Picture this. It’s 25,000 years ago. You pick up the sharpened stone you use for skinning animals and add it to the pouch you sling over your shoulder. It also has some animal sinew in it that you use for fire starter sticks. You roll up the hides you slept under last night and strap them to your back. You have a basket handy so you can collect berries on the way. It’s time to move to winter quarters. Your extended family moves with you.caveman


Life was simple. Hard, but simple. There were no greeting cards, pictures, extra clothes nor shoes. No accumulated memories of a life time.  No households of stuff when relatives passed away. There weren’t any books nor piles of paper, no projects – completed or not. There were no electronics nor thousands of accompanying accessories. There was no myriad of sporting paraphernalia. Nothing to declutter.


There was what you needed to survive. That’s it. Maybe you carried a small carving as a token or good luck charm. But mostly what you loved were your family and the experiences you shared. You carried virtually nothing to your grave.

Fast forward to today. According to research done in 2000, the average US household has tens of thousands of items in it. 

I’m not suggesting that we go back to cave man days. Life is much more comfortable now, and more complicated. We spend a lot more time organizing our stuff – and getting overwhelmed by it.


So what do you do if you’re overwhelmed by your stuff but you really want to declutter? The number one priority is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. So how do we let go?

Letting go of items seems like it might be simple, and it is for items we have no attachment to. For items that seem inconsequential, people have no trouble letting them go. It’s easy to let go of items when there is no perceived need for the items.


However, when we have an emotional attachment, think something might be important, or think we might need the item in the future, it can be difficult to let things go.


Emotional attachment to items seems to occur because we like to remember people or experiences by having material items as a memory cue. To let go of these items there are several strategies that can be used.


  1. Keep the one item that holds the strongest attachment to the person or experience.
  2. Turn the item into digital format. Take a picture or scan the item.
  3. Make something else from the items, like turning old favorite t-shirts into a quilt.
  4. Perhaps you have a project that you started, but never finished. Is the finished outcome still important to you, or is it just annoying that it’s still hanging around?
When we are unsure whether items are important or not, it can cause us to keep items “just in case”.
  1. Develop a records retention guideline so you know what is important to keep and for how long.
  2. Take steps to determine the actual importance of the items. Talk to family members, do an Internet search, or ask an expert.
  3. Consider keeping information in digital format.
One of my Dad’s favorite sayings is, “That might come in useful one day.” It’s usually true. It might. Consider these thoughts.
  1. Is it easy to replace the item? If it is a common, inexpensive item, it could be costing you more to store it than it would to purchase it when it is actually needed.
  2. What’s the actual likelihood of needing it in the future? Only keep the item if you know exactly when you will need it, for an event that you have a date for. Keeping something “in case” something happens doesn’t count.
  3. Make it more important for items to be being used rather than sitting collecting dust.
In all cases, it’s important to keep your priorities in mind as you are sorting through your possessions. If you need a reminder to keep you on track as you’re waivering about whether to keep something or not, use a picture, a written description, someone you’ve shared your priorities with to help you stay on track.


Professional organizers are experts at helping you determine your priorities and helping you stick to those priorities as you sort through your possessions. Call Organize to Excel on 310-806-2580 if you want support to declutter your home or business.

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