Everyone has clutter. Some of it we can see in our homes, cars and offices. And some clutter we walk around with daily-deep inside where no one can see, not even us.
I started my journey into professional organizing in 2008. Little did I know that back in 2006 when I discovered I had ADD, that organizing would become my business. During my childhood, teens and into my adult life I would sort things small to tall or by color or category. The exercise calms me and gave my space a more serene look. It also gave me something to focus on other than the chaos around me that was too much for me at the time. (I didn’t have a name for it way back then but it definitely was organizing)
Some of the chaos was external such as too much noise, too much stuff, even overpowering odors or too many people, loud voices and loud music would affect me. My internal chaos came in the form of in my head thinking and going over scenarios or things I wish I would’ve said would have done. Also procrastinating or going over all the things I needed to do. On things I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to accomplish and since they wouldn’t be done perfectly why even try? Or holding onto something negative someone said to me years before that I just couldn’t forget.
We all hold on to old habits and thoughts for many reasons. Sometimes I am afraid of change and I like staying in my comfort zone or I’m just not even aware that the old habits and thoughts are holding me back. Therapists say we only hold onto these thoughts and behaviors because they serve us in some way. We get a charge, a benefit and even a thrill. So how does holding on to too much stuff, mentally and physically serve us? How does holding onto fears, past mistakes, vendettas and false beliefs about ourselves serve us today?
What I realized through therapy, digging deep into my past and these past 14 years as a professional organizer is everyone I meet, no matter how successful, happy, busy or alone one is… Everyone has stuff. Everyone has a story about their stuff. About their stuff.
In my office at this very moment, I have a large moving box filled to the brim with stamps. My brothers and I found dozens of huge manila envelopes overflowing with little see-through plastic envelopes filled with stamps, cigar boxes with old war stamps, wildlife and states of the United States collections. There are binders full, stamps sealed in plastic in very special cardboard folders and postcards and letters with stamps on them from a time when you didn’t have to put a return address on the envelope. Can you believe that? My mom’s father and my dad shared the joy of stamp collecting. My grandfather lived in Washington state, my dad in Illinois. There were hundreds of letters back and forth – because in the 60s, 70s and 80s, that’s how they would share their latest find. Grandpa Vince also sent funny cartoons, silly cards and copies of dirty/crass drawings that I remember my dad roaring over for hours. They definitely shared a special bond. The two of them also shared a very deep love for my mom and for each other. My grandfather would visit us every September and bring a small suitcase full of stamps and they would spend hours exploring them together on the dining room table. He came to visit the month of September because he, my mom and his ex-wife, my grandmother all shared birthdays and their wedding anniversary in September. It seemed a little odd to me (but my family is a little odd) that they wanted to spent the anniversary of their wedding together, even though they had been divorced since 1938. It was also magical, sweet and truly wonderful to know how much they still loved and admired each other, even if they couldn’t be married. If they had stayed married, they would have celebrated their 69th anniversary together in 1997, the year my grandfather passed away. To say that this little hobby of theirs became an obsession, is difficult to say. But the fact that my house now contains tens of thousands of stamps may be proof otherwise.
What I do know is that I have been holding on to the stamp collection to somehow keep my father and my grandfather’s love for each other alive. And I know that is not logical because their love will never die, even though they have both passed away. I guess it’s a way for me to feel close to them and to be a part of their little world that they share together.
After writing this, I searched out a stamp collector and I’m actually meeting with him tomorrow. Realizing why I was holding onto it helped me decide that keeping this huge box of stamps will not bring my loved ones back and getting rid of it will not remove their love or memories from me. We need to dig deep and be honest with ourselves when we are trying to make a change. It’s not easy but it is simple.
About Lisa Geraci Rigoni
Lisa Geraci Rigoni is owner and CDO, Chief DeClutter Officer, of The Organizing Mentors. Lisa has been helping her clients reclaim their space mentally and physically for over 10 years.
Lisa’s primary mission is to help individuals, families and organizations improve their current situations with organized systems and spaces. If required, she or a member of her team will identify and help resolve the chaos and self-destructive habits that led to internal and external clutter. By addressing the issues that have brought clients to their present state of disorganization, clients develop clarity and freedom. Beyond organizing space, Lisa and her team coach clients to implement best practices and inspire confidence to make positive choices that enrich their lives and set them free from the habits that have kept their minds and spaces cluttered. After working with The Organizing Mentors, clients are recharged from the acceptance and empathy they practice as they reclaim their physical and mental space. The non-judgmental manner Lisa and her team utilize is highly appreciated by those who engage her team for assistance.