Home organizer: Let the clutter go

REEDSVILLE – Vali Heist came to the Juniata Valley Home and Garden Show on Friday with one goal in mind: “I want to convince you that letting go of clutter – I call it CRAP – will help you embrace your space and love your home even more than you already do.”

A crowd of nearly 70 people -most of whom by raising their hands when asked admitted to being “savers” of too much stuff -came to the show to be convinced.

Guilty smiles, nervous chuckles and nods of the head from most of the audience gave the impression that Heist was doing some convincing.

Things in the home become clutter, Heist said, when stuff gets in the way of letting you live your life the way you want. She really does call all that stuff CRAP, an acronym she made up long ago that stands for Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. She coined the phrase when she noticed all the “Christmas CRAP” piled in the aisles of stores while shopping on Black Friday.

“Then I realized there’s much more out there than Christmas CRAP,” she said.

Heist is a certified professional organizer who owns a business called “The Clutter Crew,” near Reading. She has written a book on the topic, “Organize This! Practical Tips, Green Ideas, and Ruminations About Your CRAP,” she writes a monthly column on the topic for her hometown newspaper, and she makes public appearances.

By Heist’s definition, CRAP is:

Clutter that robs you of joy because it reminds you of tasks undone; or makes you sad in other ways;

Stuff that can be owner-specific -one person’s CRAP is another person’s treasure;

The retail or market value is irrelevant – just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s not CRAP;

It prevents homeowners from enjoying their homes and living their best lives.

“That’s why people call me,” Heist said. “They’re ready to ‘right-size,’ rather than ‘downsize,’ to do what’s ‘right’ for them.”

Heist called herself a “thrower,” meaning that she can let things go easily. Her husband, however, is a “saver,” which means that he cannot.

Their differences actually help Heist, she said. Because she understands her husband’s emotional attachments to things, she can understand similar feelings in her clients.

While attempting to help those clients, Heist reminds them that every single thing requires some sort of action that takes up their time.

“So I tell clients to be very stingy about what you bring into your home.”

Too many things in your home can make it feel small. “Ask yourself, do you need a bigger home, or just less stuff?”

Heist listed some examples of “stuff you might not need:”

Things that you haven’t used in at least two years;

Things that were given to you by someone you don’t really like, or that make you feel bad;

Projects, or supplies for projects, that are unfinished, including clothing that does not fit;

Memorabilia from people or events from the past that have no meaning or value to you now.

She also revealed 10 “myths for not unloading CRAP:”

10 -You might need it some day – or you might not, so be honest with yourself;

9 -It cost a lot of money -and it would make you feel bad to get rid of it for that reason;

8 -A friend gave it to me – but it’s yours to do with whatever you want, including donating or regifting it;

7 -Your aunt gave it to you and you want to display it if she comes to visit – ask yourself honestly how likely that is to happen;

6 -It’s been in my family for years – then you should repurpose the item and make it useful;

5 -I’m going to pass it down to my kids -first, ask them if they’ll really want it. If they say “no,” they mean “no.”

4 -I know it’s going to be worth a lot of money some day -be sure to find out what’s it worth by having the item appraised and researching what similar items are selling for;

3 -I’m saving it for my grandchildren – see Number 5.

2 -My children will take care of all my stuff when I’m gone – emptying out a household is a tough job for your remaining children. Help them out by getting rid of most of the stuff now;

1 -It’s so cute – but if you’re not using it, how cute can it be?

When you finally decide to let go of the clutter, what do you do with it?

Heist recommends keeping a box or bag in each room to hold things you want to get rid of, then donate, barter, sell or recycle as much as you can, rather than just filling up landfill.

“Letting go of your CRAP is an important way to embrace your space,” Heist said.