Boomers: Let go of the joyless job stuff

When we got this lighthearted essay from Lucinda Trew of Weddington, North Carolina, we liked what we saw. For she identified a problem that many boomers have faced, or will soon face: What do you do with all the “stuff” you accumulated over the course of a career?!? Our kids sure don’t want it. Heck, they don’t even want our fine china, let alone our 25-year service awards.

What do you do with all the stuff?

The stuff of offices and overtime.

The stuff you stuff into cardboard boxes when you’re done — remnants and reminders of a work life well spent.

As my fellow Boomers retire in droves, it’s a question worth pondering, particularly since we’re the demographic that has spawned a thriving, alarming ‘help for hoarders’ industry.

So, what to do?

Let’s start with the easy stuff. There’s plenty to recycle, of course. I recommend a gleeful bin-tossing binge, accompanied if you’re so inclined by mojitos and a blazing bonfire: the safety handbooks, the duty rosters, mission statements, proxy statements and benefit enrollment booklets. Heave-ho!

Then there’s the stuff you’re proud of — the strutable, yet expungable stuff. Project plans that went according to plan. Reports that were read. Presentations that impressed. I find that a rich pinot noir pairs well with the sorting. Swirl, sniff, savor — and raise the glass to YOU, champion of spreadsheets, killer deals, and quarterly reports.

Lucinda Trew

Progressing to your closet, and the suits and ties, wingtips and pumps that defined your dress-for-success, expanding-waistline years: Purge and repurpose. Give to Goodwill, Second Chances, new grads preparing for interviews. You may not have as many grateful takers as you thought though’ casual Fridays aren’t limited to Fridays anymore. Wash any disappointment down with a mango/kale/chia seed smoothie. You are, after all, in your closet, taking stock of what fits and what doesn’t. And you have a whole new wardrobe to shop for.

There’s probably a drawerful of logo-emblazoned golf shirts, tees, jackets, sweatshirts, and fleece vests. These are good for gardening, cleaning the gutters, or gifting to the local Men’s Shelter. Pop a cold one for this chore — Pabst or Bud, none of that hipster craft swill.

The hardest by far is what to do with the stuff that’s purely just stuff. You know what I’m talking about: the trinkets and tchotchkes. The dust-gathering gegaws given to mark time, tenure, triumph, and teamwork.

Might I suggest Zima as the beverage of choice for dusting and dispersing with your rows and walls of corporate knickknacks? Pale, vapid, and with the merest hint of P.R. fizz, Zima seems a fitting complement for clearing out office curios.

Letting go is never easy. But you can’t bring it all home. Take it from one who’s been-there-done-that: the boxes of business work stacked in your garage will mildew long before you ever open them. So do yourself a favor: lighten the load NOW. You’re going to have stuff to unwrap that’s a whole lot more fun.

Retirements, planned or unplanned, are rift with mixed emotions. So, it probably won’t surprise you that my corporate-clutter-clearing advice (slash bar menu) comes with a caveat. There are, in fact, a few things you should hold onto: Accrued vacation time. Stock options. COBRA benefits. Friendships. The warm glow of good work and good times.

The rest? Let it go!


  1. Bin tossed! I have 3 academic degrees including my PhD. A 40 teaching and administrative career at America’s top 3 universities. Bin tossed it all except the degrees themselves. They are now on the shelf in my garage next to my car polishes and waxes.
    Not even the University library wanted my books and I was in the mainstream of all that was going on for the last 20 years. I did keep my university lamps and embossed chairs for my den and such.
    You are right, we had accumulated beautiful furniture over the years that even our kids didn’t want. Gave the whole thing to groups bringing in immigrants (legally) to resettle in this ountry.

  2. Say goodbye to each and acknowledge its part in your life. Then take keepsake photos of any you wish to revisit. The things are triggers for memories – and a photo works as well for most.

    My daughter came home this weekend and said goodbye to most of the stuffed animals from her childhood. She’s been leaving them here pending a final sort and disposal because she loved them once (and everyone gave her Beanie Babies and others for every event, since they knew she liked them). She used to sit them in a row and teach them (I contributed miniature notebooks and pencils for each).

    BUT… she is unwilling to give them space in HER home, and carry them forward to every apartment she moves to.

    I think I’ll sneak in a few pictures before they are disposed of here; most places do not want pre-owned stuffed animals, even if washed. They are manufactured by the millions, but loved as individuals. Velveteen Rabbits all – in potential.

    1. Stuffed animals and Beanie Babies. Every year during our daughter’s pre- and early-teen years, two weeks prior to Christmas she would sort out her collection, winnowing it down to what she treasured most. The rest were carefully bagged and delivered to our local Christmas Box house, a safe house for homeless Moms and kids until they could get back on their feet.

    2. Perhaps your local Goodwill store will take and sell old plush animals. Another possible recipient, if there is one in your area, would be a day care center for low income children (usually operating as a not for profit entity). The second always needs plush toys for their children, as well as office supplies such as blank paper, notepads, pencils, pens etc that they can use for the children’s craft projects or for office use. I made many donations to my local day care center with unwanted plush toys and office supplies when I had my estate sale business and had such left at the end of a sale.

  3. Lucinda – I LOVED, LOVED this piece! After finally deciding to ‘hang ’em up’ for good on January 31, I’ve been in a whirlwind mode of cleaning, disposing, trashing and saving the good stuff to share with others who are more needy. I still have a long way to go, including cleaning out all my crisis communications manuals, plans, business proposals, etc – but I’m getting there!

    My niece has graciously accepted the many tote bags and backpacks picked up at conferences for use by her two boys for school and sports. Other more feminine items – such as the pink faux alligator roller bag – are going to the young nieces for their playtime.

    I think the most rewarding will be cleaning out my closet and bringing my suits, slacks, tops and heels to a local organization for women re-entering the workforce. With each piece carefully protected for transport, I’ll try to imagine a young woman wearing one of the outfits to her first interview, and on into the days when the next chapter in her life becomes a success story of its own.

    Thanks for the inspiration and the extra ‘push’ to keep me on track in accomplishing my mission.

  4. But to track the “job stuff” that just might be long-term important/valuable/meaningful, write down WHY it matters someplace your loved ones will knot to look for it. Like in the guided journal to help you get your stuff together for your loved ones: Read This…When I’m Dead by Annie Presley and Christy Howard

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