Getting Rid of Your Stuff: When is the Best Time? by Bob Lowry

Getting Rid of Your Stuff: When is the Best Time? by Bob Lowry

Accumulation of stuff. Big stuff, small stuff, worthless stuff, we all have lots of stuff. As George Carlin once noted, a house is just a place to store our stuff. Even if you believe in living a more minimalist lifestyle, you have stuff.

A few weeks ago, a reader asked a good question: “When is the best time to get rid of your stuff?” If I remember, his comment was triggered by a rocking chair, one that his grown children could have used while raising their own kids. Instead, mom and dad held onto it until the need for the chair was passed. They didn’t purposely not give it away, rather it just never crossed their minds.

This question is much like the one many of us wrestle with: when is it time to start giving away your financial inheritance? Should you start to distribute it now, when the need among your relatives might be greater? Or, should you hold onto to your investments until your death, insuring you won’t have given away money you end up needing or worked a lifetime to save?

Back to the stuff discussion for now, there can be rather intense feelings about some off the stuff we own. Like the rocking chair example, there might be pieces of furniture, or a painting or photograph that holds special meaning to someone else in your family. If giving it away now enriches someone else’s life, or is an important part of family memories, is it better to pass it along sooner rather than later?

On the flip side, what if a grown child of yours wants something you are not ready to part with? Even if it would make things easier or more pleasant for your offspring or relative, do you have the right to say, No? Not Now. Is your reaction emotional or rational?

This is the real problem with things we own. We spend money to buy something. If the purchase adds to our life and makes us feel good, it becomes more than a collection of parts, it becomes emotionally satisfying. It may remind us of something that our parents owned, or our grandparents had in their home. It may stimulate memories of a difficult or joyous time in our life. It may just be nice or beautiful to look at.

Even so, at the end of the day it is still just stuff. At some point we, or family members, will have to get rid of much of it. Does decluttering now help your satisfying lifestyle? With less stuff to store, display, clean, insure, or move will you feel more free? Or, will the lack of things around that comfort you leave you unhappy?

This is one of those questions with no definitive answer. Each of us is different. As long as your home isn’t featured on a hoarder’s TV show, I believe when to get rid of stuff is really up to you. When the stuff stops adding to your happiness and can help out someone else, get rid of it. But, as long as an item makes you happy, keep it.

What do you think? Are you in the “give it away now” camp, or the “it makes me happy and enriches my life” group? Again, I don’t think there is a universally right or wrong answer. But, it is a question that we should ask ourselves. And, as the blog reader noted in his comment, I’d really like to know what others think.

By Bob Lowry

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