What to Do When Your Collection has Become a Burden

As I peered up at the tubs of photo albums, this phrase ran through my mind. 

“When everything is important, nothing is important.” – Peter walsh

We have been storing photo albums and loose pics on a high shelf in our storage room for years.  They have been been traveling in their box as we moved from house to house- rarely touched or opened.  Some albums hold memories from childhood.  Some capture the behind-the-scenes of our wedding.  Others document the growth of our family.  All seem to hold nostalgia. 

At one time the albums were displayed and occasionally thumbed through, but as the years passed, the space was needed for items of greater necessity and the albums were gathered up in tubs & moved to the basement. 

And now as I look at these tubs & boxes of photos, I start to ask myself some questions:

  • Are these albums a blessing or a burden?
  • What will happen to these photos in 10 or 30 years? 50 years? 
  • What story will all of these pictures tell?

As I think about these photos all tucked away & forgotten, I can feel a sadness.  I know this collection is too big to reasonably enjoy.  They aren’t organized to tell a story that will make sense in 50 years when the next generation is stuck with them.  They aren’t labeled and many aren’t even the best of the best. 

And while thinking of all of that can bring up some sadness, disappointment, and overwhelm,  I also sense a feeling of exhilaration.  Paring down this collection to a size that is easy to manage & enjoy with our family, feels refreshing!  It feels worth the effort & exciting to create something that could tell the story of our life.  A collection that wouldn’t take up as much physical space, but would hold a more prominent place in our home because of it’s ease & simplicity.

Next Steps…

If you have a collection that has become a burden, then these tips might ease the overwhelm & decrease the weight of it.

Be a curator.  In the case of photos, I will pick the ones that truly mean something & have people in them.  With collectibles or other special items, you can do the same – pick the ones that really make you smile or touch your heart.

Shift perspective.  It can be hard to let go of things that have been with us for a long time; things that were acquired with love, took energy to collect and create, or seem to hold special memories.  But paring down doesn’t mean losing the memory and doesn’t discount all that went into gathering this collection.  Shift your perspective to gratitude for the enjoyment you received as you created this collection & lightness in knowing that the memory isn’t held in the item, it is held inside of you.  

Capture the stories in words.  As I sort & pare down the photos I know there will be a lot of reminiscing.  This is a great time to dictate, journal, or jot notes about the stories that surround the items & the memories attached to them.  Find the simplest method to make this happen – maybe with sticky notes, a notebook labeled “special memories,” or by dictating the story into a smartphone.  These stories can offer your loved ones an understanding of how these items or experiences made you YOU.

Share your collection.  As I dig into the collection, there will some photos of family or friends that might be worth passing on or sharing in a fun way.  I imagine taking a pic of a photo & texting it to brighten someone’s day.   Or start asking yourself if there someone in your circle that would appreciate your collection as much as you did?   If there is a  family member that took an interest, has a similar collection, or enjoys reminiscing as much as you, then share some of the joy.  (Remember to ask before you pass on physical items.) 

Use a service to lighten the load.  To pare down our photo albums, I am looking to a few services that have the tools readily available to support my goals.  Look for professionals, apps, software, or products that were created to manage your specific collection.  Then let these services decrease the overwhelm & enable your vision to become a reality in less time & with fewer headaches.

Let the decisions come when you are ready.  I know that as I begin to sort through my collection of albums there will be some photos that I won’t be able to part with quite yet.  I’m giving myself permission to take time with those tougher decisions.  When you are feel unsure or need more time around a decision, let it be okay.  Label & store those items for now.  AND then set a date on your calendar to check in and determine if your feelings have changed & you are ready to send them on.

Have you reached the tipping point?

As with anything you decide to collect- photos, nicknacks, hats, shoes, china- there comes a tipping point.  A point where you ask yourself how much is enough?  The tipping point between having just enough to use & manage in your space vs. it all becoming too much to handle.  A point where you can enjoy each item & their presence vs. collecting such an abundance of things that you begin to forget what you have. 

