Is It Really All Just Stuff?

The author, in a (typical) moment of dejection while attempting (once again) to downsize…


Is it really “all just stuff”?

And if so, why is it so damn hard to do?

I think that while this pronouncement is usually made out of kindness, to console someone who is regretting having to give away (or having already done so) things that were precious to them in the process of downsizing, I also think it’s one of the more damaging myths about downsizing.

Because, really: if it’s really “all just stuff” why do SO MANY PEOPLE have SO MUCH TROUBLE doing it?

Answer me that. (As we used to say where I grew up…)

It’s not really the things that are so important usually. Of course. It’s the memories attached to them. And/but by trying to ignore the importance of this very important fact, I believe many well-meaning (and often understandably frustrated) “throwers” are actually slowing down the process for the “keepers” in their lives by insisting on what we all know to be true (but not really)…instead of acknowledging, honoring, and being patient with the more important reality that many of us (let’s call us “keepers”) need to honor, celebrate, re-remember, or otherwise somehow take time to caress those memories, store them up, share them (whatever), and separate them from the things before the things go on their merry way to the dumpster/the thrift store/the antique shop, or wherever…

In our book, my coauthor and I talk about some of the ways that “throwers” (whether they be family members, professional organizers, or other professionals) can help “keepers” actually do this. It’s not that hard, but it does require patience, understanding, and respect for the process. Plus a little bit more time.

But it’s worth it. In terms of peace of mind for the keepers. In terms of improved family relations between keepers and throwers.

In terms of avoiding downsizing regrets…which NOBODY wants to have…

Has anyone come up with your own ways to make this happen? If so, we hope you’ll share them in the comments. We’d love to hear about them, and I’m sure many of our readers would also…

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You


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