Most readers will ignore this advice but clean out your “stuff” now

I suspect I have never written a blog post or column that will be as roundly ignored as this one will be. Oh, the typical number of readers will read this post, but very few people will follow my suggested action. They have been procrastinating before today. I fully expect that procrastination to continue tomorrow.

So, there I was standing in front of an elevator at work with two good friends. We were discussing the fact that I had closed on the sale of my old house. One of the women asked me about moving out. Posing this question to me is like dangling raw meat in front of a starving bear. Moving out of two domiciles over a year’s time has been torture. And in complete truth, my now-wife Candace and her close friend Cathy, my close friend Frank, my daughter Tracy and my brothers, David and Marty, did far more of the actual work than I did.

My major job was to make the tough, emotional decisions about what to save from my old life. That is a huge, tortuous job.

That’s when I raised my voice to my two friends. “Clean out your junk/stuff/valuables/memorabilia/paraphernalia, pictures now!” I exhorted them not to hold onto that stuff for one minute more unless it truly has value and precious memories are attached to it. I plaintively shouted, “Do not wait for someone to die because it gets a helluva lot tougher then.”

Once you lose a loved one, you have to make all those tough calls by yourself. Many years of emotion and experience  get impossible to sort. So many times I looked at something of little value, not in terms of whether I or my kids wanted it, but I wondered if I was betraying my late wife Jean by discarding it. I gave my all for Jean when she lived, but that sense of betrayal is a hard guilt-trip to shed.  My new wife Candace struggled with the same thing when it came time to clean out her house. Her husband David was as much a part of her moving  process as Jean was in mine.

With the wisdom earned though tough choices, I told my friends to make the tough decisions about “stuff” now and with their beloved partners at their side. I also told them to talk those choices over with their kids. It is silly to save stuff for Johnny when Johnny doesn’t care a lick about that piece of memorabilia that nobody remembers anymore.

There are lots of practical reasons to clean out your junk now including being sure nothing of legitimate monetary or emotional value gets thrown out later. But the biggest reason to do your cleaning now is to avoid the inevitable second-guessing that will plague you when you are forced to do it alone.

Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance

2 thoughts on “Most readers will ignore this advice but clean out your “stuff” now

  1. Agree. I will never forget the moment 30 years ago when I left suddenly and moved to a new apartment with only belongings that could fit in a 1976 Chevrolet Monza. Most freeing, peaceful existence I had, unencumbered by stuff and the resulting decisions. Stuff keeps you looking back.


  2. Hello.

    Ian Punnett turned me on to your blog some time ago and I read religiously. This post IS important. Shedding “stuff” is something I had to learn to do. After several losses of everything due to bad choices. In sobriety, they say, that at some point, once you cross the double digit mark, the time will come when we decide that shedding “things and stuff” is in our best interest.

    My husband and I had amassed a lot of “stuff” that we kept, in our one bedroom apartment, from the day we met, until the season that we finally said, “ok, time to get rid of it.” We paired down everything, we donated a ton of clothes to the Sally Anne, and trashed about twenty leaf garbage bags of stuff we thought would be useful later on, that did not happen.

    We’ve learned to live with only what we need, and nothing more. However, the things we do own are all sentimental, yet they don’t take up much space, like art or collectors items. The only thing I kept in tact, after that massive purge was my library of books that I have read.

    I agree with not waiting until it is too late to pair down your home, so that someone else doesn’t have to do it when you are gone.

    You are a testament to love and perseverance.

    Jeremy In Montreal


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