If you can notice & catch yourself as you near that tipping point, then the collection can be a blessing.  You will slow down the collecting, decide you have enough and enjoy what you have, or become very picky when faced with the idea of adding to the collection. 

But if you aren’t conscious as you collect, it can quickly become a burden.  Spilling over.  Taking up too much space & feeling hard to manage.  At this point, decisions can feel overwhelming.

If you have a collection that has passed the tipping point & you long to pare down & preserve it in a way that’s meaningful, then be in touch.  Together we can create a plan that fits your collection & intention.


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The 6 Big Lessons I Learned from Moving

9 years ago we decided it was time to make a move.  We had a cute little old house in a quiet neighborhood, but we were ready for a change, so we started the process to put our house on the market

I think about that little house with the dormers often.  All the hard-work, sweat, paint & memories of our first home.  It was a great place to start our family.  A great beginning.  And the decision to move was a good one, but the steps that it took to get the house ready to sell almost made me change my mind & decide to stay put.

We had two kids under 5 and an old fixer-upper.  It was a recipe for lots of late night sessions with a paint brush & a radio, as well as the decision to rent a storage unit to contain all the extra clutter that we couldn’t deal with at the time. 

The funny thing is that once we had cleared the house of clutter & wrapped up the projects, I had fallen in love with the house all over again. 

Everything had a place & cleaning up was so much easier.  There was room to breath & space to relax.  We had just enough to keep everyone happy and had taken away the extras that had continued to get in our way. 

Moving had offered me a chance to feel what it would be like to live with less, and I liked it. 

We sold the house & eventually had to deal with all of the extra stuff that we had squirreled away in the storage unit.  It was the perfect opportunity to decide how we wanted to live in our next house.  Moving gave us fresh perspective on what we wanted to surround ourselves with & how we wanted our space to feel. 

Here are the lessons I learned from moving –

living without things for a while makes the decision to let go much easier 

All of that stuff that we had sent to the storage unit ended up being things we really didn’t miss & we were able to let go of much easier when we went to unload the unit.  In this case, time apart made the heart grow less fonder.  And the idea of bringing those “extras” to our new space made us cringe, so we knew it was ok to let them go.

You don’t have to take it all with you

As we prepped our house to be put on the market, we had a yard sale to offload some of the things that we knew wouldn’t be going on the moving truck.  Moving takes work, so I kept this sale simple by pricing categories of things, not individual items.  Getting rid of stuff before we packed saved time & energy all around.

It’s ok to need a little time with decisions

Moving involves lots of decisions, so I needed to give myself permission to have some items that I was “on the fence about.”  Those items needed their own box so they wouldn’t get unpacked with everything else. If I had to do it all over again, I would label that box with the DATE & some words like RETHINK THESE or ITEMS TO DECIDE ON.  If I was still “on the fence” when I unpacked, then they probably weren’t favorites & could be given away.

Be choosy as you unpack

Unpacking offered another chance to check if the items getting put away were going to be used, needed, or loved.  It offered another chance to pare down and start fresh in the new space.  It was a great opportunity to get clear about the things we enjoy spending time on & the items that help us do that.

Don’t hold on to things for “just in case”

Often “just in case” items are the ones that get forgotten in the back of the closet & only surface after years in hiding.  We found those items in our extra bedroom closet or stored up in the rafters of our garage.  I began to realize that setting aside space in the new house for items that we never used would limit space for the things that we really used, needed & wanted.  Moving offered a great chance to look at all that extra stuff with fresh eyes & get honest about the likelihood that those “just in case” items would be needed.   

Set up your house to work for you Now!

The biggest lesson from the whole experience was not to wait to find places for our things.  We remembered how good it felt when our old house was pared down & everything had a place that made sense, so we made it a priority to make this happen in our new home.  We thought about how we wanted each space to function & best serve our family before we added the stuff that would be used in those spaces.   We wanted to create a new home that felt good, functioned well, and was easy to tidy up.  It didn’t happen overnight, but we went into our new house with this goal in mind.  

Your Turn…

Are you contemplating a move but feel overwhelmed by the thought of it?

