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AARP AARP States Virginia Health & Wellbeing

Decluttering: You Can Do It!


Do you want to downsize or declutter but feel too overwhelmed by your accumulated stuff to get started? If so, the AARP Virginia webinar Downsizing and Decluttering: You Can’t Take it With You is for you.

Hoping for helpful hints to get started with the arduous task of letting go of some of their cherished possessions, 167 participants from across the United States attended the webinar recently. AARP volunteer community ambassador Trudy Marrotta moderated the webinar presented by geriatric nurse practitioner and AARP volunteer community ambassador Genesis Webb.

Webb gave the participants much motivation to undertake the task of downsizing or decluttering. She said the number one thing that impedes people from leaving their home or receiving in home health care is they have too much stuff. Many of us are included in the two oldest generations that have the most stuff: the Silent Generation born between 1928 and 1945 and the Baby Boomers born between 1946 to 1964. Webb noted that an astonishing number of 10,000 people turn 65 every day. We attach pride to our belongings because of how hard we had to work to acquire them.

Despite the memories that our belongings carry, Webb provided 10 helpful hints to help us let go.

1. Include everyone in the house when sorting through your belongings. What is essential to you may prove to be easily discarded, sold, or donated by other household members.

2. Don’t try to downsize a large area at one time. Use the 10-minute sweep method. Clear an area 2 feet by 2 feet in 10 minutes. Leave the area and return to clear in the same increments. Assign household members their own 2 feet by 2 feet areas.

3. Unpack bags after traveling promptly. Unpack, launder the clothes, and put them in their proper place.

4. Don’t let items stack up in your home. Every item should have a place. When you purchase a new item, get rid of a similar item that you already have.

5. When sorting your items, use the four-pile sort method (keep, sell, donate, trash piles). Webb suggested that you place the sell and donate piles next to you and the keep pile across the room. When you must walk across the room, you may think twice about keeping an item.

6. If you are really ready to give an item to a family member, distribute the legacy item now.

7. Avoid using guilt to convince someone to take an item they don’t want. Ask heirs whether they want items. Donate or sell items they don’t want.

8. Donate. Dress for Success and Soles for Souls are good donation companies for clothing and shoes.

9. Be realistic. Get rid of clothing that doesn’t fit and expired food and medications.

10. Pare down paper and photos. Shred old documents and bills. Digitalize photos.

As Webb advised, it’s not about the stuff. It’s about the stories and memories. You can’t take it with you!

AARP Virginia will host the next virtual Downsizing and Decluttering workshop on October 12. To attend, please register here:

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