Sage Advice: A Pack Rat Seeks Organization

By Amy Dickinson | May 7th, 2019

How easy it is to accumulate things as we get older...

Pack rat declutter

Dear Amy: Like many people my age, I have accumulated a lot of “stuff.” I know that (as we say in the electric power business) it’s time to “shed load.”

The process is complicated by the fact that our spare bedroom and garage are so stuffed with stuff that I can barely move. I have considered moving some of the material to a rented storage facility, but my wife just about “has a cow” and tells me, “The stuff will be out of sight and out of mind, and you’ll never deal with it” (implying that she and our daughters will have to sort through it after I die).

I think it would speed up the process of sorting the “keep and the toss” stuff to have more room to work.

Should I just do the best I can under the circumstances, or is there some way I can convince her that having more elbow room would be useful?

– Pete the Pack Rat

Dear Pete: I’m with your wife on this one. If you transfer this “stuff” into a storage facility, there is a real likelihood that you will be paying storage rental for the rest of your natural life, while those empty rooms will just fill right back up.

The way to create more room is to take this project in stages and resolve to get rid of/donate/sell the physically larger things first. Choose the easiest category (for instance, lawn mowers or gardening equipment). If you have five lawn mowers in various states of repair, keep the one that works – and get rid of the rest.

A professional decluttering expert would be worth their weight in excess clutter. A professional will sometimes organize a sale and take a percentage of the profit. They are objective, neutral and work quickly.

I realize that Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is all the rage, but I far prefer the charming, empathetic technique of Margareta Magnusson, whose book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter” (2018, Scribner) is a game-changer. I highly recommend it for anyone wrestling with a lifetime of wonderful – and not so wonderful – stuff.

Shedding this load will be liberating for all of you.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

More from Boomer