Tip of the Week, April 3, 2011
In an episode of Oprah on which he worked with a family to declutter their home, Professional Organizer Peter Walsh made an observation that has stuck with me for years. While sorting through items with Peter in the family's cluttered basement, the lady of the house expressed a sense of attachment to an old food processor that was buried under a jumble of other things, saying that it used to be her grandmother's and reminded her of the times the two of them had cooked together.
Peter noted that her desire to honor her grandmother's memory by holding on to the food processor was offset by the fact that the object was down in the basement, where the client never came into contact with--or even saw--it. Truly honoring something means not just keeping it, but also treating it with respect by giving it a spot of importance in your home and, where possible, putting it to use.
I'm reminded of this exchange each time a client drags something from the back of a closet, for example, and then explains to me why it's important to him, or opens the cabinet that holds his fancy china set that he loves for its beauty but is too scared ever to use for fear that it will break.
If you're not regularly using--or at the very least displaying-- the things you claim to love best or to find most meaningful, they simply become clutter, and allowing something to become clutter strips it of its specialness and its status as an object of honor and admiration.
So here's my challenge to you: think of something you've been keeping because it's special to you in some way, whether a fancy set of stationery, an object given to you by someone important in your life, special-occasion dishes, artwork created just for you, and so on.
Then give that thing the honor and respect it deserves by using it. Write a letter to someone on that special stationery. Use your grandmother's food processor or your favorite uncle's decanter--or at least put it on display somewhere meaningful where you'll actually see it on a regular basis. Eat dinner on your best china at least once a month, even if you're only having grilled cheese. Put that custom artwork up on the wall, or at least on the front of the fridge.
Alternately, if you don't have a need for the item in question and don't want to display it, consider honoring it by passing it along to someone who does need it, or will happily hang it on the wall, or will otherwise be thrilled to put it to good use. It's always far more respectful, in my book, to give grandma's food processor to a budding chef who might not be able to afford a new one but will happily use this one every day than to let it be clutter in the basement or the back of a cabinet.
I'd love to hear from you: how do you honor objects that are special, meaningful, or important to you? If you took me up on the challenge above, what's the special item you chose, and what did you do with it--start using it? Find a way to display it so you can see it regularly? Pass it along to someone else? Please leave a comment and share your stories.