Wednesday, May 16, 2012

De-cluttering method: journaling

Often when I help people organize and de-clutter, when we get to objects of sentimental value that trigger memories, they begin telling me stories.  I tell them they need to validate their emotions and record their memories in their journal, but they don't seem to get that bit of advice. 

Journals are one of the best de-cluttering devices ever invented.  A journal is the place to get rid of all the mental clutter, like the wonderful things that happen to you that you don’t want to forget but are afraid you will.  A journal is the place to vent about the terrible, obnoxious things that people did to you so you can get it off your chest. 

Journals are the place to tell stories about what you used to do with your siblings when you were growing up so that you don’t have to keep old toys to remind you of the same thing. 

Journals are the place to tell about amazing places you went for vacation and what you did so that you don’t have to buy souvenirs.  When I was a teenager, I got into keeping a vacation log for each family vacation we took.  I carried it around with me and described what my whole family was doing at crazy moments.  That vacation log is the best souvenir I have (and actually my only souvenir).  It is the only souvenir I really need because when I read it, I can relive the vacation.

Journals are really useful as a tool for de-cluttering stuff that represents a relationship with a loved one.   Journals help you let go of stuff like the following:
·      The seashell necklace made of colored yarn given to you by your daughter twelve years ago.
·      The scraggly crayon drawing of you and your family produced by your son when he was three.
·      The construction paper Christmas ornament made by your daughter in kindergarten that sheds glitter everywhere.
·      The ugly vase given to you as a wedding gift by your favorite aunt.
·      The baby clothes worn by all your children. 
·      The toys you and your siblings used to play with as a kid but never touch now.

In a journal, you can write about the symbolism of that object, the person it evokes memories of, the happy times spent together, and everything else about it that seems to demand respect.  Journaling validates the emotions and preserves the memories for the future.  Those memories are more important than the object itself.  Without the memories, the object would cease to have any hold over us.  Journaling preserves the memories separate from the object, thereby making it unnecessary to keep the object.

I recently read through the book The 100 Thing Challenge, by Dave Bruno in which he pared down his stuff to 100 things and lived with 100 things for a whole year.  One of the great things about his book was that he recorded his feelings and emotions that were attached to the stuff that he was getting rid of.   He got rid of some fairly expensive items—carpenter tools, sports equipment, and antique train sets, for example.  He wrote about why he had bought them, what they symbolized to him, the values he had been trying to incorporate into his life by buying them, etc.  I know he wrote his book after having completed his challenge, but writing about the things he got rid of was probably very therapeutic.  I think this book is helpful for anyone who wants to see how journaling can help loosen emotional attachment.  It is also a great help if you want to see an example of reasoning about what is needed and what isn’t.  (We learn from examples, and examples of de-cluttering reasoning help us build our own skills and learn to make wise decisions.)

I personally have used journalling to help me let go of some jewelry from an old boyfriend and a sunflower blanket I bought myself when I was a teen.

One of the things that might keep you from using a journal to de-clutter is when you have so much stuff to write about.  The more stuff you have to write about, the more overwhelming it is.  Another way you could do it faster would be to record yourself as you share the memories and meaning you have associated with those things.  You can record audio or you can use video. 

Do you need extra help with organizing and de-cluttering? Hire me! Go to for more information about my services! Did this article help you? Be sure to share it with your friends!

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