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home : columns : columns June 28, 2016


3/11/2014 2:06:00 PM
Of a certain age...
By Jodi Schneider McNamee


I'm not sure where the line is between clutter and hoarding. I'm reminded of an old George Carlin monologue about "stuff." We start out in life with nothing, but then we start accumulating stuff and when we get new stuff, we don't throw out the old stuff. We put it up on shelves or in a closet until it gets filled up then we start filling up the rooms, the attic, the garage. Next we need a storage space to hold our old stuff.

The only reason we buy a house is for a place to put our stuff while we go out and get more stuff. A house is just a cover over our stuff. If we didn't have stuff, we wouldn't need a house. We'd be free to come and go, just walk around, hang out here, go there. Instead, we keep buying new stuff to replace the old stuff until we have to buy a bigger house with a bigger garage to store all our bigger stuff.

And then we die and leave it to our family to figure out what to do with our stuff. My mother was pretty good about it and had years to work on it. She de-cluttered so much that she threw out all the family albums so my entire photographic history was wiped out. My father, who suddenly dropped dead at 62, left me with three warehouses full of stuff scattered from southern to central California, two businesses, major debts and IRS problems, an outdated will, and a vengeful estranged wife.

One of my neighbors died recently, 92 years old - almost barricaded into her small apartment by her stuff. It took over a month for family and friends to sort through all she had accumulated. They could have opened a store with all the knickknacks and art supplies, decorations and cat toys; some items never used, never opened. It wasn't pretty.

Which brings me to my purpose: To suggest that spring is in the air and it's a good time for cleaning out the old and de-cluttering your living space. Just Google "how to declutter" and you'll find plenty of helpful tips like: Set a goal - give away 50 things or eliminate one box per month or spend 15 minutes a day sorting through piles. Rotate your clothes/shoes to find out what you don't wear and get rid of those. Ask your children if there is anything they want and give it to them now while you can see them enjoy it. Re-gift items you've never opened. Bring unwanted books and magazines to retirement homes or hospitals. Write a blog with photos to document your de-cluttering adventure.

You can sell your stuff on Craigslist or eBay or have a garage sale but it can be gut-wrenching to find out you may only get 10 cents on the dollar for your treasures. You might feel better if you donate your gently used stuff, say to Habitat for Humanity to help them build homes for families in need.

Along with that, get all your paperwork in order, decide what you want done with the remainder of your stuff, and gather all your records in one place to make it easier on those who have to pull it all together after you kick the bucket.









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