Decluttering, Denial and Aging

(The second of three posts on Decluttering and Denial.)

As you get older, you don’t need so many belongings to survive, or even just to keep yourself entertained (whether you’re entertained by hobbies, redecorating or recreation.) We learned that when we were forced to downsize our lives several years ago. However, I can’t help but notice that many friends and relatives near our age (or older) continue to live in large houses packed full of stuff. I remember how stifling our clutter burden was before we were finally forced to go through it. I can’t imagine how these people my age live with the burden of all their stuff, most of it packed away where they can’t see it, while the mental weight of knowing it will all have to be dealt with someday weighs on their minds.

The most interesting situations are those of people quite a bit older than me. We know some people who actually bought bigger houses in their old age. Now they struggle to take care of those homes, but won’t give them up. Forced to hire cleaning people, they no longer live with dirt, but the burden of all their possessions continues to haunt them. They’ll complain about it, but they won’t do anything about it. If you offer to help them go through it all, they’ll say no (at least, that’s been my experience.)

I suspect they are in denial about the fact that they are in the final years of their lives. Going through possessions, giving meaningful items to loved ones, giving up items that once meant something but now collect dust….such activities are a little too much for them to think about, because they’ll be forced to confront their own mortality.

Most of us don’t like thinking about dying. But to stick your head in the sand and ignore the burden you’ll leave behind, whether you can handle the idea of dying or not, is unfair to the people you’ll leave behind. They’ll have to go through all of your belongings. In many families, this activity brings out the worst in people, because greed seems to rear its ugly head when there’s an estate to be divided.

The people who accept that they won’t live forever, and who downsize willingly while in their 50s, 60s or later, should be praised by their loved ones for not leaving them a mess to go through someday. When you whittle down your belongings to just what you need, downsize your living space to just what you need, and live simply, you make your life easier, and the lives of your future heirs inestimably easier. That is to be applauded in this world of overstuffed attics, basements, garages and storage units!

Comments are closed.