Downsizing and Real Estate

10/25/2022 | By Jan Schwartz

Do you have too much stuff? Writer Jan Schwartz recognizes the tendency of Americans to hold on to unused possessions and suggests positive ways to clear storage of these items.

It has been estimated that the average American household has 300,000 items. This may also explain why the size of our homes has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years. The retirement years offer a unique opportunity to downsize, to curate our homes while preserving precious memories.

Approximately one in every 10 of us has remote storage, and it is one of the fastest areas of growth in real estate development. The growth of storage units suggests that many of us may be holding onto possessions that have outlived their function. We pay to protect these items by keeping them in climate-controlled units.

There is compelling motivation for each of us to reconsider what we keep and why. In this era of climate change, renting space for items no longer useful requires us to rethink our rationale. Imagine if we could unburden the next generation, take responsibility for sorting our possessions, and proudly reduce the demand to remotely keep those objects we have accumulated.

A loving way to pass it on

Picture of an elegant dinnerware setting. Image by Danny Raustadt. Do you have too much stuff? Americans hold on to unused possessions, so Jan Schwartz suggests positive ways to clear storage of these items.

My dear Aunt Claire carefully wrapped, packaged, and personally delivered to my home her beloved set of dinnerware. This elegant set of exquisite English tableware remained in a taped box and was stored for decades. A gift from a relative is a special group of items, evoking memories of beautiful table settings, family gatherings, and loving events of decades past. I rediscovered the box last year and enjoyed recalling the elegance and care Aunt Claire created every holiday celebrated in her beautiful home. How could I thoughtfully preserve these memories?

I opened the box as carefully as it was packed, and I photographed one place setting. I placed the retaped box in my car and took it to my favorite charitable store that supports families striving for independence. Aunt Claire’s generosity may now help the next generation of young families.

Encouragement to clear storage

Taking the first step to tackle your remote storage unit can be daunting! I encourage you to do it anyway. There is now one open space in my unnecessary remote storage unit. Weekly, I have decided to rediscover another taped box and cherish and preserve the memories as I end my reliance on external storage. When I find an item that exceeds my available space, I take a picture with a neutral background and filtered light to be able to relive the moments prompted by the item and still package it for another to use.

Related: Tips for downsizing

As we enter the retirement years, time becomes a new and welcomed asset. No longer bound to the routine of external tasks, there is a new freedom. With the years of accumulation behind you, you are free to find creative ways to hold memories close, conserve the space your items require, and spare your precious children the experience of sorting your history. They will appreciate it.

Thanks for listening,
Jan Schwartz, Ph.D.

Jan Schwartz

Jan Schwartz, Ph.D., has been an educational systems evaluator for 40 years. Recently retired, she is dedicated to sustainability and conservation efforts, publishing book reviews, actively supporting local non-profit organizations, and helping her young grandchildren inherit beautiful waters and a protected, natural environment.