One of the things we all have to do at some point is downsize…whether because we’re moving to a smaller home or we just need to get rid of some of the stuff that we’ve accumulated through our life.
Many people think of downsizing as a chore – digging through all the boxes and drawers of old memories, sorting out all the papers and pictures, getting rid of knick-knacks that have only been collecting dust anyway for the past umpteen years. They put it off as long as possible, often meaning that they leave the task for their children to muddle through.
It’s not easy! Memories flood in when we look at our belongings; for some it’s actually painful to throw those things away. It’s a task best handled in pieces – take a room at a time, if you can afford to spread the task out, so you don’t get overwhelmed. And don’t be too hard on yourself when you decide to stop for awhile…it’ll still be there when you get back to it. Just don’t leave it for too long!
Unfortunately, some people are unable to discard belongings for any reason at all. Compulsive hoarding is a disorder that is slowly becoming better understood. When someone outside the hoarder’s world walks in, the evidence is there – piles of trash, empty boxes, unopened items on top of others, balancing precariously and threatening to fall if someone sneezes. In many cases, hoarders know that they need to let go of all the junk, but they simply can’t. Offers to help clean up are often met with refusals and excuses. These mounds of their belongings are what define them; they have no identities without their treasures…or so they believe. These people need support and encouragement to realize that their memories will sustain them and they don’t need to hold onto every tangible item that they’ve come across in their lives.
Downsizing is a task that shouldn’t cause an overabundance of stress. If you are having significant difficulty in letting go of belongings, it might be worth having a chat with someone about the feelings you’re having.
My podcast, Beyond Retirement, has a couple of episodes dealing with downsizing and minimalism. You can check it out here or wherever you listen to podcasts.