We have already looked at how easy it is to keep items - some intentionally because they are important to us as mementos of various important occasions or family events, and others on a more ad hoc basis because we just didn't through them away when we had the chance and really didn't think we would need them again or we kept them for that "just in case" moment that might happen in the future.
Few people start out in life to keep everything they have ever brought into their home - of course, this is an exaggeration, but only a little. Many people keep original cartons and boxes of appliances, toys, and shoes - for a variety of reasons even though they probably will never be used to return that item to the place of purchase. Some boxes are retained long after the item has broken or been replaced by another.
Most of us want to keep family photos - although this is easier to do now on the computer than having scrapbooks or photo albums. We keep reminders of important events in the lives of our children and loved ones - yearbooks, newspaper mentions, and tangible souvenirs of sports, competition, awards, and the like.
We keep musical instruments that we no longer play or that we never got around to taking the lessons to learn how to play. We keep clothing that we have outgrown or that we purchased and never wore. We have pantries full of items that we purchased on sale, to try someday, or that we bought in bulk. Many have passed their "use by" date.
We know that we use every possible place in our homes to keep the items we have retained. We start with where we are likely to look for them - in the cupboards for kitchen related items, in the junk drawer in the kitchen (for small tools, string, screws, and odds and ends), in the pantry, in the dresser, in table drawers, various closets, the attic, spare bedrooms, garage, basement, shed, and other storage areas around the home.
The point is that when we really need to find something - that we think we have but aren't really sure - where do we look and how successful are we in locating it quickly? Ever lose a set of keys or instructions to an appliance? How long does it take us to search for them?
This is the second part of keeping, retaining, and storing items in our homes - locating them again. It's not only locating them and knowing where to start the search, but it's also how much time it might take to do so and how many other places we might have to look after the first try comes up empty.
Few things are more frustrating or time-consuming than to look place after place in our homes for something we know (or hope) is there someplace. As we organize our own homes to be prepared for how to coach our clients on organizing theirs, there are real takeaway issues here. Part of it centers on how much we keep (but that is largely a personal decision) and the rest is where it is kept so it can be found again. Is there any type of system used? Does everyone in the household know the system?
People are going to hang onto things as they go through life. Our challenge is to make it easier for them to organize, store, find, and retrieve those items when they need them.
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