• Laurie Bell

Our Complex Relationship with Stuff

Updated: Jul 19, 2018


Many people believe that our older clients are unfailingly attached to their belongings but, in my experience, that is not always the case.  Very often it is one adult child who may want Mom and/or Dad to hang on to everything, irrespective of whether there is the physical space to house it all.  …

With two generations downsizing and the third generation typically not wanting our collections, we are essentially impacted by supply and demand.

Off-site storage units typically hold treasures from decades past that, if all sold, would not generate enough money to pay for more than a month or two of the storage rental.  

One of my clients once asked me if I could help out a friend of hers. It seemed that that this older woman had experienced a shift in income and circumstances more than twenty years ago.  She made the decision to “temporarily” store the contents of her home in a storage facility east of Toronto.  With the help of family and friends she continued to pay the monthly fees for this unit for over two decades, holding fast to the dream that she would again be able to enjoy the lifestyle and space that held such positive memories. Sadly though that day did not come and, to make matters worse, the storage facility that she chose was not climate controlled… .  Antique furniture and damask draperies that were steadily diminishing in market value were rendered worthless by mould and rodent damage.  When I agreed to help I was able to negotiate a settlement with the storage company on my client’s friend’s behalf but it was truly a shame that this situation had gone on as long as it did… .

But how do we get so attached to our stuff?  Do we view these inanimate objects as extensions of ourselves or the loved ones who we associate with them?  Or do we believe that we might need these things some day and so we must preserve them at all costs – just in case?

Shows like “Hoarders” typically fill us with horror and uncomfortable twinges of shame but, in fact, most of us will never find ourselves in that sort of extreme situation.  I actually believe that these types of reality TV shows are so popular because they make the audience members who tune in feel somehow superior to those exposed on the program… .

Personally I don’t even like using the word “hoarder” as it’s a label that conveys judgement.  I often work with “collectors” though and those of us of a certain age grew up in a society that rewarded accumulation and conspicuous consumption with social acceptance. These individuals would love to believe that their collections will eventually become popular again or that their children may want it all someday.  They have viewed their belongings as a sign of a life well lived and fair enough, but does a woman of eighty-five really need four sets of china and five soup tureens?  Most of the time her adult children are at the stage where they are, or are contemplating, downsizing themselves and her grandchildren have no use for these items, pretty as they may be. They usually don’t have the space and would much rather enjoy experiences than stuff. Time marches on and values change… .

That’s where we come in. We can sensitively, knowledgeably and objectively help you and your family members to make informed choices. We can assist you in keeping the best of the best.  We can help you to preserve the happiest of memories and we can help you to cost-effectively navigate the current world of sales, donations and junk disposal.  

We can help you to decide but the final word on each decision is yours. You can set the pace and we will keep things running smoothly so that your transition stays smoothly on schedule.  It is about you, not your stuff!

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