As an organiser, I've helped clients conquer many challenges. But there are some questions I'm asked over and over again, and the solution is usually the same. Here are quick answers to some common questions:
1. I don't like this gift, but I feel guilty giving it away. What should I do?
If the item was purchased at a store and isn't incredibly valuable, it is totally okay to donate it or give it to a friend or family member who will enjoy it. The person who gave it to you would not want you to keep things you don't want and probably will never know that you don't still have it.
2. I haven't worn this sweater for five years, but it has always been one of my favorites and might come back into style. Should I keep it?
The answer to this one is almost always no. Sure, there is a chance it will be fashionable again, but probably not for a long time. Ask yourself whether it's worth holding on to it for years "just in case".
It probably isn't. However, if you're contemplating whether to keep a few things that are in great condition, fit you and are timeless, it's okay to keep them. But let's be honest: Few things fit these criteria, so consider carefully. If you do want to keep a couple of items of clothing because they conjure good memories or remind you of a special occasion, go for it, but don't keep them in your closet if you're not going to wear them. Instead, store them somewhere else.
3. What should I do with all my digital photos?
First, make sure they are backed up. Second, do something. Endlessly thinking about what to do is not going to solve the problem. I realise that for many of us, we're talking about thousands - and sometimes tens of thousands - of photos, but trying to decide on the perfect solution is a losing proposition. While you're thinking about the best thing to do, more pictures are piling up. It's better to decide whether you want to print a collection of photos and put them in albums organised by year, make albums online, or simply go through and delete all those unwanted shots. As with all organisational challenges, break the task into manageable pieces, work on it consistently and set a realistic goal for completion.
4. An old piece of furniture (or art) was passed down to me, but I don't want it. What should I do?
A: Getting rid of art or old pieces of furniture is a process fraught with guilt for many people. It can be difficult to part with something you've inherited until you know, with some certainty, whether the item is valuable and whether anyone else in the family wants it. So do some research, and if the answers to those questions are no, give yourself a deadline and make a decision. If you ultimately decide to donate the item, you'll be relieved and someone else will be happy.
5. What should I do with my kids' artwork?
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this common question, but waiting until your kids are 18 is definitely not the answer. Neither is keeping everything because your child would be upset if you tossed something. The most important thing is to create a system that works for you. I suggest culling through the stack each week or month. Toss the pieces that are clearly not keepers and put the ones you want to save in a bin labelled with the year and the child's name. Keep this bin somewhere accessible, but not in your immediate living space. At the end of the year, go through it and decide what to keep for the long term.
Some people choose to take pictures of their favorites to create a calendar or photo book (there are also apps that will do this for you), some frame the best work or give a few pieces to family members, and some just keep the artwork in the box and add to it the following year. Whatever strategy works for you is a good strategy.
Although I get asked these questions frequently, I find that most people already know the answers. So trust your instincts, make a decision and move on.