When Clothing is Not Clothing

I’ve noticed this a lot recently when I’ve been helping clients organize their closets or dresser drawers. We are sorting the items into categories, and the client says, “Oh, I don’t wear that.  I keep it because it has a special memory associated with it.”

As soon as I hear that, I say, “Then this isn’t clothing. This is memorabilia.”

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

Today, my sister and I finished clearing out our family home of nearly 40 years.  It wasn’t the home we grew up in — we moved out of that apartment three weeks before I graduated high school.  But it was where we introduced our parents to the men who would become their sons-in law; where we brought our children to play with their cousins; where we mourned our mother three years ago and helped my father reestablish his new life, which ended two months ago.

It was the place where I lived for a brief time when I separated from my first husband.  When I told my parents my plans, my mother insisted that I move in with them.  That was what family did — gathered around you in your time of need.  I ended up staying for two years and forging a new close relationship with my parents as a grown-up.

Final Look 3-31-15

A final look at the now empty dining room and living room.

My parents lived in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath rental apartment, not a house with an attic and a basement and a garage. So I was surprised at how much they had been able to pack away into their 7 closets and various pieces of storage furniture.  You can accumulate a lot in 40 years.  At some point, I offered to help them move to a smaller place.  But my mother, who had been chronically ill for many years, said she didn’t have the energy for it.  So they stayed.

In deconstructing my parents’ lives over the last two months, we faced the dilemma of wanting to honor their past and treat their treasured belongings with respect, yet not incorporating all of it into our lives (and apartments).  I made the choice to bring home just a small amount of memorabilia: photos, cards, letters my daughter wrote from camp, and a couple of creative masterpieces from my own childhood!  I also brought home some photos that I plan to send to other relatives, and a few things that I will donate to specialized charities.

In the end, the task proved too overwhelming for us to handle ourselves.  We hired Michal Landor, who specializes in tag sales.  Last week, she ran a sale in the apartment in the morning, then arranged for the Manhattan-based Vintage Thrift Shop to come in the afternoon and pick up whatever they felt they could sell in their shop.  Michal also provided a clean-out company, who came over today and cleared out everything that was left.  It was surreal watching the rooms empty out.

As a Professional Organizer, what lessons did I derive from this exhausting and emotional experience?  As is often the case, it reinforced my resolve to continually review my possessions to ensure that what I keep in my home are those items that I still use or from which I still derive pleasure.  I want to make sure that when my daughter closes down our family home, she doesn’t have to scratch her head and wonder why we still owned these things that we haven’t used in years.

Why We Collect

I’ve always loved these lyrics from the musical The King and I, which Anna sings in the introduction to the song Getting to Know You:

It’s a very ancient saying
But a true and honest thought
That when you become a teacher,
By your pupils you’ll be taught.

As a Professional Organizer for the last seven years, I can vouch for this.  Although clients hire me to teach them how to live their lives in a more organized fashion, I frequently come away with some new knowledge or insight that I can apply to my own life, as well as to future clients.

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Cash In Your Collections

Have you been saving something for years because “it will be worth a lot of money someday?”  Ah, yes, that mythical “someday”.

I often encounter this with my clients.   It could be something (or a collection of things) that they have been saving since childhood.  Or it could be something they have inherited in recent years.

It’s never been easier to check the value of your collectibles.  Just go to eBay and search for items like yours.  You’ll see how much people are selling them for and how much buyers are bidding.  You’ll also see how flooded the market is.  You can use the Advanced Search function to see what prices they have sold for recently.

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Share Your Legacy Now

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  My sister and I decided to celebrate with my father at his apartment, the first family gathering there since my mother passed away nearly four months ago.   With my 19-year old niece home from college for the summer and my 15-year old daughter about to leave for camp, it seemed like a good time for us to go through my mother’s jewelry.

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