Matt Baier on Sentimental Garbage



Everyone always pushes the idea that “change is a good thing”- that we should let go of the old and embrace the new. But, gosh, I still don’t know what to do with all of the artwork I produced in fifth grade– it just sits there, piled in the corner of my closet, collecting dust. And I just can’t seem to detach myself from that crumby stuffed animal I snuggled with as a five year old. I know that such an admission might sound totally gross, but many of us suffer from the same problem. How do I stop myself from getting so overwhelmingly attached to material, inanimate items that are  so, (let’s face it) objectively speaking, incapable of loving me back? All of my beloved relics are just “things,” really.

It’s okay for us to be sentimentally attached to some special material items, but they don’t have to clutter up our lives. This week, Matt Baier is here to remind us of how it is the memory of listening to live music that matters most, not the ticket stub. 

3-How do you address clients who are sentimentally attached to items that you perceive as clutter or garbage?

Sentimental attachment is just one of many reasons we choose to hang on to stuff and it is not necessarily a bad reason. Keepsakes only become a problem, when there is excess, when they are getting in the way of what’s most important to us. The first step to reducing this excess, or clutter, is to create a context of like with like. Context drives decisions.

If I walk into a client’s home office and immediately start trying to convince her to get rid of her framed photos on her desk, you can bet I will be met with resistance. If, however, I am able to create a context where she can see 40 framed photos from throughout her office, all in one place, then she can see how much space they take up and she will be more open reassigning them.

The key with all your excess stuff, including keepsakes, is to ask exactly why you keep something, because you can keep the same item for several different reasons.

Let’s take the example of books. Some books you want to make a point of reading. Those might make sense on a nightstand or wherever you are most comfortable reading.  Some books are for reference and should go on a bookshelf, with the most vital ones at eye level. If you are keeping a book because it is a collectible, then condition matters and it should be stored out of the sunlight. Books that you are done with, can be donated or sold, depending on condition and value. Books can be kept for sentimental reasons too. If that’s the only reason you are keeping a book, then it should be stored more remotely, to free up space for items you use more frequently.

Of course, the reasons why we keep things, changes over time. As a teenager, it may be very important to fill your space with trophies. However, as an adult, you may decide you just need to keep one trophy out to remind you of your glory days. The rest can either be stored more remotely or photographed then tossed. Again, the way to arrive at the appropriate decision is to look at all your keepsakes in the context of other keepsakes and to get clear on exactly why you are keeping them.



Like this post? Check out more of Matt Baier’s guest posts here:

-Matt Baier on “Is There Such a Thing as Organized Clutter?”

-Matt Baier on the Benefits of Keeping an Organized Desk 

A brief bio on Mr. Baier: After his promotion to Head of Design Services at the Jim Henson Company, home of the Muppets, Matt was responsible for managing half the staff and working in half the space, with 25% more work in demand.  To combat the challenge ahead, Matt engaged his organizing expertise, increasing the company’s production rate tenfold.

Today, Matt owns and heads Matt Baier Organization, where his organizing team uses the Matt Baier Organizing approach to declutter and organize homes & offices all across the Fairfield County and Westchester County areas.