you will do with what belongs to you. Feel free to say good-bye to those things that do not bring you joy.
Okay, how about those household gadgets that fill every drawer in the kitchen? You know, the melon baller, the apple corer, the corn cob picks… and the five corkscrews. They’re so useful! Sure they are – if you actually use them. But when was the last time you remembered to pull them out? I had a set of corn cob picks for several years until I realized everyone just grabbed the cobs with their bare hands. Out they went. And how many corkscrews does a household really need? Could you survive with one or two?
Ah, but what happens if something gets misplaced? Well, that’s why you’re getting organized, now, isn’t it? Once everything has a place where it belongs, you’ll always be able to find it, and you’ll only need to keep what you actually use.
This area can be a bit confusing for some folks, so instead of trying to figure out what has to be kept, they hang onto everything, just to be safe. Eventually, though, drawers and cabinets fill up. Paper piles fall over. You might not be able to put your hands on an article when you actually do want to refer to it.
Some documents, such as your birth certificate, really do need to be kept your entire life. Others should be retained for as long as you have possession of the item in question, such as your car ownership papers. Warrantees can be discarded once they are no longer valid. Banking receipts (e.g. for deposits and withdrawals) can be shredded once you reconcile them to your monthly statement.
Consider how often you refer to old papers. Let’s say you’ve hung onto all your hydro statements since you bought your house. (Yes, some people do this.) When was the last time you referred to them? If you like to compare what you paid over time, why not set up a table to keep all the numbers in one place? It takes up a lot less space, especially if it’s on your computer. You can also scan papers that don’t lend themselves to the spreadsheet method.
Finally, for peace of mind, when in doubt about anything financial or legal, consult an expert.
It’s an easy poem. Why not memorize it? These three simple rules can help declutter your life.