Aug 8, 2010, 10:29 AM
Post #1 of 1
I recall some years ago sitting with a client and an architect working on the floor plans of homes for a prospective retirement community. Looking at the plans, I noted that the architect had done a very good job of designing the living space with large principal rooms, cathedral ceilings, skylights and lots of very large windows. I did note however, that there was very little closet space and virtually no place to store one’s precious possessions and commented that the plans would have to be revised to include these features.
“Why?” The architect queried and I replied that older people tended to have a lot of treasured items with which they weren’t ready to part. The architect, a diminutive gnome of a man, gave me a long look and burst out, “They’re old people! What do they need storage for? Tell them to throw their stuff away!” (true story)
This anecdote encapsulates a Great Truth that I have personally come to know. People have a tendency to acquire things with which they are reluctant to part for sentimental reasons or because they attach a certain value to the items that have no bearing on what they would fetch on the used item market.
My first encounter with this Great Truth was when my father in law passed away and my mother in law moved into a nursing home. My wife and I spent the better part of a week clearing out their basement getting the home ready for sale. After countless trips to the local dump we barely made a dent in the quantity of wood, hardware, steamer trunks, etc. and we wound up calling in a disposal company that cleared the place out in a day or so, filling a large disposal bin to its full capacity.
Most things of value we gave away to friends of my in-laws and we kept a number of their belongings for sentimental reasons. We also sold most of the furniture along with the house, making the purchaser very happy. While doing all this work my wife and I pledged to each other that we would never burden our children with the task of sorting through and disposing of our belongings.
My next encounter with this Great Truth came at a shockingly personal level when we decided to sell the home we had lived in for close to two decades. It was a very large, rambling home with large principal rooms, small bedrooms and a huge garage that had an accessible attic.
It was hard to believe that after we personally took lamps, art, our clothes, dishes and other fragile items to the new house the movers still spent two full days and four truck loads moving our belongings. Fortunately the new house came with a two-story coach house at the rear, which we filled to capacity with all the items that wouldn’t fit and that we didn’t realize we still had. This is going to make the mother of all yard sales and will likely end in several runs to the dump afterward.
We’ve already had one disposal bin that we filled to the brim with the obvious junk and had hauled away, but I suspect we’ll have to have it brought back to deal with all the stuff we don’t want our children to be forced to deal with at some point in the future.
Great Truths are Great because they make so much sense. Of course older people have more stuff than younger people, given the fact that they’ve had a head start in acquiring their stuff. But there’s also something in the value system of older individuals that precludes them from readily discarding items that are no longer needed, but seem too valuable to just throw away. It’s an illustration of how one man’s treasure is another man’s junk. Or vice versa.
Klaus Rohrich is President and Creative Director of Taylor/Rohrich Associates Inc., a marketing and advertising firm that specializes in niche marketing retirement real estate developments