Downsizing a Hoarder


One of my questions in this week’s CJN deals with downsizing a lifetime of memories. What a daunting task! Throw? Store? Sell? Keep? Almost impossible to know where to begin. But it can be done and in fact, gets done all the time, but sometimes not on your terms. Do it while you still have the control.
What if you are the kids of parents like this? It’s time to get involved and help. They are literally drowning in love – love that has accumulated as they attempted to keep a little piece of each memory alive. Gee, how all that love does add up!

Dear Ella,

My wife and I have lived in our large home for almost 40 years. We’ve raised three children and have seven grandchildren. My wife has kept just about every memento, from baby teeth to artwork to report cards. Our bedrooms, garage, den and basement are packed with memories. We’re getting older, and climbing up and down our stairs is difficult. We need to move, but she won’t hear of it. How am I going to convince her?

Married to a Hoarder

Dear Married to a Hoarder

Compacting, discarding and choosing through a lifetime of memories may just seem too insurmountable to your wife. Where do you start? What’s important? Every item has a memory or a story attached. Just the thought of what lies ahead to get to your goal is daunting. But if you really want to get this done you can – together. Do a little research first so when you present the idea to your wife, you’ll have the solutions to all her objections.

If you look at the whole picture, it will be too overwhelming – almost impossible. So don’t take that approach.

First, talk about the safety issue. If you want any kind of control of your future, you’re better off doing this while it’s still physically possible and before there’s an accident, like a fall, which will force a lifestyle change.

Take one room, one closet and one drawer at a time. Separate your piles into items to distribute, donations, garbage and keepers. Take a photo of that Grade 2 report card or the finger painting, and store many of the memories on a computer. One of your grandkids can help with that. Make it fun – offer them an incentive to help. They’ll feel good about it and you’ll enjoy spending extra time together.

There are professional companies that can help. You’re not alone with this daunting task, but first you both have to admit you want to move.

Second, you have to be realistic about the work ahead, and third, ask or pay for help. Write down your plan and make sure each step can be executed. Create a rule, such as if you haven’t seen, used or touch something in a year, out it goes! Give yourselves a daily quota and stick to it. It took a lifetime to accumulate all of your stuff, and it will take time to downsize, but you’ll get through this if you keep your eye on the prize: moving to a newer, more manageable lifestyle.


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