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For the Love of Stuff

Americans have soft spots in their hearts for their loved ones, their pets, their vehicles and most definitely for their stuff. Since post WWII days there has been a love affair with consumption going on in this country that has only waned in recent years with those interested in minimalism and the tiny house movement. Millennials want to

be travel ready, they don’t want all of the material possessions that their older loved ones are trying to pass on to them and they are definitely trying to be more environmentally conscious of what they purchase. More people are catching on to the idea of having more experiences and less material belongings.

Couples that may have fought about who gets more closet space and the number of decorative pillows on the master bed are realizing they don’t need as many clothes and those pillows are pesky when it comes to making the bed. It’s still true that most arguments in relationships revolve around money but I’ve worked with plenty of clients that bicker with partners about messy garages, packed basements and attics heavy with cast off possessions. Crowded spaces affect every household member including children who have trouble picking up their bedrooms and play spaces because of the abundance of toys, books, games and stuffed animals. Children who aren’t used to occasional purges end up having difficulty making independent decisions about belongings as they age.

When I’m helping clients declutter there are several keywords I use to help them identify their true feelings about belongings. We talk about passion, treasures, positive energy, respect, commitment and love. A spouse often wants the other to change their ways which really has to come from within so all we can do is create logical systems, set an example and appreciate any attempts at supporting everyone’s goals.

Here are some tips on losing possessions that aren’t useful and don’t make your heart go pitter patter:

• I ask myself four questions about a belonging to identify if it’s a keeper, do I use it? Do I need it? Do I want it or do I love it? Most of us get hung up on whether we need something because after all, we can’t predict the future. Then I consider if that item could be easily replaced, borrowed or could something else do the same job. Remember want is different than have. Do I have to have an essential oil diffuser? No. I could find other ways to diffuse oils.
• Often times there are sentimental reasons or a sense of obligation attached to our belongings. Things are handed down or gifted to us and therefore we have to honor those presents forever and ever. Nope! Once something is given to us, it’s ours and as the owner of said item, it’s up to us to do whatever we see fit with it. If it’s something you use, need, want or love, great! If it’s sat in a cupboard or on a shelf for years think about embracing the intention that the gift was given with and sending it on to another home. You might be able to donate it, offer it to someone you think might want it, even toss or recycle it. I think re-gifting is fine if you’re considerate about it.
• When you are considering donating something, I suggest identifying if you are giving a charitable organization a gift or a curse. 25 year old Tupperware, out of date reference books and board games missing pieces are curses. Gently used home goods, books in good shape that don’t smell musty from being in a basement and shoes that are almost like new are gifts.
• Don’t yuk other household member’s yums. Unless their stuff is causing harm, duress, crowding out areas of daily living or breaking the bank, respecting someone’s collection of antique salt cellars or baseball cards is only fair. If their collecting or just general accumulation is eating up lots of square footage, it may be time to find better homes within the home or declare some areas no clutter zones. In other words, pick your battles. When my daughter was a teenager, her room was like a disaster area. I did everything I could to show her how order is better than chaos to no avail. Finally I realized it was a losing battle. I set some criteria; no food, a pathway had to be kept clear of obstructions at all times, if she lost something in her room, it was up to her to find it and the door needed to be shut. When she went off to college she became very aware of her dorm mate’s constant mess and how little space they both had to share. She started turning around her thinking about clutter and is now a neatnik!

Lastly, let’s think about the ones we truly care for and our legacy that we all will eventually leave behind. Loved ones sudden passing is difficult enough to deal with, imagine being responsible on top of dealing with grief and arrangements to have to make sense of a home filled with drawers, cupboards and shelves stuffed and overflowing. Baby boomers have dealt with trying to disperse of their parent’s estate and I hear over and over “I don’t want to leave a huge job like that for my kids”. Proactive planning is a substantial act of love. It’s preventing a huge burden and is the ultimate gift, the gift of peace of mind.