Boomers: are you shedding stuff…or accumulating more?
How to get out from under a lifetime’s accumulation of STUFF is a problem we baby boomers face as we declutter, downsize or otherwise streamline our lives in anticipation of — well, the final chapter.
“We’re all doing same thing — decluttering,” Colleen commented on my Facebook post about the big yard sale my husband and I planned over Memorial Day weekend. “I want to leave a small footprint, tho’ my former possessions will lie in landfill.”
“I’ve been rehoming many of my things,” another friend chimed in. “Don’t want to leave a lot for others to do.”
“Me too,” said a third. “Trying to make it easier for those left behind.”
I hasten to add that these are healthy, active people who are not facing imminent demise. They’re just taking a level-headed look ahead and planning for the inevitable, whenever it should arrive.
My experience with my mother shows how tough it is to do a clean sweep. Mom lived in the same house for almost 50 years and never threw anything away — except, sadly, my brother’s baseball card collection, featuring players going back to the 1950s. In her active years, she saw no need to discard anything. By the time she reached her 70s and was preparing to move near me, she had health issues and couldn’t manage it alone.
My cousin and I got the ball rolling by helping organize a yard sale the spring Mom sold the house. We got rid of the first level of clutter and made a little money, and it was kind of fun doing it together.
Mom then had several months to sort and pack the rest, but somehow she never got to it. Maybe she felt overwhelmed; I can relate. A friend came over to help but the two of them did more yakking than packing. So when my brother and I arrived a day or two in advance of the moving crew, the house looked much as it always had — stuffed to the gills.
We did what we could (props to my brother for tackling the no man’s land of the basement), but by necessity there was lots for the movers to pack. They were overly scrupulous. We later opened packing boxes containing old jars of rusty nails and other junk that should have been tossed, not moved.
Like Alice in Wonderland after drinking from that mysterious bottle, our lives get smaller and smaller as we age. The traditional arc moves from big, bustling house to apartment and then, one day, nursing home. Final stop: a coffin.
My husband and I, still immersed in the big-bustling-house phase, are gamely trying to make a dent in our mountains of materiality. Hence the yard sale.
Memo to any nieces and nephews who might one day get stuck clearing out the rest: Don’t curse us. Take what you want, then hire an auctioneer to cart away what’s left. Enjoy the money you make from the sale.
I suggest Bob Dylan’s “Too Much of Nothing” as background music.