Packing up and moving on

This past week I spent more than eight hours cleaning out two rooms in our basement. Did I want to? Heck no!!! But when it came time to put away Christmas decorations the storage space was so disorganized I refused to just put them away without tackling the task I had avoided for years.

This started the process of disposing and downsizing other areas as well. Did I really need mismatched ornaments I didn’t like? No. How about the set of Christmas china I was wild about years ago but is now suited more to someone with children. It went in the pile to sell. What about the clothes my husband was saving “for when he lost weight”? Gone. I’ll buy him new ones.

I have worked as a professional organizer for decades. I know how difficult this process can be. It’s easy to get rid of other people’s possessions but it is much harder when they are your own.

Keeping things for the sake of keeping them just doesn’t make sense. Like most Americans I own more “things” than I need or can ever really use. For example, I’m sixty years old. I own more than 100 cookbooks with at least 500 recipes in each cookbook. If I made a dish from each cookbook every day for the rest of my life, I could never make them all. So why not pick a dozen or so recipes that really interest me and then pass the cookbooks to someone else? Makes sense to me.

There were things that were hard to let go of. But the memory and the meaning of them would be lost on others. The winter coat that belonged to my sister who passed away is not necessary to keep her memory alive.

There are several options for what to do with excess possessions: store them, sell them, donate them, or give them away. I know there are thousands of photographs of our family that no one wants. My nieces and nephews have no interest in keeping them. Other family members are as old as I am and while I will offer them historical family photos, I doubt that any of them will want them.

I’m picking photos that represent my life, scanning them, storing them for my family to use at my memorial service and I’m getting rid of the rest. This does two things: 1. It relieves the burden of sorting, selecting, and disposing of photos for my family and 2. I get to tell my life story. Since both of my siblings are dead they are not around to tell the tales of my life. And I’ve had some extraordinary experiences in my lifetime that I want people to know about when I’m gone.

My cleaning and downsizing is far from finished. But the sense of relief of knowing that I am keeping a manageable number of possessions is important. I literally feel like I lost 500 pounds this week. Eight contractor grade garbage bags of “stuff” have been donated to charity to be used by someone else.

As more and more boomers go through this process, finding suitable ways of disposal may become harder. That motivates me to keep at it as does the fact that my energy is not being used to maintain and store things that no longer serve me. I’m packing up and moving on to create a life that works for me and it feels great.

Kathryn Avery

About Kathryn Avery

When Kathryn Severns Avery’s husband, Chris, began contemplating retirement in 2014, she knew they had to quickly come up with a multi-faceted plan. They spent the next year discussing, sometimes heatedly, what they would do once he stopped working. On paper their plan looked exciting. They would head from Colorado to the 1891 sea captain’s house they bought and renovated in Rockland on Maine’s midcoast. But the reality of planning and implementing retirement was much different than expected. Kathryn has worked in radio, television, marketing, and public relations. She is the author of five books and has written articles on interior design and crafts for national and regional publications including Romantic Homes, Log Homes Illustrated, The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Homes and Lifestyles.