Organizing heirlooms

Dear Kathi,

All of my relatives seem to think that I am the holding ground for their old stuff and I end up with lots of things that I don’t want. How can I keep my house from being barraged with unwanted heirlooms and family junk?

Joy, Cardiff by the Sea


Learn to stand up for yourself and tell your well meaning┬árelatives politely ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ If they protest, ask them why they feel you should hold onto what they no longer need.

One of the best ways to prevent clutter, is to stop it┬ábefore it starts. Do your family members consider your house the dumping ground because you already have a lot of clutter? They might get the impression that you love to collect things so you wouldn’t mind holding onto theirs.

If you are a collector and wish to break this habit now, ask yourself three simple questions before you bring anything new into your home:

1) Ask, ‘Am I going to use it now, or in the near future?’

Or better yet, how many times will I use this in the next year? If it is a family heirloom that landed on your doorstep only because of someone else’s sentimental attachments, just say no.

2) Ask, ‘Am I going to use it ever?’

Lots of clutter piles begin with one simple impulse buy. Make sure that if you will use it, it’s use will make up for the space it takes to own it. If you will only use it once every few months, it’s probably not worth the extra space it’s going to take up in your home.

3) Ask, ‘Where is it going to live?’

Make sure you have a clearly defined space for the item you’re considering adopting or buying. Otherwise, it’s bound to be brought home, put someplace temporarily, and eventually end up in a pile with other items that were not well
thought out.

If the item is going to end up in a pile somewhere without a space to live, forget about it. If there is a space and it won’t cause something else to be displaced, then perhaps it is OK. If there is no space available, and you really want it, you must release something else to make room for the new item.

Be diligent, form new habits and soon you will no longer be the dumping ground for your relatives.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to:
San Diego Professional Organizer

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