Follow the Decluttering:
What do you do when you get stuck storing things for others?
Is anyone storing not only their own extra stuff, but clutter that belongs to someone else? There are two types of scenarios I’ve seen where this happen. In both cases, it’s probably someone helping out a close friend or family member.
Scenario 1 is someone who needs temporary storage of some things for whatever reason. I’ve seen this happen because someone is trying to sell their house and they need to declutter but don’t want to get rid of some things permanently.
I’m actually guilty of this. Many years ago when we were selling our first house our friends were nice enough to store some extra stuff for a couple of months so that the small house we were selling would look a little less small. We were very grateful that we didn’t have to rent a storage unit and as soon as we closed on our new house, we picked everything up. In hindsight, I wish I would have just permanently decluttered instead of moving those things twice.
A few years ago, I offered to let a neighbor store some things in my yard as he was moving out. I knew they were struggling financially and they were renting the house. He rented a moving truck that was clearly not big enough. The next thing I new, I had several bicycles, a clothing rack, a treadmill, a picnic table, two battery powered jeeps, a huge floor jack, and a broken kids’ play structure filling up my yard! Surely, he was just going to unload the truck and come back the next day and get it all.
After repeated attempts to get my former neighbor to come get this stuff, it was nearly a year later before he finally showed up and retrieved a small portion of it. He had his usual story of all the problems in his life, apologized profusely for leaving his things in my yard and assured me he would get a truck and come back the next day. He didn’t of course and it took me several more months before I started throwing it away, giving it away, and selling it (we donated the money to charity). I was angry that I had been taken advantage of.
Scenario 2 is usually a case where someone inherits or is given a bunch of things that belonged to another family member. I know people who have had to clean out their parents or grandparents houses and wound up with a garage full of stuff that they didn’t really want but also didn’t really want to just throw it out. The best place to start in this case is with extended family and friends to see if anyone wants any of it. If someone says they want something, give them an appropriate deadline based on how far away they live and how much the extra clutter is inconveniencing you.
What do you do though if you are still stuck with a bunch of family heirlooms that no one really wants and you are having a hard time parting with? You don’t want to get rid of it only to find out later that 2nd cousin so-and-so wanted grandpa’s old golf clubs. You don’t want to be accused by the rest of the family of hoarding the best stuff for yourself or giving something to someone when it turns out someone else actually wanted it.
My suggestion is to set up a private “garage sale” type Facebook group specifically for extended family and take a bunch of pictures. You don’t have to be a professional photographer because you’re just giving the stuff to your relatives. Put each item or groups of items on it and make the rule first-come-first-serve. No one can argue because Facebook will have a time-stamp for every comment. Again, give everyone a deadline to pick up what they want and if they don’t pick it up by the deadline, it goes to the next person on the list who wanted it.
If you think there may be some family friends that would want something, you can invite them to the group. Keep the group open for as long as you feel like but give everyone some notice before closing it for good. Then donate what’s left.
The lessons here are, first, don’t inconvenience someone else with your clutter. It’s still clutter even if it’s somewhere else. If you do need to store something at someone else’s place, make sure you don’t take advantage of them. If you ask someone to store your things, have an agreement in place for how long and what happens if you don’t go get it. Second, if you’re the one stuck storing someone else’s things, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself like I was. Most of us have enough of our own junk sitting around without dealing with someone else’s.
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Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2018
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