Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Getting Rid Of Excess Storage Is Easier Said Than Done"

There have been so many articles written and dozens of books published in the past few years about decluttering our homes, organizing what we retain, and just cutting back on our stuff. We even have an annual day devoted to the pursuit of emptying out called "Good Riddance Day" that we just observed about 10 days ago on December 28th.

As aging in place professionals and strategists, we know the value of cleaning out our homes and removing unnecessary items that have passed their usefulness or were surplus when they were acquired. Often we buy multiple quantities of something without knowing how or when we will use them in the future just because it seemed like such a great deal at the time or we thought we would use more than we did. Sometimes our tastes change also in terms of foods we like, sports we play, or fashions we wear. Buying ahead can sometimes result in a surplus because some of the items just fall out of favor with us. Some foodstuffs and over-the-counter medications can be found in the back of the pantry or medicine cabinet with expiration dates that have long passed. 

Sorting items to decide which to keep, sell (assuming there is a buyer for them), donate to a charity (assuming they have a use for them), or discard can be very time-consuming and occupy a lot of space. Regardless of whether it's us or our clients who are sorting their items, there is a tendency to really bogged down in the process. Sometimes the net result is that we create more mess and confusion than we solve.

There needs to be some soul-searching and self-realization before entering the process, or it's not going to work as well. For instance, if we have decided that we are too old (by our definition) or we lack the skill or interest in playing golf, tennis, softball, racquetball, or some similar sport or activity again, then we don't need to think about hanging onto an item that goes with such activities. The decision has been made ahead of time. Even at this, we may become nostalgic at hold that baseball glove or lacing up those ice skates and change our mind - thinking that there's an outside chance (almost none really) that we might want to do this again and we would lament getting rid of the equipment that we had. Of course, there's also the possibility that the old tennis racquet, baseball glove, or athletic shoes aren't in very good condition after a period of disuse. Continuing to keep items that are inadequate or substandard, and that could actually be somewhat dangerous to use, doesn't make sense either.

The same would be true with old tee shirts or caps that we got from various concerts that we attended, sports teams or causes that we liked, and other branded items that we know we are never going to wear again. Easy call if we stand by our decision of not needing these items any longer.

Then, instead of taking time to review each piece of athletic equipment for its condition or usefulness to us, or the quality of branded clothing (and if it still fits), we can just decide - quite quickly - which pile to place it in and move on. Those piles, again, are "sell" (if we can), "donate," or "toss/recycle." The "keep" pile is closed to these items.

From here it goes a lot slower. We review each item - with the best intentions of tossing or relocating many of them to another home - and we pick up each item, remember what it means or did mean to us, and we have trouble letting go. We put that in the "maybe" pile to reconsider. Before long, we may find that we didn't really place many items into any piles other than "keep" or "maybe" and the whole process will need to be repeated or continued at a later date.

This is how actually ridding ourselves of unnecessary stuff is hard. Intellectually we know that we should do it, but emotionally, so many of the items are attached to us and we can't let go - just not yet anyway.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.