The phrase “Charity begins at home” can be paraphrased for professional organizers. The art of organizing for others begins in our own homes. Although my home may not be perfect enough to be used as a stock photo shoot for Metropolitan Home or Architectural Digest magazines, I do know this…99.99% of the time I know where to find what I need.
Allow me to give you an example. Just last week as I was tying the laces on my second-favorite pair of work boots, I noticed that the laces were frayed, and one was ready to break. I pulled the frayed shoelace out and went down to my basement where I keep my sewing box. The contents of the box include needles, various colors of thread, thimbles, a few accessories for sewing and, at the bottom, a selection of assorted colors and lengths of shoelaces. By the way, the sewing box was a wedding gift from my mother, one of the few gifts that has survived 45 years of marriage and has remained useful in our many homes.
As I used the frayed lace as a measurement against the fresh brown and much stronger laces that I had in stock, I noticed that my first choice of laces was about 5 inches shorter than the original. I tossed that up to wear, tear and stretching over the years of usage. Within five minutes I was finished with the shoelace debacle, and I happily got back on my way to work with my boots safely tied. All was good in my world of shoelace replacement and my second-favorite pair of work boots.
I never questioned my judgment to keep a selection of shoelaces in stock that do not take up much space. Plus, this is something that I knew I would need someday. It made me think about a bigger picture. Many of my clients refuse to part with items that they have not used in years because they “may need that someday.” It gave me pause as I thought about my shoelace storage vs. my valued clients’ collections of items that they believe they may need someday.
For example, old tools. For some reason, people like to hold on to old tools even though (a) they don’t know what they are used for, (b) their hands may not be strong enough to use them, (c) the tools are so rusted and rotted that they are not safe to use and finally (d) they are covered in dust and mold proving that the likelihood of using them in this decade is slim to none.
There are many household items that I come across in clients’ homes that I am confident will never be used again in their lifetime. For example, dried out eye droppers, tarnished silver baby spoons, glassware that is so dirty, even the toughest dishwasher detergent will be unable to cut through the grime, old rubber bands, reinforcements for three-hole paper, car seats that are beyond several recalls and my all-time favorite…the bags of bags (paper or plastic).
This list would not be complete without adding a few more of the more common collections such as the multiple selection of old table cloths that are stained and frayed, old pillow cases that were used at summer camp in 1968, bobby pins and curlers. Remember the pink spongy curlers that locked into place so you could sleep in them or wear them to ShopRite? They are in the contents of many of my clients’ homes. Most objects are being saved for sentimental reasons even if clients can’t remember if they came from their mother-in-law or their husband’s great Aunt Sadie. Or they simply forgot they were there, like the curlers!
I hold on to items that I know I will need someday, not items that I may need someday. As you sort through your junk drawer and locate eight eye droppers, keep the best one and recycle the rest. And if you are still wearing lace-up shoes, sneakers or boots, hold onto the replacement laces. You may need them someday to tie up a package or your shoes.
Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and a proud member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). 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].