I was recently reminded of how, over time, the significance of our possessions can change as I was helping a client clean out her basement. She had lived in her house for 45 year, raised her family there, nursed her husband through a terminal illness there, and celebrated countless birthdays and holidays there. Her basement was filled with many relics of her fulfilling life – toys that had belonged to her kids, photographs of people she wasn’t sure she could identify, kitchenware that had belonged to her mother, travel information from trips taken long ago – many items that were useful and meaningful at one time, but now stood stacked, dusty and intimidating.

As I helped my client go through the boxes and piles, she had a variety of reactions to what was inside: from “Oh, I remember that!” to “Hmm, where did that come from?” She viewed each item she discovered in terms of what role it might play in her life now, rather than the role it had played in the past. After all, if she had lived without it for all this time and had relegated it to the depths of her basement, it couldn’t be that important to her.

I helped her try to figure out who the unidentified people might be in some of the photos, then put them aside for her to pass on to her late husband’s side of the family. I wondered along with her about when her mother might have used some of the serving pieces and household goods we uncovered, then put them in a pile for her kids to go through. I helped her move an old, tattered chalkboard to the curb for garbage day, recalling how her kids had played “teacher” with it. I took a dilapidated, kid’s-sized table and chair set to the curb as well, remembering the kids coloring and playing games at it. I added a broken doll house to the garbage pile as she recalled how surprised she had been that her daughters didn’t play with dolls, but did enjoy the doll house.

As we travelled down memory lane together, my mom and I shared some great memories, celebrated her rich life, and looked forward to the future – a future that includes a cleaned-out basement and the relief of knowing that she hasn’t burdened her kids with having to figure out what the stuff in those dirty old boxes is after she’s gone. Thanks, Mom.

What things are you holding onto that are or will become a burden to you or your family? Take some time now to decide what’s meaningful and let go of the rest.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.