One aspect of growing older is the prospect of what to do with our stuff as we approach the next stages of our life. Step One is downsizing when we retire if we move into a smaller house. Step Two might be a move to an assisted living facility. See where I’m going with this? Ultimately, we start thinking about what we want to happen to all the stuff we have left when we die.

I have friends with lots of stuff stashed into their sheds, garages, storage facilities, drawers and closets who say, “I’m going to let my kids worry about what to do with all that when I’m gone.” I understand how they might feel that way. Getting rid of all this is overwhelming and involves lots of work and lots of decisions.

I take a different approach. I think I’d like to be rid of my stuff by the time my body gets rid of me. To me, less is more. It makes me uncomfortable to have a bunch of clutter stashed around that I never see, never use, and certainly don’t need.

In the coming weeks, I’d like to have a conversation with you about how you feel about this issue and what tips and suggestions we can come up with. If you’re interested, subscribe to my blog and you’ll get a notice in your email of a new post each week.

(This time, it is not research for a book. Just an opportunity to have a conversation about things that interest those of us in the over 60 citizenry.)


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6 responses to “

  1. I am so with you on this idea, but it is going to take me a while to realize it. I fantasize about having a contemporary house in black and white and very little furniture. All books are on shelves behind white panel doors that look like walls. When you have a grandmother that saved everything and a mother that saved all of those items plus her own . . . you have even more stuff. And since I don’t have heirs, I must think of other ways to dispose of all of these things. Funny, many of the items I saved from my grandparents’ home in the seventies don’t mean as much to me now as they did then. Their fingerprints are definitely gone by now, and I need to unload them. Thanks for putting my thoughts into motion.

    • azpapillion

      Thank you for that. I have been trying to do this very “downsizing” for awhile now. It’s tough, because my husband is a saver and my mother (who is 83 and lives with us) doesn’t want to ever throw anything away. OK, having said that, I know it’s my own problem and my responsibility to do what I know I should do – that is to get rid of all this stuff that only makes me feel burdened. I sometimes think that I’m secretly preparing for my death, but of course I can’t know when that will be and I don’t like to appear morbid. I don’t want to die. I just want to get uncluttered. I have always wanted this, but husbands, jobs, children, school, living, etc. all seem to be more important than mental orderliness. Anyway, I’m happy to have found someone else in my age group that has the same thoughts.

  2. Sam Smiley

    Wow, this is truly one of my most onerous problems. I save too much of my own stuff, but my wife is a champion saver. She saves everything, such as all newspaper coupons, every piece or box of wrapping or shipping material, all old dishes, every bit of clothing ever purchased. Eventually I just trash all this stuff that’s 20 years old or more. How can I help myself by helping her?

    My ideal is Bertolt Brecht, the famous German playwright. Running from the Nazis during the thirties through the fifties, he had to live in hotels and everything he accumulated in any given city, books for example, he gave away when he moved. He developed the idea that carrying less extended his life and improved his thought process and created the joy of freedom.

  3. Kestra Akina

    I can’t take it with me, so why am I trying to hang onto it? Actually, I live a pretty pared-down life, but I noticed the other day that some things I hang onto, like certain clothes, have an emotional attachment for me because they represent as-yet unrealized (or deferred) expressions of my decided-upon identity. When can I really dress how I want to every day instead of how I feel like I “should” dress for work?

    Other things, like personal journals from the age of 16, I hang onto because I believe that someone in my family will treasure that history of their crazy, eccentric aunt. And those journals are no-holds barred. They tell who I really am and what I thought and experienced, instead of some nicely packaged and shame-free version. Will someone find that valuable? So far, I can think of maybe one niece who will. The rest, being born-again Christians, will probably either want to censor or destroy it. And I think that’s a shame.

    • You’re the one who taught me the value of journals. I still can’t imagine who would want mine, but I just can’t toss them.

      Anyone else have trouble knowing what to do with their personal journals?

  4. Barbara Rhodes

    We just moved to Kansas City to be close to family, medical care, and to pare down. It’s harder than I thought, but once you get the details taken care of, it’s all good. Here is a bit of advice:

    I find that if you get rid of stuff
    (those pesky odds and ends),
    you see what really matters in life
    and not superficial trends.

    One thing you need to remember though;
    old pictures are priceless and dear.
    They remind you of times and people you love
    and the reason why we are here.

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