Although I wrote this with my thoughts and experiences… I really believe there is NO age recommendations for getting rid of stuff….we are such collectors so starting early on is much better than waiting until you are older and have a lot of “crap” — oh, dear, — I mean stuff….
Early in the year, as the first pale green buds begin to appear, my thoughts turn lovingly to my family and my “elders” obsessions with spring cleaning. It was our family’s version of March madness.
Under some elder’s direction (whatever house you were in – you helped), we would spend countless hours and days cleaning walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows. Everything in the closets, dressers, cupboards and pantries were scrutinized for cleanliness, usefulness and orderliness.
Honestly, any of us could out clean any “Merry Maid”; although at the time we were almost certain some kind of child labor laws were being broken.
But, as I got older, it is hard to follow this spring ritual with the same vigor. I tend to ignore its importance and benefit. In particular, the purging part is more difficult because of what it seems to imply.
Things make their way into our lives and cling to us like lint. We place value on these things – most are needed, useful, memorable or bring us emotional comfort.
But – there is much, outside those parameters, that over the years lost its luster or usefulness, yet never found its way out the door – what you might call “stuff”. For many of us, eliminating “stuff” is complex for several reasons.
First, we have the mistaken belief our adult children will want our things and put the same value on them as we did. Shocker!!!!! Nope, not likely. They have their own tastes and a limited capacity to absorb more things.
Secondly, the uncertainty of life is almost certain. Stuff happens and the ability to control our own life can take a sudden change – like having to move into smaller living arrangements, experiencing poor health, dementia or even moving “up” and “outta here”. Our focus turns to more important things, rather than the importance of things. But, even though we’ve moved on, our stuff just happens to stay at rest until someone moves it.
And that usually is our adult children, who are busy working and raising families. It falls to them to sort, clean, prepare, conduct estate sales, donate unwanted items and make numerous trips to the dump – a burden even more difficult for those who live out of the area.
Judging by their comments at estate sales (I love estate sales, by the way), they are not only overwhelmed, but resentful, at having to put their lives on hold while they handle our affairs. “Why couldn’t they have done something with their things while they were able and not leave it to us…” is their complaint, as well as plea.
So if our children could convey a simple message to us, it would be this: Listen, mom and dad, you’ve been responsible all your lives. Don’t stop now. Deal with your things while you still have the time and health to properly determine their fate. Free yourself from all that unwanted “stuff” that clogs up your life, so that is won’t eventually clog up others.
finally, I think we subconsciously believe that as long as we have things, we have life. Falsely equating downsizing with “end of life”, we put it off until we no longer have the strength or will, to handle our own affairs. The truth is, the only thing simplifying and dying have in common is that they rhyme.
If you haven’t begun this process, try to determine what is holding you back. Admittedly, finding a home for everything is difficult, long and sometimes emotionally painful.. but we shouldn’t get discourage if it takes several seasons to reduce our foot print and organize our lives…. for you young’uns…. start now, simplify… I get so sad at estate sales and see the folks entire lives up for sale…
So, I’m done… off my “high horse”…. now some much needed coffee is needed….