This applies to the stuff we collect around us, which often mirrors that life. It’s so easy to walk into someone else’s house and know right off the bat, what should stay
and what should go because none of it is ours. With no emotional attachments, the decisions are obvious and easy. But when it’s our stuff, it’s a whole different ball game, isn’t it? Below are a few random subjects I hear a lot. I've addressed them in no particular order of importance.
Why We don't purge
We don’t purge when we’re suppose to, because that means, we have to actually decide if it’s still something pertinent to our lives. That then means we have to actually reconsider our lives! This for many is a big old can of worms, which they don’t want to open. It’s a domino effect that can get overwhelming really quick. So nothing changes and that’s how clutter happens, how stuff takes over. and how one begins to pay for the maintenance and warehousing of stuff they don’t even care
about anymore. That stuff begins to intrude on our lives in so many ways. Emotionally, mentally spiritually and physically, we continue to pay and re-pay for stuff we don’t need, and decisions we refuse to make.
Intentional Living is about making those choices and dropping the baggage that’s been anchoring the life we no longer want, versus freeing them up.
How do I purge one life, if I don't know what the next will look like?
You’ll have plenty of time to really think about your next life AS you purge. Because, in the actual act of physically engaging and really thinking about what you own, you’re starting to also re-boot that creativity program that’s been mostly inactive. While to the "physical you," this might seem tedious, to the "spiritual side" of you, it’s fascinating.
You’ll be surprised once you start looking at everything you’ve accumulated, remembering where it came from, why you wanted it, and why it's where it is, your imagination starts kicking in.
That’s why, in the Seven Phases of Purging, I ask you, to first, do nothing but pretend you have no idea who lives in the house, then ransack it! Get rid of nothing. Just look at every single thing you own. I mean every drawer, under beds attics and basements.
Automatically a scenario will emerge. A story about this stranger, whose stuff you're rummaging through, begins to crystallize. Now, you might not recognize that the story is yours, as many people don’t. Parts of the story might feel the same as yours, but you’d be surprised at how much you’ve evolved since you dragged that stuff home. That’s exactly what you need to observe. Make notes right off the bat, about the obvious stuff that doesn’t remotely fit you now. Stuff that no longer tells your story accurately needs to be flagged for possible “bye-bye now.”
So while you won’t know exactly what the next life will look like, when you start the purging process, you’ll have a very good idea of what it won’t look like. Remember there are still 6 more steps to come. Point being, it's a process!
Should I save stuff for others?
You can, but don’t let them cherry pick the spoils. It’s all or nothing. You take the whole bag or nothing at all. That’s the deal. Otherwise, they’ll break your rhythm, put stuff you already had the courage to part with, back into the mix and start you doubting your choices. You’re not a the thrift shop, that's where you're taking the stuff, so someone you don't know can rid you of what you don’t want. Now, if they want, those friends can follow you to a consignment or thrift store. Once there, they can rummage through your discards all they want, now that it's out of your house and your life. While they're tagging along, they can lend a hand in the purge too.
Any advice for seniors moving from big to compact?
The purging process is the same, except chances are, they'll be transitioning from a big life to a smaller life versus a completely different way of life. Having said that, the biggest mistake these couples make is not taking stock of how they’ll really live now, versus all the years they lived in the big house. The key here is not to try to duplicate the same life they had, because it will (and should) change. Chances are they won’t have sit-down dinners for 12 like they used to. They’ll eat out more or tops, have only another couple to dinner informally. As part of the re-sizing, it should be clear to the grown, adult kids, that hosting the big yearly get-togethers are
now their responsibility. So bye-bye dining room, as well as the rest of the "company only", formal spaces. All that in-home entertaining stuff now gets divided between the kids, so they can do it up right too. The same goes for showy formal furniture, too. Pass that stuff on to the kids as well, while you're still alive, if they want it, of course. Chances are, as seniors they’ll be watching a bit more TV, and want more of an open living room/ kitchen/den, kind of thing, with furniture that finally puts comfort (easy in, easy out) before chic.
Still, many older folks, do tend to gravitate to the formal style of living of the past because that’s all they know or remember. For them, those were the trophy spaces that told all who visited, that they were successful. For them, giving up dining rooms, living rooms, foyers and such, will emotionally seem like a big downsize. When in truth, they were only "ego pass-through" spaces. In truth, with them gone, chances are the actual day=to-day living space will actually remain much the same. Remember, with a house full of stuff, in the only place they've lived, it's also been awhile since they've seen how people actually live today. Take them on a few look-see shopping field trips. Show them rooms of how people live now, and how small spaces can still reflect their tastes. Illustrate what more compact, duel-function and manageability look like and can be applied to their lives.
Do I have to get rid of everything that's not utilitarian?
No, just because you’re choosing to live more intentionally doesn’t mean you give up beauty and esthetics. Actually quite the opposite is true. Once people get down to their new essentials, many folks start having fun upgrading what they own. They
swap out what they have for better quality, design, and function. Now that they’re leaner and more deliberate about what they own, and chances are more of it has to be visible, they start the customization process. The teapot from Pier One, get's replaced by a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted piece from a favorite artist. But, just remember, the new credo is; that it’s "instead of " not “in addition too.”
What if you just can't let it go, when you must?
