Time to Declutter

Storage shelves packed with random items including coffee makers, slow cooker, jars, tupperware etc.

So much stuff!

I was chatting with a neighbour the other day and we were reminiscing about some of the items we had to save up for when we were much younger; and how it was difficult to part with those now-antiquated items when the time came.  She had a microwave oven when microwave ovens first were on the market and she remembered paying $1500 for it.  She described how massive it was when compared to today’s microwave units. 

Two 8 track tapes stacked on top of each other "The Moody Blues"

We remembered how apprehensive folks were when microwave ovens first entered our kitchens and how we were advised not to stand in front of the unit.  This was new technology and worth saving up for, however now they are old technology and not worth holding on to.  Yet, some of us do.  We find a place to store all our obsolete items: old TVs, stereos, even 8-track tapes and players.

Often we reasoned we may need it in the future.  Perhaps as a back-up if our newer item breaks; or perhaps we held onto it for spare parts.  When we worked and saved to purchase specific items, we valued them more than many of the lower-priced throw-away items of the present age.

Technology has advanced and yet it seems items were built stronger and did appear to last longer back then.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t only my neighbour and I who kept things from the past, it was our parents as well, and we’ve inherited many of their belongings. This adds another layer of sentimental value to items and doubles the quantity of items we have to sort through.

Start Letting Go

The reality is – it’s time to start letting go.  At the very least we need to start organizing: what to keep, what is useful to us or to someone else and what is of no value to anyone. It is difficult, perhaps because it is another indicator that we are aging and before long, if we don’t start purging these belongings, it will be a task bequeathed to our heirs. So it’s time to put downsizing and sorting through our belongings into the forefront of our thoughts.

Island Treasures podcast guest, Ben Graham, in the episode “Introducing Joe & Bella” summed it up nicely describing his grandparents’ situation when they were moving into Assisted Living from their home.

They transitioned to assisted living and this transition highlighted the magnitude of challenges faced when downsizing. As folks make the move into care, they are shrinking their large world into a small one-bedroom dorm and they’re having to let go of many familiar comforts of home and to some extent their freedom and independence, many possessions, including fast cars and even recipes.

Ben Graham, Island Treasures podcast December 2, 2022

Another podcast guest, Grace Block, in the episode “Expressions of Love Through Caregiving” talked about how frustrating it was to have her elderly mom ‘help’ sort through a life-time of her belongings when she too was moving into Assisted Living.  Grace’s mom was an artist and had a purpose for everything and so she did not wish to let go of her treasures.

Why Is It Hard to Let Go?

Games from childhood: Twister, Trouble, Life, Sorry, etc. a giant football toybox and a lamp

Our attachment to things often isn’t because of the material value.  Depending on our upbringing we may have been taught that everything can be repurposed.  I still really enjoy coming up with creative solutions by repurposing something I have yet to dispose of.  On occasion that joy turns to frustration when, after thinking up a brilliant solution, I search for that old item only to discover that I may have already disposed of it (or someone else has!).  There have been a few occasions in the past, i.e. because of relocations, that I have done a little decluttering; but it is not my norm.

However, I believe that if I make a concerted effort to sort through all my old stuff by separating it into categories as the experts tell us to do, I may get a clearer picture of what I’m dealing with.  The categories are: things to keep, things to donate, things to throw away and things to sell.  I also hear my daughter’s reminder that if something brings you joy you can keep it.  Of course there are many methods for decluttering and organizing one’s home.

Regardless of the method, I realize that as I like to keep everything, this will be a huge process for me.  I had been keeping all my childhood toys, books, games as well as my children’s toys, books and games for future generations to enjoy.  At this point these keepsakes remain in my storage area and it may just be time to gift them elsewhere.

An orange, white and green daisy clad tin recipe box from the 1970's

I have even kept all my mom’s recipes and recipe books.  I love seeing them – they bring me joy!  I remember some of the baking she did and seeing her handwriting warms my heart.  But… I don’t use them!  I have adapted to the convenience of using online recipes when I need to look something up to make or bake. 

Stages of Change

Decluttering will be a process!

When I think of the stages of change I must be in the contemplative stage as I am aware that I need to make some changes and I’d like to work through the process – but I’m certainly not ready to take action yet. The good news is that I am thinking about it.  When I am ready to move forward I will be in the preparation stage of change – where I make a plan to start taking action within a defined period of time.  Then and only then will I be ready to move into the action stage where I actually start sorting through all my stuff (and my parents’ stuff) and begin the process of decluttering. 

So where do I start on this big project?

As I continue to contemplate decluttering I don’t plan to stress about it.  Afterall, there are local agencies that can help me if I feel the process is too big for me to do myself.  The benefit of using an agency is that they don’t have the sentimental attachment to items and they can be objective in their approach.  I would expect that as professionals, they would be respectful of my attachments, perhaps letting me reminisce and talk about my feelings surrounding those special items before placing them into the discard, donate or sell pile.

When my friend and I were chatting, I had no idea that our conversation would catapult me into starting to plan for decluttering; but I’m glad it did as I think I’m almost ready.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply