NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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The Stuff of Life

The Stuff of Life  7/21/17Stuff has a way of accumulating over a lifetime.  And someone has to deal with it.  If you are proactive, that “someone” can be you!

Dealing with the stuff that has accumulated often begins with downsizing.  Downsizing is a time to re-evaluate and decide what things you enjoy the most.

The motivations for downsizing vary. One reason may be to live a better quality of life in a smaller space. A larger home may hold you back from what you really want to spend your time doing, such as traveling, pursuing hobbies and leisure activities, or visiting children and grandchildren.

Or perhaps you do not want to live in such an overstuffed house, and you just want to simplify your life with fewer possessions.

Whatever your motivations for downsizing may be, it can be an overwhelming task to figure out what you are going to do with all your stuff and where to start. The North Dakota State University Extension Services has resources on its Aging Well website at www.ag.ndsu.edu/aging to help you with downsizing and other important decisions in your second half of life.

One useful place to start the process of downsizing is with your adult children’s belongings.  Parents are not responsible for being a repository for their adult children’s grade school trophies, baseball gloves, prom dresses and other memorabilia.  In the spirit of downsizing, it is OK to have the adult child come to claim the items by a certain deadline.

As for belongings you have, perhaps you are presuming that your adult children will want some of those things at some point in the future.  Be careful!  That’s a big presumption.  Better ask them!

Here are a few helpful for making decisions about passing on family possessions:

  • Start with asking your adult children what possessions they do want.
  • Use technology, such as FaceTime or Skype, to discuss this issue with adult children who live at a distance. Walk through your house and put labeled stickers on items they want.
  • Consider special items you should save for your kids, such as your first passport, military discharge papers, one printed photo of your wedding, a sentimental piece of jewelry, a photo of the first time you held them, dog tags worn by their childhood pets, a receipt with a date on it, and your favorite music on a platform your kids can use.
  • Capture childhood highlights by keeping items such as college acceptance letters and report cards with teachers’ comments.

The process of downsizing is made easier through planning and family discussions. One helpful resource is an AARP publication titled “Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go” by Marnie Jameson.

The best time to develop a plan for downsizing is when you are healthy and have the time to decide what to do with your possessions. You have spent a lifetime accumulating possessions and now you should plan for what you want to do with them.

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/boxes-moving-moving-boxes-cardboard-2120367/  (downloaded 7/31/17)


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