Tick, tock. Time is flying by and I still haven’t summoned up the mental and physical energy required to purge my belongings. It’s not as if I expect to die next week (fingers crossed!) but who knows? During the pandemic, many conscientious boomers used the downtime to clean out their basements, closets, garages, and various hidey-holes of unused ‘valuables’ and ephemera. Sadly, I was not one of them.
The brutal necessity of this exercise hit home in the winter of 2021 at the peak of the pandemic. My father passed away. I spent several days cleaning out his tiny apartment in the assisted living facility he called home. Anyone who has gone through this process knows it is filled with emotion. Seeing the final remains of an abundant and well-lived life reduced to a few tchotchkes and a filing cabinet full of documents is a sobering experience.
We know we cannot keep about ninety-nine percent of what our loved one left behind, but everything still has to be handled with care, assessed for emotional and other value, and assigned to the appropriate pile: Keep, Trash, Sell, or Donate. After spending hours going through his filing cabinet, document by document and page by page, donating his furniture to a charity shop and filling dozens of green garbage bags with items that could not be sold or recycled, I was left with his most valuable possessions—about forty antique clocks.
The remaining clocks ranged in size from grandfather clocks and mantle clocks to novelty clocks and rare collector pieces. His original collection included more than one hundred and fifty old clocks, the majority of which were disposed of during the sale of his house and most of its contents a few years earlier. He was left with about three dozen of his special, favourite clocks, a collection that he added to in his last few years.
Like Royal Doultons or silverware and crystal, these clocks no longer have a market. Only seniors like my Dad collect clocks and most of these collectors are looking to also reduce their inventory. Antiques have lost their appeal as younger generations want everything shiny, new, and easily tossed if they get bored with it. Heritage pieces and heirlooms have no sentimental value anymore.
This leaves me with not only all my own crap that needs to be culled but more than a dozen antique clocks that no one wants. My brother and I selected a few to keep and a couple of Dad’s clock-collecting friends helped out by buying and accepting a few of his clocks as gifts, but some remain. I hate going down into our basement and facing a situation I must deal with and cannot ignore much longer.
We keep reading articles in seniors’ magazines and on websites about the difficulty of getting rid of not only our late parents’ belongings but our own. The alternative is to try and remain in our own overflowing homes until we croak and let our descendants deal with the nightmare of disposing of everything, which is a coward’s solution. A yard sale is not an option as we’re past being able to handle all that work.
Our basement is crammed with decorating accessories, and a workshop that is almost as well-equipped as any Home Depot. There are dozens of boxes of photographs, personal files, records (the old-fashioned kind that requires a turn-table we no longer have), surplus clothing, spare tires, storage bins and organizers that pretend to store and organize, Christmas and Thanksgiving decorations, canning jars, unused office supplies, artwork, and so much more.
We are hoping to age in our own home for as long as possible but inevitably we must face the inevitable. Whether our next move is to a condo or assisted living, we absolutely must face culling our belongings, our treasures, and our very lives.
I know; I know. There is surely a place just waiting for all this crap if I could just get at it. It’s an intimidating undertaking I prefer not to think about but I must. Tick, tock. Does anyone want to buy a clock? We have to start somewhere. Time is running out for boomers. Have you started to purge yet?