The pile had been sitting there for over 4 months in the hallway according to our new client Jenny. (Name changed to protect the innocent :).) We asked her what was in the pile, and she confessed that she’d had a burst of organizing fervor four months past and had gone through all her clothes and her kids clothes to weed out the items that didn’t fit or were no longer wanted. Three garbage bags full and a few shopping bags of shoes, handbags, and other items.
And yet, having been removed from the overburdened closets and chests of drawers… They hadn’t made it very far. Instead, they were sitting in the already narrow main hallway making it slightly hazardous to traverse.
Jenny said that she just never seemed to have the time to get the bags in the car to drop off at the local thrift store charity. Prior to us getting there, it was almost as if the family had forgotten about the pile and simply didn’t notice its inconvenience any longer, but as we all paused to look at the pile it was easy to see Jenny’s face wander into a sheepish expression, followed by a deep breath and new resolve that it was time to get these pesky unwanted clothes out of the house. So, we took them down to Jenny’s car trunk right then, and made sure she knew where the closest local charity bin could be found.
I wish I could say that her story was unique, but in reality we frequently find clients who seem to have made it all the way through the decision-making process about what they want to keep and what’s ready to go, and then the pile of “incompletely discarded” items sits there for weeks, months, or occasionally even years perpetuating the clutter and confusion.
Why does this happen?
The fervor of the weekend organizing blitz leaves you feeling drained, and following through on this seemingly final step simply feels like “too much”.
The sense of commitment to the decisions that have been made wanes slightly… Doubts arise about whether you might not wish you kept that fake leather coat that’s four sizes too small from when you were a teenager.
You get a bit overwhelmed and confused by where to take the items. Which charity will accept this jumble of stuff?
You would really wish to help these items find a “good home” with family or friends, but no one seems to want them any more than you do… so they languish.
A family member in the house finds out that you were about to give away their favorite X (shirt, golf bag, picture frame…really doesn’t matter what), and the embrolio that ensues freezes the process of organizing in its tracks.
Whatever the reason… what remains is “clutter.” As my friend and fellow organizing colleague Barbara Hemphill says, “clutter is unmade decisions.” In this case, you had the best of intentions. You made a decision, but somehow the ball on the follow-through action got dropped. It’s ok! You’re not alone, and today is a NEW DAY!
How to overcome this organizing pitfall?
Don’t approach organizing like a huge blizt that will leave your energy burned up. Rather take it in smaller chunks. Work for an afternoon or morning (about 3 hours), and if you don’t get your project finished in that time, then wrap up for the moment, pull out your calendar, and schedule the next 3-hour block when you can continue it.
Put weeded items directly into the car when you finish your organizing session for the day, and identify exactly which day this week you’ll be able to drop them off at the local charity.
Call one of the charities that picks up household items immediately and schedule the needed pickup with them on your calendar. The Vietnam Vets (VVA), Epilepsy Foundation, and Big Brother/Big Sister are three such charities in our area around Boston.
Send an email to all friends and family members that might have any interest in the items and give them a deadline. If they haven’t claimed the desired items in 1-2 weeks, then trust that the items will find a perfect home with the perfect person through the thrift shop… It just might not be someone you already know.
Always make sure that family members are involved in making decisions about their own stuff… There’s no need to create distrust and a family squabble.
Trust your gut… Or to say it differently… If it’s not a hell YES, then it’s a no. If you were ready to put the item in the donate pile in the first place, then that’s almost assuredly the right decision for you now. In reality, the world will not come crumbling down if you realize next Halloween that your cousin could have used that jacket for his John Travola “Grease” costume. Believe me, he’ll find an alternative solution. Take a photo of it to remember the memories if that helps you let it go. After all, there may be a kid across town who will stay warmer this winter simply because that coat was available to him.
As my friend and colleague Kathy Waddill says in her book The Organizing Sourcebook, “Decide to decide.” Once you’ve made the decision, then now is the best time to take action.
Do you have any piles of “donate/sell/give away” items lingering around your house? What step could you take today to move them out of your world and into the next chapter of their lives?
Image: Sheron2482/ www.morguefile.com