Decluttering: The 20-Something Purge

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Clutter is a mix of treasures, paraphernalia, multiples of identical/similar objects and junk from and in our lives. Most of us have clutter in some form and we’re often stuck wondering how to get rid of it. Getting rid of clutter is time-consuming and frequently emotional because of memories tied to particular objects. Over the next three issues, Oklahoma Magazine talks to experts about decluttering for everyone, no matter what stage of life.

The Post-College Cleanout

Throughout middle school, high school and college, we accumulate mementos, from trophies and T-shirts to ticket stubs and tacky furniture. These objects may hold sentimental value, but once you are on your own in an apartment or house, it’s time to sort out what’s worth keeping.

Becky Marple, a professional organizer and owner of BeeNeat in Edmond, says it’s OK to keep some items, but one must set limits.

“I usually suggest a big tub, like the size that can hold a Christmas tree, to store items from throughout your life,” she says. “Anything more than that is probably too much.”

Marple notes that this stage in life is when 20-somethings should take their belongings from their parents’ houses.

“This age group needs to take ownership of their stuff,” she says. “Your mom and dad’s house is not a storage unit. Keep what is important to you, what you use and what you have to have.”

Anne Spero, a certified professional organizer and owner of Organized Living in Tulsa, has been featured on The Learning Channel’s documentary show Hoarding: Buried Alive and is also a chronic disorganization and hoarding specialist.

“The reality is that post-college young adults are forward thinkers,” Spero says. “They are starting their careers and families. They’re not thinking about the pictures and memorabilia left in mom’s attic. Scrapbooks are great ideas for the sentimental person. The key is to keep the volume to a reasonable number – five albums versus 15.”

Other ideas for managing keepsakes include using favorite T-shirts to create a quilt, making a display out of ticket stubs, and taking photos of trophies and medals to keep digital copies of the awards but throwing the physical objects away.

Marple says she understands that people often have a hard time letting go of objects with emotional value.

“We make a physical connection with things when we touch things,” she says, “so when I’m consulting with a client, I tell them if they’re going to work with someone, then have that person hold the item and hold it out in front of them so that way they’re not touching it while deciding what to do with it.”

Through this exercise, people are more likely to make progress by donating an item or tossing it in the trash.

Spero explains that organization is more than sorting items into labeled containers. If you stop there, you’ve probably kept the clutter and have only moved it around.

“True organization comes when we have learned to simplify,” she says. “We first subtract what is unnecessary, unused and unloved. You know you are truly organized when you can find things in five minutes or less and you and your family know where to return the items, and do!

“The key ingredient is that every item in the home that has a useful purpose has a ‘home.’”

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