Decluttering

BTR: A Tiny Bedroom in Alamo Square

Welcome to the bedroom of client, "N".  Located in San Francisco's NOPA neighborhood, N has been living in the space for over 10 years (ahem, rent control).  She called New Minimalism because she was tired of feeling cramped, unorganized and overwhelmed by the things that had collected over the years in her tiny bedroom. Not to mention that N was recently engaged and was inspired to turn over a new leaf and refresh her space. 

The closet was a major source of frustration for N.  You can see in the before image (left) that it was pretty much unusable.  After 10 years of living a busy city lifestyle items had, well, accumulated.    Once the closet started to go down hill, the thought of cleaning it was too daunting for N and it quickly turned into a catch-all space.  In addition, the back of this closet has a deeper nook that, if you don't plan for, ends up becoming a trap for items to disappear... never to be found again (until we show up and start pulling everything out!).

The biggest design improvement here was removing the sliding doors (after: right image).  By doing so, we increased accessibility and unapologetically displayed the bright and beautiful clothes within. N has great taste and enjoys expressing herself through her fun wardrobe.  Granted the closet is small, yet we were able to hone down the clothing so that all of N's hanging garments had space in the closet while still making space for her fiance's coats.

Much of the contents that were hiding on the floor of the closet were donated, thereby opening up space to store shoes.  We carefully measured the space and included a tall and narrow shoe rack in the rear of the closet to store seasonal shoes (plus a pair of badass roller skates) in the nook.  The upper shelf became storage for R's work-related materials, N's winter accessories and purses.

Tip:  We start all NM projects by decluttering the wardrobe.  We love it so much, that we even created an Essential Wardrobe Decluttering Guide to share our process.

Above is a detail shot of the closet (left: before; right: after).  The top of the table kept N's makeup (silver box) and was a landing zone for work jackets (fuzzy draped sweater).  The shoes, not having space in the closet, gathered below the table. 

During the session, we learned that N has a very specific work wardrobe that is separate from her "play" wardrobe.  She has been working at her current job for six years and yet never carved out a space for her work-only clothing.  As such, it was easy for the work wardrobe to simply float about the room, getting lost or damaged in the process.  By removing the clothes N no longer used, we created space in four drawers of the dresser to contain all work clothing.  Now N knows exactly where her work clothes are, and if something is out of place, she knows where it should be. 

As for that silver makeup box, we decluttered the cosmetics that had expired, threw away the silver box which had seen better days, and repurposed the small 3-drawer stand as the new make-up holder.

 When we first came to N's room, various surface-level piles were the result of existing storage being over-stuffed and under-optimized.  The items N no longer needed crowded out the items that she used regularly.  By setting aside the time to declutter her clothing, N examined and shed the items that no longer served her in her current life and reclaimed the existing storage of her room.  

After two full-day sessions of decluttering, and the installation of some strategic hooks and shoe racks, we were able to transform N and her fiance's bedroom into a peaceful space; a space where they can come home after a busy day to rest and rejuvenate.

Mini-Minimalists: 11 Ways to Cultivate Clutter-Free Kids

Image //  via

Image // via

As a woman of "a certain age," my life is rapidly transitioning from bottomless mimosa brunches and birthday weekends in wine country to baby showers and 1st birthday parties.  

And while I'm not yet a parent myself, it's been impossible not to notice all the products targeted at and constantly given to new parents and kids.  

In the world of families, the proposed "solution" to problems is almost always more/bigger/fancier (crib, stroller, house, toys, etc.).  And of course kids are so darn cute that we are all more than willing them 10x the things they would ever need.  Heck, I've seen babies in utero who already have more possessions than the average adult and houses where every room is brimming with toys. 

Given that parents are pretty much the busiest folks on the planet, it can feel miraculous to keep their own bedroom and adult spaces clean, forget the time or bandwidth to constantly do battle with their children's clutter.  

But what if, rather than being producers of continual clutter, your kids helped keep your home tidy and clear?   

The thing about kids is that they would often rather play with a wooden spoon or the box a toy came in.  Sometimes they open one present and play with it for weeks, ignoring the 20 other wrapped gifts in the corner.  Children know and are totally comfortable expressing their preferences (just ask a group of 4 year olds their thoughts on school/airplanes/music/broccoli if you don't believe me).  They are sensitive, empathic, generous and are excited by giving to others in need.   

