by Ellen Blake, Staff Writer, 50Plus-Today
After decades of accumulating stuff, I’m suddenly obsessed with managing and getting rid of it. And it’s getting easier to let go.
One morning last week two glasses shattered when they fell to the floor when I opened the kitchen cabinet. It was not a nice way to start the day, especially before I had my coffee. With two glasses missing, the shelves were still crammed full. How did this happen? I sometimes run out of glasses when I entertain; how could there be too many in the cabinet? I decided it was time to organize. I took everything out of the cabinet to line up on the counter, finding many items from years gone by including sippy cups from my kids who are now ages 24 and 27.
The sippy cups brought back fond memories of raising young kids, which is why I held onto them. Those were marvelous years. I imagined my grandchildren would enjoy using the same cups their parents did. Truthfully, however, those old plastic cups were cracked and deformed all these years later. I’ll buy new ones when and if I am blessed with grandchildren.
There’s far too much “stuff” in the world; we get buried by it. According to Popular Science Magazine, “There is no question that the continuous acquisition of stuff is the backbone of American culture. . . . . Seventy percent of home-owning Americans cannot park cars in their garages because there’s too much stuff; one in 10 has a storage unit.”
These statistics are amazing, but not surprising. I’m determined to make changes so I am not lumped into this particular group of home-owning Americans. I know though that I tend to exaggerate the importance and value of my things, as many of us do. And not just kitchen items; also clothing, shoes, furniture, and bedding. Many of my closets are so messy I can barely vacuum the floors. But I am getting better at managing my stuff.
As I slowly work through the house, one small area at a time, I am filled with a sense of peace. When my house becomes less cluttered, my head becomes less cluttered. It’s a good feeling.
Here’s how I got started:
- I labeled 3 large bags GIVE AWAY, TOSS or KEEP .
- Items not used in 2 years or more and still in good shape go into the GIVE AWAY bag. These goodies include clothes, jewelry dishes, bedding, furniture and more. I choose not to sell them, but doing so would be a good option to make some extra money when needed. My reason for giving away rather than selling these items for now is to “give-back”. I try to give money to charity as often as I can, but generally wish I could give more; giving away my nice but well used things is an easy way to help others that doesn’t break the bank. Plenty of organizations will cart away donations at no charge – I generally call our local Veterans Association.
- I include broken, torn, ripped or generally unappealing items in the TOSS bag. I am learning as I get older that memories live in my heart, not in material things, and I do not need to hang onto everything. Also, despite the value some of these items may have for me, others will not appreciate or benefit from the emotional connection.
- All the rest goes into the KEEP bag. Clothing and jewelry I wear currently, furniture that is necessary or beautiful, etc. I also allow myself to store a few items that provide sentimental value only, providing they can be easily stored. I toss things like my kids’ science fair projects, but I take photos before doing so to include in their albums.
Working toward the goal of living a simpler life filled with less clutter brings me joy. And I think being able to let go more easily is one of the benefits of getting older. Too much stuff has become a burden too heavy for me to carry alone. And with my parents aging, suddenly there’s another whole other household of stuff with which to contend. I will keep a few items with sentimental value from their home now that I have a bit more space, and will attempt to sell the rest at an estate sale. Anything left over will go into bags labeled GIVE AWAY or TOSS.