Moving is a big job!  It’s not something that most people can do on the spur of the moment.  It usually takes planning, clearing, lots of packing and loads of decisions.  So how can you face this job without the overwhelm crippling you in the process?  Decide to take it step-by-step.   One thing at a time.

To get the process rolling, sign up for my FREE Tip Sheet on the 5 Spaces to Declutter to Sell. 

To find out more about the services I offer to ease the overwhelm of the moving process click HERE & together we will get your new home ready to support this new chapter in your life!


Take a Break! It’s Important!

I’m all for productivity, efficiency and just plain getting things done, but we all need time to recharge, reboot… restore.  And that’s all there is to it. 

We need breaks. 

Breaks offer us time for clarity & creativity.  They help us put things in perspective. 

When I’m pushing and striving, it can feel like the things I am doing are too important to step away from.  But too much of that pushing can result in overwhelm, disconnection, or fatigue. 

If I can catch myself before I hit that point and take time to relax & let go of the “what ifs,” then I am better able to come back and work with greater focus.  My brain has had some time to recharge & reassess.

And August can be the perfect time to go a little slower before Fall arrives.  It’s a great month to step away for those few moments of rest, peace, or creativity that can reset your drive & determination before you turn the page on summer.

Your Turn…

Are you frustrated & spinning your wheels as you juggle all of your expectations? 

Are you at the point of exhaustion?  Your productivity & drive are probably going downhill as you work to keep pushing yourself to get things done.  It sounds like it’s time for a break.

Next Steps…

A break can be little or big.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Take a walk outdoors
  • Schedule a massage
  • Turn off your phone for an extended period
  • Read a book that is “just for fun”
  • Take the day off and do something that feels “out of the ordinary”
  • Watch a video or show that makes you laugh
  • Treat yourself to coffee at a place you don’t usually frequent
  • Listen to an inspiring podcast
  • Take yourself on a little trip & leave your computer/iPad at home
  • Sit by a campfire
  • Stare into space – let yourself really zone out
  • Take 5 deep breaths

This month it is my intention to find simple ways to disconnect from the to-do list & plug into wonder & curiosity.  And I can’t wait to return to my projects with a new energy & perspective. 

Tell me how you reset, recharge or reboot when you feel your productivity going downhill.  I’d love to hear about it.

A New Bedroom Brings this Teen a Chance to Live with Less.

Each stage of life brings with it opportunities for evaluating & determining what still works and what have we outgrown.  My daughter Lydia put herself through a huge experiment in letting go as she moved her bedroom to the lower level and had to downsize all of her things to fit in a 6.6 x 14′ space.

It has been a true experiment with living with less.  So after 4 months in her new space, I decided to sit down with my 13 year-old to ask her what the experience has been like.

K- What was the motivation for clearing out?

L- I was moving to a smaller room and I wanted it to work for me and I knew that what I had couldn’t physically fit in that room.  It would also be mentally tough for me to have clutter everywhere I looked.  It’s hard to have too many different things to attract your eye.  The things are distracting & I can’t focus on one thing at a time.

Even though my old room was a bigger space, there were a lot of random things in random places and stuff I didn’t need but just kept.

K- Did you use any criteria to sort the things you were keeping vs. the things you were donating or discarding?

L- When I was sorting the school projects or things that people had given as gifts (things I didn’t really love, but things I thought I needed to keep because someone had given it to me as a gift), I did a lot of thinking about when I get older.  What things will I want to show my kids or grandkids?  What things are going to represent an important experience in my memory?  Those are the things I wanted to keep compared to the things I might not remember or weren’t a big deal.

K- How did it feel to let go of so much stuff?

L- It felt like a lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders because I didn’t have to worry when people came over if they would judge me about what I had in my room or those things that I had always looked at everyday and meant to get rid of because I knew I wasn’t using them.  It felt great to have a time to look at everything & get it all out & then not have it on my mind anymore.

K- How does your space feel or function differently now?

L- Because I have a smaller space I thought I would be out of my room (spending time) in our other bigger spaces, but I find I use my room more.  And not just for reading.  I have the things that I need in the spots where I can get to them easily so I can feel creative and work on things and get inspired by the stuff that would have been cluttered up or not recognized in my old room.

