An active 76-year old man recently shared about his experience in selling the home that he and his wife had lived in for many years. He shared about giving things away to family members and to local nonprofits. And also his dismay in the number of items that were sent to recycling or to the trash; the things he had kept which had little value to them. His wife was in ill health and they had decided to downsize to better enjoy their remaining time together. He felt fortunate that they had the opportunity to take their time and decide what was important to move with them and what could be left behind.
Several years ago, a woman who had a traumatic childhood followed by a difficult marriage found that she could no longer maintain the large home she had raised her family in. The maintenance on the property and the house was significant for a middle aged couple, but was an overwhelming burden for an octogenarian widow. Pressured by her family to sell the house and move, she found herself unprepared to make decisions about the belongings she had gathered over a lifetime. Now she is living in a highly regarded retirement community that is a poor fit for her. And while she has many of her belongings with her, she spends time regretting the loss of her home and so many items which held tremendous emotional value.
A few years ago, I might have had difficulty connecting with these stories. They didn’t connect with my stage in life. End of life transitions were too far away and I was fully engaged in building my life. Now, as I begin to accept that I have entered middle age and see that I have transitioned from life building to maintenance, I can begin to see the next stage ahead.
Thinking about these stories, I look around my own home and notice things that bring me little value. Mixed in with those items are treasures that bring me great joy: the mid-century modern inspired mirror, the photo collage from a beach trip ten years ago, or the books filling the bookcases. And I think about what could be invited to stay and what will be asked to go.
In her KonMari method of decluttering, Marie Kondo encourages you to hold items in your home and ask the question “Does this bring me joy?”
Joshua Fields Milbourne and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as “The Minimalists,” encourage the 90/90 rule: If you haven’t used it in the last 90 days and don’t expect to use it in the next 90 days, let it go.
So, I consider the task of downsizing and clearing out the excess. I want the luxury of taking my time and making well considered choices. There are many people who are master organizers and have resources for supporting simplification beyond the two mentioned above. For myself, I feel quite content to surround myself with those items which are truly used and which bring me joy.