By Marlene Stocks

Owner, Senior Transition Services

Henry David Thoreau’s advice from Walden, the well-known book first published in 1854, reflects the author’s goal of simple living, that could easily be viewed as a contemporary mantra.  We routinely stumble across the concept of “simplify”.  Simplifying one’s life often appears on New Year’s Resolutions lists.  Millennials, who are between the ages of 23 and 38, are known for their minimalistic lifestyle and their aspiration to live simply. Even the media has been focused on simplifying, by promoting a new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, that offers advice by the Japanese home organization expert.  Her best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", was first published in 2014.

You, too, can jump on the “simplify” bandwagon to tidy up, declutter or downsize your own home.  For some, it’s the annual ritual known as “spring cleaning” and enlists the efforts of the weekend warriors to cleanout the closets and garages of unwanted “stuff”.  For others, especially seniors who plan on moving from their family home of decades into considerably smaller retirement living, the task of downsizing can be much larger and thus daunting – truly physically taxing and emotionally draining.  Is it any wonder that downsizing is often deferred?

To make the downsizing and decluttering process more manageable and likely to be completed, it’s important to develop a “stuff strategy”.  Begin by assessing which items are truly important in your life from functional, aesthetic, monetary and emotional perspectives.  Which items are non-negotiable and must remain within your sight and four walls?  Be realistic and pragmatic.  Then decide what you don’t like, need or want.  What clutters up your space? What is extraneous, has outlived its usefulness and can be lived without? Here’s where you may need to be ruthless, especially if you have volumes of stuff to go through.

Now you’ll need a type of blueprint to help you decide what to do with the non-essential, unwanted items.  Being ecologically minded, this is not the time to bring in the dumpster.  Rather, begin by encouraging family members to first reclaim their old Barbie dolls, high school yearbooks, athletic gear and college textbooks.   This would also be a good time to ask your family if they have an interest in any of your unwanted items.  Don’t be surprised, however, when grandma’s fine china and linen table covers aren’t accepted by relatives. 

Most families struggle with the dilemma of what to do with unwanted family heirlooms, like fine china.  If the relatives pass them over, consider selling them.  Contact reputable estate liquidators, antique dealers, auctioneers, and consignment shops to determine their interest in purchasing or consigning your treasures.  Don’t be surprised if these vendors reject them also because, like your own relatives, these specialists know that there may not be much demand for the same items your older generations adored.  When a suitable purchaser can’t be found, consider donating the items to any number of charities that typically use the proceeds to fund people in need.  Finally, the last component of your stuff strategy is to discard what remains.  Shredding sensitive financial and medical documents is a priority, as is the ecologically safe destruction of household hazardous waste.  County-wide, free recycling programs will begin in the spring.  There are any number of trash removal options, from municipal waste removal to haul-out companies and the dreaded dumpster.

As you begin your simplification journey, focus on small tasks that can be completed in an hour or two.  These small successes will allow you to savor your accomplishment and motivate you to continue the downsizing process.  Give yourself ample time to make good decisions and take frequent breaks.  Above all, set realistic goals.

For many, once the downsizing task has been completed, there is a true feeling of liberation and a sense of simplification.  The most important items remain, and the superfluous ones have found new homes, where they will fill a need.  This is when you can congratulate yourself and reflect, with satisfaction, that “less truly is more!”

Marlene Stocks is the owner of Senior Transition Services, a senior move management company based in Huntingdon Valley.  As a certified senior move manager, Marlene and her team provide their clients and families “peace of mind” by managing every detail of the client’s move, as well as their content removal needs.  Senior Transition Services has proudly served 950 families in the 5 county area and South Jersey since 2008.   215.947.5490.


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