Tips for Decluttering Collections

When I was in my early twenties I started collecting teacups. About ten years later all my pantry cupboards were filled with teacups. And guess what I got for my birthday and holidays every year from multiple friends and family members?  Teacups!

During this time I moved to different homes in different cities. Teacups are fragile and require a lot of packing material. I could have bought my teacups collection three times over for the cost of what it took to move them. And while at one time they made me really happy, the truth was I just wasn’t that into them anymore.

Letting go of collections—even when they no longer bring you joy—can be challenging. When you declutter a collection you confront the reality of how much time, energy, money, and space you invested in these items and this truth makes it challenging to let go. Sometimes we hold onto collections just to prove to ourselves that the investment was worth it! Or we think the collection defines who we are (I am the girl who likes to have tea parties!). Or we start judging ourselves for the “wasted” time and money.

The truth is, like all of our life experiences, a collection is a part of bringing you to this moment in time— and for that, it should be honored and appreciated—but this does not mean you need to keep it.

Here is how to handle decluttering collections:

  1. Determine if the collection is loved. Stand in front of your collection, hold the objects in your hands, and see how your body responds. Do you feel uplifted? Do you take a deep breath? Does it make you smile? Do you notice any thoughts or feelings? If you don’t immediately feel expansive, uplifted, and have positive thoughts and feelings, chances are the collection is not loved anymore and you can let it go. We want to keep in mind that these things in our life are here to serve us. When they are no longer loved or useful you—and the objects—are better served when you let them go. By letting go we make space for new things to come into life—the things that reflect who we are now, support our current goals, and match our current desires. We are always changing (which is a good thing!) so the objects we loved ten years ago, ten months ago, or even ten days ago may not be the things we love now.
  2. Observe any judgments: If you find yourself judging yourself, simply observe the judgment by making a simple statement, such as, “oh there I am judging.” Then forgive yourself for judging yourself and move on. We can only do our best at each moment in time. There truly are no mistakes—everything is serving us for our greatest good.
  3. Trust that who you are is independent of the objects. I can still be that girl who loved to entertain her friends with tea parties without the teacups! Ask yourself what the object meant to you and how it made you feel—you will see that these qualities reside inside of you and you no longer need the object to remind you of these qualities.
  4. Keep an item. If you are having a difficult time letting go, you may choose to keep one or two items from the collection or take a photograph of the collection. Often having a photograph or an item makes it easier to let go.
  5. What if I love everything? Clients often insist that they love all of their collections. This may be true, but also consider the time and space that your collections require. If you have the time and space, perhaps it is worth it, but often these collections take up room for other activities and objects that are more meaningful for us now. If you do choose to live with a collection, you can save space and cut down on visual clutter by grouping your items—into a tall vase, on a tray, on a designated shelf, etc. One table designated for photographs or one wall for a gallery makes for a more calm and peaceful environment than having collections scattered throughout the house. But if you’re not displaying these items (i.e. they’re sitting in a box in the garage or basement) ask yourself how important the collection really is to you? If it were truly important enough to be a priority in your life, then either all or part of it would most likely be displayed. If they’re hidden away, then you’re perhaps more ready than you realized to let go of the collection.

It is important that our homes reflect who we are in each new moment in time. Surrounding ourselves with things that no longer reflect who we are keeps us stuck in the past.  Instead, open yourself up to new joy and possibilities living in the present. Trust that new hobbies, interests, and things you love now will find their way to you when you make space.

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