How to Part With Stuff You Are Emotionally Invested With

How to Part With Stuff You Are Emotionally Invested With
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My daughter (17) is a stationery addict. From the time she could hold a pen and color she has loved pens and notebooks in all shapes and colors.  Her collection, as you can imagine, has grown considerably over the years.  This was okay with me as she was always able to find a home for them in her room and truthfully I could totally relate.  When I was her age I had a thing for hair products, ummm wait a minute I still do!

Lately though my daughter has been wanting to pare down her collection.  I think it has something to do with her leaving home next year and knowing she couldn’t possibly bring them all with her.  It’s not as easy as it sounds though.  She’s starting with the pens.  Oh the pens, there are so many.  She struggles each day to decide which “friends” she will let go off.  She told me the other day, “mom it’s so hard to part with my pens because I’m emotionally invested in their well being”.

Umm what?

Come again?

Yep that’s right, she is emotionally invested.  With her pens.

They hold memories for her.  Time and money spent over many many years.  Gifts given to her from those she loves.  She is a writer and pens help her create stories and process feelings of teenage angst.  They’ve been there for her, she could rely on them day in and day out.

I totally get it although I can’t honestly say I am emotionally invested with my hair products.  If a product doesn’t pass the “this better make me look beautiful” test, it is out of here.  Never to be thought of again.  Audios amigos.

I realized though that blurting out clever advice like, “they’re just pens, get rid of them” probably wouldn’t be the best thing for our mother daughter relationship.  Instead I did what any good organizing junkie would do and wrote down what she said on a scrap piece of paper so I could blog about it.   Ha!  I thought I could put together a great post giving her and you all sorts of wise Org Junkie wisdom.  But you know what, my daughter beat me to it. Here’s what she found works the best when parting with things you are emotionally invested with.

Are you ready for her advice?

“Just get rid of 5 things a day.  Rather than deal with everything all at once, which can be pretty overwhelming, just focus on separating yourself from 5 things each day.”

FINALLY all the advice I have provided her throughout the years is sinking in.  I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact same piece of advice here on the blog a time or two.  I was feeling so proud of myself until she said this:

Daughter: “Mom, I’m totally inspired by a book I’m reading.”

Me:  “Oh how sweet, you’re reading my book and learning from it?”

Daughter: “No from a book I got from the library.”

Oh okay then. Reality thud.

Apparently living with an organizing junkie who shares organizing tips for a living means nothing when a memoir, read in two hours, about one woman’s journey from the fast lane to a slow stroll in Paris is so much more enlightening!  For those wondering, the book is called Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod and is the true story of a girl completely fed up with her day job.  She wonders how much money it takes to quit her job?  With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cut back, saved up, and bought herself two years of freedom in Europe.

So my daughter is slowly parting with her things.  Maybe to travel to Europe, I’m not sure.  Check out the purge pile she has accumulated this week.  It’s working, it’s really working.  I couldn’t be happier even if I didn’t have anything to do with it 🙂

Purge Pile May
Do you have trouble knowing how to part with stuff you’re emotionally invested with?

It’s okay to go slow.

5 things a day.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Give it a try and let me know how you make out!

PS: Don’t forget to create a Donation Station 🙂

Filed under: Clutter Control, Organizing Basics, Purging


30 Responses to How to Part With Stuff You Are Emotionally Invested With

  1. 1
    Theresa says

    I read about a minimalist challenge recently – from the Minimalists I think. In this one, you purge for a month. On the first day of the month, you purge one thing. On the 2nd, two. On the 3rd, three. And so on to the end of the month. I’m working on my list of 13 things for today right now.

  2. 2
    Marcia Francois says

    Laura, she is stronger than I am. I could only let my “friends” go to good homes with other mothers who will love them like I do (AKA other stationery addicts) 🙂

  3. 3
    Sabrina says

    Great post! I deal with the same issue with my children. I have been organizing with clients for 20+ years and for some reason, they don’t hear me when I give them advise about organizing their room or clearing their clutter or anything else for that matter. But, if someone else says it, they get importance and the reason why they should modify their space. I’m at a loss.

