Lightening the Load:
Time to Stop Living With the Past
By Janet L. Hall and Paula Langguth Ryan
Someone recently wrote to share how her husband
and his siblings banded together to *clean out*
her father-in-law's home, which she likened to
an indoor junkyard. After they had filled the
dumpster, her sister-in-law pointed at the
contents and said to her father, *This is what
you were loving while we were growing up. These
were the children you were spending time with
and we grew up with them and hated them and
were jealous of them.*
He never knew they felt this way. And he
certainly wouldn't have chosen to lighten
his load this way. Yet it's sometimes
a hard fact that the treasures and *stuff*
we accumulate during our lifetime have a
profound impact on our families, on
ourselves and on our ability to have a
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you
can take to free yourself from the clutter
of the past and mend fences in your family.
Start by asking yourself a few simple questions
about the things you are hanging on to:
Why are you afraid to get rid of these things?
What do they represent to you?
How long are you going to carry this
stuff around with you?
How have your treasures and *stuff* affected
Are you hanging on to some stuff *just in case?*
Who said you have to hang on to these things?
Take action now to lighten your load before
someone else decides to lighten it for you. Here
are seven tips to get you started.
1: Invite your children and grandchildren over to
come get the things that were theirs during their
childhood. Donate, auction off or simply throw
away anything that's left. Brenda, a client
in her sixties, was holding on to her daughter's
childhood dolls, thinking she would one day want
them. When Brenda asked, she discovered her
daughter didn't want them after all. She
was free to sell them, which brought her some
extra income and freed up valuable space.
2: Make a list of the treasures you're ready
to part with now. Then write down the names of
friends and family members who have admired
these items. Write down or record a story for
each item, then throw a dinner party for these
friends and family members. Share the stories
with them as you pass along the gifts. Or give
them as holiday or birthday presents.
3: Tap into the flow of giving and receiving
by passing along treasures you want people to
inherit, so you can see the joy in giving and
in receiving while you're still around. Be
sure to write down and relate a story about
4: Weigh an item's cost to you in terms of
stress and upkeep. If you have a number of
valuables -- such as collectibles, antiques,
linens or pictures -- the expense of
insurance, the worry of possible theft and the
time spent on cleaning can be overwhelming.
One 77-year old woman, Mary, has so much
Depression-era glass on display in her house
it takes her three days a week to dust them
all. What's your joy-to-stuff ratio on these
items in your home? Passing along or selling
these items now will cut down on your stress
level and save you money on insurance premiums.
5: Avoid any fighting and bickering over who
gets what items. Write a letter like the one
Janet's mother-in-law wrote, that simply
states: *I hope we raised you well enough not
to argue over possessions. Your family and
dedication are more important than things.
So I'm sure you won't argue over who gets
what.* As you tell your tales, explain why
you selected a certain person to receive a
certain item. This will go a long way
toward alleviating any ill feelings. Remind
them that it's the memory that matters, not
the item itself. Encourage anyone who isn't
the keeper of the item -- but cherishes the
item as well -- to get a copy of the story
about the item. They can always read the
story, and visit the item.
6: Eliminate items that truly don't have
value any more. How many button boxes or
jars of nails do you really need? Most of
what you're saving isn't probably usable
anymore anyway. Partially opened tubes of
caulk, cans of paint or stain, tape, old
twine, old spools of thread and elastic
all go bad over the years. Throw out
anything that is cluttering up your
home and drawing your attention away
from your family.
7: Unburden yourself from things that are
tying you to the past. Is your basement or
attic still packed with things from
yesteryear? One man's basement had a
six-foot mirror that had been shipped over
from Europe, and was still in its shipping
crate – nearly fifty years later! Do you
have a *shrine* to a late mate or beloved
child? Keep one or two *memory items* and
release the rest. Otherwise, you'll always
be indebted to the past instead of free to
face the future.
Above all else, don't make excuses, don't
assess blame and don't postpone the need to
lighten your load. Too many seniors today
are faced with a limited income and worries about how they will make ends meet. Your
clutter is acting as a stopper to your
prosperity. You can generate much needed
income and free up space for even more
money to come to you simply by releasing
some of your treasures. You'll spend less
time cleaning and dusting, and have more
free time to do all the things you
want to do.
Travel, take up a new hobby, volunteer, play
with your grandchildren, create a playroom
for yourself or your grandchildren. After
all, what do you want to be remembered
for – your possessions or your joy for life?
Professional Organizer Janet L. Hall and Contemporary
Prosperity Advisor Paula Langguth Ryan are the
originators of the Enough Is Enough! seminar series.
Their unique 3-hour adventures in money, clutter and
time management are designed exclusively to help you tap
your true potential and achieve better balance in your
Permission is granted to print this article
in its entirety or in part, provided
attribution is given, in the form of the
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