Arrow-right Camera


How to deal with clutter, tossing family treasures

Many people face that moment when they wonder what they’re going to do with the sentimental items that fill their closets and attics – things like old photos, kids’ artwork, childhood treasures, books and family heirlooms.

And it’s almost impossible to consider throwing out such cherished possessions as that soccer trophy your daughter earned when she was 7 or a grandmother’s chipped lamp, even if they’ve collected dust for decades.

But there are ways to rationally deal with life’s clutter when the time comes.

Nancy McGivney, a professional organizer and owner of Getting Things Done in Scottsdale, Ariz., starts by asking clients why they’re keeping something. She helps them purge their guilt, then their stuff.

One of her favorite tricks: Take a picture of it, then let it go.

“I always say, you have to pass it on,” she says.

Consign or donate the paint set you inherited, and let someone else be an artist. Or let someone else’s child find joy in a vintage toy. It’s a generous and eco-friendly thing to do.

Charlotte Steill, who runs Simply Put Organizing in Scottsdale and has appeared on HGTV’s “Mission Organization,” says she’s busy with clients who can’t upgrade to bigger spaces.

“I really think this (economy) is kind of a wake-up call,” Steill says. “People are streamlining and really paying attention to their home environment and how it functions.”

Organized people don’t see dusty boxes as treasures, they see junk shackling them to the past, blocking them from new experiences and generally overtaking their lives.

That’s why Gail Blanke, a New York life coach and motivational speaker, wrote “Throw Out Fifty Things” (Springboard Press, $19.99), which challenges people to free themselves from physical junk that weighs them down emotionally.

At, readers dish on what’s hitting the dumpster.

“Once you start and once you hit 50, you build all this energy and you find you can’t stop,” Blanke says.

“I think you can go home on any given evening and throw out 50 things… . You can certainly do it in two weeks. Just take a few minutes every day and get it done.”

Tags: home

Click here to comment on this story »