Declutter and downsize. Better now than later

Time to declutter and downsize. Better now than later

On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter – January 25, 2019

by Tom P Blake

Downsize and Declutter. Better now than later

Toward the end of last week’s newsletter, I included this paragraph:

“Greta and I are in a major downsizing and decluttering this New Year’s; I moved my unsold cases of books to a self-storage space. While grunting and groaning doing that, I said to myself, “I need to move out some of these books. I’m going to offer Champs a major price incentive on books.”

From that paragraph, this comment came from a woman Champ, who requested to remain anonymous: “Tom, please write about decluttering. A lot has been written about this already. For example, a short but sweet article in the NYTimes science section, on Tuesday, January 9, 2019.

“Suddenly I can’t get enough reading on this topic. I’m convinced I would feel better if I got a handle on my surroundings, instead of them being in charge. Like you, I have too many books. Due to recent travels, I also have more souvenirs with no way to display them all. And the incoming mail has piled up; with two people in the house and the other person not agreeing with me on where to put this ….. well, you have the picture.”

I got to thinking about what Anonymous said. In the last two weeks, a good part of my days have been spent helping Greta not only declutter her house, but empty it out entirely. Why? She has decided to put it up for rent and her realtor said almost all potential renters want to rent a place unfurnished. And that is what has happened.

Greta and I live together in my home, which is already adequately furnished, and less than 1/2 the size of her home. Translation: not much room to move stuff from her home to my home.

The realtor found a great tenant who required an unfurnished house. Initially, the tenant was going to move in February 1. That deadline made us crazy, less than a month to make it happen.

Greta had that home built 35 years ago and it’s in excess of 3,500 square feet. You can imagine the accumulation of furniture and things in drawers. And books, books, books. The task is overwhelming. And really heavy furniture, is on the second floor, so steep steps are involved.

And then, the new tenants, who are being transferred by the wife’s employer from New York State, said they needed to revise the move-in date to February 22. Halleluiah! That gave us three extra weeks.

                                Getting rid of clutter is a blessing in disguise

But, turns out, this downsizing, decluttering, call it what you like, has been a blessing in disguise. Yup, we grunt and groan and have weightlifter’s belts on, and it’s physical and mental work. But, our mantra is “Better now than later,” meaning, of course, we should do this now, so that her offspring won’t have to deal with it later.

A wonderful thing has happened. Her family has jumped in to help. Last weekend, three of her children, along with grandchildren, and great grandchildren arrived in three pickup trucks towing trailers and two SUVs. Greta was thrilled that her offspring wanted some of her furniture and belongings in their homes.

Soon, one dining room set was moved down a flight of steps and taken away. And then a couch. And then a bedroom set. And on and on. By the end of the week-end, we had cleaned out a lot of stuff.

Decluttering is a blessing in disguise
Declutter items in garage ready to be hauled away

We aren’t out of the woods yet. Everyday this week, we’ve spent hours packing boxes of books and going through cabinets. A dry wall guy came. Greta’s son Tony started painting in his spare time. A plumber installed a new toilet. A carpet repair man did his work. Charities have been scheduled to pick up stuff. And some documents, bearing social security and credit card numbers need to shredded.

Of course, my Dana Point home has taken on a new look. It looks like a cross between a furniture store and an art gallery. More pictures on the walls, kitchen cabinets filled and furniture that is squeezed in a bit. Greta keeps saying, “I like the way my stuff looks here.”

We did need to rent a couple of short-term (hopefully) self-storage units. We will tackle those in due time. Lots of people say that’s a waste of money. But, in our case, it was essential. We will be down to one unit by June.

But it’s all good. We keep repeating, “Better now than later. Don’t wait.”

So, Champs, decluttering and downsizing is something almost all of us will have to face. It’s never too early to start planning.

Champ Toni recently emailed, “Can’t wait for this next year. I’m planning on selling the home my late husband and I had planned to retire in. But I’m still working and don’t have time to keep up the acre and 1/2 property and pool. For me, moving into a newer home, closer to town and my office just makes sense.”

Last August, Champ Laurie Jo wrote, “Tell Champs to clear out clutter, even if some is important. Hire students to sort. Put in boxes.

“My Mother, 88, died more than a year ago. My brother and I are STILL dealing with her stuff. She never filed things, she did not cash checks (to the tune of $20,000). Vast hours of my life are sucked away as I plod through the morass of papers that she left in boxes, bowls and baskets with no rhyme or reason.


Today’s Message: Declutter: “Better now than later. Don’t wait.”

Time to declutter and downsize. Better now than later
Donation items waiting for the truck to pick them up.


Author: Tom Blake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published five books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at

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