Salisbury Press

Thursday, July 16, 2020
Editor’s View Editor’s View

Editor’s View

Thursday, December 6, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

Decluttering is good for our health and happiness

Thank you all who commented on my Oct. 17 Editor’s View on dealing with our Generation Y, Z and millennial family members.

It is good to know I am not alone in my frustration with our younger generation not wanting “things” – instead, wanting experiences.

Since that Editor’s View, conversations have continued with the fact our children and grandchildren will not want our “things” when we are gone.

I am a person who sees the value of and appreciates the connection with “things” from my grandparents, which my youngest has already said he does not want.

So, I consulted my friend Jill Duffey Kearney, founder and CEO of Senior Moves by Design, who among other things, provides seminars on how to declutter for our health and happiness.

Perhaps while I still am able, I should start going through my house and discard the items which I no longer use, no longer need and those my family members do not want.

This should make my husband happy.

In fact, Kearney said she is absolutely seeing a shift in people realizing our children do not want our things when we are gone.

For example, crystal and china are not desired by our children. She suggests to clients to use the good china every day.

Because some of the china with gold or silver cannot be put in the microwave or dishwasher, the younger generation doesn’t want it. And, the fact they don’t want it is guilt-producing to them.

Kearney said our kids should just say “no” when asked if they want our treasures.

“We want someone who will want or appreciate what we have,” Kearney said. “We just set ourselves up for disappointment if we limit our offerings just to our kids.”

She said we should consider donating our items to someone who has nothing, perhaps someone who lost everything in a fire – someone who will treasure the items.

“Wouldn’t you rather have someone who loves it?” Kearney asked.

She said if we have family heirlooms, such as the shoeshine brushes from my grandfather, or jewelry from my grandmother, we should take those items and write a note about the significance to the family. Wrap them up and give them as a gift.

In the note, say, “I’m giving you some part of family history. I’ll never ask you what you did with it, you don’t have to keep it – trade with a family member, give it away or donate it,” Kearney said. End by saying, “I just wanted you to have a piece of our family’s history.”

When my grandmother died, my mother and aunt had the task of finding homes for my grandparent’s things. The only item my grandmother wanted my uncle to have was a cherry dining room set which was the first big purchase made by my grandparents.

So, my uncle took the furniture to his house. He didn’t need the dining room set, nor did his children. A few years later, he retired and moved to Florida. He mentioned he was going to put the dining room set on Craigslist.

Knowing how upsetting this was to the family, I offered to buy the furniture. I didn’t need it, but I didn’t want a stranger having the furniture my grandmother wanted to stay in the family.

We rented a truck and my uncle gave me the furniture which was stored in my basement for years until my niece moved into a house and is now happily enjoying the dining room set.

In theory, I probably should not have gotten involved and become a storage site for unwanted furniture.

The book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, describes the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.

As soon as the book was released, I got my copy. I haven’t read through the entire book yet and it has been lost multiple times under other items, and in stacks of books I plan on reading someday. However, Kearney said it is a must read.

Kearney said to start small and take one step at a time. Take one day, one hour and concentrate on one area – an area which has been bothering you.

She also said to not start with someone else’s items. Begin by taking sticky notes and putting them on things you love.

One of the biggest issues is paper. Kearney suggested talking with financial advisers to see how long important financial documents must be retained.

Clothes are another big item with people wearing 20 percent of the clothes we have 80 percent of the time.

Kearney said the trend is to have 30 pieces of clothing including shoes.

I suppose that eliminates the need to have the clothes we keep because “someday we are going to fit back into that size.”

Regarding accessories, Kearney asked, as an example, “Do we really need nine spatulas?” She suggested we keep our favorite two or three.

Kearney suggests going through photos last because of the emotions involved.

According to the Association of Professional Photo Organizers, we should begin by going through photo albums and pulling out the photos we love. Do not keep the photos in chronological order, organize by category such as family vacations. The organizers suggest throwing out the photos of landscapes or images of people you have no idea who they are.

I was going through items recently and found a note from my kids to me apologizing for what they did, saying they would never do it again and asking if I could lift their punishment.

I took a photo and sent it to the kids and asked what they did. None of us remembered. It was adorable – filled with misspellings and sincere emotion. I’ve kept this to give to them someday. Will either want the note to show their kids?

Kearney said if you have clutter, it is not healthy for us or our loved ones.

She said clutter causes our brains to be overstimulated because everywhere we look is a project.

Kearney suggested if we are able to begin the decluttering today, do it. Because tomorrow we may not be able to. Accidents happen and then we may need someone else to come into our homes and sort through our things. And there could be a dumpster in the driveway with people sorting through our things not knowing the sentimental value or family history.

“If you want to maintain control to keep the things you love and part with the things in the way, do it now,” Kearney said.

For me, it will be a long, sentimental journey hopefully with a decluttered home filled with good health and happiness.

We will see.

Debbie Galbraith


East Penn Press

Salisbury Press