Yep, that’s a biggie. What you have to remember, is that you’re reordering your priorities, not just your stuff. In some cases, there are those who want the great new life, but when the purging process actually starts to happen, reality sets in. It can often feel like you’re going backward from an adult’s life to a college students' life. If your thinking it, believe me, those who are mystified about your transition will feel downright sad about it. Chin up! You’re exchanging a life that has been benchmarked by possessions, to one that will now be re-branded by experiences. They will feed your soul more than any furniture ever could. "Stuff" can’t give you
spiritual fulfillment. It can’t expand your ideas about creativity, faith, empathy, and humanity. Rather it can stifle you and prevent you from ever feeling these life-changing things. So that’s why you’re saying goodbye to them in the first place. It’s just that the great times and experiences haven’t happened yet, although the stuff you love, is leaving right now. Remember, "he who travels lightest, goes farthest." It’s okay to grieve the death of an old life for a moment. Like anyone who passes on, it’s the good you remember not the bad.
What about office stuff and important records?
Luckily, because of the Internet (due to business emailing), many scanned records are now considered legal. Once they’re digitally transferred and dated, you can archive them virtually, and download and print them as needed, anywhere there's a printer. Those docs with embossed seals should be scanned, with the originals put in a safety deposit box. This is also a good place for small investment jewelry and asset trinkets that might be inappropriate in your new life. What’s key (and why more people are and CAN live remotely now) is to sit with a good tech dude, and get yourself (ie., your life) set up to do almost everything virtually, mostly from your smartphone, which often gets a better signals than a laptop. Find apps that will make your mini-tasking new life, easier. Get used to working more with your fingertips versus home office machines. I know for some of you, it will be a learning curve. So it’s best to break yourself in now versus later. Try stuff out now while you can still change and re-configure your new fingertip tools.
What about getting my kids through the purge?
Oddly enough, I've been told that it’s harder for the parents to tell their kids that they have to say goodbye to a lot of their swag, then it is for the kids to actually do it. Little tykes have short attention spans and frankly, most teen's " toys," identity are on their smartphones, or tablets. With the wee ones, start taking away things you
think they don’t play with anymore. See if they actually miss them or call them out by name. It’s a good way to see what to them, are still emotional “essentials.” If they won't eat until Bo-Bo Bear returns, it's a keeper. Obviously, the things they sleep with and drag around with them everywhere, are keepers too. Remember once you’re really pared down, and expenses start diminishing, you can maybe now afford to upgrade your family electronics, cell and Wi-Fi packages since they’ll now become even more essential than ever. Trust me the kids will dig it! If you can get over the biggest hump of them often having to leave a school where they've earned tenure, the rest is easy.
For those few off-griders:
What if things don't work out and every thing is now gone?
Quelling this anxiety has to do with knowing where you're going, and having done your homework. If you’re moving into really small square footage visit it first or rent something through places like Air B&B for a week or so. Spend a week taking notes, about how you'll have to adapt. Be honest about your ability to cope. Do your due-diligence. Take photos as a reminder of the square footage, etc.
However, I will warn you, if you are trying to have your cake and eat it too, you may not be ready for the transition yet.
Be gut honest with yourself. If the "things" still mean more than the "experience," then you’re not ready yet.
I Rented a studio apartment as my next step and got used to living with much less, as a way to wean me off "the stuff issue."
At some point, if you’ve done all your homework, faith will have to be exercised at some point. Faith not tested, isn't actually faith. In the furnished place I rented, I committed a year to it and OMG did I learn so much as my ability to get clever was hard at first then really fun and creative and so freeing. I write about this on other blogs.
What's better, consignment, estate sales or....?
It depends on the company of course. Consignment shops are notoriously guilty of forgetting to let you know when something of yours sells, so you have to stay on top of them continually. Which might be harder the more remotely you choose to live. Yet you’re likely to get the best price for key things of greater value if you’re willing to go that route. Just don’t count on the money in any predictable time frame.
Family members, whose loved ones have just died, are the largest users of estate sale companies. The focus is usually more on getting the house empty, so it can get
on the market (where the most predictable earning potential is) as soon as possible. In which case, everything goes right down to the potato peeler. You don’t get top dollar by any means, in exchange for not having to worry about anything but sweeping the floor. This is fine if the person is actually deceased. If you’re living, however, you still have to decide what goes with you, and what stays on the location for sale. Before the sale, I recommend that you either move what you’re keeping out, to either a temporary storage facility or directly to the next dwelling you’ll inhabit. The more established estate folk, charge an upfront fee. Which for an entire fully furnished, mid-sized home is about $3,000. I know. ouch! The idea being, that you recoup this fee from what sells. If it’s a lot of junk, then good luck. You’ve basically overpaid for trash removal. If the stuff is nice, you can make a profit, but never a real killing.
The other alternative is to get a U-haul and move what you don’t want to a donation center and take a tax write-off instead. However, I warn you these charitable places are picky. The aren’t in the trash business either. Take photos and make an appointment before you just show up with a full truck. Lastly, there are also health care and shelter facilities for everything from battered women, to vets to the homeless. They could really use your stuff. That's where much of my TV warehouse inventory went, and I have to tell you it got my humanitarian journey off to a spectacluar start.