People are fascinated when I tell them what I do for a living. “You mean you go into people’s homes and chuck all their stuff out?” Well, no. A big NO actually. You see, it’s not so much about the throwing out … though usually one of the outcomes of decluttering is that certain things do get moved on … as it is about working through a process of questioning old habits and old assumptions in the face of changing circumstances.
Professional decluttering isn’t about me coming in and imposing my values and my judgments on you. It actually doesn’t matter what I think. I have my own home, and I organise that in a way that works for me. But this is all about you. You and your possessions – your “stuff” – and whether that stuff continues to serve you. So how do you know? How can you tell when something that you used to love – after all, it was probably you who brought it into your home in the first place – has outlived its place in your heart and therefore your home?
Essentially, the process comes down to passion and values. No, not “value”; not how much something cost. Strangely, the cost of things is rarely a factor when I work with clients to help them decide what and how much to declutter — though it may have influenced why it hasn’t been decluttered long ago. No, what I’m talking about are “values”; those invisible signposts in your head helping direct you to what is really, truly significant to how you choose to live your life RIGHT NOW.
Let’s say that your children have grown up and moved out of home and you want to reclaim their old rumpus room as your study space and retreat. But you can’t help feel that you should store the boxes of old Lego, just in case you ever have grandchildren. Listen to your values, your inner voice telling you that you deserve this space; you’ve waited a long time for it, and you don’t have to compromise it for the sake of possessions which are no longer meaningful to you. There are always options for letting things go; many of which can be quite uplifting to the soul. Donate the Lego to a refugee centre in your community. Offer it as a raffle prize at your local primary school fete. List it on Givit, or Gumtree, or eBay. Or just leave it outside on the verge with a sign saying “Free to a happy home”. The point is, it’s not your priority any more and you don’t have to compromise your own vision and values to accommodate it.
Living by your passion and values works both ways, of course. One of my greatest (but most rewarding) challenges is to get clients to articulate which possessions in their home are truly important to them, and why. The answers often surprise me, and usually in a happy way.
My husband is a passionate Richmond AFL supporter. He’s backed the Tiges through thick and thin (more thin than thick, to be honest) since their glory days of the late ‘70s. Last year he won a big footy tipping competition with a curious prize. The winner won the “Gnorm” for a year; a two-foot high plaster gnome painted in the team colours of your choice. He was beyond excited. Frankly, “Richmond” and “trophy” are two words which rarely go hand in hand. The big day came. “Gnorm” arrived by courier to our home, where he would live for the forthcoming year. How can I say this? Gnorm isn’t really my cup of tea. He’s kinda quirky, and the shiny black & yellow Richmond Tigers paint job doesn’t really match my décor. If I could, I’d have decluttered him straight out the door. But my husband loves the shiny little fella and all he embodies. In the spirit of marital compromise I suggested that Gnorm take pride of place upstairs for a week, and then retire to the downstairs family room for the rest of his stay. Well, seven months on and the little guy is still commanding prime real estate in our lounge room. He’s grown on me … and I’ve come to understand that when it comes to your possessions, it’s the passion and the values behind them which should drive what goes and what stays. We’re into a new AFL season now, and my husband is sitting close to the top of the tipping competition. I’ve become quite fond of Gnorm …but truthfully? I’m kinda hoping for a late run from a dark horse tipster. After all, I’ve got passions and values too!