The Sandwich Generation and the Burden of Too Much Stuff

Middle-aged people find themselves taking care of both their parents and their children, along with personal commitments like career and home. It seems like there is no end to the work that must be done and the roles that must be filled. Frequently, members of the sandwich generation end up as the caretaker of everyone in their family.

Maybe you feel a sentimental attachment to items that belonged to your parents or are from your childhood home. Maybe you hope that future generations will enjoy your collections. Maybe you suspect that your children will eventually need something that you have tucked away. However you justify it, being a multi-generational caregiver and the family “keeper” can come at an enormous personal cost.

Having a home filled up with things that you do not use and that do not suit your tastes clutters not only your personal space but also your head space. When you focus so much of your attention and energy on taking care of the needs of your loved ones, there is little left over for feeling constant irritation. Clearing your house and your mind can be an extremely freeing task.

Getting rid of this accumulation of things can be a surprisingly difficult task. Learning about the psychology of attachment can help you say goodbye to the clutter for good.

There are three main attachment patterns that influence our feelings toward objects.

Sentimental Attachment — the item represents something else, a person or memory most often. Are you keeping something simply because your mother loved it even though you do not use or like it? Do you just feel guilty about getting rid of it?

Intrinsic Attachment—the item could be used someday and therefore has value. Are you saving things for projects that you know you will never actually get to?

Aesthetic Attachment—the item appeals to you for some reason and owning it triggers your brain’s pleasure and reward reactions. Do you have much more of something than is reasonable just because you like it?

Exploring exactly what compels you to keep an object can help you come to terms with getting rid of it. When it is time to tackle the clutter, there are options for getting rid of things. You might donate usable items and feel good knowing that they will help someone else. You could sell things and use the profit to buy yourself something you want. You can gift sentimental items to family members who will love them, just be mindful of not doing this simply to be rid of something. Generally, younger generations tend to take a more minimalistic approach to belongings and might appreciate a small token more than a large collection of something.  Recycle and discard when appropriate.

In addition to bettering your own mental health, which is essential, another very important benefit of minimizing accumulated items is that you will not end up putting your own kids and other loved ones in the same situation that you are in now. They eventually will have to figure out what to do with your belongings too, it is best not to pass the stress of too much stuff to them along with all of your things.

To learn more about how we can help, call 212-490-2020 or 914-684-2100.

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