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  • Writer's pictureNatalia Allende

This week on The Woof! Streamline your move: deciding what to keep, what to let go

Moving into a new home is a great opportunity to reconsider many things and to stop and think of the life one wants to build. But sorting through one's possessions and streamlining the move doesn't have to be in the context of a move. Any time might be good to do this exercise. You may simply want to reconsider what you own. A fresh start is an invitation to be creative, to grow and, among many other things, it's a time to reconsider possessions. What should one keep and what should one let go? Tricky at times, this is a chance to be a little hard on oneself for a longer term benefit.

junk-filled garage
Not pictured here: the three more storage units filled with stuff

What we own says a lot about ourselves: our interests, attachments, capacity to discern, and sense of space and order. Moving into a new home is a lot of work, not only because of the packing and moving, but also because we are confronted with all the objects we have accumulated over the years we've lived in our current space. It confronts us with the many interests we've explored and left behind, emotional attachments and objects that bring us memories of people we don't have around anymore, and many, many "just-in-case"s. A former neighbor once told me his grandmother had a rusted, decaying car sitting in her yard for decades. It had belonged to her daughter who had a promising future but died young. She could never bring herself to part with this expression of her young daughter's early success in life before passing unexpectedly.

If you're moving or if you simply want to clean our your home, how might you deal with this--often--enormous issue? My advice is to be as strategic as possible. Following are my tips to go about sorting through all of the accumulated items, in order that in our next stage we can live comfortably while respecting our past and present in light of the future.

Tip #1 Sort through your things with time: If you pack your home the last week before moving, you'll tend to find yourself overwhelmed and make impulsive decisions: throw out things you'll regret later, or just packing everything and not discerning what's worth actually keeping.

Tip #2 Make three to four piles: 1) it goes to the trash, 2) it can be easily given away or sold, 3) it's definitely coming with us, and maybe 4) things that need a couple of days to mull over before deciding.

Tip #3 Consider your level of attachment to the object and where that attachment is coming from. Is it worth bringing this weight and volume to your new place? Or did it have its run and it's time to lighten up. Some questions that may help these considerations: How likely are you to use it? If not so much, how easily can you get another one down the road? Do you love it? Why do you even have it? If you were attached to this item in the past, does it make sense to continue to hold on to it or maybe not any more? If its something you like and is broken or not working, can it be fixed and how likely are you to do that? (Be brutally honest with yourself!!)

Tip #4 Play some good, upbeat music. Make the exercise as pleasurable as you possibly can. I wouldn't suggest doing it with a glass of wine though. Who know what the easing of inhibitions would make one do...

As you sort through things you are bound to come across objects that bring back memories. Give yourself time to indulge in these, with openness to saying goodbye. A tiring process, but it's well worth it. You may even take joy in that wonderful feeling of detachment from things that meant something in the past, but not so much anymore. And you will be more free to get a fresh start. Think of the final result as having only things that make sense in the space. As you see below, even a space filled with interesting design elements can be quite considered. This living room by British designer Kit Kemp has a lot going on, but nothing is superfluous. The space would not benefit by removing anything!

Kit Kemp living room
Kit Kemp living room. Even a lively space filled with pattern and interesting design elements can be considered.

For example, in my home we're avid readers and we own many books. I cannot fathom a home without bookshelves and books actually for reading. But, in our last move I decided to heavily edit our bookshelves. I focused on keeping books I absolutely love and that form part of my identity or books I hadn't read and that I was still intrigued by. My husband had a harder time letting go of some of his books. But three years later, we haven't missed any of the books we gave away, and there were six large boxes of them. Seriously ask yourself if an item will actually be used or enjoyed in your new home, not if in of themselves they're useful. This is about your relation to them.

The following space by Rose Uniacke is quite calm and collected. While it still has lots of substance, the space is kept at a minimum of elements that allow it to feel "clean" while still complete.

calm, contemporary, traditional bedroom
Photo of work by Rose Uniacke. A collected and considered bedroom

A last consideration, closely related to the above comments, when it comes to purging ahead of a move... think whether all of the things I'm taking fit in the new space and allow for whatever new things I want to bring in without suffocating it, both in terms of space and aesthetic quality? Just because something fits, doesn't mean that it truly deserves a place. And I'm all in favor of holding on to those pieces that are special for whatever reason. I own a fair amount of art, most of it pretty contemporary. But my grandfather painted a picture for me when I was young. It's actually a nice piece but doesn't have a lot to do with my aesthetic. Nevertheless, how could I ever get rid of it...? And so, with every move, my grandfather's painting comes along and finds a place in my home. And I always manage to make it work nicely. A considered space allows all of the objects to hold their place and shine. A cluttered space is confusing and does not allow the eye, or the mind, to rest. And in the end, this is what matters most, that your most intimate space be a place of rest and personal joy.

If you would like to redesign your space and get some help in organizing and reconsidering what to keep and what to let go, contact us and let's start a conversation!

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