For many of us aging also means an accumulation of STUFF. Whether our long- term goal is to stay in our home or downsize it is never too early to start intentionally decluttering. My dad used to be visibly appalled when my siblings and I would say we didn’t want my grandmother’s pride and joy her cherry dining room set. We joked for many years about it until one day he starts using the pieces to make shelves and other things around his house. I loved walking into my parents’ home and seeing the cherry wood being used in a such unique and creative way. The truth is generations change and their priority of value change. It’s common now for newlyweds to not even register for china whereas growing up I am pretty sure my parents had three different sets of china from parents and grandparents that had passed away.
This begs the question, why do we leave houses full of “treasures” for our adult children to deal with when we pass or are forced to downsize and move. Therefore, intentionally decluttering should be a priority in our early retirement years.
Intentionally decluttering should start out with the easy stuff. Do you have a basement, garage or storage closet filled with stuff? If you haven’t used these items in years and are holding on to them “just in case”, it’s time for it to go. You will never touch it and you are just leaving it for your loved ones to deal with begrudgingly. I then suggest going from room to room, drawer to drawer and getting rid of items that no longer are relevant or needed in your retired life. How many people hold on to items that were technically their children’s? If they have not come for the items they don’t want them! If you find it too distressing to just throw away their stuff, put it in a box and ship or drop it off to them, but once given to them you cannot ask what they did with it or how they felt about it. Your sentiment may not be theirs and that is ok. A few minutes here and there can relieve so much anxiety and stress for yourself and your support system.
If you have done your intentional decluttering it will leave the sentimental and valuable items front and center. This will allow for you to have conversations with loved ones about those items. You have to be prepared that your children may not find the same value in them as you do. As the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you” so you need to start thinking about what that item could be used for. Would it be good for shelves, sold for money, or given to someone that will cherish it as much as you do? Finding value in passed down items is a very generational concept. The current trend of minimalism doesn’t allow for placing value on material objects. Just because it was passed down doesn’t mean I want it; it will just add clutter to my already chaotic world. This is a hard concept for some to understand but having open and honest conversations will be much more beneficial than leaving the item in control of someone that doesn’t want it.
Growing up I noticed a framed Irish prayer that hung in my grandmother’s house. When she passed and none of her 7 kids requested that prayer, I was so excited I could have it. It now hangs right by my front door and will be a staple in my home no matter where that is. No one else felt the same connection to that prayer that I did, but to me it’s invaluable. The sentimental value of that picture may end with me, or it may continue with my kids but for right now I am happy to have that one piece to remind me of my grandmother. I am not saying to get rid of everything you find value in before you pass, you should be surrounded by your most precious objects, but having a plan for those objects will help your support system feel empowered to know what to do with them when the time comes.