The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Rachel at Useful Beautiful Home.
I want to touch on something usually left unsaid or easily avoided – how to start organizing items that represent heartache or loss. I had trouble finding content on this matter. I’ve read an assortment of suggestions and opinions about organizing happy memories, but the painful ones are rarely written about.
Three years ago my husband and I experienced a game changer in our family plans, I had a miscarriage just days away from my second trimester. From that point forward, I have been unable to carry another child.
Prior to that emotional event, we were blessed with a healthy daughter. I’m sentimental in general, but when it comes to my daughter’s baby items, I’m ESPECIALLY sentimental. Those things aren’t just things to me, they represent what we may never get to experience again and they contain a mountain of treasured memories from yesteryear.
Looking at her pink bouncy seat reminds me of my new mother stage and a host of early family memories. Each precious keepsake holds sentimental value and sweet memories… Newborn clothes, pretty much all in pink… Crib mobile she cooed her first “song” to… Bumbo seat and chubby thighs… Push-carts for early walking steps… On and on I could go.
Originally, I kept it all. But, like most parents, we soon found this collection to grow wildly. I hesitated to donate or sell what we accumulated, in hopes of being blessed with another babe. However, I finally came to grips with the fact that I can’t continue storing everything. In other words, it’s time to stop dedicating our attic to motherhood memories. No more contributing to a mini museum of baby artifacts. It’s time to pursue organization for the sake of personal healing and boundaries.
So where to begin? It helped me to look at the facts… Does holding on to stuff insure another baby blessing? No. Does holding on to stuff rewind the precious days? No. Does holding on to stuff change a miscarriage outcome? No.
If the above is true, then why hold on to these things so tightly? For me, it’s because I’m hopeful for more children. And, of course, that sentimental side contributes largely. Yet, reality tells me we’re running out of room. I can’t possibly store more belongings without spilling out of the attic and into the guest room.
Generally, I try to only keep that which remains within a boundary or can be contained. Remember Laura’s Organizing PROCESS (HERE and HERE)? It’s my guiding star when it comes to organizing. Remember her expansion on the topic of purging (HERE). It’s no secret, purging is a key ingredient when it comes to organizing. Therefore, purging is an important step in organizing yet often times it’s the hardest.
Our walk-in attic is a rather large boundary and we’re reaching it’s limits. It’s cause to re-evaluate and it hurts. It hurts to address the memories that represent painful points in my life. If you’ve ever lost a loved-one, can’t have more children, or have tucked away other painful memories – it hurts to let go. It hurts to purge. And really, I’m not suggesting you do unless you think it’s time.
Don’t get me wrong, professional organizers have some marvelous suggestions for purging while preserving your memories. For example, many suggest taking pictures of what is precious to you and then donating or selling the item itself. In theory, that’s a wonderful idea. In practice, you must be ready to take that kind of plunge.
When it comes down to organizing and purging sentiments, maybe you need to tread slowly like me. Maybe you need to take baby steps in the purging stages of organization. Not because it overwhelms you. Not because you’re unorganized. Not because you have no clue what to do next. Sometimes, purging at a slower pace needs to happen for those of us who still feel the pain. Our tender wounds may not be completely healed. So, we need to go easy on ourselves while continuing to press-on through the stages of grief.
Initially, the first small step I took was only taking pictures of my treasured things but not purging them at first attempt. I took several pictures of what I had the most trouble letting go and saved them on a hard drive. All the items themselves went right back into storage. In the process, I was able to find things to sell/donate but a portion got neatly packed away for another day. I didn’t say packed away forever, but for another day when I was a little stronger and less emotionally impacted.
One day, I will have healed enough to purge the rest but will always have the pictures. Pictures to keep the memories alive but not things that overcrowd our space and congest our home. For now, I have a mixture of the pictures and the things until I’m ready to say a final goodbye.
Does that make sense? I began with just taking pictures but not getting rid of the extremely sentimental items that still fit in our storage space. It’s starting the process, taking a step, but not executing a permanent decision until I’m ready.
I’ve gone ahead and let go of several things but that bouncy seat might just keep her spot on the shelf a little while longer. I’ve rounded up a tub of outgrown children’s clothing to sell but those dainty little newborn clothes are still waiting in their own tub with the hopes of being worn by another baby in our household.
I’m not perfect in this area yet. At times, I’m still learning the balance between what makes the most financial sense to keep, what holds significant sentimental value, and what must be reasonably moved out to make room for the next stage of life. However, it’s been helpful to remind myself that what I give away helps meet another young mother’s needs. And I smile despite the inadvertent tear that escapes, knowing my donation helps someone else during her hardship.
So, sweet friend, if you’ve listened to organizers and felt twinges of guilt for what you’ve kept in the back of a closet or in the recesses of your attic, know that I understand. While it isn’t commonly written about in the organizing sphere, it’s understood. Sometimes, your boxed-up memories have deep roots and represent a great deal of pain that only time can heal. And in time, small strides eventually add up to big progress.
In the professional world, I’m a nurse by trade. But, around our house, I’m known as Mommy to our young daughter. My two worlds collided and began shaping into a blog. Useful Beautiful Home represents the hours I’ve dedicated to managing my household as efficiently as possible. I offer you motivation to keep your home healthy, organized, and welcoming. My goal is to share what I’ve implemented in my home to inspire you with fresh ideas and to encourage you to keep up the good work in yours!