The Art of Decluttering
Included in all the strange, unusual, and downright comical ‘holidays’ recognized by calendar makers (among others) is the holiday referred to as NATIONAL GIVE SOMETHING AWAY DAY, which is on July 15th. So, why not celebrate in a big way by using that day as the kickoff for a major decluttering ‘event’?
Decluttering is something we all need to do a little (or a lot) of. And let’s face it—for most people, time, aka, age, equals more stuff. The older you are the more stuff you’ve had time to accumulate, which then translates into having more stuff to get rid of.
But why? Why get rid of it? It’s not hurting anyone and who’s to say you won’t actually need any or all of it someday? There’s also that not-so-little truth that your things are more than just stuff to you. They are your treasures!
Betty is a prime example of this. Her husband passed away nearly five years ago. She has remained in the house they moved into two years after they got married in 1954. In case you haven’t already done the math, this is 2022, which means she has lived in that house for 66 years! She is tired though. She is tired of worrying about keeping the yard mowed now that she no longer feels up to the task. She is tired of having to schedule appointments for HVAC maintenance, tired of property taxes, tired of cringing at the thought of what the hailstorm is doing to her roof, and tired of going up and down the basement stairs to the laundry room. She’s even tired of maintaining her flowerbeds. But at the age of 86, who can blame her! So, she has decided it is time to move into a senior community. At the time of this writing, she is waiting for her name to make its way to the top of the waiting list, during which time she is trying to sort through a literal lifetime of stuff and memories.
She has come across several things which are deeply meaningful to her, such as cards and letters from special people. She knows they will mean nothing to her children, but she cannot bring herself to throw them away. “You kids can do it when I’m gone,” she says.
I get that because I, too, am a treasure keeper. I am not a pack rat or one who keeps every little thing on the assumption that it might come in handy someday. But the things I have held on to have deep, personal meaning. You, too, can probably relate to this train of thought.
WHAT TO GET RID OF
Undoubtedly, though, there are things that fall into the category of ‘trash’ vs ‘treasure’ that can be tossed. And those are the things I want to challenge you to get rid of starting now.
- Plastic containers you are keeping to put scraps and leftovers in.
- Previous statements from the utility company, auto and house insurance companies, your cell phone, the cable company, and other things of this nature. Three to six month’s-worth is enough unless you need to prove expenses or track them for a trust, spending down process, or some other such reason.
- Old clothes you haven’t worn since you retired from your job, those that are stained or torn, and those that no longer fit.
- Dishes which are used only once or twice a year. Chances are your daughters and daughters in-law either host or help prepare the meals for family gatherings, which means you no longer need multiple casserole dishes, pie plates, cake pans, etc.
- If you haven’t tried that recipe, copied that crochet pattern, or shared that article on fishing tips from the pros with your son, you aren’t going to.
- Tools you no longer use.
- Hobby supplies you no longer use…or never did.
- Books with print too small to read.
- Small appliances you were given as gifts to make your life easier…but didn’t.
- Pictures you don’t remember taking or don’t know the people who are in them.
- Canning jars—unless you still use them.
- Linens (towels, sheets, etc.)—the extras. If you no longer have a houseful of people during the holidays, you don’t need thirty bath towels, six sets of sheets, and so forth.
I could go on, but you get the point.
HOW TO GET RID OF IT
There are four means of disposing of all your goodies. They are:
- Throw it in the trash or recycling (plastic, stained and torn clothing/shoes, pictures of unidentified people (and the negatives that go with them), books with brittle or missing pages, and old paperwork. NOTE: If personal information is on the paperwork, shred it first, or burn it.
- Yard sale. Decluttering is about getting rid of the things which are no longer useful to you. Other people, however, may need these things and will be happy to pay you for them.
- Give them away. Your children, grandchildren (especially college students and those just starting out on their own) will be glad to take some dishes, towels, sheets, and other household items off your hands. Books, magazines, games, flowerpots, lawn and garden tools, etc. can be donated to nursing homes, daycare centers, homeless shelters, or other charitable organizations to be used one way or another.
- Handing down a tradition, keepsake, and skills. Canning jars, pressure cookers, golf clubs, fishing gear, etc. can be passed down to the next generation(s) of your family. Sharing your gear, your skills, and your memories is a great way to strengthen family ties and get rid of stuff all at the same time.
The art of decluttering is not something that comes easily for everyone. Trust me, though, when I say it accomplishes two very important things: 1) It can be therapeutic to you, and 2) You will be doing your kids a big favor—one they will thank you for.
Guest post By Darla Noble
The views expressed by the author may not reflect the views of Age Safe America, LLC. The content here should not be taken as medical, legal or financial advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your own healthcare, legal or financial professional with any questions.