Much of my work as a professional organizer is teaching clients to trust their decisions. From big decisions to small decisions, I'm here to facilitate and support. Some clients catch on right away and can move through piles of clutter quickly, and without angst. Other clients take a lot of gentle interaction as they learn to get into the mindset of letting go. Universally, every client grinds to a halt at some point over a possession that gives them pause.
The items they hesitate over are rarely valuable, and almost always sentimental. From my standpoint, it looks ordinary. That's the tricky thing about sentimental stuff. To your friends and family it can look like nothing, which is why this type of stuff can get accidentally tossed by a well meaning loved one before you're ready to let go. Even if I know in my heart-of-hearts that this item needs to be jettisoned, this is not my decision. I believe in teaching clients to make decisions, not bully them into doing what I think they should do.
(*Cough* Ok, maybe I can be a little bossy... but I'm never a bully!)
So I ask questions, and I do a lot of listening.
The first question - Can you tell me about this item?
These items always have a story.
Years ago, one of my clients brought me in to help her with her overcrowded dining room. The small room had a beautiful built in sideboard, a large dining room set, a china cabinet, a curio cabinet, and a drop leaf table. Jammed in along with everything, sticking out like a sore thumb, was a ginormous wooden drafting table. I remember thinking What the heck! It was obvious to me that this irrelevant piece of furniture had to go, not only because it was just taking up a huge chunk of space in an already crowded room, but also because it clearly served no purpose.
When I asked my client to tell me the story of the table, she gushed about how she found it on the street years ago when she had just moved into her very first apartment and had no furniture. This, she said proudly, was the first piece of furniture she acquired as an adult. It was clear she still vividly remembered her excitment at finding this curbside treasure!
The second question - Do you need it, use it, or want it?
This is where I encourage my clients to get real.
When I asked her what it is used for now, she paused for more than a few seconds. Turns out it wasn't really being used for anything. In fact, it never worked well as a table, even when she first found it. The only reason it landed in the dining room was because there was no space for it in the rest of the house. By the look of surprise on her face I could tell this was the first time she had ever connected the dots.
The final question - What is your gut telling you to do with this item?
This is where the magic happens!
When my client gave herself permission to keep the happy memory but move on from the table, she was more than ready to get it out of the house. We dragged the table to the curb while we continued to work on the dining room - which looked a million times better once the space had opened up.
Now here's the part of my story where you're going to think I'm making this up - and I swear I'm not! A few minutes later, a young man from the neighborhood knocked on her door and asked about the table. Turns out he needed a drafting table for his major at Cal Berkeley, and was thrilled to take it off her hands! Because my client trusted her gut, she never once looked back on getting rid of that table and ended up donating several additional pieces of furniture!