When I work with someone for the first time, we usually run into something I call the "Pivotal Object". If a client is eager to organize and get rid of their excess, they are usually pretty amenable to the idea that we need to dig in and make some decisions right off the bat. We'll be humming along, tossing old magazines or setting aside boxes of whiteboard markers for donation, when suddenly we uncover IT. This is the item that causes them to stumble, to look at me with the beginnings of "Oh s___!" dawning in their consciousness.
It can be something sentimental, or it can just be something that makes them feel foolish, either for wanting to keep it...or for even buying it in the first place. So the decision-making process slows, and we have to work through some baggage to get to the best resolution with questions such as: "How did you come to own this object? What does it mean for you? Do you feel good when you use it or look at it? Who do you associate with it? Do you have the space and the means to store it properly? When was the last time you used/remembered/thought about it? Does it help you to be a more successful you?"
They are often surprised (and relieved) that I suggest they keep this Pivotal Object. And I am surprised that they are surprised. I've had people ask me, "Do you keep things like this?" Well, of course. Organizing is not the same thing as pitching everything you own, after all. Once we've gotten over the hump with that initially uncomfortable decision, we usually make even faster progress.
So with that sentiment in mind, I proudly present to you some of the Pivotal Objects I Keep (along with my reasoning behind the retention, logical or not).
1. Category: Sentimental.
Item: The last birthday card my grandmother ever gave me.
She was the only one of my grandparents that I knew, and she passed the winter after my 18th birthday. Note that I didn't keep EVERY card my grandmother ever gave me. Frankly, I think that would lessen the importance of the one I did keep. It resides in my senior yearbook, and I do pull it out from time to time and smile.
2. Category: Sentimental/Practical?
Item: Our firstborn's first Halloween costume.
Somewhat practical, because it was also our secondborn's first Halloween costume. I think it is impeccably adorable, and I have visions of a future grandchild being carried around to a house or two (or maybe a fall festival) in it one day. See how much stress I will save the kids by providing them with a vintage costume that I'm sure NONE of the other stylish babies will have?
And because I plan ahead, anticipating the possibility that our two dear children will argue over this item, I have also kept...their second Halloween costume:
3. Category: Might Use This Someday.
Item: The book Day Hikes In Ventura County by Robert Stone (2nd Edition).
If I have an Achilles' heel in the acquisition department, it's books. I have a lot, and despite my resolve to utilize my local library regularly, I still get a little weak in the knees when I enter a bookstore. I have not visited Ventura County (where we used to live) in over 11 years, and some of the information may be out of date, but one day I'll go back. And I'll hike. Using this book.
4. Category: Have Space For It.
Item: A 24-pack box of wine glasses from Costco.
These have been used exactly twice in the 10 years we've owned them, and they rarely enter my consciousness from their spot on a dusty shelf in the garage. But when I have used them, they sure fit the occasion. No re-washing glasses right before dinner is served, no resorting to red plastic cups. Two important points about these glasses: I like them, and I have space to store them. And clearly, I need to have parties more often.
5. Category: Hanging On To Just-Because, With a Side Of Irrational Guilt.
Item: My taekwondo training bag.
This is perhaps the most troublesome of the POs for me. I used it a ton when I was getting ready for my black belt test, and now...almost five years later (sigh), it stands like a lonely sentinel guarding the north end of our bonus room. Over the years, it has served as an occasional corner post for indoor tent-making, as well as a handy way for anyone in the house to get some frustrations out. On the other hand, it is not attractive, is not getting regular use, and serves as a constant reminder that I gave up taekwondo shortly after the black belt. But because I think our son might want it someday (oh geez did I just type that?), for now it stays.
You can see that I am far from being a minimalist, but I do have an awareness of what I'm keeping, and why. I think that may make the difference (at least I'm telling myself it does). Is it clutter? Is it all in the eye of the beholder? What sorts of things are you keeping?
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?