A spring cleaning that your children will appreciate | Tish Gregory
By TISH GREGORY
Renton Reporter Commentary
March 8, 2012 · Updated 10:43 AM
When you write commentary, you often get advice from others on what to write about. This column was inspired by our adult children.
March Madness usually brings to mind the NCAA Basketball tournament. But my thoughts turn lovingly to my mother and her obsession with spring cleaning.
Under her direction, my brothers and I would spend countless days cleaning walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows. Everything in the closets, dressers, cupboards and pantries were scrutinized for cleanliness, usefulness and orderliness.
These “Reluctant Kids” could out clean any “Merry Maid,” although at the time we were almost certain some kind of child labor laws were being broken.
But, as I get older, it’s hard to follow this spring ritual with the same vigor. I tend to ignore its importance and benefit. In particular, the purging part is more difficult because of what it implies.
Things make their way into our lives and cling to us like lint. We place value on these things – most are needed, useful, memorable, or bring us emotional comfort.
But there is much, outside those parameters, that over the years lost its luster or usefulness, yet never found its way out the door – what you might call “stuff.” For seniors, especially, eliminating stuff is complex for several reasons.
First, we have the mistaken belief our adult children will want our things and put the same value on them as we did. Shocker! No they won’t. They have their own tastes and a limited capacity to absorb more things.
Secondly, sometimes the ability to control our own life takes a sudden turn, like moving into smaller living arrangements, poor health, dementia or moving up. Our concern is now focused on more important things, rather than the importance of things. Inertia takes over and our things stay at rest until someone moves them.
And that usually is our adult children, who are busy working and raising families. It falls to them to sort, clean, prepare, conduct estate sales, donate unwanted items and make numerous trips to the dump – a burden even more difficult for those who live out of the area.
Judging by their comments at estate sales, they are not only overwhelmed, but resentful at having to drop everything to deal with our stuff. “Why couldn’t they have done something with their things while they were able and not leave it to us?” is their complaint, as well as plea.
Finally, we subconsciously believe that as long as we have things, we have life. Falsely equating downsizing with “end of life,” we put it off until we no longer have the strength, or will, to handle our own affairs.
So if our children could convey a simple message to us, it would be this: Listen, mom and dad, you’ve been responsible all your lives. Don’t stop now. Deal with your things while you still have the time and health to properly determine their fate. Free yourself from all that unwanted “stuff” that clogs up your life, so that it won’t eventually clog up ours.
Admittedly, finding a home for everything is difficult, long and sometimes emotionally painful. But we shouldn’t get discouraged if it takes several seasons to reduce our footprint and organize our lives.
If you’re over the age of 65 and haven’t started this process, determine what is holding you back from hearing your children’s pleas. There are plenty of resources to help, like local charities and the City of Renton. Listed are several upcoming events to get us started on our spring cleaning chores.
De-stuffing made easy
Here are some ideas about what to do with no-longer-needed possessions.
• March 31, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., electronics recycling, Briarwood Market Place
• April 21, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Community Garage Sale, Renton Community Center
• May 5, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Spring Recycling Day, Renton Technical College
• May 5, 9 a.m.-noon, Shred-a-thon, Sam’s Club parking Lot
• June 2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Stop and Swap recycling event, Renton Memorial Stadium
Tish Gregory is a free lance writer. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.