Different life stages present their own unique C.R.U.D. challenges. The scooters, Hot Wheels and rompers so common to the households of young families, within a decade or so give way to a glut of obsolete consumer technology and cabinets stocked with gourmet cooking ingredients. If you do not practice regular pitching of the remnants of your earlier existence, you are apt, by middle age, to reach a full blown space crisis that sends you scouring the real estate section in search of larger quarters to house your material assets. Maybe you have started to notice, that C.R.U.D. (Completely Ridiculous Useless Debris) is encroaching on what was once not long ago, “living space”? As you survey your own abode you realize clutter is no longer confined to a few designated storage areas. There is evidence of intrusion in every room. No ground is sacred. And what should not be surprising, is that the rate of conversion from usable to impenetrable territory is directly connected either to excessive discretionary spending, retirement, inheritance, fatigue, or a lethal combination of the aforementioned.
Starting with the shopping habit, it is easy to see how accumulation runs amok. Not only do the middle years generally correlate with increased earning capacity, but the opportunity to engage in retail therapy is unbounded. Even if your schedule does not allow for a trip to a bricks and mortar shopping mall, the Internet, your mobile devices and TV furnish all of the criteria for informed buying decisions. The products manufactured in China and third world countries provide irresistible bargains often eliminating affordability as a deterrent. For boomers lucky enough to retire relatively young, a surfeit free time translates to recreational shopping.
Retirement is also a contributing factor to this home “middle-aged spread” for another reason. As organizers, we work mostly with the population that is already retired or expected to be leaving full-time work in the near future. Many of these clients have been stockpiling materials for “projects” they intend to devote themselves to once the encumbrance of a job has been eliminated. Most notably this takes the form of thousands photos they intend to put in albums or digitize, or in rolls of heavy-duty upholstery fabric destined to recover worn out sofas or replace faded draperies. Other clients allow unread magazines or books to pile up in anticipation of years of unlimited leisure, never stopping to consider whether these earlier selections will stand the test of time for either relevance or interest.
By the time many people reach middle age, they have already experienced multiple losses – parents, friends or even spouses. The items that belonged to the departed individuals, while possessing no intrinsic value themselves, take on new meaning as touchstones. For those who are suffering from grief, articles of clothing, vestiges of daily living or objects made by loved ones furnish temporary comfort during a period of bereavement. If unchecked, bringing home a deceased parent’s entire collection of worldly goods can convert a manageable home into something unwieldy.
Lastly, playing traffic cop with what stays and what goes requires a high level of commitment and effort. As we age, we may not always be able to summon the energy that regular sorting and purging entail. Our tolerance for chaos may enlarge as our vigilance starts to ebb. Relaxing standards may have negative consequences but it may be an inevitable part of the aging process. If you can no longer muster the power to keep C.R.U.D. to a minimum, you might need to ask for help.
If any of the situations we have described apply to you, you might consider putting any non-essential expeditions (exceptions being manicures, hairdresser appointments, food-shopping and Zumba classes) on temporary hold. You have a lot to keep you busy in home-sweet-home for the duration.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started. Let’s say you have plans to make your own clothes when you stop working. Have you even looked lately at the dress patterns you salted away fifteen years ago? What about the fabrics? Are you sure you will be able to wear those colours when the time comes? This is a good place to start editing. How many abs exercisers, accompanied by instructions on VHS, are still in their boxes, bought on TV in the wee hours? Are you drowning in scrapbooking supplies that will never achieve album hood? There must be a matching set of end-tables that are celebrating their silver anniversary of living in your crawl space.
Remember, the goal is to reduce the C.R.U.D. to a lower toxicity level. That means that the remaining C.R.U.D. is confined to storage areas, as a minimum baseline