The key to decluttering

Photo by J.D. Cavrich Katrina Gleason leads a decluttering session at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library on May 29. Attendees learned about the emotional reason why people hold on to unused items that take up too much space.

Clutter happens; sometimes insidiously. Other times, clothing, furniture and photographs roar in like a hurricane.

When papers and mail camouflage countertops and clothes overflow drawers and closets, finding space for something new often proves difficult.

How to start to clear countertops, closets, desks, and dressers confounds a lot of people, said Katrina Gleason, 20, of Duncansville, a personal life coach and minimalist. Her programs on various aspects of decluttering have been drawing an average of 20-30 men and women, most often in their 50s.

Often, clients are overwhelmed and donát know where to start decluttering.

âStart with surfaces, such as counter tops, tables, desks. Take a defined area and focus only on that,ã she suggested. Sheás found that successfully cleaning a counter ignites more motivation and fuels further success.

âOften times, items come in all at once when a loved one dies and items are inherited. This can be overwhelming. I have had clients who have multiple households shoved into their single house. Setting a timer for 10 minutes often helps people focus because it clears their head of distractions and reduces the chance theyáll get emotionally involved and start looking at every item. I also suggest recruiting a more objective third party to help you see what is realistic for you to keep.ã

Gleasonás journey to live with less started when her career moved her overseas and then back again.

âIt opened my eyes to how little I need to live,ã she said. âWhile we need clothes, most women only wear 20 percent of their wardrobe. The other 80 percent sits unused.

âHow expensive a clothing item is often keeps women holding on, or, there is a memory-factor attached to it. Like, a blazer that you wore to a successful job interview. But if your lifestyle has changed, you donát go on interviews anymore, then itás best to let it go. And, if it doesnát fit, then let it go.

âWe hold onto clothes that are many, many sizes too small all the time. If you are truly dedicated to losing weight, then I suggest you box those smaller sized clothes and put a future date on the box. Set a realistic date, say, six months in the future. In six months, revisit the box. Then ask, am I committed to losing (the weight) or is it better to accept myself where I am at and let the too small clothes go. Seeing clothes that are too small may make you feel ugly or not good enough. So, sell those clothes or give them away. Buy the correct size and feel amazing.ã

Be it clothes or kitchen gadgets (another common trouble spot), most people become aware of having too much stuff when they canát find a particular item âbecause itás hidden by all the other stuff. Many times people have too many àjust in caseá items,ã she said, âsuch as four of the same cooking utensil just in case one breaks.ã

âDecluttering is being conscious of what is there now and being conscious of how you add to it. For example, one way I encourage clients is to find items that multi-task and have more than one use. When tackling the kitchen utensils, ask yourself àWhat do I use on a daily basis? What do I use monthly? What do I use yearly?ã

Olivia Carniglia, 72, of Hollidaysburg attended a recent program at Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and another program is planned for June.

âKatrina is really enthusiastic and listened to us,ã Carniglia said. âWe discussed emotional decluttering. I liked her suggestion to share with family members why a certain item is important to you or why it is worth holding onto. Often there is an emotional tie or a memory associated with an item. So, she suggested that you take a photo of an item to help retain the memory rather than holding on to the physical item.ã

Based on Gleasonás suggestions, Carniglia said she plans to ask herself key questions: âWhat did I take out of the room or out of the house today and not to just move things around.ã

People mistakenly think organizing items into baskets or tubs is a solution, but it isnát, Gleason said.

âOrganizing before decluttering is a waste of time. When you declutter first, organizing becomes easier and your space flows more efficiently,ã she said. âItás common for people to retain everything and move items from one room to the next.ã

Often, items multiply when a special interest spurs a collection. Other times, sentimentality and grief prompts people to hold onto items.

Hollidaysburg resident Lucy Wolf admits she has a difficulty parting with holiday and birthday greeting cards, especially from friends and relatives who no longer live.

âKatrina suggested paring it down to one card from each person,ã Wolf said. âJust talking about it was very helpful. I am very much into recycling and re-purposing. So a lot of the papers I have could be shredded and recycled.ã

Photographs also prove difficult to part with, Gleason said. Her solution is to scan and digitally store photos.

Avid readers like Samantha and Troy Radford of Duncansville reviewed their book stockpile after a recent move. With three children under age 5, Samantha said, reading time is limited.

âWe had three large bookcases of books,ã she said. âMy husband packed them all up so we moved them and then we sorted through them. We have five very large boxes weáll yard sale and then donate.ã

Gleasonás help in the decision-making process: If the book will be re-read, then keep it.

âI love to read, but I have limited shelf space,ã Gleason said. âSo, when Iáve read a book once, I ask myself if I plan to re-read it. If I donát, then I donate it to the library. This frees up space. It helps me to know that someone else will enjoy it. And, if I decide I want to read it again, the library has it for me to borrow.ã

Thinking of others in need, often helps people shed possessions.

Clothing or other items in useable condition may be donated to area charities; older-style clothes may be welcomed by local drama clubs. Hosting a yard sale or entering into an arrangement with area consignment shops, may help ease any financially-related twinges of guilt.

âItás taking the time and just doing it,ã Wolf said. âIám going to make up my mind to concentrate on one area and stick to it.ã

Mirror staff writer Patt Keith can be reached at 949-7030.