De-clutter without De-valuing

Are you emotionally paralyzed too?

If you’re like most of us, you wish you could de-clutter your home but you don’t have the heart to do it. Clutter stresses you out but the idea of parting with your stuff is simply unbearable. It’s a vicious cycle that just gets trickier when you’re living with a clutter lover.

A new study suggests we’re all in the same boat: We want to reduce clutter but are emotionally paralyzed when it comes to saying goodbye to it. We’re either too attached or believe our stuff is actually worth something.

So how do we get out of this rut? Here’s how I did it:

Heilman ad w captionI attempted to make keep, donate and sell piles and follow through, but strong emotional attachments kept me from getting rid of an enormous amount of stuff. I even collected everything that mattered, separated it into meaningful piles — high school memories, vacation memories, childhood memories, Mason (he’s my only son) memories, partner memories, etc. — and put my most cherished memories at the top of each pile.


From there, I edited, eliminating any crappy stuff that was also memorialized in a nicer object, and considered each objects’ aesthetic potential. If I thought I could use it in décor, I put it in separate box labeled “décor” and later incorporated it into my home. Everything else got labeled and boxed, and I made a slight concession (that, unfortunately, will show you I’m not good at sharing): I gave my clutter-comforted partner Ed a room of his own and tried to steer clear of it.

Here is where the first epiphany occurred: By cutting out décor that either had bad memories associated with it or didn’t nourish my soul, I discovered a newfound love for my home! Not only was it more peaceful, every room (well, almost….) brought me daily joy because the décor triggered what really matters to me.

Then reality hit again. My partner wanted to kill me. Yes, the house was streamlined and peaceful, but it was superficial. Our closets, crawl space, garage, and attic were overflowing with boxes of memories making it impossible to stay in the Zen when accessing any of those spaces.

nym ad w blog captionEnter epiphany #2: My dad had an 80th birthday party and my clever cousins wrote and performed a song that captured the essence of who he is. Profoundly moved, I realized I could do the same with my boxes full of memories. I headed for the crawl space and began imagining my life stories as works of art. Now I’m slowly and intentionally filling my life with artwork, songs and poetry that tells my stories (which luckily tell Ed’s and Mason’s too), and I have never been more Zen.

You too can declutter without devaluing. Here’s how:

  1. Make labels for boxes. Think about what matters and make separate labels for categories of real meaning: children, partner, personal accomplishments, vacations, etc.
  2. Take out everything and place each item in the appropriate pile.
  3. Put the things that mean the most to you in the relevant boxes.
  4. Toss out any items that trigger the same meaning
  5. Decorate with what matters. Eliminate what doesn’t.
  6. Look at what’s left in each box and ask yourself how those items could be incorporated into artwork. Find your stories in our existing artwork  or commission an artist  to turn your stories into art.
  7. Be reminded daily of what matters most!!


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