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Hello to All,

I just posted an article on making good spaces in our homes and lightening up. I'm including it here and hope you enjoy it. I'd love it if you could include some tips on what you do now or have done to let go of things that have become clutter as the years have gone by and the struggles we go through to let go of items that are now not being used.
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One of the chores many of us have to face as we age is getting rid of the “stuff” that we have collected during our lifetime. When we were younger, our belongings were signs of our successes and gave us a level of comfort, familiarity and appreciation. As we age, however, some of these same items may be collecting dust, weighing us down, and making us feel guilty because we don’t need them anymore.

In many instances, our family members don’t want our collectables, and that makes it even more evident that we should let them go. Intellectually, we know that lightening-up will make us feel good, provide a sense of satisfaction, and make our homes more user-friendly. It’s the emotional piece that is so difficult. It will help if we acknowledge that tackling this process will enhance our quality of life by making our environment cleaner, safer, and more appealing.

The task of organizing and then letting go can seem overwhelming, so we should allot some time each day, perhaps one hour, to chip away at it. Have on hand: boxes, labels, wrapping paper, packing tape, large garbage bags, a camera and a scrapbook. We then will be ready to take action one room at a time, including our garages, basements, and attics. Start by throwing away anything broken or unusable to begin the process.

Working with others is not recommended, unless you need them for carrying boxes or moving furniture, as this approach involves very personal decision-making; helpers may not recognize our emotional attachments and inadvertently agitate us by pushing us instead of encouraging us.

Here’s what the pros suggest to make letting go easier:

1. Acknowledge that others would appreciate and utilize some of our items and locate a thrift store or a community-based organization, e.g., a homeless shelter, that we deem worthy and make a donation. We’ll receive a tax write-off and much satisfaction as payback.

2. If we own some objects that have real monetary value, consignment shops in the area will sell them for us. Internet sites such as Craigslist and eBay are also possibilities, but selling online takes more time and effort. We won’t get the full value, but can make some extra money for saving or spending. Garage sales are also possible but are a lot of work. I do have friends who sponsor a garage sale once a year in their neighborhood and do really well making some extra spending money.

3. If we have unused items of sentimental value, we can take pictures, write about them, scrapbook the information, and then let them go. We are not forgetting them -- just moving ahead to enhance our environment.

4. We need to be honest with ourselves. If we know it would be too painful to let go of an item, we should wrap it carefully, label and date the box, and store it somewhere safe. We will know where to find it again later.

I am planning a move in about a year and have loads of “stuff” in my basement. I have already lined up a few helpers that can move items AFTER I sort out what’s there to carry out the junk that needs to go to the dump (e.g., a large fake Christmas tree whose lights don’t work and base is missing) and other items that are going to a thrift shop. I refuse to move everything I own this time and promised myself that I would let go of the things that did not have particular sentimental value and especially items I hadn’t used or even seen in years that are packed in boxes. In looking at my luggage, I realized I had 6 smaller carry-on bags. Some were from 45 years ago and still in good shape! I think I can safely donate 4 of them or give four away and still have one too many!

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I am starting to clean up my house to get ready to sell. I have dreaded doing it and decided to start with two places that need it the most: the garage and the basement. I hired the guy who does my lawn work to help me carry everything out and take items to the dump or to the local thrift shop. Our first day of work will be in mid November.

It is important that I downsize and only keep the things that will I will use and to make my next move as easy as possible. One of my problems is that I have numerous gifts my friends have given me over the years that I hate to part with. Also at one time I had a booth in an antique store, and I have loads of items in my basement from that endeavor. Yikes. I should try selling those things on eBay but haven't done so and now I'm out of time!

I'll let you know how things progress. Just thinking about it makes me anxious!

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As a caregiver to my aging parents, it is my hope that more people (myself included) would not put the burden of putting their sentimental STUFF onto their children to deal with - it is a daily struggle for me.

I have tried to be compassionate and understanding. Compassion and understanding only lead to them not doing anything about the matter.

You offer some good advice to lovingly eliminate those items that have outlived their use.

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Pat - what a wonderful article. And very timely for me on a personal level.
I was a caregiver for my mother the last seven years of her life. I now care for my husband. We are both only children with no family left. What we have left is a house that needs downsized in its contents. I have been taking a room at a time, organizing, making things easier to find. In a sense, it has been liberating, in another it has been sad.

Thank you again for your article and starting this discussion.

Chel


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It is a wonderful article and also very timely, Chel.

It's been difficult deciding what can be held on to be sold and what can be donated. If I'm selling it, then it has to be relocated elsewhere in the house, yet that causes another room to become cluttered ...

The struggle is REAL! wink


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Pat, this is a great article. My mom and aunt live together right now in my aunt's mobile home. They both have dementia, and need 24 hour care. For the last seven years I've been dealing with the hoarding issues of my aunt and grandmother (who passed in 2008). Add to that the last year of dealing with the hoarding issues my mom had. :::sigh:::

I can see where they get confused, and miss their "stuff" and wish they had more things around them.

So much of what they collected, and saw as valuable, I do see as junk.

It's so sad!

