Letting Go

Inspired by TLC’s Clean Sweep, I’ve been going through all of my possessions for the last few months, sorting, organizing, and tossing. I have to say this is one instance where reality TV has been educational.

The show’s premise combines reality TV, decorating, and some pop psychology. A professional organizer, a designer, and a slew of helpers come to the aid of a couple (any permutation of a couple–as long as there are two people) who have let clutter take over their home. There’s a design function of the show, but the more interesting component to me is the part where the contents of two rooms are emptied out on the couple’s lawn, and they have to sort through their belongings. The organizer forces them to take a hard look at what they’ve been amassing and to reassess its importance.

This is not great TV. Don’t get me wrong. But on occasion some of the participants and all of their junk have struck a chord with me. I may not collect M&M paraphenalia, but I do tend to hoard bills. I weed my book collection regularly, but I hold onto videos and DVDs and often end up with duplicates. And for every participant holding onto mountains of weird collectibles and stuffed animals, there’s somebody who has all of their credit card statements for the past 20 years in stacks of boxes.

Invariably, at the end of the program, both participants talk about how good they feel. How much of a burden has been lifted. And although my home has never been nearly as bad as some of these folks, I know there is room for improvement. Armed with some guidelines and a list from one of the better personal finance books out there for real people, this week’s project is clearing out my records.

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