Ask An Organizer: Monsters Under the Bed

Every once in a while I’ll find myself on an online forum with people asking for help decluttering. This is a question I answered a while back that I thought might resonate with others. If you have an organizing or decluttering question you’d like answered, send it to me at

Her Question:

“I have been persistently de-cluttering for years now. I moved from a two bedroom oversized sublet to a 50 sqm apartment with no real storage. It used to be a serviced apartment so there is the illusion of storage without any real space.

I’m getting down to some designer footwear that I’ve not worn for years but can’t quite get rid of or pass on, and a bag of old clothes that fit into a small under-the-bed zippy bag. Out of sight, right?

There is a great deal of symbolism in these dresses and I am inching closer and closer, but it’s hard. With these specific items. Everything else I manage to clear without problems but I’ve dragged these guys everywhere, for the last 15 years.

It’s hard to let go – especially since I can justify the space…”

My Answer:

The fact that you have thought about these items and been bothered by them enough to go online and craft a post asking for help speaks to the burden they represent in your life. Your logical self is saying that they aren’t a big drain on the physical space and therefore you can keep them. But that self doesn’t take psychological space into consideration. You are wasting mental energy on these items. Storage has nothing to do with it.

I’m guessing the footwear is hard to let go of because it cost a lot, and it feels like a waste of money to get rid of them. That’s a really common problem, I’ve faced it myself. But you are getting no value out of shoes that sit under your bed. The money spent on them is gone, it’s already been used and wasted, no different than if you’d gambled it away. They are zero value now – less than that because they are making you fret. Let the local thrift shop make some money off them, they have no value for you.

The fact that you said the dresses are ‘symbolic’ rather than ‘sentimental’ seems telling to me. That usually speaks to an item that means nothing itself, but is directly related to something emotional that is important. If the memory is positive, consider the difference between the memory and the items. Is there anything else you intend to keep that reminds you of that time? You don’t need every object associated with a memory. Would the dresses be just as effective as memory tools if you had pictures of them? What if you cut off the best parts and made them into art, or a blanket? Ask yourself what really matters about the dresses. Not all of that fabric is crucial.

If the memory is negative, these should be gotten rid of immediately. They only serve to remind you of a part of your life that is in the past – a part that can only hurt you if you keep thinking about it and letting dresses under the bed remind you of it.

In short: it is upsetting for you to continue to have these items. You should only keep them if their value in your life (current, not potential) is greater than the grief they bring. That is the only thing to consider.

Her Response:

You’ve helped me to articulate consciously what has bothered me for some time, but not been able to pinpoint. There is nothing that needs to be retained. Nothing.

There are no good memories here.

I’ve booked the charity collection for the 22nd.

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash