Decluttering Inspiration

by Katy on October 2, 2011 · 16 comments

From the Member Comments section from the October 2011 Costco Connection Magazine:

“After discovering that my married children don’t want any of my stuff, I have been letting go of many cherished items. I couldn’t believe how difficult it has been. Your article gave me the insight to realize that it’s OK to feel emotional about parting with things, and to feel mentally and physically exhausted during the process is normal. Reading this article made me feel much better and gave me the impetus to tackle this project.”

I love this. So many people avoid difficult tasks, as they worry they could be mentally difficult. The idea that this is “OK” is a great and inspiring message.

I think I’ll go work on my dumping ground of a bedroom now, even though the mere thought of it makes me want to curl up in a ball and suck my thumb.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Adventures in Thrift Land October 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

This just shows, I think, how much better it is to part with stuff right away. It’s far easier to ditch your kid’s report card right after looking at it than it is to ditch it in 25 years, or to throw away those baby teeth right after the Tooth Fairy is done with them. If you just keep up a continual purge, you spare yourself much angst in the future.


Katy October 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I know that I do better going though my kids’ old papers, artwork, etc. when I’m already in a bad mood. I’m much less likely to fall prey to sentimentality.



Adventures in Thrift Land October 2, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Why does that strike me as hilarious?


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending October 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Maybe because it IS hilarious!


Practical Parsimony October 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

My children wanted old report cards, drawings, baby teeth, and baby toys. When the woman said her kids did not want her stuff, we don’t really know what she was going to give them. Maybe they did not want her items because they had not yet learned to cherish the past. Maybe the spouses of her children nixed the idea of her go-go boots, ratty furs, or 1960s kitchen wall kitsche.

I like to look back on things belonging to my children. I love to look at the gown for my doll that my mother made for me. I like to touch her porcelain doll she got in 1923. There is, in my opinion, nothing wrong with keeping a moderate amount of our past. However, hoarding old styrofoam cups from a first date is never good.

Plus, Katy, your kids probably don’t want things from your dumping ground you call the bedroom…lol.


Maffalda October 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm

My parents have been going through a decluttering process in the past few years. Although they don’t plan to leave their 3-bedroom apartment, they are giving us “girls” (34 and 42) our childhood drawings, teenage notebooks and treasures to store at our places or do as we please. As for their cherished items, they sometimes ask our permission to give some things away to members of our extended family who would appreciate certain objects more than us – I usually ask them to photograph the items before giving them away. It’s been smooth and slow, I hope it stays that way!


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi October 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Who knew the Costco magazine had some insight in it. It does seem ironic considering this idea of purging is allowed in a magazine begging you to consumer at large proportions. Maybe I’ll check it out next time it comes in the mail rather than immediately dumping it in the recycling bin.


CanadianKate October 3, 2011 at 7:49 am

If you purge, you’ll empty up space in your house for more junk from Costco. Their strategy makes perfect sense to me.


Molly October 3, 2011 at 4:11 am

My daughter regularly returns from her grandmothers house with a bag of stuff for me that is from my childhood. Here’s my dilemma: I had let these things go 20-30 years ago. In fact, I didn’t even realize they existed! Now I’m forced into the position to let them go all over again. I take into consideration that my mom has held on to these items for so long they must be precious.
It’s given me perspective on what to hold onto. I believe my girls would want a few items but I’m not holding on to collection of things.


harriet October 3, 2011 at 6:07 am

My mother threw everything of mine out. Everything. I own nothing from before college, when I started to be in charge of my own space. Even college things which I stored in my mother’s basement were thrown out by her. It’s probably no wonder I have such an issue with clutter, getting rid of things, and holding on to my kids’ old things.


Diane October 3, 2011 at 7:06 am

Oh Harriet,
So did mine! I have to say in her defense that she did warn me several times. When you’re just out of college and the world is so new and inviting, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever want to refer to those old “treasures”. On the whole, I don’t miss it, but on occasion I do. Intensely.
That was long before digital cameras. I think now the solution is to take pictures of everything before you purge. If something really zaps your heartstrings as you photograph it, keep it! The balance will be easier to let go because your brain knows you still have it somewhere.


harriet October 3, 2011 at 10:04 am

I think what I most resent is that she left all my great-grandmother’s things in her house when she sold it after she died. Things I would have liked to have had, but I wasn’t allowed an opinion. My mother is basically incredibly selfish. If she doesn’t want it, then too bad, it’s gone.


