Letting go can mean parting with possessions. Many of us are emotionally attached to our possessions, and parting with things that have had a place in our lives can be difficult. In fact, for some people, this can be a very traumatic process.
Often, people feel as though they need permission to get rid of items. In other instances, it’s simply a matter of knowing what to keep and what to toss. If you are someone who falls into the first camp, I’d like to give you permission — permission to get rid of those possessions you don’t like, those that have lost their usefulness, or things that are broken and cannot be repaired. I’m often asked questions like “What about this hideous vase that was a gift from my Aunt Harriet?” My philosophy is to keep the thought behind the gift, but not necessarily the gift itself. For example, if you’ve been married for ten years, and you still have boxed wedding gifts that you don’t care for, it’s time to let them go.
If you’re unsure about what you should keep, what you must keep and what you can safely discard, here are some general guidelines an suggestions:
Things You Should Definitely Save:
*Old Tax returns and financial records (for seven years)
* Receipts for capital improvements to your home
*Records of key life events such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decree, baptism records.
*Deeds, car titles (assuming you still own the vehicle) and similar documents
Things You Should Consider Keeping:
*Collectibles, or items you are fairly confident have, or will have, resale market value. Be careful, though; items that may once have been in vogue may no longer have a market. Check with a reputable appraiser or dealer.
*Sentimental letters from family members and close friends, particularly if they are no longer living.
* Family heirlooms, providing that you like them or they have sentimental value. If not, see if another family member might like to have them.
*Photographs. (But, if you’re going to keep them, be sure to store them in acid-free, lignin-free albums or photo-boxes to ensure that they stay safely preserved.)
*Sentimental clothing such as a wedding dress or christening gown. Again, be sure to store it properly to prevent yellowing, fading or insect damage. Also, be selective. I recently was helping a client organize her attic and she had 14 boxes of baby clothes for her now-adult children! (We weeded it down to one box for each son of the truly precious outfits).
Things It’s Fairly Safe to Toss:
*High-school notebooks, papers, etc. I promise you, you’ll never, ever look at them again! Same goes for college text books!
* Floppy disks that no longer fit in your computer.
* Out-of-focus photographs
* Electronics that you no longer use (i.e., your 8-track player or reel-to-reel movie projector).
* Appliances that you never, ever use (think ice cream maker, crock pot, etc.)
* Out-of-style clothing, or clothing in a size you will never see again.
* Old periodicals and magazines, especially ones that cover time-sensitive topics (i.e., technology, news, fashion), repeat subjects on an annual basis (i.e., every parenting magazine has a Back-to-School issue in September), or focus on subjects that you’ve lost interest in. Keep in mind that many publications are available on-line.
*Keys to homes or cars you no longer own, or keys to unknown locks.
If you are hesitant to get rid of something because you are concerned about needing it after it has been discarded, ask yourself the following question: “What is the worst thing that would happen if I didn’t have it?” If you can live with the consequence, you can live without the item. However, if the consequence seems too great, by all means, hold on to the item in question.
Once you’ve sorted through and gotten rid of things, you will feel so much lighter, and your house will, too!