Whether you’re downsizing to move into a retirement home, or have decided that you don’t want to burden your children with rooms full of clutter after you have passed, it may be time to learn how to declutter your home.
But what should you keep? Surely the kids aren’t interested in your heirloom china set or all those photographs from your childhood? They say a cluttered house leads to a cluttered mind. Here’s how to pare it all down so you can have a clear mind right into your twilight years.
Ask Friends & Children First
Don’t just make assumptions that one child will love your things while another won’t be interested. Ask them directly what they would like to inherit. Find out if they’d be upset if you tossed the old family albums that only have meaning for you.
When your friends or family are over, find out if they’d like to take a memento home with them. This solves the immediate problem of ensuring that they have a little something to remember you by.
Let them know that you’re thinking of decluttering your house. See what their reaction is—shocked, supportive, or don’t care.
Think carefully about the interests of your loved ones. Does one person love to hold tea parties? Perhaps they’d love your tea set? Don’t be afraid to gift items now—because that’s the only certainty that your items are going where they’ll be appreciated!
Avoid Sibling Rivalry
When it comes to family heirlooms, people can get weird. You’ll have your kids who never once showed interest in your grandparent’s cabinet suddenly quarrel over who gets it after you mention how you’re getting rid of it.
There can be many factors at play. Some of it can involve sibling rivalry, some can be for competition. At times, they’ll be fighting for the memories. If you think there’s going to be fighting—donate it to a charity—problem solved!
But be certain that the kids still have something to remember you by. You may wish to set aside some large plastic bins and start saving stuff up for them now. Be sure they’re prominently labeled, then after you pass it will be a big surprise when they find them in the closet!
What to Do with Old Photos & Papers?
The answer to this question is to toss them out. But first, scan them into the computer. You can use Photoshop and adjust the contrast and fix imperfections. You can even add names and dates. Then you can go through the photo albums at a future date and look at them whenever you want.
Photographs and papers can take a large amount of space but aren’t something you look at frequently. However, once they’re on your computer, you’d be surprised at how often you’ll want to look at them.
What to Do with the Dog Ornaments?
The older generation had a greater appreciation of decorative objects. Today, people simply don’t have space in their small homes to hold a lot of stuff.
If no one wants the dog ornaments or other decorative wares, then carefully pack them up and donate them to your local thrift shop or charity shop. Someone else who does have space will see them, buy them, and appreciate them.
What to Do with Garage or Attic Junk?
Every city has a local recycling depot that takes junk that no one wants. You may need to find a detailed list online. But these spots often take old light bulbs, big and small appliances, electronics equipment, photographs, books, paper products, tools, and small furniture. And best of all, they don’t charge a fee, as you’ve already paid for it in your taxes!
What If I’m Not Certain?
If there are items that you’re oscillating about, set them aside in their own special box. One week later, bring them out. How do you feel about giving them away now? Perhaps you’d simply be happy taking a photograph of these items, then you can just look at your photo album in the years ahead and see what you used to own?
The Love It or Lose It Technique
When people are clearing out the clutter from their homes, another thing to do is to use the “love it or lose it” technique. Pick up an object in your hands and see what feelings or emotions it raises in your mind.
If you love the item and find that it brings you thoughts of happiness, then keep it. But if you find there is some negativity associated with it, or you are simply keeping it because it belonged to your dad, then lose it.
Count the Memories
Some people are ready to get rid of everything but don’t be too hasty. Do keep your “sort later” box for things you’re aren’t certain about. Also, do the “3” rule. This means that you keep three items that belonged to your dad, 3 that belonged to your mom, 3 that were given to you as a child—you get the point.
This is so that you have at least three good memories of the past that are associated with life events and people. Things do break, they wear out, and they get lost. If something happens to one of them, you’ll still have the other two.
And don’t forget about what we said earlier—take photos of your stuff so you can look back on them. For most people, they are simply happy enough to look at a photo of a memory—that’s why photographs are keepers.
Tackle That Clutter Now!
Don’t just let your stuff sit and wait for your kids to deal with it, do it now. Best of all, when you’re old and senile, and they’re ready to put you in that care home, you’ll be able to bring that one box of cherished heirlooms with you to always appreciate.
Don’t forget, it’s just “stuff” but you will always cherish the memories forever! Now get to work and clear out that first room!
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