Kids already have the hearts and minds of minimalists, they just need some help gathering tools. 

11 Tools for Cultivating Clutter-Free Kids:

 

1. Lead by example.  

You don't need to be Martha Stewart or a perfect minimalist to model good behavior for your child.  If you struggle with clutter yourself, take a few minutes to let your children know that you are focusing on honing down your things.  Let them watch you as you process and declutter some of your own items.  Share with them the benefits of having the house being clutter-free: it's easier to maintain, you'll have more time for spending with them, you can try out new hobbies together, the mornings before school will be smoother, etc.   If you're a tidy parent with messy kids?  All the more reason to talk with them so they can understand the intentionality behind your simple space.  

 

2. Let their room be their own. 

It's important to give your kids a feeling of ownership and mastery over their space.  When they know that their space is their own, they're empowered to make meaningful decisions and keep only what inspires and delights them.

 

3. Make it a game. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes and see if they can declutter a toy bin.  Or make a chart where they get a sticker for each small bag of toys they donate.  Whatever you decide works best for your kids, just keep it light and make it fun!

 

4. Designate a home for everything.

 Decide where the things that your kids do love and want to keep will be permanently stored.  It's helpful to place things in containers, e.g.: all legos in a certain bin, all animals in another.  This makes clean up very clear for kids to do on their own as well as signaling to the child when it's time to declutter again because the bin is too full.

 

5. Release your own biases.  

Children will surprise you with their clear preferences and natural penchant for simple living.  Often its actually the parent who struggles when the child clears.  For example, we worked with a parent-child duo and found that for nearly every toy or garment the child wanted to donate, the parent had a reason to keep it, such as: "You love this!  It was your favorite toy for all of kindergarten!"  "But you brought this with you everywhere last year!"  "Not this one, it was a gift from your grandma."  It's crucial if you are going to involve your kids that you honor their decisions.  Just do your best to be aware when these thoughts arise and try not place them on your kids.

 

6. Involve your children in the donation process.  

Bring them with you to donate items to Goodwill, a shelter or a higher-need school.  Let your child see how their generosity positively impacts others.

 

7. Be ready to be very impressed.  

Kids as young as 3 really do understand the idea of letting go of things "for the other kids who don't have as many toys."  Starting at 7, some kids can do an excellent job of decluttering their room on their own.  No matter what age, if you assist your child in the decluttering process, you'll get to hear their thought processes and learn about their value systems as they decide what stays and goes.  Their depth and self-awareness will blow you away.  And you can be damn proud for raising such a thoughtful child!

 

8. Encourage mindful consumption. 

The best way to keep order is to be far more selective about what you allow into a space to begin with.  Teach your child how to politely refuse items they don't care for by doing so yourself.  Show them how you care for and maintain items that are important to you encourage longevity.  Encourage them to invest in things they care about (whether this is their allowance or their Christmas list) and shift focus from quantity to quality.  

 

9) Use birthdays and holidays to your advantage. 

There tend to be a few times a year when children are inundated with new belongings.  Solution: declutter in advance.  The night before Santa comes or the weekend before a birthday party, sit down with your child and ask them, in light of the new things that will be coming into their lives, what they're ready to part with?

 

10) Change the way your family celebrates, aka: stop clutter before it enters the home.  

Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home does a remarkable job of this with her two sons.  She throws them parties but asks guests to give her sons experiences rather than "things."  Start this in your own home and then encourage others to get involved.

 

11) Solidify the habit.  

Create a donation area somewhere in your home that your kids all have access to.  Encourage them to place items they no longer want or use in the bin.  Let them know that it's natural for them to evolve and outgrow certain things.  Once the bin is full, you can bring it to your chosen charity together.

 

What has worked for you and your family?  How do you maintain your home with kids?  What are tools you've come up with to keep clutter at bay?  Where do you wish you had more help?  

Please share in the comments below!

NM Book Review: 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo

Only a few years ago the terms minimalism, tidying or decluttering were guaranteed conversation killers.  

In particular, this word "minimalism" seemed to jumble around in people's mouths like a pile of unpleasant tasting pebbles.

Now if I'm at a dinner party, merely the mention our business name sets off hour-long discussions.  People I've known for 5 minutes share with me the deepest pain points in their homes, talk about past attempts at decluttering, ask me about the craziest room I've worked in or if I've ever given something away and regretted it.  

