The way Rosalyn Cherry sees it, having too much stuff in your house isn’t just about looks. A cluttered space clutters the mind, and simplifying is therapeutic.
“It’s sort of like a cleansing,” said Cherry. “And when you go out after you’re decluttered, you feel different and you look at the world differently and you open up to things differently. [If you wake up in the morning and think] “Oh, what a slob I am, I’m such an idiot” and then you go out, where are you starting from that day? Versus when everything’s neat, you know where it is, you’ve got just what you need. That’s just a different way to start the day.”
Cherry, of New Paltz, wrote a book about her method, titled be clutter FREE: Sorting Made Simple. She has a warm personality and holistic approach to what she does that transcends her official title of professional organizer. “On a spiritual level, when you let go of stuff, you open up space for other things to come into your life,” she said.
People who want to make room in their home tend to buy big plastic containers and pack them full of stuff for storage. This isn’t the best way to go about things, said Cherry. If you have excess stuff, job #1 is to do an inventory. Look at your possessions. For each, ask yourself: does this add to my life? Does it reflect who I am? “If you get rid of all the stuff you never use…then you will know what to do with what’s left,” she said.
But it can be hard to let go. Anyone can throw out something old and broken. But what to do with items that hold memories or are still useful? Cherry has a few ideas. For the latter, she advises people to frame the situation in the positive. Instead of looking at it as a loss, donate it to a local charitable organization like the Salvation Army, Family of Woodstock, or Twice Blessed Thrift Shop in New Paltz. “With people like those, I encourage them to know where they’re giving things,” said Cherry. “Because if you know where something is going it helps you let go of it.”
For other possessions, the bonds can be stronger. Gifts from family, particularly from those who have passed away, can be tough to part with. But sometimes it’s for the best. As Cherry said, if your mother gave you a clay pot for your birthday every year for 45 years, you have plenty. She suggests grouping similar items together, laying them out and considering which are the most meaningful. Donate the rest too good will.
Cleaning house is tough work, but the greater task is to ward off future clutter. This is where organization comes in. “If you’ve gotten rid of all your clutter, whatever’s left has to have a place,” said Cherry.
Client Sondra Sperber, of New Paltz, spoke about the positive effect getting organized had on her life.
“I really needed a lot of help with my files,” she said. “It was a mess. And [Rosalyn] went about it so matter-of-factly, without any kind of judgment. She was just so efficient with taking over what I needed to do…When you get the clutter away, you can think better. And it really proved it to me.”
To stay clutter-free, a person has to adopt a zero-sum approach to purchases. If there’s no room for something new, make room by getting rid of something old. If bills and other important papers cover multiple surfaces in the home, create a filing system with labels and stick to it.
“That way they have an experience of what to do with things as opposed to saying throw this out, throw that out, do this, do that,” said Cherry. “What I’m really there for as far as I’m concerned, is to retrain the person.”
With the bad economy, this way of being seems to be becoming more popular as the culture becomes less materialistic.
“It’s a big thing now to live simply and it’s very different time than it was, say, even 10 or 15 years ago in terms of consumerism,” said Cherry. “People are much more conscious now of money and living simply and of the environment.”