Susan October 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

I’ve been going through that process for a couple of years now…sorting through stuff so my kids won’t get it unceremoniously dumped on them in the future. A lot of stuff is easy to part with, but other things (or at least pieces of them) are destined for scrapbooks and mosaic memory jars (which will happen in the NEAR future, not “someday”). My wedding dress will probably become Christmas ornaments.


CanadianKate October 3, 2011 at 8:06 am

I have two kids, 23 & 26. The married 26 year old lives thousands of miles away and is coming ‘home’ for Thanksgiving (i.e. flying back to her college town, instead of coming to visit me, so I’m driving 6 hours in order to see her for the second time this year, the only other visit involved me traveling to her as well.)

Now that we’ve set the background situation ask yourselves if she should be annoyed that she should be annoyed if I try and take the bookcase full of her teen memories, “the shrine” as my son calls it, out of our guest bedroom (the room she sleeps in when she does deign to visit.) After all, if these memories (a box of soup, some photos, her McDonald’s badge) were all that important to her, she’d be displaying them in her own home.

We are in the process of downsizing. We can’t afford to move to a smaller house, but we are moving out of our excess rooms so that if/when we have to move to a smaller place, there won’t be as much to dejunk. I’d love to have our guest room ‘grow up’ into a proper guest room but it is hard to do since it makes my daughter feel even more unwelcome in our home.

My memories of my daughter are all around the living area of my house – gifts she’s given me, some of her artwork, her pentacle from when she was into Wicca, her wedding album plus photos of her or as part of the family. She’s not forgotten or relegated to a closet. But I’d love to pack up all those things that are only important to her, not me. She has boxes of stuff in the basement too, and that’s ok for now. The stuff that bothers me is the stuff that is significant to her that she wants displayed here. Haven’t figured out how to do it without further alienating her.

She’s trying to move closer and I’m holding out hope that once she gets back to within driving distance, I’ll be able to turn all her things back over to her. Since it costs $1.50 per pound to move things across the country, I don’t want to unnecessarily saddle her with this, but I’d like to put it into my ample storage area. (When she moves back the only furniture she’s bringing is her bed and her dining table which she inherited from her grandmother – everything else they own was bought used and isn’t worth paying to move back.)

BTW: the 23 year old lives on his own and has still got stuff stored here but doesn’t mind that only one or two things of his remain in his old bedroom. But he lives nearby so visits often, coming to see us, not his stuff.


Elaine October 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

I’m trying to get rid of “stuff”, and it feels soooo good! So, yesterday my brother-in-law gave me a bag of Daddy’s stuff (who’s been dead for 15 yeras) because I “care so much about these things”. There’s a photo album, some framed pictures and a few other items (including a ration book from WWII years). Some things I want, some I don’t. I’ll be getting rid of the things I don’t want, with only one or two twinges.


CanadianKate October 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

It’s funny what people will hold on to. My dad had a box of old papers that I was going through as part of dejunking one room in his house. As we went through the box together, it was easy to toss a lot, some, like rations books were obvious saves because I like history.

But two receipts I would have tossed went into the save pile. The first was a hotel receipt that I realized was from his honeymoon. The second was a receipt for some milk and other odds and ends from the corner store near their home. I couldn’t comprehend why he wanted to save that but then the date sparked an idea. I guessed right. My sister had been born with a cleft palate and stayed in the hospital for months after her birth. Then, unexpectedly, she was released and my mom needed a few things for the baby and dad was sent to the store. This was the receipt.

I carefully made a file of the kept items. A year later my dad died. Two years after that, I went through all these pieces of family history and made up books of memories and history for my kids and my sister. It includes family tree, copies of letters that tell stories and flesh out the personalities of the ancestors (I have a ton of material to work with) and photos. My sister’s book includes the receipt from the day she came home for the first time.

I recently spent a few days going through drawers at my Uncle’s home. He’s the last of that generation (he turns 99 this month) and he told me stories as we went over papers and pictures and knick knacks. He’s worried his son will toss it all when he dies and I assured him I’ll come and keep the things that matter most. My kids might toss it, they may not, but for at least another generation, the items will be preserved.

I’m still working through the source material I have from my ancestors and my dh’s family (I got all his grandfather’s things because my son is the last to carry on the family name and is named for his great-grandfather. Getting it all organized is one of those 10% projects that Katy talked about. I got a good start several years ago and then we renovated and the items got moved, in their partially organized state, to another room and I haven’t touched them for 2 years.


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