And honestly?  It's awesome.  

Kyle and I started doing this work because we love it and believe in it.  So this larger cultural shift in awareness and interest in simplified living is of unending excitement for us.  Much of the attention is due to the higher visibility of some of the amazing innovators in our industry (Leo Babauta, The Minimalists, Bea Johnson). 

The latest rising star on the scene is our Japanese spirit-sister, Marie Kondo, whose book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying" has become a worldwide best-seller.  

This book has been a sensation in the general public, among our clients and for us -- making it the perfect inaugural //NM Book Review.  Below I've cherry-picked my favorite 10 principles from "Life-Changing" and organized them according to a few topics:

  • what we learned from Marie,
  • where we agree with her work, as well as
  • a few things that we do differently at NM.

What Marie clarified for us:

1.  Start with your wardrobe.  While clients call us in to work on a variety of rooms, every time we begin with that person's wardrobe the entire process is clearer, the results more impressive.  This is because our clothes are the foundation of our relationship to the material world: it's our second skin, protects us from the elements and offers a means of self-expression.  And this is why we have an amazing resource for your wardrobe coming out in April!

2.  Knowing what you don't have feels good.   For me, one of the ultimate highlights of the book was Marie's response to the most common fear our clients have: “I might need it some day.”  The truth is that we rarely "need" these things we haven't used in years (often never used at all). The problem with rarely used items is uncertainty: we never know where they are or if we even have them.  We must search our house for extended periods of time, frustration growing with each passing moment.   But when you've done a thoughtful and thorough decluttering of items that don't bring you joy (including, eh-hem, all the fear based "I might need it" items), you'll end up knowing exactly what you have and don't have in your home.  You save so much time by not looking for something that is not in your home and can instead start the process of making something else do or borrowing an item.  

Where we agree:

3. Highly impactful decluttering requires a commitment.  The process that Marie refers to as “putting your whole home in order” is to us synonymous with decluttering your space.  Whether you own a large home or rent a bedroom in a shared apartment, this process will take everyone at least 2 full days to complete -- 1 day for your wardrobe, 1 for the rest of the items in your bedroom, 1 for each room or category beyond.  Anything short of touching every single item in your space simply will not produce deep and long-lasting results.   

4.  The results of decluttering are life-changing and magical.  After we've worked with clients, they tell us how much lighter, happier, more free they feel.  They spend less time on errands, are far more selective about what new items they let in their home, and find that packing, hosting and cleaning is a breeze.  But even beyond those obvious benefits are the mystical and miraculous ones: clients clear out their closets and then get engaged; they sort their kitchen and lose 10 pounds or their skin clears up; they get their bedrooms in order and then quit their jobs to travel the world/start a new business/start a family.  By removing the heavy and stagnant items and their energy from your space, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities.

5.  Complicated storage systems are an excuse hoard.  By doing a thoughtful decluttering of every item in your home, a natural organization will emerge.  All of the bins and baskets and color-coded binders that supposedly create organization are just pretty ways of holding excess stuff, aka: clutter.  See if you have any of our top 7 biggest offenders in your home. 

6.  If you don't need it, your family doesn't either.   During about 50% of our sessions, a pile of unneeded items is created for the client's mom/brother/friend.  By "gifting" these items to other people in your life, you're simply deferring the decision of what to do with said item and passing the guilt onto the receiver.  Our rule: don't pass things on to others unless they have a specifically stated need or desire for the exact item.

7.  Do it once.  Do it right.  Then never do it again.  Like Marie, we have never come back to do the same space twice.  This is because we don't skimp or cut corners on the process.  We clear every single bobby pin from each junk drawer and touch every single item in your space.  It absolutely takes less time initially to buy a storage tray and pack your stuff in (the time you spend searching for things and organizing that drawer don't emerge until later...).  But by investing time into this process upfront you don't just get a clean room once, you finish with an understanding your relationship to your stuff, a clear sense of what is important to you, and with the habit of being far more selective about what you allow in.  If you do it right, once is enough. 

What //NM does differently:

8.  Donate, don't trash.  Among our top values at New Minimalism are: the environment (honoring it, treading lightly where possible) and our community (sharing, being compassionate, adding value to those around us).  While it's true that most people have too much stuff, just dumping everything in the trash is a short-term personal solution to a much larger problem.  Our clients are amazing people -- they have clutter because they don't want to be wasteful by trashing things that still have life and value left.  By donating these same items, not only does your space feel better, but you feel better knowing that the items will be used by people who need them. 

