Excuse #1: “I might need it someday.”
Look at each item as though you were packing it (or not) for a move. Does it still have a purpose in your life today? Ask yourself, “If I were to move this item, where would it live in my home?” Why isn’t it living there in your current home? When I hear my client say they might need it someday, I hold up a calendar and say, “I see Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday on this calendar. Can you show me someday?” I ask them to circle a day on the calendar as someday, and if they haven’t used any of the items they designate as “someday” by that date, they need to donate them. Hanging on to stuff you aren’t currently using makes it harder to access the things you want to use.
Excuse #2: “I don’t know what to keep.”
This usually relates to paper. The amount of paperwork you receive can cause you to freeze, especially when much of the paperwork seems to be “important.” The US Postal Service attests to the fact that contemporary Americans get more mail in one month than their parents did in an entire year, and more mail in one year than their grandparents received in a lifetime. And that doesn’t include email! It’s no wonder we have difficulty discerning what is important. Essentially, you need to keep paperwork for which you have a purpose. There are five purposes of keeping papers: 1) taxes, 2) resale of property/cost basis, 3) agreements you have, 4) certificates/legal proof, and 5) returns (receipts) or disputes (claims). Be clear what that purpose is and store the paper so that you can access it when that time comes. Most paper (in fact 80 percent) has no future. Toss it!
Excuse #3: “It was a gift.”
Once a gift is given to you, you are free to do with it what you choose. The object isn’t the gift. The gift is the act—someone thought of you and wanted to express their thoughts in a tangible object. My mom told me when I was a child, “It’s the thought that counts.” Think good thoughts. Now get rid of all those gifts you don’t use or love. I’m sure you never gave anyone a gift and thought, I love you very much, and I hope this is a burden to you for the rest of your life! The love is in the giving. Use it, love it, or give it to someone who can. You have my permission to get rid of any gift you don’t use or love.
Excuse #4: “It reminds me of my mother.”
People associate an object with a special memory. The object is not the memory; the memory is inside you. Take a picture and let go of the object. To preserve the memory, write about the memory in a journal and place the picture of the item with your journal entry. There it will be preserved so that you won’t forget, and generations after you will have the memory too.
Excuse #5: “I paid a lot of money for it.”
The monetary value of any item is only that for which you could sell it. Don’t hesitate to part with something simply because you paid a lot of money for it. Keeping items that don’t serve a purpose in your life today cost you in terms of lost productivity and sacrifice of freedom. Plus, it is negative energy. It makes you mad that you spent a lot of money for something that you are not using anymore, and keeping that item around is a constant reminder of that feeling. One of the criteria I use with clients in helping them to decide whether or not to keep something is that if it makes you feel bad or mad, get rid of it!
Excuse #6: “I don’t have the time to get organized!”
Granted, our “free time” is precious, and the last thing you want to do is spend your limited free time eliminating the clutter in your life. But clutter monopolizes our time. How much time do you spend looking for your keys, an unpaid bill, or the permission slip for your kid’s field trip? The time you lose because of the clutter is easily doubled when you consider the time, energy, and effort that are sapped from you mentally and psychologically. No matter how deep the clutter is, you can make the time to free yourself from it. It’s an investment in yourself that will turn things around. And after you’ve made that investment and create new habits with your new systems, the time spent will come back to you with compounded interest!