There are no moral pronouncements here about how hanging onto such items as keepsakes, souvenirs, important mementos, or something that might be useful again in the future are cluttering a home and creating unnecessary storage and accessibility challenges in the home. When that becomes the case, it's time to act on that, but the root cause is not the collection of items. It how they are retained.
So, let's consider three issues that pertain to stuff that we (any of us) keep over our lifetimes - some people more than others, and some longer-term than others - that may cause us to rethink how we want to approach this in the future. Clearly, when storage exceeds the capacity of the home to keep what is being retained, there could be an aesthetic or functional concern created. This leads to an overflow situation that goes into the available closets (to the extent they can absorb the extra storage), attics, basements, garages, and sheds. Then we pay someone else to guard our stuff in an offsite warehouse complex - arguably one of the fastest growing businesses in recent years.
The first of the three issues is the physical accumulation and storage of those items we retain. This kind of sneaks up on us. We go to a game and keep the program (that we paid extra to have), a souvenir from the field or a player that happens our way, something we get at the concession stand (hat, shirt, pennant, mug, or the like), and anything else that might be associated with the event. Then we go to additional games and repeat.
We go to school and keep our report cards, art projects, awards, yearbooks, graduation garb, and other items that seemed important to us at the time (things from dances, plays, games, and other events). Then we have kids and keep their stuff.
Some of us start collections of various types - dolls, model cars, trading cards, stuffed animals, mugs, beverage related items, and so much else. Then we have to decide how to display them. They might be even too much to keep out, so we store some of it elsewhere. There is just so much to collect.
There are sporting goods that we purchase as we take up golf, cycling, running, rollerblading, tennis, softball, or other activities. When we find something we like, we upgrade and purchase even better equipment - often without getting rid of the original acquisition. When we lose interest in a particular sport or activity or we suffer an injury, we still keep the equipment - just in case we take it up again.
We purchase clothes throughout our lives, and some of them we never get around to wearing. We still hang onto to them though because we may find that occasion where it can be worn. Styles change, and some of what we have is from a different time. Styles have a way of coming back, so some of what we retain is on the hope of that style resurgence.
Some of us gain or lose weight but we have so many clothes from that former self that we hang onto some of them in case we return to that size again.
We keep magazines that we never had the chance to read when they were published, as well as some that had good articles in them.
There is no shortage of things to hang onto, collect, retain, and never discard. Then we have to very creative about where to keep them in our homes (or offsite storage).
We can talk all we want about decluttering our lives (and those of our clients), but the human condition is such that this just seems to happen.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.