9.  Over the top cleaning. We never want to create a system too complicated or time-intensive for a client to actually use (ie: hanging your dish sponge to dry on an outdoors clothesline after each use, bringing all plates and dishes outside to dry in the sun, completely clearing out and drying off your toiletries after every shower).  Don't let yourself get bogged down by small processes; a thoughtful decluttering of your space is the bigger, more important work.  

10.  Good design makes a huge difference.  In addition to decluttering, we value and execute thoughtful design in every space we work on.  Without good design, a room can feel sparse and impersonal.  With good design, the same items feel calm, intentional and inspiring.  

 

What do you think?  Have you read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying" yet?  Did it help you with your own decluttering process?  Please share below in the comments!

Your clutter is their treasure: the real sharing economy.

photo by: Steep Ravine

Win. Win. Win.

We talk a lot on this blog about the benefits of clearing clutter from your own home (win #1) and about the environmental benefits of donating or recycling items instead of trashing them (win #2).  

Today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to focus on the third win: your community.  

Last Friday Kyle and I had one of the most rewarding experiences of our New Minimalism careers.  We donated several boxes worth of food, personal hygiene items, blankets and pillows to Glide Church in the heart of San Francisco’s deeply impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood.

As we brought in items, the dozens of people lining up to receive their free dinner from Glide's kitchen jumped out of line to help us empty the car.  The workers and volunteers at the front desk offered deep and urgent thank you’s while looking at the bounty we brought in.  

The thing is, all of these items came from a client’s home less than a mile away. 

All were deemed excess, unneeded, unwanted, causing clutter and stagnant energy in their space.  These items were cleared away not for the people at Glide, but for the inhabitants, so that they could live spacious, orderly, inspired lives.  So they could enter their calming space and feel their shoulders relax and their armor come down.

And yet the fact that these items didn't add value to our clients' lives does not mean that they don’t contain massive amounts of value. 

They just need to be matched to the right person for that value to be fully recognized.

The bags of unwanted goods became the one pillow someone sleeping at the urgent needs shelter would rest their head on that night.  They became a meal for several families and homeless children.  They returned dignity to dozens by cleaning them and taking care of their most basic needs.

There is a great deal of talk in American politics about the appropriate distribution of wealth and goods.  About public services versus the trickle-down effect.  About taxes and tax shelters and minimum wage.  And sure, Kyle and I have opinions about all of that. 

But as Rumi wrote, "Beyond our ideas of right and wrong, there is a field.  I will meet you there."

Sharing what you don't need with someone who desperately does is not about blue or red, laws or bills, social class or religion.  It is simply compassionate action -- please join us there this holiday season.


Ready to donate?  Check out these food bankshomeless sheltersanimal sheltersveterans organizations and other organizations near you that will gratefully accept your donations of clothing, home goods and canned food.  

NEED DECLUTTERING INSPIRATION OR GUIDANCE?  Check out these helpful posts hereherehere, and here.


May you and yours have a love-filled Thanksgiving!

The 11 Decluttering Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

At the very core of it all, the reason we simplify our things is to increase the quality of our lives.  

As New Minimalists, we believe that less time spent organizing, cleaning, tending to and hunting down our things, the better.  Instead, we use those precious hours every week to practice our art, enjoy our hobbies, give and connect to our communities, savor relationships with those we love and those we've just met.

Then why is it so hard to get rid of the things that are clearly holding us back from living this life?

Most of our clients have attempted to declutter on their own before calling us in.  They're already clear on all the potential benefits to their lives by simplifying their homes and aware of the pain and distraction their clutter is currently causing.  They know they want kitchens with clean counters and have entire pinterest boards of minimalist closets.  But for some reason they can’t release the clutter that is holding them stagnant.

The missing piece of the puzzle is not a matter of willpower or desire -- it's actually far simpler than that.  

It's a matter of semantics.  

Specifically, they're are not asking the right questions to reflect the standards they aspire to.  

We hear clients still asking questions like: 

  • “Could I wear this?” 
  • “Might I need this at some point in the future?” 
  • “Did I spend money acquiring this?” 
  • “Did I get this as a gift or from a neat trip?”
  • “Does this item have value?”  