  4. 4
    Sheila says

    As a retired teacher I can say that my own kids never listened to me the way my students would. Parents frequently commented that my students never questioned anything I said and would quote me but not listen to parental advice. Just wondering, where does she donate pens? I need to purge old teaching materials and supplies but cannot just throw them in the trash if they are still useable. We moved after retirement and I do not know any teachers in my new town. I am very emotionally attached to materials that were successful in my classroom.

    • 4.1
      Mary S says

      Try retirement homes,halfway houses,homeless shelters and battered women’s shelters.I have taken a lot of things to those type of places.

    • 4.2
      Laura says

      She will often pass them along to her friends or our church.

    • 4.3
      Vernita says

      Any cancer center would love to have things like that to use, especially if they are at a cancer center away from home!

    • 4.4
      Misty says


      Do you know of any students who could use supplies (i.e. crafts, pens, etc.)? What about senior centers? I’m sure they would love to have any supplies that are still useable. Old teaching materials could be passed down to mothers who are teaching at home.

    • 4.5
      pamela wagner says

      I discovered a few years ago and it has been a terrific place to dispose of my “nearest and dearest” when I did not want to use goodwill or salvation army. At you post wants and offers and people respond at will, then they will pick up right from your home. Usually you do not even need to be at home when they come but just leave the item outside the door or in an accessible location in a bag etc. When more than one person responds to an offer, you then can choose to whom to donate the item, so that way if you have school goods on offer, for instance, you can donate them selectively to teachers or daycare center personnel etc. One person loved this local Freecycle so much that they took to donating homemade sterling silver earrings to anyone who wanted a pair at Christmas! It drew a big response. It was their personal way of being an anonymous “Santa Claus” to those who could not afford a Christmas present.

    • 4.6
      Peg says

      From one retired teacher to another – In September I went up to the local elementary school, where I didn’t know anyone, and brought some Halloween things with me (decorations, poems, art and unit ideas). I stopped a lady who was going in and asked if she could put some of these where teachers might see and use them. She responded that she could probably use them herself.

      I have been a volunteer in a different school. I finally discovered a box that had phonics and reading ideas. I asked the secretary if she would let the 1st grade teachers know it was up for grabs and I would pick up anything left. She reported that the teachers were very glad to get it and that there was nothing left to pick up. After all the work that went into those lessons, I was very pleased that others could benefit.

  5. 5
    Amy says

    I am with your daughter on the pens and stationery. I love the simplicity of 5 things a day. Great post!

  6. 6
    Jessie says

    I saw this picture on pinterest, I was looking for more help as to how to determine if it is worth keeping, worth sacrificing or do you find a way to keep as I am going through selling something very sentimental and I am emotionally attached to it. But in reading your post- I have pretty much done what Janie Macleod did- I decided I needed a change in life and in between jobs and moving, I traveled around the world visiting friends. What I didn’t plan was to meet an incredible man along the way and here i type to you from western Australia when I come from a small quaint town between Philadelphia and New York City! Maybe I should write a book? I often think how do I start to tell my story on my blog that i write? I guess from the beginning is a good place? -Jessie

    • 6.1
      Laura says

      Jessie you definitely should tell your story, it sounds intriguing!!

    • 6.2
      Misty says


      I would love to hear/read about your stories!

  7. 7
    Heather says

    Great advice and just the right timing too! We’re moving in a few months and I know one the hardest parts will be packing my daughter’s room, and convincing her to let go of many many things she no longer plays with.
    We might start today with just five things and see how that goes!

    • 7.1
      Miss. Dicey says

      I have found that my kids are happy to part with toys when i ask them to get some toys they would like to give to kids that don’t have any and we take them to battered women’s shelter or homeless shelters and they feel good about donating! I do the same with my clothes.

