This afternoon we went to a “Lunch and Learn” program dealing with life transitions, specifically, moving from a large home to an apartment or assisted living facility.

No, we’re not planning a move any time soon, but we’ve been discussing an eventual downsizing from our huge 3-story home to a more manageable space. We’d rather do the planning now, than in a rush when one of us breaks a hip or we can no longer keep up the house and garden.

Our problem is…what are we going to do with all this STUFF?

To be fair, it isn’t our problem, it’s my problem. The overwhelming bulk of this STUFF is mine: boxes containing 40+ years of work files, school files, clothes I might fit into again someday, and things I might need in the future. The rest of the boxes hold things I inherited from my pack-rat mother, including stuff she inherited from my grandmother.

I’ve known for a long time that I’d eventually have to deal with all this STUFF, but we live in a very large house with a large basement and three storage rooms in the attic. When I ran out of room in my office or my closet, I’d pack stuff up and put it in the attic. And, there it stayed, out of sight and out of mind.

Out of sight, that is, until a nasty storm in the spring of 2012. High winds and driving rain for several days resulted in the ceiling of Andy’s closet falling down. Apparently there had been a slow leak, with water coming in through the roof, and down through the walls. We hadn’t seen any signs of water, until the sheer volume of water was too much to trickle down through the walls. Bam! Wet plaster all over the floor and Andy’s clothes.

We hired a roofer to do the repairs. He discovered that the previous owners had put four layers of roofing on the house. Building codes only allow three. Oopsie.

The result? A complete tear-off.

roof tear-off

Of course, before we did the tear-off, we had to remove all the STUFF from the three storage areas in the attic. It filled the guest room. And my sewing room. And the 3rd floor hallway. And most of the stairwell between the 3rd and 2nd floors. And the 2nd floor hall. And my office.

boxes of stuff

I’ve been working on this STUFF for two years, one day in the attic, the next in my office, a little bit here and a little bit there. I can actually see the floor in spots, but it is taking so long, and it still feels overwhelming.

Hence, our attendance at the Caring Transitions session this morning. Most of the presentation was information we knew already. But one thing she said really hit home:

Don’t try to do everything at once. Pick one small area, then sort/file/donate/trash until that one small area is done. A whole room may be too big to manage, so start with one corner or even one shelf. And only handle each piece once!

Aha! Baby steps! I can do that!

Tomorrow, after my weekly housecleaning, I’m going to set up a staging area in our room-sized 2nd floor hall. A small desk, a trash bin, a shredder, a box for donations, and a small—a very small—filing box. And I will proceed in baby steps, one carton at a time.

About Kat

Cat lover, singer, early music addict, reads a lot. Former R&D chemist with an obsessive need for variety. Now active as a freelance technical writer and editor, web designer, photographer, computer coach, and trainer. Owner, MasterWork Consulting (
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