.... all of which lead to holding onto far more than you want, need, or could ever use.   What you really need to be asking the questions below:

11 questions to ask yourself when you are {really} ready for a New Minimalist life.

For items that are “useful”:

1.  Does this item provide a great benefit to my life on a frequent (daily/weekly) basis?  

2.  Is there anything I own that could do this job just as well but I like more/has more uses?

For personal momentos + sentimental items:

3.  Does this item symbolize or tell the story of my relationship with someone massively important to me OR a life-changing experience? 

4.  Does this item give me a profound feeling of love/joy/adventure when I see it?

For items of beauty or decoration:

5.  Is this item so beautiful that it speaks to me every time I lay my eyes on it? 

6.  Does it fill me with wonder and curiosity or settle and soothe my soul in ways beyond words?

For To-Dos and Projects:  

7.  Do I love this project and excitedly anticipate the time each day when I get to work on it? 

8.  Am I working on this project not because I feel I should or people expect me to or I’ve already put so much time into it, but because working on it makes my heart sing?

For Clothing and Accessories:

9.  Do I feel like a goddess/warrior/the most brilliant person in the room/the best version of me when I have it on? 

10.  Of all the clothing items in the world, would I repurchase this exact one today -- even if it cost 2x as much?

11.  Would I seek out a special tailor or seamstress to fix or tend to this item should something happen to it?

 

Just listen to the answers that come up for you.  

Some will be wholehearted yes's or simple no's.  There will be times when fear and guilt arise, trying to make you hold onto things that you "might need" or that you spent too much money on or that you should finish.  

And then with great love and desire for all the spaciousness and freedom that arises on the other side, choose to let it go.  Choose this new life.  Choose to have faith that life is not in the having but in the living.   

The 1 Reason We All Have Clutter + How to Painlessly Let It Go

What is clutter?  
Why do we all seem to have it?
And once we know it's there, how can we feel good letting it go?


As silly (yet unsurprising) as it may be, these are the questions that keep me up at night.  They're the questions that keep me elbow deep in books on procrastination, positive psychology, decision making, and vulnerability.

These questions are also the main motivation behind Kyle and I and the work we do.  

We don't want to go into the home of a client for one day and force someone to get rid of clutter.  Sure, their house will look lovely for a day or a week.  But that underlying sense of anxiety will never be cured and the clutter will simply grow back with a vengeance.  

What we want is to change the way people relate to their things and help them prevent clutter from ever creeping back in.  And a huge part of that was learning how to help our clients shift their own mindset, to help them feel joyful and free once we pulled away with a carload of things they don't need or love. 

But before we could do that, we needed to know the answers to those big questions.  

Below are the keys to the clutter-free castle.  Everything we've learned about what clutter is, why it shows up, and how we can let it go for good. 

Me (top left corner:) helping a lovely client let her clutter go.

1. What is Clutter?

My favorite definition of clutter comes from Oprah's simplification guru Peter Walsh who says, "Clutter is anything that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life."   

I like to think of clutter as being anything that does not make me feel the way I desire to.  For example, if I want to feel vibrant, a drab and pilly black sweater is clutter.  If I want to feel natural, an overly scented candle or cleaners that make me cough are clutter.  If I want to feel powerful, clothing from a past job that I hated and got let go from are clutter.  If I want to feel cherished, a necklace from an ex who did me wrong is... clutter.

In either of these definitions, clutter is not universally defined.  There is no certain amount of anything that is clutter or isn't, it's personal.

2. Why do we all have clutter?

From all my research and nerding out on clutter I've arrived at this for my answer: we have clutter because we are trying to protect ourselves.  

There is a part of our brain that developed millennia ago whose sole job was to recognize threats and keep us safe (referred to by psychologists as "the lizard brain"). 

  • Spot a tiger?  Run for the hills.  
  • See a bush of fresh berries?  Stuff your face to store energy in case a drought is ahead.  

This lizard brain was super useful back in the caveman and cavelady days.  However in modern times where we spend most of our time in temperature controlled rooms and have thousands of products at our disposal every minute it's a huge detriment.  