  8. 8
    Lacey says

    I’ve heard a lot of people who take pictures of items before they get rid of them. Then you can put them in a photo album and look back at things whenever you want without it taking up space in your home.

    • 8.1
      Jenny Wisdom says

      I think that is a great idea. That would probably work better for me than anything else. Thanks for the great idea.

  9. 9
    Melissa says

    THank you so much for this post. I have so much crafts of footprints, handprints, and other cute paper crafts that came home over the years from my ten year old.. I have two other littles ones, one is about to go to pre-k next fall. I am looking at how full the box from my ten year old is and thinking of the space that three children’s artistic explorations will fill. 🙁 Thats too much. I love the idea of a scrapbook. I am thinking two pages a year. One for there photo and a small favorite craft of mine from that year. Other side will have a sleeve for a certificate of honor roll and report card. This will cut out the Huge alphabet book her teacher thought was a great keepsake

    • 9.1
      Elaine says

      we have the same problem with artwork from our kids and my hubby now scans it in – we have the memories but the space needed is very small as it is only a folder on our hard drive (and back up of course!)

  10. 10
    Dena Atassi says

    What I do when there is something I am “emotionally invested in,” such as the pens your daughter is describing, is I choose meaningful people in my life who would appreciate me gifting them the things I need to lighten my inventory of. That makes it so much less painful and so rewarding to be able to give them something that I care about. If your daughter has friends or relatives (nieces, nephews, etc.) who also enjoy office paraphernalia but, for whatever reason, don’t have the vast collection that your daughter has, then she could send them small “care kits” and let them know that she thought of them when she was organizing her things and hopes that the pens/etc. bring them the same wonderful memories that they brought her.

    Thanks for the post and by the way, I love the photograph! Did you take it? How artsy! I just stumbled by this blog today and I usually don’t comment but this post takes the cake for me! <3

    – Dena

  11. 11
    Meg says

    So I’m new to your blog and this is only the second of your posts I’ve read through, but I really feel inspired by this. Seriously. I get a case of the “I’m so overwhelmed, I’d rather shut down and do nothings” when it comes to trying to clear out the clutter. I hate regretting getting rid of something, I hate trying to decide which of my items gets the guillotine and which earns an exalted place in my post-de-clutter-world. I can do this!

  12. 12
    Gina says

    I have lost two sons and a husband, it is very difficult to get rid of all the ‘things’. I have found that I picked only two things that had meaning to them, therefore me, look @ those objects and good momories. The rest went to friends of theirs and to our homeless shelter. Their friends appreciated being able to have something of the boys.

    • 12.1
      Maria says

      Some thing I did when my mother passed is make a memory quilt or memory bear out of the clothes she use to wear. It cut down on my clutter and at the same time gave me something new to look at. You can also take let’s say a men’s shirt and make an apron or pillow out of it.

      • Ruth says

        I wish I had read this before my mother passed. What a beautiful idea. I did make a ‘shirt’ apron out of one of my husbands shirts after he passed and it has brought me much pleasure.

        • Laura Wittmann says

          So sorry about your husband Ruth but so glad you could create a memory of him to treasure forever.

  13. 13
    Mary Alice Bellis says

    I am a crafter, and my craft room s overcoming me. I keep coming in to “clean”, but all I do is shift. I take things off shelves, reorganize and put it back, with things left on the floor with no place to go. I have a hard time parting with scraps of paper that might be useful. After reading this article, took 3 scrap boxes and dumped them out I knew this was the right thing to do. For a long time I have wanted to “organize it”, and even bought file folders last week to do that I decided to start fresh. I will make the file folders, and use them from now on. Wish me luck It’s a beginning for today. Tomorrow I will get rid of more.

    • 14.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Once you start and do it for awhile, it does get easier I promise!!


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