Reducing Clutter, by Rich Paschall

When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved back to Tennessee from Chicago where they had lived for close to twenty years, they gave away many items they felt they no longer needed.  Chief among them was a snow blower.  “What if it snows, grandpa?” I asked.  He explained that in the unlikely event of snow, it would melt off in a day or two.  There was no need for something they may never use again.

When he asked if I would like anything, I said I would take his nightstand if the plan was to leave it behind.  It was an inexpensive little piece with a small door on the front to hold just a few items inside.  It had a homemade quality and symbolized my grandfather to me.  I was probably in early teens.  I still have it today.  The item could be 100 years old by now.

Their home in small town Tennessee was remarkably uncluttered.  They had just what they needed for the next twenty years of their lives.  The house was always, neat, clean and orderly and I truly believe that it added to the relaxed and comfortable existence they enjoyed for many years.  They never seemed to lack for anything when I would visit.  I envy that simple existence now.

When my father retired and moved to Florida with his second wife (not my mom), he too left behind things he could not imagine using again.  He had decided to give away his winter outerwear and offered me a nice coat and other items.  “What if it gets cold, or you come back to visit in winter, dad?” He pointed out that it never gets that cold in Florida and while he may be back to visit, it would never be in winter.

Aside from taking this winter offering, I desired nothing else.  I had his World War II medals and discharge paper.  There was nothing else I wanted.  I have since passed the World War II memorabilia to my older brother.  He has children and may be able to pass them on.  By the way, I kept a Good Conduct medal for my “good conduct.”  Dad had more than one and I decided not to award my brother with several of these.

Mom was a collector of stuff.  I sometimes wondered if this was the result of growing up poor in the Depression.  Was the accumulation of items, no matter how little the value, important to someone who had nothing growing up?  Were many of us from the Baby Boomer generation collectors because we saw that our parents were?

Mom collected everything from coffee cups to shot glasses, refrigerator magnets to picture frames, swizzle sticks from hotels and restaurants, to match books from the same.  There were figurines and candle holders, tea services not to be used, special occasion kitchen ware that may never have seen the special occasion.  There were “knickknacks” of all sorts, or what her mother would have simply called “dust catchers.”  To me, most of these items did not have enough value to have to dust them every weekend.

After mom had reached her 80’s and could not care for all the stuff, or even recall all the stuff she had, I moved her to an apartment in the same building so we could watch over her a little more closely.  That lasted less than a year and she was in a hospital, then a nursing home.  I moved to the larger apartment to hold on to the “stuff” in case she recovered well enough to come home.  She lived almost 6 years at the home and I not only had a lifetime of my own stuff, I then inherited a mountain of stuff I would never have considered owning.  Worse yet, many of the dust collectors I owned were some of the same items I grew up looking at.  I can not explain how I did not want these things.  For whatever reason, I could not get rid of much of it in the years that followed.

In the past year, however, I decided it was time to start to eliminate many of these things.  I had shelves and cabinets overflowing with items that I would never use and in some cases never wanted.  What if I have to move?  I do not want to have to take a lot of these things.  What if I die?  Someone will just toss out most of it anyway.  Is this “stuff” adding anything to my life?  This really is the key question.  If I was not going to use it and it did not hold some great personal value, it was time to go.

It is hard to do an assessment of items that have been in your house for decades.  You may falsely conclude that they have a sentimental value when all they really enjoy is longevity.  Consider cleaning up and not leaving it to others.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your kids, or grandkids, do not want your stuff.  Yes, they may desire an item or two, but for the most part your stuff will end up being donated or tossed out, so you might as well do it yourself.  Consider how much of your parents or grandparents stuff you wanted?  I am not talking about family photos, I am talking about “stuff.”

Last year I tossed out a lot of stuff.  I did not want them and could not imagine anyone paying 25 cents for them, so they finally hit the trash. I gave a lot of stuff away to various charities, depending on the type of item.  I also listed things on eBay if I thought they had a value.  I sell about a half-dozen items a month.  At this pace I could sell stuff for the next 25 years and still have a lot of things.  When I retire, I will likely increase my eBay offerings or my donations to resale shops, probably both. If anyone wants stuff, I will be happy to oblige.

Author: Rich Paschall

When the Windows Live Spaces were closed and our sites were sent to Word Press, I thought I might actually write a regular column. A couple years ago I finally decided to try out a weekly entry for a year and published something every Sunday as well as a few other dates. I reached that goal and continued on. I hope you find them interesting. They are my Sunday Night Blog. Thanks to the support of Marilyn Armstrong you may find me from time to time on her blog space, SERENDIPITY. Rich Paschall Education: DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University Employment: Air freight professional


  1. I already KNOW no one is going to want our stuff. The kids don’t have room for it and they live entirely different lifestyles. Honestly, the only reason we haven’t gotten rid of it is because it costs money to get bins to dump all of it. So i leave that to the young ones. They can clean it up or trash it, whichever. Meanwhile, I don’t mind having the stuff around me, dusty though it is.

    I probably should mention that almost every I could sell, I sold years ago. What is left probably has value to someone, but I simply have no more patience for selling online, packing, shipping, and arguing with people who somehow feel that whatever they got isn’t what they expected. Been there, done that. it’s a pity because the dolls i have are really worth something to a collector, but they will probably end up trashed along with some really ancient and priceless pottery. That’s what makes the stuff so valuable, that people DON’T value it until it’s gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always have things listed on eBay, but I think some of it will never sell no matter the value. One item sells every now and then. I did give away some things to make room for John during the few months he was here. I think my cousins will be left to the task of rolling up the trash barrels.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have given as much as anyone would take. Tons of books and dolls and miscellaneous. The saddest part of the collection are the ancient Chinese porcelain. That stuff REALLY needs a good home or it will be lost forever. Otherwise, everything has its time and much of the stuff I own is pretty old. If it gets no older, I’ve done my part.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have a ton of books too. The resale shops are loaded with books. I think the people who shop there are not too interested, as a general rule. I guess I should recycle the paperbacks I have read.


      2. Okay, Rich, this one REALLY resonates!

        I need only to walk down the hallway to my “office” which looks beyond awful/cluttered.

        Lat summer, I helped by 2 younger brothers declutter the old family house (now up for sale) which we moved into brand new in ’55. Oy Vey (3 times). So much stuff. Mom kept EVERYTHING. My Dad had some war medals and other surprises.

        Rich, I fall into that category of “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Of course, tomorrow never comes.

        Maybe they should put that on my tombstone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have put off looking into many places for years. When my brother was here for two weeks I tried to interest him at looking through the thousand of old family pictures and take some. He never got around to it and said “maybe next time.” I think next time will never come.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. I gave clothes to St. Vincent De Paul Society, primarily because my mother would have preferred them. The Salvation Army resale shop is nearby, so some items went there. There are a couple more organizations that accept donations here.

      Liked by 1 person

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