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The House

When “One Day” Arrives…

< 10 min.

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!

14 thoughts on “When “One Day” Arrives…

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  1. My husband and I have found our dream retirement home on 13 acres with a barn. So we are partially living out of two properties until we make the final leap. In addition, we’ve joined two households when we got married only 4 years ago. So before I was finished sorting his, mine, ours when we got married, now we have to make old house/new house decisions. If that’s not overwhelming enough, DH’s son is staying with us while he’s attending college. So our staging area is now back to being a spare room. Ugh!

  2. I spent 2015 de cluttering the basement and all areas of the main floor. We got rid of alot of “stuff” I now have to start over in the basement and declutter again as things from upstairs got put down stairs but it feels so good having over 50 extra bags and some boxes out of the house. And so much easier to keep organized.

  3. Oh my, this is so sad that people think the best we can do is load up our living spaces with stuff. All these things that were supposed to make life easier and more comfortable have turned out to be the enemy to me. I’ve had a lot of people give me things for this house, probly crap they no longer wanted, but I wasn’t well and just took it. Minimal, simplified, austere are the words folks who knew me a long time ago used to describe my life. So, I’m going back there now. That story above has made me feel so sad that those kids would take such advantage of parents. Leaving stuff for them to ‘take care of’ till they had the interest is rude and cruel. I’m getting upset over how badly the elderly can be treated by those they love.

    1. In fairness to the kids and grandchildren, they were not really aware that they were “taking advantage” of their parents…. everyone was oblivious to how much stuff there was. Remember, I was the outsider – it’s easy for me to see what’s going on. Grandma and grandpa allowed this to happen – their home was always this cluttered – even while the children were growing up and it was natural for everyone to keep adding more stuff. It wasn’t until they had to sell the home that they saw how huge the problem was. There was actually a lot of love in this family.

      The secret is to have that love, but without all the extra stuff.

  4. My Uncle passed in his small home all alone one night. His wife was gone, he had no children of their own, just all of us nieces and nephews. My sister, her kids, my Dh, 3 of my cousins and their kids and myself did the first sort. So many things that were stuffed everywhere, a leaking roof destroyed some beautiful quilts, a cabinet in the kitchen filled with can food that was so old it exploded! A shed with tons of tools, yard equipment and who knows what that the racoons had torn up. I am doing my best to not do this to my family when I leave this Earth. I want to be remembered for the love I shared, the time I spent with them and the memories I made for all of us to keep, not the exploded, expired food in the cabinet.

  5. Oh, my. I had to break up my parents’ housekeeping, as well as my in-laws’. Made me realize what a burden all that stuff imposes on *somebody* to deal with, often while they are dealing with grief as well. So very unfair, thoughtless, and inconsiderate, even though not intended that way. My parents were had lived all over the world and had all sorts of things from every place they had lived. Crystal, silver, silk, china, collectibles of every kind. Very expensive and beautiful, but still. My in-laws were the opposite. Lived in the same house all of their married life, so you can imagine the accumulation there. Most of it was just junk.

    Anyway the upshot of all that is I want to live minimally, because it mortifies me to think of saddling someone I love with that burden. My problem is that hubs is like his parents, can’t stand to get rid of anything, though he has gotten better (after 40+ years of marriage).

  6. This reminds me of when I worked in the Public Guardian’s Disabled Adult Unit and had to inventory homes where we took custody of an Elderly person. EspecIally when they had objects in their homes that I had in mine. Every night I would come home and purge for the very reason Cindy mentioned.

  7. You couldn’t have said this any better. It’s exactly why I’ve been trying so hard to declutter. I have spent too much time dealing with other people’s stuff. My favorite saying is “I do NOT live in a museum!” But, that’s how it feels when I have to deal with all that’s coming in and all that has been left behind.

    Just sign this one…

    1. Oh Joy, I’ve read everything you’ve accomplished so far in the challenge – you are doing fantastic! Everything counts – and remember, we’re only after one layer right now. Lots of hugs – Cindy

  8. Wow… that is a very well written piece that I will be coming back to read again and again. I will also be sharing it.
    Thank you so much!

    (Cindy here – saw your second message LOL)

    1. Hahaha. Thanks for fixing that. Must learn to proof read before hitting enter. I was horrified thinking you gals would think I disagreed.

  9. This is so true. I have a friend I have been trying to enlighten with this knowledge. I will share (again) your website and hope she reads this post.

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The House

The House has to feel like a home. It doesn’t matter whether you live alone, have small children, are battling teenagers, emptying the nest, or enjoying time with your special one. The house has to feel like a home. This isn’t a one-time, get it done activity. This is a work in progress. Because if you live in your home, you mess your home. This is how you enjoy your home. Then you simply clean up your home.

What we know now, is that this does not have to be a big deal.

hugs ~ Kelly and Cindy