Baby Boomers Series ~ Cleaning Out the Attic

In the Baby Boomer Series, I am going to address topics that pertain to people of my generation–baby boomers who are planning for the next steps in their lives.

Cleaning out the atticContrary to conventional wisdom, at least in my opinion, the most important step is not deciding where or how one wants to spend his or her retirement years; the most important step is CLEANING OUT THE ATTIC!

Regardless of whether you plan to stay in your home, move across town, or relocate to the sunny south, you must clean out the attic. If you are like me, you have lived a considerable number of years in the same house and have amassed a lot of crap memories in the attic.

Why do I think cleaning out the attic is the most important step? Because it will allow you make a quicker decision if you have to. If you clean out the attic now, well in advance of any decisions you need to make, you will be able act upon your decision quicker. And if you choose to spend your retirement years in the same house, you won’t be leaving the dreaded task of cleaning out your attic to your family.

This post was prompted by two events:

  • The first was a showing I recently had where the buyers wanted to close in six weeks. The seller, however, had so much stuff everywhere (and the attic was jam-packed) that it would have taken her a month of Sundays to clear it all out. Her stuff included tons of memorabilia, restaurant menus, knickknacks, books, clothes, and some stunning antiques and artwork. There was a lot that would simply have to be thrown out, and some of it shouldn’t be thrown out. But in the heat of the moment, when someone is under pressure to clear out the house, mistakes will be made. Valuable things may be thrown out and worthless things will remain.
  • The second event was my own trip into my attic. I call my attic Limbo because that’s where I throw everything that I don’t know what to do with. It’s also a one-way street. It goes up, but it never comes down. So after 35 years of living in the same house, I know there is a vast amount of crap memories up there.

Cleaning the attic is an onerous chore; no one really wants to get caught in the trip down memory lane that will take years to complete. Trust me, I know. I had boxes of cards, gifts, memorabilia, and stuffed animals for each of my children. It took me an entire afternoon because, of course, I had to read every card! And that was just one box.

So here are some of the suggestions that worked for me; maybe they will work for you.

  • Get some help. Enlist the aid of your children, spouse, or a professional service. They will keep you on track.
  • Tackle it one box at a time. Bring the box down from the attic and decide on the contents’ final destination: garbage, recycling, donating, giving to a family member, selling it, or having it appraised.
  • Set up a minimum goal of how many boxes you will deal with each week and hold yourself to it.

Toss It

I am all for recycling and reusing wherever possible, but there is probably a good amount of junk that simply must be tossed, such as old Halloween costumes, decomposing papers sprinkled with glitter, melted plastic items, etc.

Give It Back

If you have been saving someone else’s memories, put the stuff in a pile and give it to the person. Chances are they will have a much easier time of throwing it out than you would. When I presented each of my children with boxes of their kindergarten homework, they thought I was nuts. They looked through it for old time’s sake and just as quickly tossed it.

Give It Away

You may have useful items in the attic that someone else would love to have. I had 16 place settings of Christmas dishes that I hadn’t used in twenty years and knew I would never use them again, so I gave eight place settings to each of my daughters. My son decided he would rather have an old turntable that was up there.  If there are things that your family or friends can use, offer it to them. Wouldn’t you rather see them enjoy it than have it rot in the attic? There are also plenty of charitable organizations that would be glad to accept donations. A rule of thumb: If you haven’t seen it, used it, or thought about it in five years, you probably don’t need it now.

Appraise It

For the valuable things in your attic, like silver candlesticks, old collectibles, or antiques, consider having them appraised to see if they really are worth anything. You may just have cash in the attic that will help pay for your next vacation!

Sell It

If you have valuable items that you want to sell, consider selling it to an appraiser, on eBay or Craigslist, or at a tag sale.  If you have things that are not really valuable but that someone might want to buy anyway, a tag sale may be the quickest way to get rid of a lot of stuff.

Save It

You don’t have to get rid of everything! There may be some items that you want to hang on to, and that’s fine.  Just make sure to keep them in the open so you can truly enjoy them and not just have them collecting dust in a storage area.

Cleaning out the attic will be the hardest task, but it is the most important task.  By paring down your stuff, separating trash from treasure, and keeping only what is essential, you will be ready when you want to make a decision about where and how you want to spend your retirement years.


Peggy Chirico, REALTOR®
Serving the Greater Hartford Area
Prudential Connecticut Realty

If you are buying or selling a home in Hartford County or Tolland County, please call me at 860-748-8900, , or use the Contact Request Form.  I would be happy to help you with your home search or answer any of your real estate questions.

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