Cluttergone Case Stories
Inherited belongingsSometimes it's not clutter that we've collected ourselves, but the belongings we've brought back from others, that find their way into our homes. Half sorted stuff sits neglected, piled up in spare rooms and garages. It's clutter that can sit there for years and still keeps nagging at us.
Read on for the stories of Marsha and Louise.
‘Hi, can you help me? My mother died and I shipped two crates back from Chicago. My flat is quite small and I've tried to put everything away and it just looks a mess.’
‘When would you like us to come?’
‘Can you come on a Saturday? I work during the week and I can't take time off’
‘No problem. I'll see you on the 16th’
Marsha's flat was a small ground floor with two bedrooms.
‘It all looks crowded and cramped’ she said when I arrived. ‘I thought I'd been very selective about what i shipped back, but seeing it all here.....What do I do? I can't just throw away my mother's things, but I hate living like this.’
‘You have lots of interesting bits. Where did that bowl come from?’
‘Kenya, I travel a lot and I like to bring things back ‘
Over the years she'd collected bric-a-brac from her travels. She hadn't edited or thought about her collection for a long time. All the things from her mother had tipped the balance.
‘Let's start in the sitting room and take it slowly’
We sorted, looked and evaluated everything. It turned out that there were many pieces that she no longer liked, particularly since she now had some very nice pieces from her mother. Some things we set aside for sale. Others we put in a bag for charity. Marsha enjoyed arranging the mixture of the inherited with the treasures she'd already had.
Her kitchen was badly cluttered with virtually no counter space. When I opened the cupboards, I discovered a very extensive collection of beautiful antique glasses she'd inherited from her mother. These were what had crowded out all the practical items that were now sitting on her counters.
‘Boy, you must be planning on doing a lot of entertaining’, I said.
‘I love the glasses, but, I never have more than one person at a time over’ she replied.
‘Okay, I certainly wouldn't suggest that you get rid of them. The thing is people's lives change and the way you live now may not be how you are living in 10 or 15 years. You may move, change jobs and find yourself giving big formal dinner parties. Your mother's glasses will be perfect. Do you have any bulk storage space?’
‘Yes, this flat has a garage. I can store things there.’
‘My spare room is full to bursting with my mother's clothes and my aunt's and my old things. I don't know whether I should keep them or sell them. Can you come and help me out?’
Louise, her husband and new baby lived in a large country house with plenty of room.
We walked through the door and into the kitchen family room.
‘It's pretty messy. I probably need you for the whole house, but it's the clothes that are really bothering me.’
‘The house is fine.’ I replied. ‘A family is living here. I can see that it's basically ordered. There's just the usual daily muddle of family life on the surface and wouldn't take long to clear it up for company. The clothes sound really interesting. I can't wait to see them.’
‘I haven't wanted to touch them. I keep thinking about my mother and Aunt Sylvie.’
She took me upstairs to the spare room which was ringed by dress rails. One area was given to her things, another to her mothers and a third to her aunts. It was difficult to see what was there because each collection was a mixture of colours and seasons besides having a jumble of shirts, skirts, dresses coats, suits and trousers.
‘First thing, let's just sort into basic categories: dresses with dresses, skirts with skirts etc’
That took us a good 3 hours. Louise told me lots of stories about her mother and her aunt. They'd been very chic fashionistas in their day and their clothes brought many memories back to Sunny. Then we looked through each category:
‘Do you like this?’ I asked about each thing. ‘That's all you have to decide this time around. If you don't like it, then it can go’
Lots of things did go; mostly her old clothes, but some of her mother's and some of her aunts. It took us another 3 hours to finish this part.
At the end of the day Louise looked around and said:
‘You've mixed everything together so it isn't my mothers or my aunts any more. You've made it all mine.’
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