When downsizing includes letting go of guilt

Downsizing without Guilt

by Shaunna Privratsky

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My Story: Clutter Stole Her Life

Clutter Control

I had to make an agonizing decision. I needed more room in our family room. It was overcrowded with hand-me-down furniture. The most obvious choice for elimination was the old brown rocking chair. No one sat in it since the spindles were so delicate. It had also been broken and repaired twice. It took up a lot of floor space and the finish was worn.

Easy choice, right? Yet, it was my Mom's rocking chair. My Dad had bought it for her some twenty years ago and she'd loved it. When she passed away seven years ago, my Dad gave me boxes of clothes, jewelry, books, mementos and the rocking chair. I tried it in almost every room in our house and it just didn't seem to fit. It ended up in our family room.

Although it holds great sentimental value, the chair is impractical. So much of my clutter comes from not letting go of the past. A piece of my Mom's spirit seems to be attached to the rocking chair, and I felt obligated to hold onto it, long after it had outlasted its usefulness to our family.

I've found some wonderful ways to preserve the fond memories of my Mom's life. You can do it, too. Scrapbooks are a lot of fun to create and capture the happy moments of the past. Take photos of larger items and make a collage of old photos. You can add whatever you want, including old letters, cards, and postcards.

Another way to showcase your memories is with shadowboxes. Gather favorite photos and other souvenirs like movie tickets, treasured jewelry or scarves, handkerchiefs, a tie, well-worn keys to the family homestead, etc. It doesn't have to be fancy; some of the most eloquent pieces are mundane but hold great meaning.

First, arrange the gathered mementos in a pleasing pattern. A typical layout is a large piece for the background, followed by overlapping photos and objects. Then mount them with hot glue or strong sticky tape. Paint the shadow box's frame to match your decor. Now you have a wonderful memory and conversation piece you can hang on your wall, instead of tucked away in dusty boxes.

Over the last few years, I've weeded through my Mom's things. I've kept and worn treasured items like a brand-new silk robe, a classic long wool coat that is bright red, comfy sweaters and gorgeous silk scarves and jewelry. I also have her trendy sixties-style short wedding dress, along with some funky jewelry from that time period. I've read and re-read some of her favorite books and added her small collection of old teapots to my own.

However, some of the things I have let go like the clothes that didn't fit, the jewelry that I had no use for, and the odds and ends that held no special memories. The largest of these was, of course, the rocking chair.

I ended up selling it to a young couple enthusiastic about refinishing it and getting it ready for the arrival of their first child. I felt a tug of regret. Yet, as I listened to their excited chatter and plans for the future, I realized that the rocking chair had a whole new family to create happy memories with. Suddenly, letting go of the past didn't feel like a betrayal of my Mom's memory, but a sense of release.

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The next time you realize you are holding onto unused objects or furniture out of a sense of obligation to the past, just let go. Erase the guilt by preserving your memories in scrapbooks, photo albums and shadowboxes. You will eliminate the clutter, both in your home and in your heart.

Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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