I’m not afraid to admit I like to label things. I love storage containers, tubs and color coordinated things in general. These days I understand the difference between labelling and sorting the things that add value to my life as opposed to ‘organised hoarding’ as Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists likes to refer to the practice of keeping dozens of beautifully organised bins and storage boxes to neatly store the things we don’t really need.
For years before I started to pursue minimalism as a way of life I was a champion organised hoarder. I could satisfy my need to be on top of things by making sure that everything was labelled or in it’s assigned container. Whole days were spent putting things in order when it all got out of hand, which of course it always does when you live with someone else who has better things to do than keep everything just so.
What I never questioned at the time was whether the things in the highly organised cupboards, drawers and boxes were adding value to my life. All I knew was that the disorganisation of the items was not and I dealt with it by implementing a regimen of control. Inevitably, the system would break down and there I would be, over and over, emptying containers, relabelling and saving the world, one storage box at a time.
In 2015, we seriously got down to the business of decluttering so that we would have less stuff to transport when the time came to move to a different job and downsize. It was while I was sorting through a beautifully labelled and stored box of Christmas cards and letters I had kept from 1994 I realised that organising my things did not necessarily make them value adding . Why had I kept all of this stuff? This was crazy!
You would think that after that revelation it would have been easy to just dump those cards in the recycling but it wasn’t! I discovered whole lot of unpleasant emotions associated with the memories generated by the contents of the box. Leftover teenage angst, guilt from losing touch with school friends, reluctance to just dispose all that waste and many other uncomfortable feelings. It occurred to me that part of the reason I still had these archaic memory joggers had a lot to do with avoiding getting rid of them in the first place. In the end, they had to go, along with bag after bag of other things that no longer added value. Things I might add that we had moved from house to house and even internationally. The pile of empty storage tubs grew and grew.
Fast forward to today, I still have to admit to holding onto some sentimental things too long. In addition, due to my amazing powers or sorting and labelling, my husband still calls on me to tackle the tricky organisational challenges, it’s just what I do. However, today, if I’ve got to arrange a storage container for something I seriously question why I have this item that needs to be stored. What is its purpose? Will I need it again? Am I holding onto it ‘just in case’, is it just that I feel guilty for letting go? I know that the time I spend organising something that doesn’t really add value will have long term effects on my freedom when I commit to curating this item.
Today, I use my fabulous organisational skills for good. I take great pleasure in labelling and organising things that add value to our lives in a way that helps us use our space better and not waste time finding things or having to sort through a mess.
Have you struggled to let go of sentimental items? I’d love to hear your story via the Comments section.