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Getting Rid of Our Stuff

Posted: September 18, 2017, 10:35AM

I had the privilege of being a panelist at Oglebay Institute's Downsizing workshop this past weekend along with  Joshua Rogers, attorney, of Dinsmore & Shohl; Charlotte Pyle of Joe R. Pyle Auction & Realty Services; and, Greg Strahm of the TreasureQuest Group Appraisals.  Tim Luke also of TreasureQuest Group Appraisals moderated.  (I'm sure you've seen articles on Tim and Greg who are at Oglebay quite often offering appraisals and evaluations.  Tim was recently at the Ohio County Public Library's Lunch with Books reviewing They Left Us Everything! by Plum Johnson.)

We had about 70 participants at the beautiful Oglebay Mansion Museum.  What a great day!  People came to learn and asked some thought-provoking questions about downsizing, decluttering, legal issues, appraisals and the auction process.

It turns out that decluttering is a problem that many of us face!

Let's assume that we have made the decision to downsize and declutter.  Maybe we are moving, maybe we are just getting our things organized.  Maybe we are helping a loved one declutter.  It can be a scary, overwhelming and daunting task!

There are a few things we need to keep in mind as we tackle our possessions. 

One big consideration:  It won't get any easier as we age.  Our health may decline.  We lose stamina.  We lose muscle strength.  And going up and down our stairs to the attic, basement or upstairs bedrooms is not going to get any easier.  What if we are faced with an emergecy declutter if we or a family member face become ill?

Another thing to think about is who wants our stuff?  Families have changed a great deal over the last several years.  People are more mobile.  They tend to prefer having less possessions.  Face it - our kids don't want our stuff.  They don't want Grandma's china.  Assess what you own.  Talk to your family.  Who wants what?  Have you considered giving it to them NOW?  They can enjoy having what they want, you can enjoy the gift of giving, and you get it out of your house!  If you are going to leave items to your heirs, make sure your intentions are very clear and are written down.  Photos or videos were recommended for item identification and clarity of your legacy's purpose.  There were several examples of families facing arguments and law suits based on unwritten wishes or unclear wills.  Have the conversation with your family about who wants and /or who gets what!  Talk about it!

We attach emotional values to our possessions.  With that emotional "price tag", our possessions may be worth a lot more to us than to anyone else.  We need to remember that the memories and the emotional value is in our hearts not in the teacup that belonged to Aunt Mary, or the sideboard that stood in our parent's dining room. 

Some people have let their possessions get out of hand, and may be facing the challenge of many rooms or even many buildings of collections.  Is it possible that we need to seek professional help to learn how to let go and deal with the emotional attachment to our possessions?

Take a few minutes and think about your stuff: 

  • What do you NEED to keep?  (Tax forms, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc) 
  • What do you WANT to keep?  (Photos, SOME momentos, items of value) 
  • What can you donate?  (Clothing, quilts, towels, books) 
  • What do you need appraised or evaluated?  (Antiques, good furniture, collectables, etc) 
  • What can you trash?  (Eraserless pencils, toys, stained clothing, things that nobody would want nor would they be able to use)  
  • Do you want to have a garage sale or go to a flea market to sell some of your items?  What about consignment shops? 
  • Get your "piles" together so the items can go straight to their designated place.

Try not to think of the WHOLE task.  You'll be tempted to stop before you even get started!  Take a deep breath and tackle the chore - one bag at at time and one room at a time.  Mentally, break the task down to a manageable size.  Maybe you can get rid of one bag a day.  Maybe you can start with the clothing that you haven't worn in a year.  Maybe you can tackle one bookshelf at a time.

Keep in mind - there are people who can help.  You may need to hire the services of a professional organizer or downsizing agency.  We have a few organizers locally, and there are several others in the Pittsburgh area and in other metropolitan areas.

There are some good websites to help you.  There are some great tips to help you get started at also has some good ideas.  Pinterest also has tips you can use.




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Wheeling, WV 26003

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