Things for the memories
Clutter can overwhelm your home — take charge and clean house
SORTING through an overstuffed closet or garage is hard enough, but getting the junk out of the house is often the biggest headache of all.
“I think the biggest challenge people have when I come in is what to do with the stuff,” says professional organizer Shelley Davies of Details Modern Order in Vancouver.
“They are tired. They’ve made some tough decisions earlier in the project: ‘OK, I’m going to get rid of those skis, but what the heck do I do with them?’ ”
Davies makes the entire problem go away.
Not only does she sort what should be sold, where, and for how much, she takes everything away, deals with it, and assuages client guilt by making sure any giveaways have the best impact environmentally and socially.
“It’s much easier to let things go when you know they won’t be wasted.”
Davies’s client, lawyer Sami Atkinson, 54, had been aching to organize her accumulated belongings for years. She’d raised a houseful of kids and been left with the household detritus when her husband moved out.
He got to take the things he wanted and everything else got left behind, she said wryly.
Then her mother downsized and all her excess belongings ended up in Atkinson’s basement.
That was the final straw, Atkinson said.
“It’s mentally burdensome. You just feel weighed down by all the stuff.”
Turned out Atkinson’s father had saved all his university notebooks from the 1940s and hundreds of little round plastic snuff boxes. Atkinson herself had accumulated a lifetime supply of pasta. She really needed someone to come in and help her purge.
“There was a lot of connecting things with people and feeling like getting rid of the thing was somehow disloyal and that I should keep it because a certain person gave it to me,” Atkinson said.
Davies tackles this concern by repeatedly asking clients, “Do you really love that vase? Do you use it? Does it bring you happiness?
“You’re not honouring your grandma by hiding ‘the gift’ away in a drawer and letting it collect dust,” Davies said.
“The only thing I kept of my grandma’s were her glasses and they sit beside me at my desk. Every day I see them. It’s about living and it’s about enjoying the things around you. Every time I see my grandma’s glasses it makes me smile.”
Another common challenge is the perceived financial value of belongings
“Something you bought five years ago for $200 is not worth that today, so all it’s doing is taking up prime real estate,” Davies said.
“Make a decision, sell it, give it away. Just move it out. It’s not going to do you any good no matter how much it cost you. Try and get some investment back.”
In addition to her regular fees, Davies charges a nominal $50 dump and donate fee to take your junk away. The money pays for her gas and her fee at the dump.
Send her a photo of what you need to sell, and she’ll arrange to have it priced and advertised on Craigslist.
She’ll send you a possible buyer’s contact information and takes just 10 per cent of the sale.
“I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and had to spend two months in hospital and that’s when I really analyzed what I needed and what made me happy and the reality is I only needed four pairs of underwear,” Davies said. Of course, purging isn’t always easy. “I’ve had clients say to me, ‘No no, I’m going to give that to my cousin, she has a baby,’ ” Davies said.
“What I say to them is, ‘You have a week. If they’re still here in a week, I’m going to take them. Nine out of 10 times, they are still there and if they are not there, they’ve hidden them so I can’t find them, which I eventually do.”
— Canwest News Service
Above: Professional organizer Shelley Davies of Details Modern Order has her work cut out for her in this Vancouver home.
Left: A condo Davies has organized.