K- Do you miss the things you let go of?

L- At first it was different not seeing what I usually see and not being around as much stuff.  But after a bit I just forgot about those things.  I have everything I need or want because the other things that seemed nice at the time, just ended up piling up.

K- Did anything surprise you along the way?

L- I was surprised how easy it was to get rid of things.  I expected that a lot of stuff would be sentimental and I would have too much stuff  so it would take a while, but once I decided to get started then I just got it done.  I guess I was surprised that it went that quick.

K- What advice do you have for others who want to make a change?

L- They should go for it!  Don’t put off getting clear because it will make you happy when all of your stuff is gone. 

Just begin with something small and once you start, the rest will come quick and easy!

*responses were edited by Lydia

Have a story of letting go that you’d like to share?  Tell us about it!

What happens when your mantra is “let go to make room for more?”

Most of my work is around letting go of physical clutter.  The stuff in closets that hasn’t been touched in years, the piles of papers lining surfaces & the dusty boxes stacked in the basement. 

It’s a physical job & I can literally feel the weight of all of that letting go as we haul out the bags & boxes.  The clearing that we do is motivation for me to keep moving forward with the mantra that letting go opens room for more

And when I say “more,” I don’t mean more stuff, even though that can happen, what I mean is more of life, more opportunities, more of what you need & want. 

And I have been testing this theory out in my own life.  Letting go of physical clutter has opened room for creativity, efficiency, & calm- all good things, but I know that physical clutter is only one area where my life can get stagnant & stuck.  I have realized that it’s time to push forward and do some purging in other areas.  So these past months I have been taking steps to let go of the voice that says “I NEED TO DO IT ALL MYSELF.” 

Gasp!  Did I really say that???

Yes, it’s true.  I like to count on ME to make things happen.  And running my own business has caused, or I could say offered me the perfect opportunity to find out how well this idea serves me.

Being my own boss gives me a chance to try doing everything there is to do.  But I am finding that many things aren’t so easy.  Lots of things require additional learning- hours looking things up, trial & error, headaches & time spent griping or backtracking. 

The need to do it all myself has become a heavy weight.  I’m stuck in another type of clutter.  The clutter of stuck thinking patterns.

And the result of being stuck is less time & energy for the stuff that I really enjoy and are the best use of my talents & skills in this work.   I have funneled lots of energy, attention & brain-power into things that could easily be done by someone with more expertise & in much less time.

It has been a slow recognition, but now I am pushing myself to really look at taking some steps forward in a different way. 

I started with “the sort” – just as we do when we have physical clutter to let go of.  I began sifting through my daily work to find the things that bog me down & keep me stuck in place vs. the things that feel easy & don’t require massive time & learning in order to implement.  I had to look back at how many times I continued to hit a brick wall & recognize that those are the places that aren’t working on my own.

And then I began to look for people to take some of the work of doing it all off of my shoulders.  It has felt a little scary to be turn over control, to ask for help & show some vulnerability with my work, but the relief feels even better. 

And just days after I let go & released the grip of doing it all on my own, more fell in my lap!  New clients were in touch, new ideas came and new doors opened in areas that make sense with the trajectory of my business.  Letting go can offer so much more.  And slowly I am interjecting that mantra into more areas of life. 

Your Turn…

Do you suffer from a case of needing to do it all yourself?  Are you ready to lighten that heavy burden? 

Next Steps…

Asking for help & support can feel hard, but if you tiptoe in with people you trust & respect, it can feel a lot less scary.  Ask for referrals or look to a friend or family member so that you can practice with people who make you feel comfortable and understood.

I like to imagine that after we let go of physical clutter, the space gets to take a big exhale –  A deep breath of gratitude for the attention & release of that stagnant energy.  The same is true with deeply held patterns of thinking.  Release a little and lighter energy will be your reward.

If you have been stuck in an old pattern & are ready to let go, but want support then push submit  below & we can create a plan to make it happen.