Time to de-clutter

July 23, 2021
by Mark Ollig

While surveying my residence, I became aware of the numerous items displayed on the shelves, tables, and walls.

Items not displayed are stored inside cardboard boxes and those large, lidded plastic storage bins.

For years, not only mine, but I would wager, many of your closets, garages, and basements contain many unopened storage containers.

With the children long gone from the house, and many of us approaching retirement age, we find ourselves still living in cramped quarters, wondering why we don’t have more living space.

We are storing many of the possessions from not only our children’s youth, but from ours, too.

Some of us have come to the realization we have accumulated too much “stuff,” and it’s time to do something about it.

After considering the number of boxes and containers, I experienced a moment of clarity and thought, “Why am I keeping all this stuff?”

I reasoned it was because of their sentimental value, and knowing I still have the item containing a special memory for me.

Even if I haven’t seen a memento or specific item for years, I still have a sense of satisfaction and reassurance, knowing it still exists somewhere inside a storage box.

The boxes are all neatly stored, with their contents identified, but it is evident that there are just too many of them.

I need to do some serious de-cluttering.

My plan had always been to give my kids much of these stored-away items when they became adults.

I assumed the sentimental value they had for an item in their youth would still be there as an adult.

There are boxes filled with my kids’ old toys, model cars, books, crayon drawings, completed school assignment papers, board games, and parts from electronic video games and radio-controlled vehicles.

There are boxes containing photo albums with pictures of birthdays, school activities, holidays, and other family get-togethers that could be digitized and stored.

Other boxes contain items too numerous to mention, but you get the idea.

Over the years, I have contacted my kids about stopping by and picking up some of these boxes, but was surprised to learn they don’t want them.

“I have no place to keep all that stuff,” each of them adamantly tells me.

I persisted about the items having sentimental value and how they’ll appreciate having them to look back on when they reach my age.

That line of reasoning didn’t work very well, although they did end up taking a few items to keep their old man happy.

Now, when it comes to my silver coins collected and saved over the years, that is an entirely different matter.

It seems my adult children have plenty of space for those.

Too many boxes filled with things no longer used and rarely looked through needed a solution.

I felt throwing away some of them would feel like I was discarding memories. So, instead, I have allowed the boxes and containers to occupy considerable floor and closet space.

As difficult as it may be, I’ve decided it’s time to sort, sell, and donate what I no longer need inside those cardboard boxes and plastic containers.

Downsizing is the subject of much discussion, especially among the folks in my age group.

Some people downsize because they no longer need to be living in a large house and want to move into a smaller one that is easier to manage and move around in.

Other singles and couples desire to experience new adventures traveling across the country and decide to downsize, sell their house or move out of their rented residences, and take to the open road, living full-time in an RV or travel trailer.

Many doing this cannot part with all their boxes full of stuff, so they decide to store them in a commercial rental warehouse storage unit.

These folks pay a monthly fee for securely storing boxes they probably have not, and will not open for years, if ever.

There is an alternate solution for dealing with the emotional separation from our beloved boxes of stuff.

Penn State University conducted a field study on how to successfully part with and de-clutter stored items.

Their research showed people were willing to separate themselves from personal items if they took photos before parting with them.

“We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory,” explained Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the field study.

“Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter . . . Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate,” reads a sign hanging on a wall at Penn State.

While I won’t be roaming from town to town in an RV, I will be taking video and photos of my stored away stuff before parting with the items I no longer will physically keep.

We can digitally store the video and photos in The Cloud.

As for the silver coins, de-cluttering them won’t be a problem.

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