The first of the three issues dealing with items that we keep is the physical accumulation and storage of those items we retain. We looked at just how easy it is to get items, to bring them into our homes, and just how difficult it is to discard them when they have served their purpose. Do we really think that after the kids and grandkids are grown past their days of learning to ride a bicycle that we need to keep their training wheels? Yet, we do. Just how necessary are they today?
There are so many things we have - board games, toys, and the like - that were important while we were raising a family, but how necessary are they in our lives today? Could we even find them if we needed to locate them?
How often have we bought furniture to assemble and had a leftover bolt or screw, or that hex key they give us to put it together? We toss them in the drawer or in a jar to have just in case, but we likely will forget that we have them or not be able to find them again if we ever needed something that size again. It's much easier and quicker to visit the store and buy a new package of what we need. This typically produces its own set of leftovers - and the process repeats. It's real easy to acquire stuff.
So onto the area of storing them - the second part of the first issue (accumulation and storage). Where do we keep all of the items that we acquire?
Beginning in our homes - and this starts at home with many of us but translates into our clients and the people we intend to serve - we look for the first available place. Often this is just on the countertop, end table, coffee table, bureau, entry table, dresser or other flat surface. When that fills up or we need to go through them and actually attempt to find something in that stack, we may put some of it away in a drawer.
From drawers, the storage looks for other available spaces like closets (shelves, bins, and the floor), the garage, attic, basement, backyard shed, and then suitcases, trunks, boxes (plastic storage boxes and regular cardboard boxes), jars, tins, sacks, and anything else that will hold some of our stuff.
It's not really where we keep it so much - although this can grow to the point where it interferes with passageways and opening drawers and closets safely - as it is being able to lay our hands on what we want when we want it.
Storage - much like files that we keep on our computer - certainly is related to how much we keep, but as long as everything is organized or out of sight, it's really a matter of locating items again. Do we remember where we put it? Do we have to move several other items first before we can get to the location or container where what we are looking for will be found - or we think it is? Do we really need to find it that much that it's worth all of this effort?
It's not that we keep items as we go through life - nearly everyone does in some form. It's what we hang onto and where we keep it that is an aging in place factor as it competes for limited space in our homes.
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.