Oh the stuff of Life

I was married to a hoarder. Not only was money spent on collecting things that didn’t get used, but it took a lot of money in therapy to work through what the accumulation of unused stuff was doing to us as a couple.

As my mom became more debilitated from Huntington’s disease, leaving the house less and less, she started filling her home with stuffed animals, music boxes of all styles, and a myriad of Norwegian knick-knacks. I had to clear out the house after my mom’s death and let go of a lot of things in order to move to a smaller place after my divorce. Both experiences left me wanting less stuff.

Fast forward to three years later and I’m back to accumulating stuff, but with a consciousness that I didn’t have back then. I focus on re-using, second-hand, and trading. When I bring new clothes in, I remove ones I haven’t worn. (Okay, I admit, I lean on one of my step daughters to help me clear out my closet!) I’ve used three ‘M’ words to help me evaluate the stuff of my life:

  • Mindfulness — Are your things taking up space and energy that could be used for other activities in your life? I notice this especially when I have to move certain items to reach things I’ve tucked away. Or when I can’t decide on what to wear because I have so many options.
  • Meaning — meaningfulness or meaninglessness — If you’re holding on to things for no good reason, they hold very little meaning for you. I often look around at pictures I have sitting on my desk and shelves and ask myself, “Does this picture make me smile?” If it does, I keep it and if not, I repurpose or donate the frame.
  • Maintenance — As we age, we not only have to maintain our bodies, but if we have a lot of things, we also need to maintain those. Freedom comes when we have less to keep up.

I hold no judgment on what and how much people collect. But please parents; don’t leave your garages full of “I don’t know what to do with this” for your kids to go through. Maybe if adult children clear out stuff on a regular basis, we can be role models for our parents.

Categories: Aging, Caregiving Issues

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