As a writer, I am often inspired by ideas in unusual settings. Who thinks about organizing while hiking? Apparently I do, because so far, hiking trips are a frequent source of inspiration. This one came on a hike in Rocky Mountains National Park. My family was fortunate to travel to Colorado in August, and by far our favorite outing on the trip was this particular hike. The trail from the Bear Lake post to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake is definitely one of my favorite hikes I have ever completed. After relaxing for a little while at Emerald Lake, we gathered our belongings to prepare for the trip back. I usually prefer a hike on which you can come back on a different trail so that you can enjoy different scenery on the return trip. Since that wasn’t a possibility that day, we started the trip back down the trail.
I noticed that although we were hiking exactly the same trail, the two experiences weren’t identical. For one thing, we encountered a few elk on our way back, which was quite exciting. And of course we encountered different hikers than on the way there. But most noticeably, the scenery looked quite different this time. Sometimes all it takes to see something differently is a change in perspective.
Are you wondering what this has to do with organizing? Once we own an item, that sense of ownership often causes us to value it more than we should. It’s difficult for us to assess it objectively because there are often emotional ties associated with it. But what if we could see that same item from a different perspective? Perhaps that would help us make a more rational decision. How could we do that? Here are 3 practical suggestions that might help you:
- Does this item represent me now? While decluttering my attic for a garage sale this summer, this question was eye-opening. Several home decor items that I had treasured years ago were no longer appealing at all. My taste in decorating is completely different now. It’s not just that styles have changed. I have changed, too. The same principle holds true even more so when considering articles of clothing. My favorite shirt from 5 years ago is vastly different from one I would proudly wear today. Again, it’s not just a change of clothing styles, but also a change in my own personal preferences.
- Would I buy this now? When looking at an item you are on the fence about keeping, try to imagine that same item for sale at a local store. Would you buy it? Would you pay full price for it, or would you only buy it if the price were greatly discounted? Does this help you see the item’s value a little more clearly?
- Revisit the decision in a few months. If you are still stuck on this decision, put the item in a container of some sort and put a date on it a few months or a year down the road. Give yourself some sort of reminder to look at it again on that date. Given a bit of time, you may feel completely different about it. You may wonder why in the world you weren’t ready to get rid of it the first time. If so, promptly get rid of it. Or if you are happy that you still have it and immediately have a use for it, put it in its rightful place and enjoy it.
- If you’re feeling really bold, try asking a friend their opinion about the item. You should only ask a friend who you know would speak honestly without worrying about hurting your feelings. Choose someone who’s not afraid to say, “Seriously? You’re keeping that? You know I love you, but honestly, if I were you, I’d probably just go ahead and donate that.” I hope you have a friend (or several) like that, because their input could be extremely helpful, and I bet they could use some help with their decisions as well.
- Imagine someone else’s reaction when finding it in your absence. It may be a little morbid, but it’s not a bad idea. I have had more than one client tell me that their primary motivation when decluttering came after having to spend many hours going through a house full of stuff that belonged to a family member. They made a firm resolution NOT to leave the difficult job of going through all of their clutter for their children.