As we age in place and remain in our homes over time – regardless of our current age, abilities, or when we began our tenure – we often need to make adjustments to our home environment to keep pace with our changing physical abilities and outlook on life. Just as we don’t dress like teenagers anymore when we are well beyond that age, our tastes in design, fabrics, colors, furnishings, and layout can change over time as well – just with changes in our attitudes or perceptions even with no corresponding changes in ability.
One of those adjustments that we find necessary sooner or later is dealing with all of the items (“stuff”) we collect and retain. At some point, our stuff may begin to challenging us for space – requiring more and more and possibly even spilling into passageways, commandeering our shelving and closets, and finding itself on top of furniture.
What to do?
This is where the profit motive can prompt us into action more than just our desire to pare back or organize. We might have the best of intentions, and our clients may say that they would like to rid themselves of some of their stuff – but getting started is the first hurdle to tackle.
Here’s something that can help all of us to begin ridding ourselves of items we have retained that had value at the time but may have much less sentimental attachment now. Some items we look at and wonder why we didn’t throw them away at the time or certainly long before now.
So, here is how the profit motive comes into play. We can sell them to recoup some cash for our treasures (a little money is better than just holding onto something that has lost its significance for us, and we might even get a better return than we were expecting). We also can donate them to charity for a charitable tax deduction or just to know that we have helped a worthwhile cause through our generosity. Either plan or a combination of them, is fine.
We can also discard items, and we really should, but this likely does not capture the motivation for getting started on this long-term project.
We must be patient. There is a tendency to think that we can through all of our stuff in a few days and make decisions on what to keep or discard when we really are more likely – without a plan in place to sell or donate many items – just to examine our items and put them back where they were or find a new home for them without making any type of a dent in our storage dilemma.
We didn’t collect everything we have – clothing, sporting goods, small appliances, tools, games, hobby items, collectibles, magazines, photos, posters, and more – in one or two days so we have to be realistic about how long it might take to resolve what we have.
A good beginning would be to survey what we have without doing much with it – throwing away items that obviously are broken beyond repair or worn out and not desirable by anyone. Remember that thrift stores don’t want and can’t use our junk either. We should be looking for those gems that we can sell online, at a yard sale, or through an ad. These must be items that we determine still have value and are in good enough condition that someone will pay our suggested price(or close to it) for them.
Again, let’s use some restraint. Let’s start by advertising one or two items to see how it goes. That will let us know if we have priced them appropriately for the marketplace and if there is sufficient demand for them. Then we can go from them to reduce the price, change out the items we are selling, or abandon it in favor of donating them to a charity.
It’s not that we may be sitting on a goldmine by having a rare manuscript attached to the back of a painting or discovering a rare coin hidden away that it going to net us big bucks. It’s that this profit idea (loosely interpreted) may just what it takes to spur us into action.
If we enthusiastically approach going through our stuff – beginning with just one cabinet, closet, or dresser at a time – by thinking there may be a type of financial upside to it in addition to ridding ourselves of some of the clutter and accumulation, that may all that it takes for us to get started on this project. Whatever progress we (or our clients) make on reducing the amount of stuff in our homes that is not functional or something we derive pleasure from having is a step forward in aging in place well.