I heard Leslie Huikko speak to a group a few weeks ago, and she wasn’t just the requisite speaker recruited for a meeting, she was compelling because she made sense. A lot of it.

Huikko is a certified professional organizer who for the last 14 years has made a living helping individuals, families, businesses, and virtually anyone who wanted to better organize their home, office, or life. She is more successful than most because she has no set agenda. She doesn’t come roaring into a situation with ideas of disposing this, trashing that, or getting rid of thus and such. Rather, she says, she listens. She listens to the client’s agenda. She pays attention to what they consider important and what they wouldn’t part with. While other organizers are quick to separate things into “keepers,” “giveaways,” and “stuff to junk,” Huikko lets the client determine what is important, for what might appear to be just “stuff” to one person evokes great memories in another.

I got to thinking about all of that as I looked around my space. Although I always have grandiose ideas about organizing every nook and cranny in both my home and office and maybe even aphabetizing my spices (never happen, my friend!), I know that is not realistic. I am decidedly not a hoarder and sometimes am too quick to trash things that I later regret, but I also have a certain amount of possessions that to many would be just “stuff” to be disposed of after a time, but to me they bring back such happy memories. I imagine if you look around your space you would find “things” that would likewise bring you back to another time, make you smile, make you remember, and that’s the whole point of keeping them.

Most of us are not rich, but most of us, if we are lucky enough, are rich in memories. Sometimes those memories get buried in the cobwebs of our mind covered over by the dust of everyday living, of too much to do, and not enough time in which to do it. But then you find your eye catches something you haven’t really looked at in a great while, and it takes you back in time for just a moment or two. Or you find something you may have completely forgotten you had, and it makes all the wonderful memories come flooding back. That happened to me a few weeks ago when I took the large plastic storage boxes filled with Christmas decorations down to the cellar and brought up the Valentine box. Around here we decorate for every holiday, so it was time to get out the box filled with the stuff of hearts from plush Snoopys to small wooden sayings. Then I opened the box, and wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap I found the Valentine’s Day mailbox sent to me as a delightful surprise one year ago. It was still stuffed with the handmade notes, doilies, and stickers fashioned just for me by “Mary” and her co-workers at the Westerly Town Hall. There was also a note from Mary hoping their gift might “bring back memories and give you a smile.” Well, it did then, and it surely did when I opened the bubble-wrapped bundle in the Valentine storage box and found it. It was as though I had just been given the gift all over again.

That’s the thing about the “stuff” we choose to keep, the stuff that doesn’t go in the pile for the Jonnycake Center or the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center thrift stores. It’s what we cannot bear to part with that means little to anyone else, but brings a flood of emotion back to us, and wisely, that’s what Leslie Huikko realizes and why she is a top-notch professional organizer.

I spent some time rereading each message that Mary and her co-workers took the time to fashion and to write, and it brought not just the smile they had hoped for, but a few happy tears as well.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you go all out with flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out. Maybe your celebration is an exchange of cards, or an exchange of loving words, and little else. It matters not. Just remember to keep a tiny piece of it to bring back the moment when you’ve nearly forgotten the memory.

Leslie Huikko would heartily agree.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 19 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at six07co@att.net or 401-539-7762.

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