Decluttering Treasures Week 1: Survey and Support

October 2015 Live Decluttering Challenge Game

Welcome to one of the most challenging decluttering tasks you will ever choose to do. Going through all of your mementos, memories and personal treasures tends to be an emotional journey as well as a housekeeping chore. We all hang on to objects from our childhood, travels, and important life milestones. Sometimes they trigger memories, sometimes they send us daydreaming or make us cry, laugh or recoil. Going through them with an eye to downsizing our collection can be daunting.

Together we are going to make your home a little neater and a lot more personal. Once a week, I’ll be posting a new phase of this game: survey your stuff; look at your photos & videos; decimate your objects; empty the storage area. Each week will focus on reducing the clutter but also give you ideas for how to creatively remix and recycle items to highlight beautiful memories and souvenirs you’ve collected over the years.

Depending on the amount of things you have, the time you give to each task, and the objectivity you bring to it, the weekly challenge might be quick and easy or it might take longer than a week. That is ok. Do this at your own pace; use the weekly posts in the best way for you.

Support: Pick a Partner

Before you start, I want you to find a partner to do this challenge together. Your partner is going to be your practical advisor, your conscience, and the person who can tell you “Uh, no. That mildewed doll is not going to fetch a fortune on eBay. In fact, she might give you a disease.”

I recommend picking someone who will be be objective and dispassionate. Your spouse, sister or mother might not be the best choice, as they may have strong opinions about your things and the memories attached to them. A friend, co-worker, teammate, or neighbor might be the best decluttering partner.

If you are not yet a member of the Minimalism and Decluttering Games group on Facebook, go join now. It’s a supportive and friendly group of active declutterers who are all doing Decluttering Treasures together this month. We started in Japan and spread across the world. You may find an online partner in the group!

Ideally, your partner will be in the room with you while you declutter. But other ways work, too. Maybe you two do the challenge simultaneously, in different houses, video conferencing as you go. Or you share PMs or e-mails daily. Whatever works best for you is great.

You can do the challenge successfully without a partner. But when it comes to making some of the hard decisions, having an advisor is a relief.

How to Be a Good Partner

  • Keep the week’s objective in mind as your partner sorts and declutters.
  • Listen to your partner’s emotions, but don’t let every “Aw, I remember” turn into “I will keep this”
  • Offer advice and opinion gently
  • Suggest options for creative reuse of beloved objects
  • Help do the research on antiques and valuables

Survey: Taking Notes

You are going to need a notebook throughout this challenge.  It doesn’t have to be special; whatever you have on hand or can get easily will work. You’ll need a pen or pencil, too. Or make digital notes if you prefer. Up to you, but you do need to document some of the process. This helps you and also helps your partner.

Your main work this week is going to be making notes about what you have in several categories from photos to stuffed toys.

Some example notes

Grandma’s wedding photo • on mantle • keep this one
My wedding photos • in box under bed • group photo with bubbles
My wedding dress • in box under bed • what to do?
Beanie Baby collection • bedroom shelf • sell on Ebay
Garnet ring • jewel box • give to cousin Linda
Uncle Dave’s cigar box • guest bedroom • give to Mr. Tate?
Stuffed elephants • guest bedroom • 100% keeping these
Antique lantern • kitchen • offer to theatre or sell
Autographed photos • garage • auction house

  1. What items do you remember clearly? Where are they located?
  2. Are there any items of value that you’d like to sell or give away?
  3. Which things are completely holy and untouchable?

If you’re not sure where to begin, do them by category based on what we’ll be working on in the coming weeks:

First Category, Photos & Videos (week 2)

Physical only; we’ll take care of the digital archives in another challenge. Locate your photo albums, boxes of pictures, the home videos of your children, wedding, etc. Don’t do anything with them yet; we’ll get to them next week. If there are any photos that come to mind, write a description of them so you remember to look for them.

Second Category, Physical Mementoes (week 3)

This covers a wide range of things and your list might be long. Think about objects like concert and conference t-shirts, event swag, gifts, travel souvenirs, childhood toys and stuffed friends, sketchbooks, journals; jewellery; sports memorabilia; heirlooms. Do you know where they are? This is where you might find valuable treasures. Note anything significant that you want to investigate. Note the things you feel you must keep. In a couple of weeks we are going to be valuing these things and finding alternate ways to keep memories alive.

Third Category, Storage (week 4)

You’ve already put these treasures away where you can’t see them or interact with them. This week, all you need to do is have a look for the boxes, bags, and other containers that you have put away for safekeeping. If there is something special you know is hiding in one of these boxes, make a note to dig it out when we get to this in a few of weeks.

When you’re got your notes together, share them with your partner. They will be a handy reference for both of you as you dig deeper.

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