How To Dismantle (And Love Again) A Beloved Collection

  Once upon a time in crawl space sat a treasure box.  Well, a treasure box disguised as a Tupperware bin.  Up until last weekend, it housed more than thirty batik fabric pieces I collected during my trips to Bali, Indonesia - last trip being in 2002.  I consider them to be some of the most beautiful things I own, attached to so many beautiful memories.  I bought them with intentions of cutting them up into so many projects, but there they sat, eternally folded, lonely, and probably missing Bali too.  Recently, I asked myself, “How special is an object if it never sees the light of day?”

A few years back I turned my most beloved antique one into two pillowcases that I now sleep on every night.  This is the one that I would have liked to preserve as if it were the Constitution in the Archives.  It was the softest piece of cotton I’ve ever touched and begged so many questions about who wore it.  It’s so much happier under my head though, and I’m so much happier being reminded of my trips every time I go to bed.  The rest remained boxed tight in the dark.

Many of you know I’ve been on my own personal decluttering bender lately.  First it was the Domino Magazine collection, then it was my only bookcase, and this recent attack was on this fabric collection.  No one is safe here at Planet Kacy.  You should see what I just did to my cook books….  So there the remaining thirty some batiks sat.

Even though I have enough storage space, my inner organizer is always nagging me to keep it as empty as possible.  Being your own professional organizer comes with a lot of chatter upstairs.  She constantly nags, “If it’s stored, why do you need it?  If you never see it, why is it there?  Yes you have beautiful things tucked away, but aren’t your favorite things already out?”  So a few weekends ago I gave in and brought out that box.

Like most organizing projects, parts were harder than I thought and parts were easier than I thought:

Batik sorting
Batik sorting

The hard parts:

-       The beginning.

-       All of the “But this one is so beautiful!” moments.

-       Remembering details about purchasing each and every one.

-       Deciding which first few pieces would go.

The easy parts:


- Deciding which ones would go (these on the right) after getting my sea legs with letting go of the first few.

- Pretty containerizing at the very end for the pieces I kept.  I repurposed a stray jumbo apothecary jar.

- Coming up with some rules.  Let it go if it’s:

- Machine made (as opposed to hand-dyed).

- Pre-fabricated for a piece of furniture I don’t own (ie: a square tablecloth)

- Was a gift and I’m only keeping it because it’s a gift.  I cherished that gift long enough, right?  Nobody said we have to keep gifts forever.

Image 1
Image 1

So in the end, I was left with a mostly empty box, a beautiful one-of-a-kind display, and ten batiks to sell.  I can enjoy these pieces instead of bemoan the space they take up.

What are you “hoarding” that is too special to use?  Is it note cards you picked up overseas?  Is it a pen that was gifted to you?  Is it a collection from your travels that you thought too beautiful to display in your office?  Do you have a collection in mind that you can dismantle, condense, and finally start enjoying?  Please share in the comments!

Are you really still keeping these?

  I was so happy to see this question come up last week in my Washington Post Home Chat.

It brings up an issue that many of you have - what to do with those unsightly, bulky equipment boxes? If you've been looking for a sign to get rid of them, this is it:  



Q. Like many people, I don't know which cardboard boxes to keep. Every piece of technology, from laptops to Verizon cable boxes, arrives at my house in a box sized perfectly for it. Do I keep these boxes in my office (and if so, how do I do it nicely?)? Or should I throw these out and hope I never need to mail something back to a manufacturer (like if it breaks)?

A. KACY PAIDE : Ha! People seem to have strong opinions on keeping their beloved cardboard equipment boxes. Again, you have to weigh your pros and cons. If you have a huge basement, then you could talk me into letting you keep them. If they are taking up precious real estate in a storage closet or a space out in the open, then you have to be more discriminating. Do you know anyone who has rejoiced in the fact that they still had their printer box? I almost always have people throw them out. I don't know one person who has regretted it. It's really a peace-of-mind thing more than anything - and one that isn't worth the space it occupies. Recycling these boxes is one of the quickest ways I know of instantly buying you more space.

7 Day Office Challenge

How much square footage of your little corner of the world is being hijacked by old boxes for equipment you no longer have? Actually, how much space is wasted on boxes for equipment that you DO still have? I've worked in hundreds of offices and I have never EVER not once met someone who regretted throwing away box for their TV, computer, printer, GPS, etc. Here's one for ya, I even tossed the pretty white box for my MacBook Pro a few weeks after buying my computer. Why? If there's a problem with it, it's not going to require me to box it up and ship it back. That's the case with 99% of your purchases. Also, 99% of the time, the things we buy work just fine. Planning for that 1% is never worth the space it takes up. This week - find your stash, bring out the box cutter, and free yourself!