  • See clothing on sale?  Buy a ton in case you're broke later.
  • Have extra hammers/batteries/cell phone cords?  Hold onto that shit in case it all runs out someday.
  • Have a bunch of shoes that don't fit and make your heel bleed?  Put them in the basement for some indeterminate time in the future when you "need" them.
To have clutter is to be human.
Which is what makes decluttering a deeply spiritual act.

3. And once we know what Clutter is, how can we feel good letting it go?

To have clutter is simply to be human (see lizard brain above), so let go of any guilt or shame you might feel. 

For many of us, we were taught growing up to nurture that lizard brain.  We're told that this is a dog-eat-dog world.  That the more someone else has, the less you have.  That no one is looking out for you but yourself and you must do everything you can to protect yourself.  And if the world is a place of lack and scarcity, whatever you have you need to keep because you will not get it back, sister.

Which is what makes decluttering is a deeply spiritual act.

In order to feel good about letting go, you must have in place the belief that in the future you will be able to obtain anything you might need.  This does not mean that you need to be an enlightened Buddha before you can experience the joy of release.  


ACTION: Start off small and DONATE.  

For those of us who find the "abundance mindset" tough to fully embrace, it's good to ease into it.  Try giving a pair of scissors and some markers that your child no longer uses to a local school.  Imagine how happy those items are in some student's hand (versus sitting unused and clogging up your kitchen drawers).  

Try out little bits of letting go, feeling the items you release enriching the world around you.  Imagine yourself as the person receiving what they need, no strings attached.  Imagine how loving and abundant the world must seem to someone who is getting what they need exactly when they need it.  Now imagine that person receiving is you...  Yummy, isn't it?


Do you agree that an "abundance mindset" is important for decluttering?  
Do you have any tricks that work well for you when you are letting go?
Did you like this post?  Please share with a friend!

3 Steps to Letting Go of Something You (Used to) Really Love

This post was inspired by a question from Alison Sherwood, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and author of the Tiny Closet blog.

"I found your New Minimalism website -- interesting that there is a market for that kind of work! What are the biggest challenges you face with decluttering clients' homes and how do you help them work through those issues?"

ur clients are really brave and wise folks.  Almost all of them turn to us during some transition in their life, be it moving, divorce, cohabitating, a new job, a new baby, major weight loss, new relationship and so on.  Typically this means that they are really ready to shed the objects from their past that no longer fit with their current life.  

The biggest struggle for all our clients (and me) is separating deep personal stories and emotions from things themselves.  In other words, letting go of things that they used to really love.

or example, was given a UCLA powder blue sweatshirt from my dad when I was about 8.  I was a child's size medium at the time, but he brought me home an adult medium from his work trip.  It was a hilarious mix-up which resulted in me happily wearing a "sweatshirt dress" on the deck of every swim meet for 14 years.  

By age 20 this sweatshirt was tattered and torn, full of holes, missing any feeling of elastic, with both the initial and worn-in softness having been fully used up.  Yet I kept this sweatshirt until 27, fearing that if I got rid of it, I would in some way be a bad daughter or that the love my dad and I feel for each other would be diminished by the loss of this sweatshirt.  

You can hear how tricky and triggering objects like that are, and nearly everyone has many of these types of object in their lives.  Below are the steps that I use with my clients to help them process the attachment to items and let them go in a way that feels loving, peaceful, and freeing.  

3-Steps to Let Go of Something You Used To Love (Without Getting Emotionally Triggered or Completely Freaking Out):

1 ) Honor the item.

Any object that is tightly wound up in important relationships or poignant memories is a valuable one (even if it is just a $2 snowglobe from JFK).  "Ripping off the band aid" doesn't work for these kinds of items.  If you just throw your snowglobe unceremoniously into the donate pile, it's likely a deep sense of loss of wave of anxiety will come crashing through you.

Instead, I encourage clients to take a photo of the item so the memory associated won't be lost.  (I personally have about 30 of these photos in a dropbox folder called "Things I Love.")  Other times, just the act of someone or a group of people listening to you telling the story of how this object came into your life or how it makes you feel is enough.  Sometimes calling up the person who this object reminds you of and remembering the object together is just right.

2) Find the space between your emotions.

It's crucial not to diminish the experience you have with your things and to know that even if it seems illogical, the emotions you are experiencing are very real.  With clients, I focus on moving us into a heart-centered place where we can honor objects and their history but also see the object clearly -- as an object -- fully separate from any relationship or memory.  

