It’s been awhile since we revisited the subject of “stuff,” a topic that continues to occupy an inordinate amount of my time as a Realtor. What “stuff ” am I talking about? George Carlin stuff. Jam-packed storage unit stuff. Ubiquitous garage, basement and attic stuff. Stuffed into the back of your closet stuff.
The “stuff ” that keeps spawning best-selling books about clutter, the magic of tidying up and Zen fantasies about living like a monk. The “stuff ” that has launched an entire cottage industry of packers, organizers and house- whisperers.
The “stuff ” that keeps many folks waging endless battles with their own bad habits without really knowing why. The “stuff ” that Realtors wrestle with every day when it comes to selling houses. Ask any experienced agent what the biggest hurdle is to getting listings ready? Hands-down most will say: “Trying to cajole well-meaning homeowners into dealing with their ‘stuff ’.”
For reference: it takes two or three weeks to get an empty house prepped and on the market. It takes six months or more when a seller has to purge twenty years of stuff to get it ready. After helping hundreds of overstuffed clients over the years, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: selling a house is hard, but finding a home for all the junk in the garage is excruciating.
Near as I can tell, we’re all on the hoarder spectrum. The only difference between those poor souls buried alive by their stuff on reality TV and the rest of us high-functioning hoarders is a matter of degrees. The rationale for hanging on to things long past their useful shelf life is always the same no matter whether you’re navigating through mountains of old magazines or just bending around thirty-year-old skis to get into the car: “What if I need it someday”?
It’s a fascinating time in the culture, a crossroads for aging baby boomers transitioning from the middle third of their lives to the last third. The struggle around “stuff ” is lumped into a whole slew of issues euphemistically referred to as downsizing. Implicit in the term downsize is the notion that a new life in a smaller place means giving up old parts of ourselves we may have trouble letting go of.
Here’s a revised version of the Serenity Prayer for those struggling. God, grant me the serenity to keep the stuff I do need, the courage to throw out all the stuff I don’t need, and the wisdom to know the difference. If that doesn’t help, call me. I’m happy to make a house call and give you some guidance.