So much stuff. It really is amazing how much some of us can accumulate in a lifetime. Some things, which in the world of Marie Kondo “spark joy,” should be kept, passed on and continue to be cherished. But frankly, our children aren’t much interested in ornate pieces of jewellery, family silverware or bulky china cabinets. The artwork they already have brings them their own joy.
We all need to have the conversation with our families about what things in our home they will want to keep. And, urge the experts, those conversations should be had sooner rather than later. After 29 years in this home, and my innate tendency as a packrat, I also have to deal with the boxes/drawers/closets brimming with my grown children’s report cards, newspaper clippings, Christmas cracker novelties and winter coats that haven’t seen a snowflake in a decade.
While the need to downsize our home isn’t (yet) on the horizon, now is the time for me to reduce the jumble of clutter and unnecessary items I have allowed to spread into virtually every empty space in our home. This is not a task, should something happen to me, that my husband or children should have to face.
My motivation to declutter began with the presentation at the Chapel Hill Retirement Residence by Barb McDougall, community relations for the lifestyle transitions company Darling Solutions, which I wrote about last month.
McDougall is passionate about using her experience to help seniors take control of the next stage of their lives. The first step in that journey is getting rid of things we don’t need and our families won’t want. Getting started is a challenge, so McDougall suggest starting with a space, such as the laundry room, where we are unlikely to be emotionally attached to its contents.
(This means I have to deal with the colourful painting of “un dinosaur” which my son painted on September 4, 1990 and has been pinned above the ironing board ever since. If I wasn’t supposed to keep it forever, why did his kindergarten teacher laminate it?)
I need to adopt McDougall’s system of S.T.O.P – sort, toss, organize and put away. And I will need to leave my sentimental self at the door.
Award-winning entrepreneur, com-munity leader and life coach Pierrette Raymond, owner of Moving Forward Matters and franchise co-owner of the partner service 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has seen first-hand how overwhelming deal-ing with our possessions can be and the financial, emotional and physical consequences when they become a burden. Downsizing after a death or a divorce can be especially difficult.
When the process becomes too much, it’s time to bring in experts to guide you. Her team, she says, not only provides the requested practical services, but also “the emotional support needed so you are not alone or overwhelmed throughout the process”.
Specialists like McDougall and Raymond represent a growing industry geared to helping our aging population adjust to and manage change. As much as we would like to continue to live independently in our own homes, circumstances and health can force us to accept a living situation better suited to our needs and abilities.
The advice I hear over and over again is to not wait for a crisis to start downsizing possessions or to have conversations with your family about everything from who wants the good china to funeral preferences. As uncomfortable as some of those conversations can be, they are much more difficult if left until the stress of illness or death.
It is crucial to have your will, power of attorney and advance care directives in place “now before you need them,” Raymond adds.
The Moving Forward Matters website presents dozens of video and print blog entries on everything from Dealing with Grief to Is Clutter Making You Sick? (In my case, perhaps not sick, but definitely less efficient.)
The blog entry How to Let Go of Items with Precious Memories states: “Know that the item itself represents a memory and that memory is to be cherished, not the item.” That resonated with me and will help me to hold onto my memories and let go of things.
An excellent Downsizing and Moving Checklist can be downloaded free from the Moving Forward Matters website at movingforward.com and is exactly the blueprint I need to get started.