It's important to notice the difference between something reminding us of a person or experience (love-based thinking) versus feeling that object is actually holding the relationship or memory inside of it and therefore will be lost with this item (fear-based). 

3) Release with gratitude.

The last step is the most "woo-woo" but also my favorite: we offer up a thank you and blessing to the item when we release it.  It's incredibly cathartic. 

By taking a moment to thank the items as you let go of them, you close the loop.  You allow yourself to feel closure and completion.  You open yourself up to gratitude.  It's yummy.

My releasing mantra is always takes the form of a brief thank you note:  "Dear _{insert object name}_, thank you. Thank you for being mine for this short while.  May you continue to serve those who find you next, bringing joy and ease into their lives.  With gratitude for you and love for myself, I release you."

How do you deal with objects that are from a loved one or remind you of a special time or trip in your life?  

Have you tried out any of these steps before?  

Why I Donated My Wedding Dress

Yesterday I packaged up my wedding dress and sent it to a non-profit in Massachusets.

I can't tell you how many people, when I told them of my plans, said, "Oh no!  Honey, did you get divorced?"  I'm grateful to report that my husband and I are very happily, dare I say blissfully, married.

The reason why I decided to donate my wedding dress has both little and everything to do with that, with my happy marriage. 

"Happiness is only real when shared."

The quote above is one of my favorites of all time.  It comes from the solitude seeking, adventure traveler Christopher McCandless' journal as documented by the book Into the Wild.  

To me, it speaks to the very core of the human experience.  That even when I'm feeling wildly introverted, it's my connection to and love of others that really counts.  

And I think about what it means to share.  To not need to hold tightly and declare something "mine " or "yours."  I wonder how much more happiness could come from labeling more things "ours?"  

I want to love my wedding dress, which is why I'm giving it away.

You know, if I were to keep my wedding dress it would have slowly yellowed away in my closet like Miss Havisham in her mansion.  

It would have taken up space in my little apartment, slowly charging itself with my disdain.  For every time I opened the hall closet, hoping to find empty space, I would instead find a massive pink garment bag.  

And over the years I would know this gorgeous garment which I will clearly never wear again, is sitting idly in a closet.  I would feel guilt, maybe a bit of shame.  I would wonder what the dress could have been made into?  How might it have been useful?  How much more life was it destined for, before I sentenced it to death by plastic garment bag?

"But what about your kids?" 

I try to imagine if my mom had asked me to wear her wedding dress.  I love and adore my mom, there is no greater woman in the world.  She is gorgeous and she has fabulous taste.  I borrow her shoes and jewelry whenever she'll let me.   But there was not a chance I was going to wear her wedding dress.  

Besides from it being an early 1980s shoulder-padded number, trying on and selecting my own dress was such a special process that we got to share together.  It's something that I want for my daughter to be able experience as well, whether she marries a man or a woman (thank you, Supreme Court!).

Oh, and did I mention that I don't even have kids yet?  

Let alone a daughter?  

Let alone a daughter who will choose to get married and be my exact height and weight on the day she walks down the aisle?

The other reason I let my dress go is that it does not represent my wedding.  

It does not represent my marriage.  It does not represent the love I have for my husband.

It is a dress.  A dress I felt beautiful in.  The dress I wore on the happiest day of my life.  The dress that I wore when I made the amazing commitment to be Cam's partner for life.  

But I don't need the dress to sit in my closet for all of that to remain true.  The truth of my love for Cam and his love for me is so much bigger than a dress and lives in a place far deeper that material items.

If I can share that experience, if I can know that another woman -- or even 3 or 8 more -- felt the same way I did when I put on that same dress and walk down the aisle to that man or woman who is their partner for life, what could be better?  What more could I possibly want for my dress?

It boils down to this:

Imagine I said to you, "Here is a huge bag.  It's plastic and 6 feet tall and a foot deep.  Inside is something that will deteriorate with age and you can never use it again.  It was expensive and would be incredibly valuable to other people."  

Would you even consider keeping it?  Me neither. 

Donate Your Dress Too!

The charity I chose to donate my dress to, Brides Across America, gives wedding dresses to brides who themselves or their fiancé is serving in the military and either currently deployed or deployed within the last five years to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Libya, Korea or Japan.

A note on 503c donations: donations of dresses or financial gifts to BAA are tax-deductible.