The Over-50 Resource
Decluttering and Downsizing

Confessions of a reformed pack rat.

by Jeannette Allen

My family is of Swedish descent, and I have long admired the cool, clean, uncluttered look of
Scandinavian design. Unfortunately, this same family also managed to sabotage my attempts
to live that kind of life.

Part of the problem is that my parents experienced the Great Depression. Many people of
their generation were afraid to get rid of anything because they felt they might need it some
day, and that philosophy was transmitted to their children.

    Somehow I managed to accumulate much more than I
    needed, partly because of poor judgment in purchasing,
    partly because I am an only child and inherited
    everything my parents got from all the others in the
    family—with many of those items carrying emotional
    ties—and partly because I simply thought I wanted
    certain things that I either didn’t need or didn’t use.

    But as I aged and my needs became fewer, I began to
    feel overwhelmed by “stuff.” Granted, I was never as
    bad as some of the people on TV shows, but where
    some people have a junk drawer, I had a junk room.

    I couldn’t say no to anyone who wanted to give me
    something, even if I couldn’t use it. I figured I might
    find someone who could. So those items went into the
    storage area.

I thought I had everything under control until I chose to sell my condo and move to one with
less square footage and far fewer kitchen cabinets. I finally realized it was time to lighten up.

Many empty nesters are now experiencing the same problem on a much larger scale. Some
have raised children in a large house in the suburbs. Suddenly, the children are gone, the
house is too big and the couple decides to move to a townhouse or condo. Often the garage
is so full that the cars must sit out on the driveway. Or sometimes there is a divorce that
requires not only a division of property, but decluttering as well because both parties are
moving into smaller quarters. Overwhelming to say the least.

In my case, the biggest problems were excess clothing, household items (What single person
needs three large casserole dishes?) and family heirlooms. Here’s how I dealt with my clutter
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Our House
Photo credit: Konomike