A boomer says get rid of all the “stuff” acquired over the years

Here’s something practical for us baby boomers: a boomer who works in the business of downsizing, urging you to think about everything you’ve accumulated over the years, and do something about it before it’s too late. Sheree Richnow of West Chester, Pennsylvania, says it’s time to lighten your load.

Look around you. What do you see? Are you one of those baby boomers who’s hemmed in by stacks of boxes, piles of papers, and things that obviously belong in different rooms in the house? Are the kids grown and off on their own? Do you still need that big house? Wouldn’t you rather lighten your load and have some much deserved freedom?

Sheree Richnow

Sheree Richnow

These are questions I pose to my clients each day. Those who are the most receptive are baby boomers. Boomers realize how bogged down they have become with past life accumulations. And, if you have ever endured the experience of processing your parents’ home after they’ve died, you know what is in store for the future and don’t wish to heap the same burden on your children.

I too am a proud member of the Boomer generation. I was born in 1955, a serial entrepreneur, and the single parent of my nineteen-year-old son. ‘Downsizing’ is what I do; for the past decade, I have provided downsizing strategies and services to thousands of people who recognize the need for change and have chosen to act rather than become buried by their belongings.

A room full of things acquired.

A room full of things acquired.

Lightening your load can mean any number of things, from downsizing into a smaller and more appropriate size home, to simply getting rid of stuff and clearing the space for other uses. For some, the challenge begins with not knowing what resources are available in the community. When it comes to clearing out an entire home, it’s all about finding the right services to get the job done intelligently. For some, the question is not “how,” but “what?” Knowing what might be of value and perhaps sold for a profit, or what can be donated to charity, is often unclear.

Basement filled with stuff.

Basement filled with stuff.

These questions and more can lead to atrophy. Piles of stuff continue to grow and it won’t be long before the situation overtakes all enthusiasm and positive intent. One thing is for sure… if you are not proactive and don’t have a vision for a less-cluttered life, your children could end up shackled with an emotional and burdensome task some years down the road.

So if all those empty bedrooms or the backlog of sports gear still lurking in the garage are no longer needed, I have four words of advice: GET RID OF IT, but be smart. There is always someone less fortunate who can usewhat you no longer need.

Shereee Richnow is online.

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  1. Excellent advice. The “pack rat” syndrome is hard to shake, especially for a mechanic (never enough tools) or a computer aficionado (do you really think you need to keep those 3.5 floppy disks???)

  2. Great advice, and it is something boomers do need to start considering. I know that it is not easy, as there are so many memories one has with each piece that ought to be discarded or at least donated, but…

  3. Great advice. My brothers and I had to deal with my dad’s accumulation of stuff (he had at least 30 hammers!) after his death, and it was a big job. I guess the experience had a big effect on me because the main character in my book (Bluebonnets for Elly) helps her grandmother deal with a “cozy cottage that has turned into a cramped cave.” Writing about the clean-out helped!

  4. After retiring last year I finally had the time and energy to begin getting rid of a lifetime’s accumulation of things! It was a most rewarding process for me personally to declutter my life. I donated literally a truck load of furniture and household items to local charities who were most grateful to receive them. It was a win win all round!

  5. Unfortunately, my downsizing was a result of American’s economic decline. But, in retrospect, I am glad it was me who made the decisions about what to give away, what to donate, what to trash, what to save etc.

    I think my biggest lesson from the experience was realizing how much time and money we spend storing and caring for “things.”

    For me, it became a time to let go of my old goals and establish new ones.

    Now, I am almost allergic to “acquiring” things.

  6. A helpful comment for the Baby Boomers: Start NOW to downsize your lifetime of accumulation. Soon you will be moving into something much smaller, and take it from me, that move will be the hardest of your lifetime. Try to change your outlook on life to never getting attached to things, only people. Over five years ago my husband and I moved into a nice retirement facility. As we became acquainted with new neighbors, I noticed that ALL of the conversations that first year were about #1, how large the house was that they had left, #2, how difficult it was to downsize their belongings, and #3, that the storage locker provided by the retirement facility was much too small. Most of my new neighbors could not, would not get rid of years of accumulation, so their current storage lockers are piled high with boxes full of things that will not be used again in their lifetime and which their kids will have to deal with after their deaths. The happiest movers are my neighbors who, because of their employment, have had to move many, many times over the years and therefore have not collected “stuff” and have never lived in a house long enough to become attached to it. Maybe the secret to having a contented old age is to be forced to downsize every year during a lifetime.

  7. Bravo! I love hearing comments like yours. In virtually every home I have ever processed – over 600 of them, there were plenty of perfectly good, useable items that were donated to charity instead of thrown out. The rule of thumb is, “If it’s not broken, it’s clean and can be used by someone else, donate it.” There is far too much waste in this country and we can all afford to give what we no longer need or want.

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