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A Case for Clearing Clutter

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Oct 21, 2014

Organizing an estate sale – yours or anyone else’s -- it is a vivid reminder that cleaning clutter as a lifetime practice has fundamental advantages that should not be overlooked if creating quality of life interests you. Put cleaning clutter at the bottom of your to-do list now and it will be at the top of your list of burdens when you are old or ailing.

Case Study #1: From Horticulturist to Hoarder

When we first met Jim at his mom’s house after having moved her to another state to be nearer to him in her old age, we found a massive mess. She was living in squalor. The condition of her house did not express her love of beauty. Back in the day, she had been a judge for horticultural competitions. She had collected such a vast volume of Ikebana pottery on her travels to Japan that it was difficult for her, or anyone else for that matter, to appreciate this highly disciplined art of flower arranging because her home was in such a state of disarray. Her passion had become a problem and in the end, the responsibility for it all fell on her son. With little time during a vacation from his job at a university to move his mom, empty the house, and sell it, Jim, called on us for help. It took our team of seven people, a 40-foot dumpster, and two 17-foot trucks to toss the trash and pack the treasures which were hauled off to auction because there was no time for an estate sale. The job did get done, but with a great deal of pressure and expense.

Case Study #2: Depression in a Disaster Zone

Mary’s brother, Jacob, (also her business partner) passed away after battling a long illness. He left a bachelor’s pad that looked as if it was a throw back to his college days. Clothes were scattered here, there, and everywhere. The den was a real man’s cave with boy toys tucked in between dusty books, dvds and tapes. The paperwork in the office was as scrambled as the pile of dishes, pots and pans in the kitchen. Statues of Buddha could be found throughout the house, but the dream of a Zen sanctuary was far from the reality. The home was cluttered and the job of cleaning it up was an emotional weight on Mary. Added to the upset of sorting out her brother’s mess at home was unraveling the turmoil he left the office.

Case Study #3: Stored and Long Forgotten

Deirdre, an appreciator of beautiful things, had been an antique dealer all of her life. Her neat and orderly home was beautifully decorated with some of her favorite finds. The problem was that when Deirdre had retired more than 20 years earlier she stashed the collectibles that remained from her business in two 20 x 10 storage rooms in another town more than 2 hours away. She never looked at them again and her memory of what was in the boxes faded. Now that she was moving to an assisted living facility and it was time to sell all of her stuff, the trick became how to unload the vast amount of goods from the storage in an already decorated home so they could be sold. She did not need the treasures, which she had stored at great expense, and she was physically unable to cart and unload the boxes. Yet Deirdre sure could use the money.

The question is: Why did Jim’s mom, Jacob, Ann or Deirdre wait so long to clean their clutter? They didn’t have the time? Other things were more important? They didn’t know how? They would get to it later? Each one of them, for their own reasons, undermined their true appreciation of simplicity and beauty by becoming overwhelmed with too much stuff. Now, that they were either too feeble or gone, the consequences were crushing for them or those they love. None of these folks are bad and wrong because things turned out this way, but their example teaches us an all-important lesson: Clean clutter sooner, rather than later. If you need professional help, it will cost you less now, than if you wait. Without too much stuff, you will enjoy your true self more and leave a legacy, not a mess.

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