But it's making me take a second look at the things that I have. I never, ever want my children to go through what I've been having to deal with.

I love the idea of simplifying. Especially once my kids are both out of school, and have their own place.

One of my girlfriends started "lightening up" when her children were middle school aged. Their life is so simple!! And clean smile I love that idea!


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Alice and Deanna - It's odd how so many of us have found this article so timely! It's like we are all in this process together.

Alice - You hit it right on the head - the relocating of the stuff you have collected to be donated or sold is its own separate issue!!!! smile


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Deanna, Wow, the hoarding thing we can soooooo relate to. The home we are living in after NY was my husbands aunts. It's one bedroom - yet spacious. However, she was a MASSIVE spender and hoarder. My father in law has a large storage area full of her stuff still. She passed away 18 months ago. He keeps giving the stuff away to family and friends.

It's hard when you have a family member with medical issues, but also be realistic, if anything is hereditary then your son and daughter will fall into your shoes. But you are leading the way for yourself...to be taken care of like your mom and aunt. You are a great care giver and you will be blessed for being one! X

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I am so pleased that all of you can relate to the article and found it helpful. Thanks so much for the positive feedback. I wrote it as much for me as for others that I know struggle with this issue.

In fact, I have a few friends that have given up tackling their "stuff" which I think is a big mistake, because as Alice and others have noted, it just means their children will have to deal with it. What is unfortunate is that some of the things that could be given to friends and family now that would make wonderful gifts have the potential to end up with strangers -- the person sorting after we are gone probably won't know about the history of the items or who may find them useful or desirable.

I have made a list for my lawyer who is preparing my new will and I have listed artwork, jewelry and furniture items with people assigned so that I am sure the person I want to have the item receives it. Of course these are things I am sure I am keeping. I have so many things that just have to go one way or the other.

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I'm involved in this passing forward process, too ...

About half a year ago I sorted out everything I've inherited from family and divided it into 5 portions for my 5 children. Then sent it to them.

Next, DH scanned the old black and white photos and slides from the 50s and we put them online and sent copies to the kids.

Then I made a picture page for each child on the internet of them growing up and their ancestors.

The few valuable things I have left in the house have the name of the person I want them to go to underneath.

Coming back to the present day, I sorted out 15,000 pages of my writings stacked on bookcases and saved 5,000 pages in 50 folders which I will leave to one child to keep like a little library of my work.

I have put all my writings into books, too. Then in the future they or others can get copies.

OK - that brings me up to the present with much relief that my work and possessions have been dealt with to my satisfaction.

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Susan, I LOVE how you planned that all out!

And Allyson, what a journey this has been!! Though my mom and aunt both have forms of dementia, it's been caused by lifestyle habits (that weren't so great), so (thankfully) my sister and I are both taking totally different approaches to our health and healing. AND, a lot of that is centered around getting rid of stuff!! Though she's happily taking a lot of the things I was just going to donate. I'm glad to see some things going to her - her kids are younger, and she'll enjoy using them (they are mostly dishware for holidays).

Yes Pat - this was so timely smile I'm so glad I read your article just when I did smile


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Wow! Susan, I'm impressed. You have worked hard to get organized and get things in order! I have never even thought about my writing stuff!!


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Wow! So much thought and detail ... you've given me food for thought.


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smile

It seemed about time. My parents didn't divide stuff while living, and it caused a lot of hard feelings later.

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On top of my personal belongings and items I inherited from an aunt and my dad, I had a hobby which was maintaining a booth in an antique shop. I kept these items in the store for about 5 years and then decided not to continue to make the effort when I retired and moved. Well, now my basement is loaded with all of these boxes from the booth with so many nice vintage things. They have been sitting down there for the past 4 years.

I want you to know that I started sorting a few weeks ago, held a fundraiser for one of my volunteer clubs using some of the items, donated about 10 boxes to date to a local thrift store, and have stored about another 10 boxes to take to a local auction after the holidays.

I am only halfway through the "stuff" in my basement, but I must say that once committed I remain on a roll. I am including my Christmas collection of "stuff" and intend to sort that out as I unpack it and see what I can donate to lighten that up as well. Now's the time of year when those with less can really use our unwanted and unused items, so I'm making a special effort to "let it go" "let it go"....!! Wish me luck with the other half!!

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Pat - I am sending you positive thoughts, energy and much applause from Ohio.
YOU GO !!!!!!
YOU GO LETTING GO!!!!
Chel


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I just wanted to mention that I found a local auction where I can box up some of my vintage items and sell them in bulk. Also I have been posting items that I don't want anymore on the freecycle website. I also have been trying to sell a few things on Craigslist and anything that doesn't sell is going to the auction. I am finally taking the time to use different options available to get rid of my things. Of course there is also the local thrift stores but some things I feel obligated to try and sell!

I know that during the holidays people tend to get in a buying mode and I hope that I can get rid of some items during shopping season.

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Pat, those are helpful suggestions for many of us! Thank you!

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Just a short note. I sold a few things on Craigslist and sponsored a fundraiser for my garden club where I gave the club 80% of my "take." Anything donated to a non profit is a tax write off, so the event was win-win for me. I have been taking numerous items to a local thrift shop and that is also a write off. And for the first time I accepted the fact that some of the items in my garage need to go to the DUMP! Spring is coming! Time to clean up!!

