Last month, at the request of an adult daughter, I met with a woman I will call Sarah. “I’m done” the daughter said. “My Mom needs to move into assisted living. She can’t take care of her home anymore. Every time I stop by I pick up Amazon packages off the front porch. She keeps bringing more stuff in this house that has too much stuff.”
What this mother may not realize is that her choices have burdensome consequences for the children she loves. Stuff is just stuff. Most of it is not a “need.” In our youth we had the luxury of bringing a lot of “wants” into our home: impulse buys and on-sale clothing, magazine subscriptions and wreaths (for all seasons), Fall decor and Christmas decor and Easter and Halloween. Tablecloths for birthdays and spring and Thanksgiving. Get the picture? Of course, many of you are LIVING the picture. In our youth we have the realistic expectation that we will use and enjoy our ‘stuff.’ But after middle-age this tendency needs to stop. Why? Because we are entering years when our lives can and may change very quickly and someone else is going to have to, quite literally, clean up our mess.
What can you do?
Begin to be purposeful about your shopping. Before buying (even if it’s a bargain!) ask yourself: is this a “want” or a “need?” If it’s a want, what are you going to remove from your home to enjoy this new thing?
Take something out of your house every time you go out the door. Make a habit of filling plastic garbage-type bags throughout the day. What needs to go to Goodwill? What might a friend need? Put the bag in the car and do a drive by your favorite donation site.
Start small: Don’t commit to big projects that are likely to overwhelm you. Instead of “I’m going to clear the basement this week” start with “I’m going to clear one shelf in the basement this week.”
Is your buying an attempt massage an emotional need? Anger? Boredom? Loneliness? Be honest with the need and find appropriate and healing ways to cope rather than add to the problem by draining finances and adding “stuff.”
Back to Sarah. Let me tell you what I see: I see the aftermath of your inability to make hard decisions. I see adult children and spouses spending months clearing your stuff. They are wracked with grief and guilt. It drains emotions, calendars, and bank accounts and many times does irreparable damage to the relationships left behind. Is your ‘stuff’ worth that?
House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com