COLUMN: When accumulation turns to downsizing

Ridding ourselves of ‘the detritus of our lives’

Waste not, want not.

In other words, if you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance, you will never be in need.

This proverb was drilled into us as we materialistically acquired our possessions in our youth.

More, more, more was our mantra especially in the 1980s when greed was considered good.

And now suddenly, as we approach our dotage, we are wanting to shed our belongings and streamline our lives.

It’s called downsizing or rightsizing.

We offer our prized possessions to our kids and our grandkids. Trouble is, they don’t want them. No silver-plated tea service, thank you very much.

No antique perfume bottles either. And you know what you can do with your English Rose fine bone china.

They will take hard cash, though.

So what do we Zoomers do with all of our stuff? How do we rid ourselves of the detritus of our lives?

Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant seems to have the answer. She has taken the world by storm with her little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

She has turned decluttering into an art form. Purging is the new black.

She suggests we touch everything we own and then ask ourselves if the item “sparks joy.” If not, then toss it!

And on the other side of the world in Sweden, we have Margareta Magnusson and her popular book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.

The premise of this little tome complete with turquoise on the cover (my favourite colour) is dostadning or the art of death cleaning. This is a Swedish phenomenon by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order long before death comes calling.

She suggests starting at age 65.

The idea is to jar us into action in order to relieve our kids of the burden of doing away with our possessions once we have reached the pearly gates.

A daunting task for our offspring, no doubt. They may have little difficulty emptying our wallets but when it comes to cleaning out our cupboards and drawers, now that is another thing.

So let’s be thoughtful and spare them the trouble.

Where do we begin?

There is lots of advice in the two books previously mentioned including cleaning your closet. I know I have some fabulous expensive clothes still taking up space, but let’s be honest. They don’t fit me anymore and never will.

Toss them.

And while I’m at it, dispose of the cassette tapes and electric rice cooker and the ’80s Lycra exercise outfit. And the Jane Fonda fitness book which accompanies said outfit.

My kids will thank me.

There is another way which makes purging painless. The City of Surrey offers free junk disposal pop-up days where you can unload your useless items.

My boyfriend, who is downsizing from a house on acreage to a lakeside condo, and I attended the recent one and what fun it was!

As I flung his large, heavy, bobble-head moose into the waste disposal truck, I waited for him to flinch and scream, “No, not my favourite moose!”

But that didn’t happen. Obviously, this particular moose no longer “sparks joy” in him.

But my darling guy did admit to this exercise as being a challenging one as “every item has sentimental value or usefulness.”

Well, he didn’t toss me in the rubbish bin, so I feel optimistic about us moving forward together!

Waste not, want not has a brand new meaning!

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

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