You have resolved to move and you dread the whole idea. Maybe you have a closing date or maybe you have just decided to ready your home for sale. In any event, you have been in your home for 20 plus years and it is full. Full of things you will definitely be taking with you, but that is not the problem. The problem is the clutter – the flotsam and jetsam of life that over the years has filled every available nook and cranny. A major issue for most seniors getting ready to move is “junkitis.” “Junkitis” is a very American affliction, born of a prosperity envied by most of our global neighbors. All Americans have been exposed to it, but to see whether you have been infected, check for inflammation in the following areas of your house:
- Basement, Attic, Garage, Shed
- Kitchen, Pantry
- Closets, Under Bathroom Sinks, Medicine Cabinets
- Under Beds, Misc. “Junk” Drawers
Inflammation is obvious if you have full, unopened boxes from the last move. It is also evident if you have shelves or closets full of things you haven’t used in the past couple of years, nor are you likely to ever use them again. (Pay particular attention to the accoutrements of hobbies that you will not return to – photography and woodworking equipment, cooking, sewing and gardening tools, etc.) And then there are the kid’s things that you have stored for years, waiting for them to make room in their own homes for the “invaluable” treasures and trophies in attics and basements. And finally, realize that just because you are an extremely organized person, you can still be a “junkie.” You can label, sort, file and store “junk,” but it doesn’t get you off the hook. If you are moving, you will probably have to dispose of most of it.
To overcome de-junking anxiety, realize that de-junking is not only possible – it is very liberating and does wonders for spousal relationships! It requires very little equipment (predominantly boxes, tape, & markers), hence very little money. Taken in small steps, it assumes no great physical stamina or special skill. Because most of it is done indoors, you can defy weather restrictions and ignore the time of day. (If you can’t sleep, get up and clean out the office or pantry!)
There are three paralyzing factors that stall out the most well intentioned de-junkers:
Fear of Waste – A generation that weathered the Great Depression or the generation that grew up on stories of the Depression can be forgiven for stockpiling, but we can only hold onto what we will have room to store in our new reality. Remember that the family you are responsible for now is smaller and you will need dramatically less than you needed 20 years ago. Moving means you have to refocus on the most essential survival items and forego the rest. Substitute faith for fear and move on.
Fear of Remorse – If you get rid of something today, will you regret it tomorrow? Other than an occasional inconvenience, if you are smart, you will feel little pain. For example, get rid of the woodworking shop, but keep a substantial tool kit to handle household repairs and there will be little remorse.
Fear of Ungratefulness – Are you torn over keeping the framed art that your children gave you for your anniversary many years ago? Now you are afraid you won’t have the place to hang it, but you feel obligated to drag it along. Well, don’t! Your children and friends never gave anything to you that they intended to be a burden. They wanted it all to be a blessing and when it is no longer a blessing, they will truly be the first to understand. Life changes our circumstance and we have to be flexible to survive. Do what you need to do and trust that family and friends will be supportive.
Create a battle plan by taking an overall tour of your home and making an objective list of areas that are either clutter-free or need improvement. Now you have defined the areas that need to be de-junked. Get out the calendar and set target dates: “to be finished by” Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc. Holidays are great targets because scheduled family visits can incorporate essential “de-junking” activity. Extra strong arms and legs can encourage and accomplish major clean-out in short order.
Let not your heart be troubled. This is not a marathon. Do not retreat if your goals are not achieved – just re-group.
Identify destinations for everything before you begin encapsulating it all. Research the resources in your community that will accept donations and understand their parameters. Purchase multicolored, removable dots at the local office supply store (label dept.) and create a color code for each family member and tag items and boxes for dispensation. Encourage children to take boxes of treasures home at holiday time.
Collect boxes with tops from any store outlet you can identify. Liquor boxes are great for books and small items, but you will need a supply of larger boxes. Contact the manager of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or chain grocery stores to interrupt their recycling effort and grab a few large boxes, generally in the early morning. Of course you can purchase boxes from Lowe’s, an office supply, or most moving companies, but corrugated packaging has gotten very expensive, so “free” boxes are best.
Whatever you do, don’t make arrangements to store your junk. Storage becomes expensive, especially into the second year when the dollars spent on storage generally exceed the value of what is stored, unless we are talking about items of exceptional quality.
Remember that donating your junk can result in a tax deduction, as well as have far reaching, beneficial effects for non-profits like the Discovery Shop on behalf of the American Cancer Society. Moving is a great reason to be generous.
Finally, in the midst of a clutter confrontation, ask yourself this question: “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I get rid of IT?” Then be at peace.