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Why We Keep Stuff: "I'll never find another one like it"

Tips from Ask the Experts’ Elizabeth Tawney Gross

What things in your life do you consider irreplaceable? Many of my clients think most of the items in their home are irreplaceable. They keep things because they believe they will never be able to get them again. In reality, very little in our lives is truly irreplaceable.

Old photos, legitimate antiques, original artwork and the quilt your great-grandmother made are not replaceable. If you have these kinds of things, keep them and store them with care and respect, so they are not damaged. It is heartbreaking to clear piles of stuff and find that the prized item underneath has been damaged because it was not properly stored. You can never replace the special person in your life, and nobody gets more time. Treat your irreplaceable people and time with respect and care as well.

Anyone who has lost their house to a fire or natural disaster will tell you the things they truly miss are old family photos. After the 1999 tornado in Oklahoma City, people found photos found miles from their original location. They were taken to sites where survivors could search through them. Today with digital archiving and the ability to scan old photos, even these precious memories don’t have to be irreplaceable.

Simply because it’s old isn’t a good reason to keep something you don’t use or display. Taking up space with old, cracked mixing bowls that can’t be used and are too beat up to exhibit, keeps you living in the past instead of the future. Old things can rob you of space to live your life today. If you think your old item is truly irreplaceable, browse the Internet. You will probably find many items like it, possibly in better shape than yours. If you find the item is truly valuable, then sell it, making some money and freeing up space. Please don’t make the mistake of buying old items with the hope of getting rich selling them. You’ll end up with even more stuff cluttering up your house.

Most of the paper we keep is replaceable. Some of it may be time-consuming and expensive to replace, but it can be done. Keeping every piece of paper that comes into your home is unnecessary and creates a fire hazard. I have had clients with 50 years of old bills and bank statements. I’ve asked them if they have ever needed them and the answer is no. Get your bills and statements electronically and ditch the paper.

Use your time and space on what is truly irreplaceable, the people you love.

Copyright© 2014 Elizabeth Tawney Gross, Organizing For Everyday, LLC