Coping with middle-age downsizing

June 30, 2017
by Mark Ollig

This week, yours truly is straying from the normal internet and gadgets technology column to a topic which will be of interest to many.

I’m talking about those of us who have reached middle-age with grown-up kids.

Many of us still store boxes of the possessions from their youth in our basements, garages, closets, attics, and inside cardboard boxes and large plastic baskets, bins, and containers in rooms throughout our homes.

The things not in boxes are displayed on shelves and tables.

Of course, we store a lot of our own personal memorable items, too.

Some of us have come to the realization we have accumulated too much “stuff” and it’s taken over our living space area.

My kids are all adults and moved out of the house years ago; I am closer to 60 than I am to 50.

After looking around my domicile, I experienced a rare moment of clarity and this sobering thought, “Why am I keeping all this stuff?”

I reasoned it was because of the sentimental value and the memories it brings back when I take an item out and look at it.

Being honest with myself, I concluded there were just too many rows of stacked cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins in my closets and lined up against the walls.

I rarely open a sealed box to look at the items inside. I just read its contents and recall the memory.

Granted, the boxes are all neatly stored and their contents clearly identified, but there are just too many boxes and too much stuff.

I need to do some serious de-cluttering.

Yes folks, yours truly is currently in the process of what I call de-clutterization.

My plan had always been to give these stored-away items to my kids when they became adults.

The sentimental value they had for an item in their youth, would still be there as an adult, I assumed.

Yours truly has boxes filled with the kids’ old toys, model cars, books, crayon drawings, completed school assignment papers, board games, and parts from electronic video games and radio-controlled cars.

There are boxes containing photo albums with hundreds (if not thousands) of pictures of birthdays, school activities, holidays, and other family get-togethers.

Other boxes contain items too numerous to mention.

After contacting the kids about coming over and picking up some of these boxes, guess what I learned?

They really don’t want any of those boxes.

I was shocked.

“I have no place to keep all that stuff,” two sons adamantly told me.

I persisted about the items having sentimental value, and how they’ll appreciate having them to look back on when they reach my age.

That line of reasoning didn’t work very well, although they did end up taking a few items just to keep me happy.

Regarding some of the silver coins I have collected and saved over the years; my adult children had no problem taking those off my hands.

I, too, have many boxes filled with items from my own youth which bring back memories; such as a practice football jersey I wore in high school.

Memories of the practices, games, coaches, and players come flooding back when I see that jersey.

Throwing it away would feel like I was discarding memories.

It’s true. I am going through the personal pain and heartache of parting with years’ worth of items no longer used, rarely looked at, and taking up floor space.

I’ve been told it’s called “middle-age downsizing syndrome.”

As difficult as it may be, I’ve decided it’s time to sort, sell, and donate what I no longer need stored in all those cardboard boxes and plastic containers.

Through my online social media groups, I discovered downsizing is the subject of much discussion; especially among the middle- and upper-age folks.

Some people downsize because they no longer need to be living in a large house and want to move into a smaller one that is easier to manage and move around in.

Singles and couples are selling their house, or moving out of their rented loft or condo and taking to the road; living fulltime in an RV or travel trailer, desiring to experience new adventures in different parts of the country.

Others just can’t part with all their boxes full of stuff, so they decide to keep them in a commercial rental warehouse storage unit.

These folks are paying a monthly fee for securely storing boxes they probably have not opened in years.

An article I read provides another solution for dealing with the emotional separation from our beloved boxed items.

A field study on how to successfully part with and de-clutter stored items was performed by students from Penn State University.

Their research showed people were willing to separate themselves with personal items holding sentimental value if they took a photo of the items before parting with them.

“We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory,” explained Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the field study.

“Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter . . . Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate,” reads a sign hanging on a wall at Penn State.

So, I’ll be taking a lot of photos (digitally stored in The Cloud) before selling, donating, and parting with the personal items I no longer have any real need to physically keep.

I know the memories will still be there.

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

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