May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I may have mentioned that my husband and I are on a decorating journey. As I prepare this column there is a large carton from Smith & Noble in our basement waiting for its mate to be delivered and then we can schedule installation of new window treatments. We are just a couple of small steps away from completion of our living room makeover.

The problem with doing one room is the surrounding rooms look “off” compared to what is brand new and current. We did something that I don’t like to do: we began work on another room before the first one was done. Fabric was ordered for the dining room chairs that pulls the two rooms together nicely. Our decorator/friend also recommended a wonderful upholstery person who made our old chairs shine and look brand new.

During this process I had to face my own organizing challenges. There is a piece of furniture (a buffet) in the dining room that I never liked. I felt pressured to get something at the time (circa 1992) and the piece was a convenient purchase to go with a table that we purchased and fortunately still enjoy.

In lieu of getting rid of the buffet, we decided to do a deep cleanse of the contents. We took out all the items stored inside and sorted through everything with an open mind, leaving our emotions to the side. This was my turn to face my organizing fears in my own home. Forty percent of the items stored in the lower shelves of the buffet were from my mother, who passed away unexpectedly in August 2001. I had many of her tablecloths, most of which had permanent stains and had not been used in years, but I kept for purely emotional reasons, seasoned with a little bit of guilt.

I have always told my clients, “just because you give away your deceased loved one’s belongings it does not mean you love them any less.” It was my turn to listen to my advice. The tablecloths have been donated along with the placemats and napkins. Our full assortment of candles—all gone. They were so seductive in the store when they had a 50-percent-off label on them, but what good were they if I never used them? Sound familiar? The final sort was of matches and matchbooks, just keeping those matches that we need to light emergency candles in the event of a power outage.

And now for the piece de resistance, Tante’s lamps. Tante was my mother’s aunt who took over my mother and uncle’s care after their mother died leaving two young children and a grieving widower who owned a grocery store on Mulberry Street in Newark. Tante took my mother and Uncle Eddie into her home and heart. She protected and loved them while my grandfather was getting back on emotional footing after the loss of his young wife.

I inherited two lamps from Tante and my sister had Tante’s collection of spice jars. The lamps inhabited many rooms in our home as our color themes changed over the years as well as our taste. I finally came to the honest conclusion that I no longer liked the lamps. As important as Tante was to my mother, I did not feel compelled to hold on to the lamps to honor Tante and Mom’s memory. I contacted my son and my sister and asked if anyone was interested in the lamps. The lamps are now in transit to Thermopolis, Wyoming, where my sister will provide them with a loving home along with their old friends, the spice jars.

And there you have it: I have opened the kimono and my heart to share with you that I understand your angst about letting go—because I have the same experiences. It’s OK to admit that you need a push or a hand decluttering a drawer, a shelf or a closet. And more important, “just because you give away your deceased loved one’s belongings it does not mean you love them any less.”

From our home to yours, wishing you a happy Mother’s Day.

By Eileen Bergman

Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer, a proud member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Eileen is listed in the resource directory for the Hoarding Disorder Resource and Training Group. Eileen may be reached at 973 303 3236 or [email protected].

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