The hardest part about moving isn’t the furniture. Those are big chunks. It is almost always a shock as to the amount of clutter, and unused ‘stuff’ we accumulate. “Where did I get all of this?” And then, “What do I do with it, how do I get rid of it?” It crept in piece by piece, sale by sale.

A few years back I worked through two years with an 88 year old widow. She wanted to move, but the garage was stacked with her deceased husband’s tools. Her daughter and sister sold it all. “Well, there is still all that stuff in the attic.” The daughter and sister hauled it down, sorted out who wanted what, and held an estate sale. Then they started on the house which overlooked a small lake. Heavy drapes and big lamps blocked the views. The drapes disintegrated in my hands as I took them off the rods. The carpet
was original to the1978 rambler. “Bought it with the house, gonna sell it with the house. It’s a good rug.” There was a tea pot collection, her son’s record collection, three vacuum cleaners, and antiques that nobody could remember what they were. By the time they finished, tears were trickling down the widow’s cheeks as she passively watched the flurry. Sunlit views from the lake washed across gleaming hardwood floors in every room. She had never noticed. She was angry that they had taken control, and it all happened too fast. “It looks like a hotel, like I don’t live here anymore.” The knickknacks, memories were all packed up and ready to go. She really didn’t live there anymore.

The longer you’ve been in a home, the more there is and the more overwhelming it is to divest. At what point do you toss your children’s 5th grade art work, once trendy jackets, irresistible bargains now jammed into closets and corners? Your kids don’t want it, your furniture isn’t to their taste, and they aren’t excited about china, or magazine collections. Disappointingly, treasures that you paid retail for are now almost worthless. Consignment stores pay pennies on the dollar, antique dealers cherry pick. There is value in the memories, not in the things.

It’s then that we realize we have to make decisions about the value of space in our lives. In order to move on, we have to give something up. When we look at new homes, the appeal is not only that it’s new, but also the open space and light streaming in through enormous windows. Staged furnishings are Spartan. No knickknacks or clutter to distract from flow of space and light. Why is that so appealing?  Because it’s how we want to live, with room to stretch and grow into a new space.

If you’ve ever watched the TV series Hoarders, you see people buried by their shopping addictions. In some cases it’s impossible to wrench the owners from the overload that they’ve accumulated. They’ll clutch each item as though it’s a precious gift. Even if it isn’t, it has significance to them. I’ve worked with several hoarders, giving up their treasures is an emotional battle. Some get close to a breakdown, most have at least one meltdown and have to be dragged across the finish line. On the morning of a 10AM closing, a seller was still in bed at 9AM when we came to do the walk through. She was just waking up and starting to pack. In that case, the buyer almost had a meltdown. She stuffed her broken heart with things in place of people or relationships that she missed.

When we think about it, is clutter an addiction?  Is it avoidance of divesting the insignificant to keepourselves from creating a future? When we start a diet, the first thing we do is to purge and scour the fridge and pantry of all the foods we know will sabotage the diet. We clean out before we start over to have clear sight of where we are going. It’s uncomfortable, and takes commitment, but we know that if we hold the commitment we get the result. Moving is a life changing event that doesn’t happen in a day.

The easiest way to divest is to enlist help. Know that other people won’t give emotional value to your possessions. This really is a job you can’t tackle alone. If you have friends or family that you can bribe, you’re in luck. If you are related to college kids, they will take just about anything you don’t want and promise to love it. One of the best ways to get rid of people who you don’t like too much is to ask them to help you move. They will absolutely disappear. 

There are movers who pack it all, but I’m assuming you don’t want to take it all. Decide what you can’t live without, and let the rest go. You can donate, send to consignment, have a garage sale, find an antique dealer, estate sale planner, or gift some of it to the special people in your life. Whatever you do today, you will thank yourself for tomorrow.  Promise.