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Just started cleaning out my garage. OMG! I had no idea what I had piled up in there. It is starting to look much better. I have a keeper pile, thrift store pile, and dump pile in there now. Once I have the dump and thrift piles out of there, I can get it organized. Then a friend is going to loan me his power washer so I can clean the floor. Yes! The basement is next which will be daunting, but once I see the clean garage, I am betting the task will seem more doable! Hooray!

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I have this audio book, "The Life-changing magic of tydying up" by Marie Kondo. Have you read it? What do you think?

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Something to consider -- I'm putting my house up for sale in May. Oh boy. Now I wish I had addressed lightening up much sooner. I'm pressed for time to sort through numerous boxes in my basement and in my garage. I didn't expect to move so soon. Sometimes we don't realize how our "stuff" can weigh us down if we have to make a jump to another locale. Now I am pushed. Another reason to expect the unexpected and take care of business!!

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I just got off the phone with a guy who runs an auction house. I'm thinking of moving out of state and he is going to meet with me to discuss the best way to sell most of my household goods. He said they can have a sale right in my home, sell on line, or sell at his auction house. I'm going to learn the costs and convenience of each and I'll get back to you with the results.

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Aaargh...I keep putting off sorting my basement stuff, as I just put my house up for sale. I have made a commitment to spend 2 hours a day, between 4:00 and 6:00pm to go down there and JUST DO IT at least 3 days a week. more on this later.

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I'm still working on cleaning out my basement as my house is now up for sale. I am working on downsizing for real. I am going to take some of this stuff to an auction house and have already taken many boxes to the local thrift store.

At his later age I assumed my friends had everything they needed, which they do. However, their children and some of their friends that I don't know, had some things they wanted me to be on the lookout for as I repacked my stuff. I hadn't thought of asking about their circle of friends/family when I started. One gal's daughter was looking for small juice glasses; another contact makes jewelry and was looking for any jewelry pieces; another collects buttons. Well I could fulfill the wishes of all three! Of course there were several requests that I couldn't fill but my friends were pleased that I asked.

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What a nightmare downsizing must be. I often look around my house and say if I were to move, where would I put this stuff. We get stuffed to the gills. I try not to buy anything unless I really need it.

I admire your accomplishment.

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Thanks for the encouragement, Angie. I am working hard not to let the emotional feelings overwhelm me while I do this. So many things I now have were gifts from friends and family or that I bought because I really loved the item...I was a collector at one point so I have so many things that I enjoyed for many years. Many will have to go, hopefully to someone else who can appreciate them as I did for so many years. Thanks again, Pat

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I've been working on my basement. All I have left now are my Christmas decorations. This is a tough one because I have boxes of stuff, and each year I can't use at least a third of it. My friends have given me the bulk of the decorations as I lost most of what I had in a fire. But I am committed to letting go of most of what I have as I'm planning on moving and really don't want to decorate as I have in the past.

What I have decided to do is take two large plastic bins and fill them. Period. That does not include the tree. I figure a few light strings for outside, ornaments for the tree, some lights for inside (the tree is prelit), some linens, and that's that. I'll see if I can stick to this plan.

Next are my pictures. I have boxes of them. I intend to do the same thing with these. Ideally, I'd like to keep them in one bin. I know I have so many that I won't put them on discs, so if I sort, I will put them in three categories: youth, friends and trips -- get rid of duplicates and pictures that have scenes in them where I have no clue where the pic was taken. I'll report back on this as well.

I have to stay in the basement to do the Christmas stuff but can be at the dining room table or in my study to sort the pictures. Onward and Upward!!

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I have so many nice things that others have given me that emotionally I am so sad that I just can't get rid of them, so I have stopped struggling with the decision to let them go and boxed them up and labeled the boxes. If my new environment doesn't have enough storage space, perhaps that will push me to give them away or sell them. It's really a struggle to do this sorting, but I need to remind myself that dragging a huge number of items with me that I no longer use is ludicrous. Let it go, let it go!!

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As Christmas approaches, I have been sorting through the huge amount of Christmas items I have accumulated over the years. Since my home is up for sale and I want to downsize, I know that storing all of these boxes in a new, smaller place will be impossible. I have begun taking some of the items to my favorite thrift store, some to an auction house (vintage things) and I'm giving away other items to friends. Believe me there is plenty left over!! I feel better already!

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As I am going through my decorations I am checking everything and am now boxing some items that can be let go. I'm hoping possibly through a yard sale. My daughter in law often has them.

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That's a great idea Angie. We sometimes forget that we usually can tag on to other people's yard sales in our families or neighborhoods. The perfect time for sorting and deciding what we want to keep and what should go is when we are unpacking Christmas decorations.

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There is also a "Hoarder's List" similar to other sales lists. It is a neighborhood thing. Take a photo, share it and the price requested, hope for a sale. My daughter has sold items this way and makes arrangements to meet in a mall parking lot or other arrangement to complete the transaction. Yardsales by email.

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