As we work through the first layer of our Decluttering Event, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this essay. Anytime I declutter my home, I fondly remember a woman and her husband that I worked with a few years ago. A good lesson. She would have been in her mid-eighties. Lovely lady. Great sense of humor! But… suffering as a result of her home.
She had a lot of stuff. And I mean “a lot” of stuff. Her home was the catchall for her parent’s belongings when they passed away, her siblings belongings when they passed away, her children’s belongings when they downsized their own homes, and her grandchildren’s belongings when they had no where else to go.
Plus she had a lifetime of personal collections, excellent garage sale finds, tons (literally) of good deals, several wardrobes, and many duplicates, triplicates and you-name-its…
Add to that a lifetime of “one days.” One day I’ll get to that. One day I’ll use up the wool, the fabric, and the crafting supplies. One day I’ll have a garage sale. One day my kids will collect their things. One day I’ll organize the spare room. One day… You get the idea.
Now we’re not talking about a “hoard” here. This was just the simple accumulation of a lifetime’s worth of stuff. Stuff she had in her thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and into her eighties. Good stuff. Stuff with memories. Stuff that could still be used… if you could find it…
(I smiled when I saw all the cleaning supplies and products, plus the latest and greatest in cleaning tools and gadgets – each marked “new and improved” – none of them opened, none of them used. Been there, done that! Never again.)
Over time the belongings got lost amongst the belongings. Huge amounts of dollars were spent buying more belongings. More was spent trying to organize the belongings. In the end, most were simply boxed, stashed, and piled away where no one could reach them. Imagine knowing you owned it. Somewhere. If only you could find it…
In the time I worked with this home, we were able to create a safe space to maneuver an ambulance gurney through the front entrance, the hallways, and into the bedroom (I made this a priority since we were working with seniors – and I am a realistic kind of person).
Then we tackled the bathroom – with safety again being our priority. Anything that could hurt a person should they fall or slip was moved right out of the room. She cried when she saw the sparkle and the space – and never again did that bathroom get filled with stuff. And no more tripping hazards!
Since they were in poor health, many members of their family were coming to visit (some kept bringing more stuff – a sore point with me – grrr). However, my third priority was to get the kitchen and dining room areas plus the living room ready for company. Again, we hauled out a lot of stuff. Some of it was donated, some simply moved to the basement (for another day – sigh), and some of it was trashed. But we did it! She was overjoyed seeing her home begin to look like a home (instead of a storage building). Father’s Day came and went with nearly all of their family plus old friends coming and going throughout the day. A precious anniversary also passed – again with the space in the home to enjoy the company. Then one day, her husband took ill and died without warning. Now this was a good passing. He was very old, but very “with it” until the end, and the family was at peace. Sad, but at peace.
But, the stuff didn’t care. It was still there. Slowly we returned to our project. Now focusing on a bedroom and a home just for one – with enough stuff for twenty!
One day was getting closer.
Today, most of us have this huge gift in our lives. It’s called, “time.” We have time to take ten minutes and empty out a junk drawer. We have time to take fifteen minutes and go through the clothes our kids have outgrown. We have time to blow the dust off those crafting supplies and actually use them. We have time to play with our bikes. skis, snow shoes, and other toys. We have time to haul away the stuff we don’t want anymore. We even have time to hold that garage sale.
And with time, you have a second valuable gift. You have “control.” You get to choose. You get to decide. Rather than keeping everything, you get rid of some. Then you organize the rest. Then you use it, enjoy it, and make it part of your home. You have control.
But when time is no longer on your side, then suddenly you lose that control. Someone else is going to decide what happens to this stuff. For my lovely lady, it wasn’t pretty. One day had arrived. She had an opportunity to downsize into an excellent facility that was safer and a better choice for her current health issues. She was looking forward to moving, but first, she had to sell her home. And before she could sell the home, she had to declutter the home. Really declutter the home. All of it. In a week. Her family used dumpsters…
I ran into her not too long ago. Her health had improved and she was out walking – yay! Yet, she burst into tears thinking about what happened to her stuff and even worse, how it happened. She had the best of intentions that “one day” she would use it, enjoy it, love it, or else, sell it, donate it, or re-gift it. But all that was gone when she ran out of both time and control.
Today, you have time and control. Remember to take a little bit of both to stay on top of the stuff in your home. Use it, enjoy it, love it, or else sell it, donate it, and when there is no other option, toss it.
PS: The photo – taken at the end of a long hike because I chose “one day” to actually climb the mountain. Remember – you have time and control – use them so your “one day” happens today!