Tools, treasures, toys and trash

I’ve talked to you in previous columns about the acronym SPACE – Sort, Purge, Assign a Home, Containerize and Edit. This system really works well for organizing almost anything, however sometimes we come across things that we’re not sure about.

Try using this little categorizing process if you’re having a hard time sorting. Think Tools, Treasures, Toys and Trash.

Tools have a function but little emotional attachment. These are the things in your home that work for you. An example of this would perhaps be the vacuum cleaner. These working items are easier to sort, purge, assign a home, containerize and edit because you don’t have an emotional attachment to them.

Treasures have a high emotional attachment but little or no function. This could be grandma’s teacups you got when she passed away. Now these are a little trickier. I’ll talk more about them soon.

Toys have both a function and an emotional attachment. So the item works for you but it’s more than a tool to you. It’s something you enjoy to work with or use.

And finally, trash is just that.

I have found with my clients that treasures can cause a great deal of stress — after all they were grandma’s teacups, even though you don’t ever use them to drink tea from, how could you throw them away? The stress is related to the thought that if you throw out something that someone you loved gave to you, are in fact discarding their love?

My suggestion is if it’s a treasure, treat it like one. It should be beautifully displayed or safely stored. If it’s downstairs in the basement in a corner, in the dark is it truly a treasure?

I created a ‘memory room’ in my house. It’s a guest room but all of my treasures are in there. My grandma’s old sewing machine, my other grandma’s teacups set out on display, pictures of my parents, my husband’s parents, etcetera. I even have a baseball bat in there. Now I bet you’re thinking ahhh she used to play baseball when she was a kid – no. My late husband Don used to keep it beside the bed in case he had to take care of bad guys breaking into our house in the middle of the night. I have since installed an alarm system, but I couldn’t throw that bat out. There are too many memories of us laughing in bed at what would really happen if someone did break in – or what if it was one of the kid’s friends coming over late. Every time I look at that bat, I have a little chuckle to myself.

Sometimes we save things because they have great meaning to us at that moment but time passes and it may no longer be as important as it was in the past.

My daughter had a collection of trolls – do you remember those little rubber dolls with the funny noses and crazy hair? Well, she had all of them. Now, as an adult she looked at them and really didn’t feel the need to hold on to them any longer so she lined them all up on her counter, took a picture of them and then off they went to ‘troll heaven’.

It is so important to remember that it is the memory of the fun they supplied or of the person that gave it to you that has the most value.

The next time you’re sorting through things and trying to decide whether or not to purge, take a look at the item and ask yourself ‘is it relevant to my life today?’ If it isn’t, perhaps it’s time to let go of it by donating it, selling it or giving it away to someone who would truly enjoy it now.

Lynne Ring is the founder of The Organizing Guru. She can be reached at 403-343-2201 or by email at Also check out

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