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Elan Vitae


  • Ann Wilkie Arens


As spring approaches, I normally feel the itch to clean out my house. The release of unneeded items brings a sense of renewal after a long winter inside. But this year, everything feels different. A slow accumulation of generations of family boxes and furniture has found their way into my house. From my departed parents beloved possessions stacked in my garage to my recent college graduate’s furniture scattered in various rooms, I am feeling stuck in the overload of stuff. Where I would usually feel motivated to move things out, the heaviness of dealing with these items has made moving forward difficult.

I’ve noticed many others in similar situations. Some are clearing out their parents’ houses, empty nesters are staring at large houses filled with memories and unused possessions, and others are craving a home office that is energizing instead of depleting.

To help jump start my work of reducing and organizing, I turned to Loris Sofia Gregory, a clutter and health coach who inspires people to live lighter and healthier lives. Drawing from experiences as a past museum exhibits developer to helping seniors with difficult downsizing moves, Gregory brings vast experience and understanding on what needs to be done to live unencumbered by our possessions. Here are her insights for tackling clutter and inviting greater light, health, and freedom into your home and life.

One of the first helpful hints Gregory shared is that now is the time to let go of your extra belongings. By taking care of your things, you are honoring your home and your possessions as well as those who live with you. She has found “letting go” is one of the best gifts you can give your family. Organizing and dispersing unneeded and unused items will save you and your loved ones’ time, energy, and money in the long run. Gregory has witnessed many clients facing unexpected tight timelines due to a sudden unexpected move, and they must abruptly release many of their life’s possessions. The process of letting go becomes very difficult because their cherished items can’t be passed on the way they had hoped. Gregory asks her clients, “Do you want to spend the rest of your precious life shuffling all your stuff around?” After moving, people inevitably realize there are much better ways to spend their time.

Where do I begin?

Gregory suggests two necessary steps to start letting go:

  • Creating a strong vision for your home or room and life.

  • Committing to ongoing “letting go” sessions.

Creating a vision

One area that most people don’t think about when they let go of items is a vision for their new space(s) and home. “It is easy for people to say what they don’t want in their lives and creating a vision helps them understand what they do want in their new space,” confirms Gregory.

Committing to a vision for lighter healthier spaces supports feeling lighter and more energetic every day.

To start, look at your challenging space and possessions and write down what feels the lightest and healthiest to you. Once you have a vision in place, make sure to keep it in front of you while you make decisions on what possessions should be kept or released. Gregory notes that without a vision it is like driving around without a destination and you will most likely never realize the home and life you truly want and deserve.

Committing to Time:

Setting up daily blocks of time can make the process of decluttering much less stressful. Letting go of extraneous belongings fifteen minutes a day is conventional wisdom on purging, especially when it is a smaller project and time is not as critical. However, if your time is limited, such as an upcoming move, increasing the time of your in daily sessions is needed. Gregory has found that two hours of focused releasing is usually the maximum time for most people’s attention spans and energy. Setting a firm deadline to have the project accomplished is also necessary. Do this by determining how many sessions per day or week is needed to meet your goal.

Making the Hard Decisions:

How do you decide what to keep, throw or donate? Experience has shown Gregory that every item in your home needs a home. If there is not a designated space for an item, perhaps it is time to let it go. Another insight for dealing with resistance to letting go is to set aside time and reflect within why you don’t want to deal with a specific item or family box. There is usually a direct relationship to past emotional memories and these buried emotions hold us back from letting an object go. Understanding this emotional relationship can help to acknowledge if we truly want to keep an object or not.

Gregory named her company Beautiful Necessity because that encompasses two key decision areas on what to keep – do you find beauty in an object and/or is it a necessity in your life?

To find your beautiful objects, look for a few items that captivate you and have deep meaning. Gregory notes that you don’t need 20 beautiful things in a room as it can become visually overwhelming. Also, beautiful possessions or cherished heirlooms hidden in storage does not honor the objects nor your ancestors. Just like a museum, displaying your most treasured items will have the most impact. Gregory suggests, “Creating space for one or two special family heirlooms brings honor and meaning to family history and memories.” Another idea that Gregory finds helpful, is to hold an object and ask yourself, ‘does this item feel energetically light or heavy?’ More lightness can bring greater happiness to your life. Objects that feel heavy are usually tied to the past. Surrounding yourself with objects that feel heavy to you creates a heavy home and life.

Necessity is the second way to know what to hold on to. There are many items that we need in our daily lives. However, we don’t need multiple versions of these items. Many people want to keep their old items and want to buy new items as well. This often reflects fear of the future. Gregory has found, “It comes down to not knowing about what is ahead of us, and we need to have faith and trust that we are going to be fine without all our belongings.” Here is a word of caution on taking your stored items out of their boxes. Research has shown that once an item is touched its personal value and attachment may increase. Gregory has witnessed clients greeting items that have not been seen or used for decades like long-lost friends, making it hard to let those items go.

Dealing with Photographs and Slides

Though digital photos are now the norm, most families still have many physical photos and slides that are overwhelming to preserve. Gregory’s experience with her family collections was to begin by throwing out all but the quality images of family members and memorable occasions. Her words of advice are to organize, label, and preserve your most cherished images, including making a scrapbook, photo album or video to share with family and future generations. Gregory asks clients, “What would you or your children appreciate more, receiving a precious illustrated memory book or a box of random unlabeled photos?”

The work and energy that goes into letting go of your personal and generational possessions can begin as a heavy chore, but the benefits can be freeing at any stage of life. One of Gregory’s favorite memories is helping a man in his mid-90s move and downsize in two days. He beamed in his clean and organized new apartment as he showed off his new lighter spaces to his family. A quote by author Brian Weiner eloquently articulates the reward of lightening our home and lives, “Sometimes you don’t feel the weight of what you’re carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”

Helpful books for lightening your home and your life:

  • The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

  • Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff: Declutter, Downsize and Move Forward with Your Life by Matt Paxton

  • Things That Matter: Overcoming Distraction to Pursue a More Meaningful Life by Joshua Becker

Image by 영훈 박 from Pixabay


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