When I tell people what a FREEING experience moving is, they usually look at me like I'm crazy. "What do you mean freeing? It's the most stressful thing I've ever been through!" While there are stresses associated with relocating, each move offers you the opportunity to lighten the load. When I was in college, I moved at least once a year, and sometimes once a semester. You had better believe that I only took the bare essentials with me. If I didn't use it regularly, it was either sold in a garage sale, given to charity, or tossed in the trash.
GETTING BOGGED DOWN
Unfortunately, once we become more settled we tend to accumulate things that we don't use or need. It's easier, sometimes, to just stick it in the closet and say, "I'll deal with that later," than make a DECISION. But when we move, we are forced to pull all of those dark demons out of the shadows and confront them face on.
DOES IT BELONG TO YOU?
You've had your neighbor's hedge trimmer for 3 years -- or your sister's favorite casserole dish since the last church social 3 months ago. Why take someone else's CLUTTER with you to your new home? And while you're at it, hunt down any library books or video rentals that you never took back. Returning items that don't belong to you is incredibly cathartic -- it's like tying up a loose end. And even if you have to face late fees or a bit of teasing from the other person about "stealing" their stuff, it's a great way to achieve CLOSURE with your old environment before you move on to the new.
PREVENTING THE CLUTTER
By the way, if you want to avoid this problem in the future, set up a receptacle (crate, basket, box) in your new home for borrowed items. When you are finished using something that you borrowed, put it in this "OUT BOX" rather than storing it away in your cabinets or closet. Put a label on each item reminding you who it belongs to, and make a date to RETURN that item to its rightful owner. All this borrowed "stuff" is more likely to end up back with its original owner, and this offers you a great opportunity to schedule coffee or dinner with a friend!
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU USED IT?
If you haven't touched something in the past 12 MONTHS, chances are that you're not going to use it in the next 12. Clothes and sporting goods seem to be some of the worst offenders! It's natural for people to have a hard time letting go of the past. And if an old outfit or a bowling ball really means that much to you, then put it away with your keepsakes.
WHEN WILL YOU NEED IT AGAIN?
If you can't seem to make a decision, ask yourself when you would ever need it AGAIN. Be honest and realistic about this one! At what point will a green shag toilet-seat cover be crucial to your survival? If you can picture a specific, concrete instance when you will need it in the FORESEEABLE FUTURE, then by all means keep it. "I might need it someday" isn't a good enough rationale. Just don't take up valuable space on your moving truck or in your new home with junk you never use.
IS IT EASILY REPLACEABLE?
You simply may not have enough room on the truck to take everything with you -- but this isn't always the end of the world. Think about all of the things you own that are relatively inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to REPLACE -- plants, canned goods, cleaning supplies, etc. When push comes to shove, it's not particularly painful to leave these items behind -- you can always get more when you reach your new location. And sometimes it's healthier to leave volatile household chemicals behind -- they shouldn't be on a moving truck, anyway. And trying to empty your freezer into a bunch of coolers for a long journey is just asking for food poisoning!
EVALUATING THE CHOICE
Of course, if we are talking about an expensive or hard-to-find item, you are certainly justified in thinking twice before ditching it. But even with items you think you couldn't live without, you always have to consider COST VERSUS BENEFIT. How much will it cost to transport to your new home? Will you have to buy extra insurance to cover any potential loss or damage? Will you have to put it in rented storage when you reach your destination? It may cost you more (in time, space, energy, or money) to keep the item than to replace it IF and WHEN you ever need it.
DOES IT FIT WITH YOUR NEW LIFESTYLE?
When I finished my Masters degree and moved to Atlanta, I decided that I was not doing to take a single piece of crappy "college furniture" with me. I wanted to begin my life as a professional with a professional image. So I got rid of everything that didn't match this new persona, and hit the road -- taking only a bed, a dresser, and an entertainment center. Because I had created the space for RE-INVENTING myself, I settled into my professional life quickly and easily. And I really feel that -- had I kept the TEMPORARY furniture around -- I would still be partially stuck in college mode. This might sound like a superficial change, but it has aided me tremendously in seeing myself as successful and achieving my professional goals.
A NEW BEGINNING
One of the nicest things about moving is that sense of STARTING FRESH. Of course, you are still the same person that you were in your old neighborhood -- but in some ways, you get a chance to do things differently. You might take a job in a different industry, get involved in community activities you have never tried before, or decorate your home in a new style. If you are going to make a change, go on ahead and do it without REMNANTS from the past hanging on. Take a minute to think about who you want to be and what kind of environment you desire before you start packing up -- it will not only lighten your load but also get the creative juices flowing!
WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I GOT RID OF IT?
When my clients are anxious about discarding an item, they are really saying, "I'm afraid of what might happen if I got rid of it." This is simply fear of the UNKNOWN -- uncertainty about the consequences of their actions. So I ask my clients to let their apprehensions run wild, and to imagine the absolute worst-case scenario. Quite often, the worst-case scenario is not that bad. This knowledge helps dissipate the fear and makes letting go a little easier. So let your IMAGINATION run wild as you clean out. Picture the craziest, most unlikely scenario that you can. For example -- if you tossed out your old tax returns and the IRS decided to audit you and you couldn't prove you had paid your taxes, the internal revenue service might take everything you own and leave you living in a box under the freeway. So that's an IMPORTANT item to keep. But if you tossed out an old Southern Living magazine from 1985 and there was a recipe for cherry cheesecake in there that you wanted later, you could simply go to the library or look it up on the internet. Not quite as critical to your existence on this planet!
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of www.OnlineOrganizing.com -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit www.onlineorganizing.com for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau, get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you, or get some help starting and running your own organizing business. You may contact Ramona at .
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