A Dose of Chinese Medicine For Your Office

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” -Lao Tzu

We have officially arrived at favorite season: fall. This time of year I always catch the itch to get rid of stuff. Well, I always have that itch; just look at what I do for a living. Just when I think there’s nothing else that can go, I’ll stare down my closet or bookshelf and find one more thing that I can live without. This always happens for me this time of year and that might be explained by traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, of all things.

As many of you know, I studied classical feng shui years ago. At its core is the cycle of the five elements, each corresponding to a season, and each flowing elegantly into the next. There are times of the year when certain impulses tend to find us, and certain activities that benefit us come more easily. Fall is the season when nature’s life force begins to return to the earth. We become more introspective and less reliant on the things around us. It is a time for letting go of old attachments. Yes, this includes the junk in your office! For some reason, there’s nothing like a crisp fall breeze blowing through the windows to get me reaching for that donations box. Fall is one of the easiest times of year to make decisions about what should stay and what should go. Nature is supporting you. Test this for yourself and put it to use it before it passes!

7 Day Inspired Office Challenge

Take advantage of nature’s boost and stare down your office to find one or ten more things that can go

119 Circle

Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Do You Have Records of Pain?

  "How does it make you feel" is a question I ask when I can tell a client is on the edge of letting go of something, but needs to make peace with their decision.  Sure, the majority of the things I come across when sorting papers are mundane work & financial documents, but a myriad of personal items also creep into my sessions as well.  I once was helping a client with a basement home office.  She found me in another room and said, "Kacy, I just found a bunch of old journals, many with notes from past relationships gone bad.  Should I keep them?"  I can give a fast answer for something like an old grocery receipt or catalog, but this wasn't something I could decide for her (though I always err on the side of throwing it out, whatever IT is!) She proceeded to make an argument for keeping them by saying they might serve as reminders of what not to do in future relationships.  I simply asked her "How do they make you feel when you look at them?"  Her answer came fast and with a look of relief: "Terrible!  They've gotta go!"

On that same note, an old friend of mine recently called to let me know I'd be proud of her for doing the same thing - tossing her old journals.  In her own words, she said "Im letting myself grow up.  It doesn't mean it didn't happen."  I knew I had to share that insight with my readers.  She went on to say, "They're just records of pain!"  Amen to that!

I'm not suggesting that all journals should go in the trash.  Hardly. If they are records of good times and fond memories, then they deserve your space.  If something makes you feel anything less than neutral when you look at it, it has no place in your life.  By all means, if it is a "record of pain," let it go!

My Client Talked Me Into This (And It Happened To Be A Brilliant Idea)!

I'll let clients keep anything as long as they can make a good argument for it.   Recently I was working with a massage therapist who did just that.  She was doing a marvelous job of letting things go from file drawers, tote bags, and the desktop.  Even in sessions like these, where the recycling bags are filling fast, we can still be left with a pile of things that are somewhat useful or interesting, but leave us scratching our heads.  In this case, she didn't know what to do with a new 2012 planner, an ad for a local green housecleaner, and a handful of interesting articles and recipes. Here's her brilliant idea: she suggested we create a basket of "grab bag" type items and articles that sits out in her massage waiting room.  Anything in there is up for grabs to her clients who are passing through.  It's no longer cluttering up her space and there's a good feeling that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  It's also a nice addition to the waiting room, giving her regulars something to look forward to.

This works well for anyone who has a waiting area.  We agreed that anything left in there for more than a couple of weeks must go, keeping the basket fresh.

The Jedi Mind Trick of Office Organizing

We Organizers get a bad rap. Sometimes I have to reassure clients that I’m not going to force you to throw everything away: every precious memory, every useful thing, everything piece of paper to your name. I had a client once who, a day before our first session, sent me an email that said exactly this:

“… Also, do you force throwing out stuff, as I am a hoarder who wants organization not a purge….”

First of all, he was far from a hoarder – has a beautiful home in fact. I know from experience that it is near impossible, futile at best, to attempt to organize without a purge. I didn’t need to tell him that at this stage though. Fast forward a few months: he hired me back again and again because he quickly learned to love filling the trash can so much!

What I do know is that a very special kind of person hires an Organizer. I love this special kind of person. Usually it is someone who is suddenly very willing to let go of what’s no longer serving. If they can’t see it for themselves, it is my job to see them as one who is already experiencing a clear desk and clear head. When a client is resisting, I just remind myself of this. If they didn’t want to let go, they wouldn’t have hired me.

I may be giving too much away, but this is my Jedi Mind Trick of organizing: when they’re getting frustrated, it’s time to let them keep something (and then they always throw more away). In a recent casual conversation with a new friend, she asked, “At home I have a shelf full of crafting supplies. I haven’t used them in years, but don’t want to let them go. What do I do?” My answer was simple: “Keep them!” She explained more about her life, which then made me realize that those supplies represent a lifestyle to her. Allowing herself to keep these will surely allow her to release everything that is not representative of the lifestyle she wants. Releasing the tug-of-war over keeping these beloved things gave her instant relief – no tossing necessary, just a little mind control.