Reflections on time

I love my job. Whilst I trained as an interfaith minister and decided not to practice, I feel that my work as a professional organiser bears many similarities to that role. Just as ministers preside over significant life events such as weddings, births and deaths, I find increasingly I tend to be called into peoples lives at times of transition. This may be a symbolic birth or death, rather than the real thing. For example, a shift into a new career or the loss of children flying the nest.

This year I have sat with people in pain through their process of letting go. Some have been experiencing the birth pains associated with starting new projects, sewing new seeds and nurturing growth. While others have been honouring and paying witness to generations that have passed.

I am always in awe at the courage my clients have to face the challenges life has presented them with. As I sit and witness the accumulated evidence of the passage of not just one but many lives, it makes me reflective of how precious life is.

Going through papers and objects from past generations has also led me to muse on how our lives have changed so radically. I’ve been reminded of how, pre TV and internet, people would sit and read and write letters. Often, heading home after some contemplative moments with clients I’m struck by the contrast of how fast and furious our lives are now. How the gift of time seems so precious and taking time to write postcards and letters can feel such a thing of the past. It’s often only at times like Christmas that we send handwritten messages.

Let’s not lose the precious gift of time, reading and writing to one another.

And, putting back on my minister’s hat for a moment, might I also suggest an alternative commandment:  ‘Leave not piles of things for your offspring to sort when you are gone’. Give them the gift of their future and leave them with just a chosen selection of treasures to remember you by rather than piles of clutter.

You could read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter if you need a little more encouragement. But take it from me, it’s hard to make decisions about our own stuff, let alone the possessions of a loved one you are grieving.

Finally, don’t forget that decluttering is as much about connecting to what really matters to us as it is about making space for the future. And remember that letting go can be a time for reflection, appreciation and celebration. Our need to acknowledge the meanings and connections our possessions can represent is the reason I included the Memories set of cards in the Home Declutter Kit. Some things really need to be let go with a blessing or lighting a candle.



  1. diana ferguson

    I love this Helen. I so agree about the frenetic pace of life and how, nowadays, under the influence of the internet and mobile phones EVERYTHING seems urgent! How can anyone access what’s really of value in their lives when emails, texts and Facebook are snapping at their heels? What’s really important can only shine through if space is allowed for it, in moments of repose and stillness and reflection – or at times of emergency when the dross of the irrelevant falls away to reveal the essence of what matters most to us.

  2. Fi Ivi

    This beautiful blog piece resonated strongly with me. We had an elderly, close, friend who got everything in order before her sudden and unexpected death and made things so much easier for her family. This contrasts enormously with a family member who lives surrounded by decades of clutter a spouse collected and would not let go of and which they now too are hanging onto and will be a nightmare for the family to let go of when the time comes. Yes, we need to have some thought for those we leave behind and at the same time hold carefully precious memories from times that cannot be retrieved but have much to teach us. Beautifully written piece , Helen xx

  3. Christina

    Dear Helen, This is soulful, moving, lovely, and practical – thank you. I intend to allow it to seep into me and inspire me to act!
    warm wishes, Christina

  4. Jackie

    While I am still away and the partying has finished I am now catching up on reading New Year messages ,reflections and wise words from many sources. I too am planning and reflecting. This is perfect for me Helen. I am another year older and am thinking about the ‘ Death Cleaning’ it sounds morbid but I have no children that can sort through my stuff , I have a disabled son who will need very little of mine apart from loads of photos of me and his deceased Dad and where he lives he doesn’t have the space. anyway. That leaves my two sisters who will probably dump most of my things. So on my return from my break I am determined not to hang on to things because of sentimentality reasons or because a friend gave it to me ( like the life sized cardboard cut out of Michael Buble who has been moved around the house for 2 years! Under beds, under sofas poor Michael ha ha ) thank you again for making me think!!



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