“Tell your clients that nothing helps you to declutter quite like a flooded basement,” said my brother as he and his family took refuge in our warm, lighted home this weekend.  “I guess I’ll have to get rid of my cube refrigerator from college (he graduated in ’86) and all those VHS tapes that no one watches anymore.” My brother and his wife have a beautiful split level home with an envious amount of storage space. I say it all the time….available storage space is a blessing and curse. I see this conundrum with clients all the time; when you have storage space you tend to fill it.

The damage from this week’s wind and rain storm to our area in New York is tremendous. I see on Facebook that many friends as far south as Virginia are also dealing with damage to their homes and power outages. Currently, my brother’s basement in New Rochelle is holding 3 inches of groundwater. My ever-efficient sister-in-law is settled into our dining room charging all her devices and diligently making calls to arrange to have the water pumped out. My husband and I offer solace by feeding them (endlessly!), building a cozy fire in the fireplace, and offering quiet spaces to read or nap.

A few weeks ago my friend and guest columnist, Cheryl Gilbert, offered a great piece of advice in her article titled “The Joys of Getting Organized”. Cheryl’s decluttering mantra is “Would I pay movers to move this?”. I love this simple mantra/strategy because it takes clutter and gives it a realistic outcome. Usually, the answer is no, I do not want to pay a mover to move my (fill in the blank).

Watching my brother’s worried face as he contemplates the clean-up and expense that awaits them once the power is restored and hearing about what he’s held on to in storage simply because he could made me think of another mantra to offer:  “Would I care if this was damaged in a flood and had to be tossed?” 

We hold on to things for many good reasons: currently used, a special keepsake, makes us happy, etc.  We also keep things for other reasons: what if I need it someday (usually not or something else could serve the same purpose),  guilt (my mother-in-law gave it to me, or I paid a lot of money for it but will never wear it), ambivalence, etc.

BEFORE a storm makes the decision for you, set time aside (even 5 minutes is helpful!) to look at what is in your storage areas. When deciding what to keep and what to let go of, by all means, use the Marie Kondo mantra, “Does (fill in the blank) spark joy for me?” If your answer is vague or you hesitate slightly, then use these next two mantras:

“Would I care if (fill in the blank) was damaged in a flood and had to be tossed?”

“Would I pay movers to move (fill in the blank) ?”