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The Weight of Our Stuff

Several years ago, at a National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers conference, we learned that 75% of people over 60 are feeling trapped in their homes, unable to move to a more manageable space, or one where they will find a sense of community, or support when the issues of aging begin to take a toll on their lifestyle. What is holding them back? Too much stuff!

Fast forward to November 2023 when four Divas made the annual trip to the NASMM conference in Kansas City. Has that statistic changed? Sadly, it has not. Our keynote speaker, Joshua Becker, author of “Becoming Minimalist”, “The More of Less”, “The Minimalist Home”, and other books and blogs on the subject, shared mind-blowing new stats with us. Consumer debt has risen to nearly two trillion dollars in the US. Over 15,000,000 Americans lease offsite storage to accommodate the excess. I tried to find similar statistics for Canada but every search term I could think of simply took me to yet another ad for storage facilities. Storage is one of the fastest growing businesses in North America.

Joshua described his own experience of giving up the chase of new things and the work of keeping and caring for the ever-increasing mound of possessions, to make room for what brings real meaning and fulfillment in life. He told the story of helping a man clear out his garage and being surprised by how easily this man was letting go of things. There was a section of the garage full of nearly new camping equipment. The man didn’t want it. He said he started buying it to provide an opportunity for him and his son to spend quality time together but it didn’t happen because he was always working, always earning more, to buy the bigger house, flashier car, and yes more and better camping equipment. Now his son lived across town with a family of his own, and the man was taking all the camping equipment to his son’s home. He was going to implore him not to make the same mistake. Instead, to take the time to go camping with his children and make wonderful memories together.

The wisdom of Joshua Becker – “It is nobody’s fondest desire to own a house full of stuff. It is our culture that tells us to keep buying more.” If we switch our paradigm to “buy what we truly NEED, not what we want” how much more time will we have to enjoy what really matters? Is our most important legacy the THINGS we will leave behind or the wonderful memories of time and experiences together?

Joshua praised and validated the NASMM members at the conference for the important work we do, gently but purposefully assisting our clients to release the less important things they have accumulated. In doing so we help them release the burden, the real and figurative weight of owning too much.

Did we come back determined to address a minimalist lifestyle? Not even close. But I, for one, am looking at the things I haven’t used or worn in a year and thinking, “Do I need this? Would it make someone else’s life better?” If my answers are No and Yes in that order, I am finding it a new home.

Gail Shields Co-Founder

Downsizing Diva