Candy and Bill Kline have lived in their Suffield Township home for 38 years and Bill lived in it for a year before their marriage.
By next spring, they want to be fully moved into their next home on the Portage Lakes. Bill, 62, is retired and doesn't want to have the eight acres of yard to upkeep. Candy, 58, is a few years away from retirement, but fell in love with the smaller house when she saw it.
But the home is half the size of the one where they've raised their three grown boys. The couple now have six grandchildren.
Overwhelmed with the prospect of downsizing nearly four decades' worth of accumulated stuff from a nearly 4,000-square-foot house to one that is 1,567 square feet, Candy wasn't sure where to start.
Candy was one of the readers who reached out when I was looking for the next organizational project as part of my series, The Checklist: Get Organized. In January, I launched the project with professional organizer, Lynne Poulton, owner of Akron-based Wholly Organized. We started with my own cluttered mess of a craft room, which had become a dumping ground, to help readers get motivated with the tips I learned. (See previous The Checklist projects at www.ohio.com/betty)
It's worked. I have kept my room clean. It's spurred my husband and me to start working on other decluttering projects as well, though I still battle with what always seems like endless piles of paperwork. That's still a work in progress.
The series has also spurred a lot of you in your own organizational projects. I've heard from many readers who have said these projects inspired them.
We're hoping the Klines' project will do the same.
We all know that stuff just has a way of accumulating, even after a few years in one place. So of course, stuff has definitely accumulated for the Klines over nearly 40 years.
In her initial email, Candy wrote, “We are NOT minimalists, so you can imagine what all we have accumulated over 39 years....lots! So that's the first part, we have tons of stuff we don't need to move to the new place, but we aren't good with letting go.
“I love the new house, it was my idea, but when I think of the move and eliminating about 2000 square feet of ‘stuff,' I just fall apart and ignore the whole situation!! Neither my husband nor I are real organized, so that just adds to the fear of actually downsizing to make the move.”
The Klines are not alone. Lots of empty nesters have the challenge of having accumulated a lot of stuff, not to mention their grown kids' things, which often still “lives” at their parents' home years after they've moved out, Poulton said.
Overflowing toy room
Candy had warned me that we might need to gently nudge Bill when it came to a room he has in the basement that was chock full of totes of new and used collector trains, tractors and Matchbox cars that Bill has bought at auction over the years. It looks like a store, with pegs set up and Matchbox cars on the hooks.
“To give you an idea,” Candy told me on the phone about two weeks ago, “my grandkids will say ‘Can we go shopping in Grandpa's store?'?” But the kids' parents usually won't let them take any of the “toys” back to their own homes.
Similarly, Candy had her own collections of things she's bought over the years.
“I'm a clearance shopper. I buy a lot of stuff for my grandkids or my kids even throughout the year for Christmas or if it was a good deal. Other times, I buy it to donate it and make baskets,” she said.
Closets in her laundry room and a makeshift closet off her living room are filled with kids' clothes, photo albums, potpourri, candles and other purchases. There also are things that aren't being used, such as weights used to hold down helium balloons used for Bill's 50th birthday party 12 years ago.
When Poulton and I started chatting with the Klines before they toured us around their house this week, Bill Kline was the one to first bring up his “toys.”
“I have a bunch of tractors. I can take a few of them. I probably have 30 to 40 in one room and 50 to 60 in another and some she doesn‘t even know about,” he said.
“Oh, she doesn't know exactly about them, but she knows about them,” Candy quipped.
Bill said he knew that he couldn't take all of his toys to the new house. There simply isn't enough room. His plan is to give some to his sons, take a few to the new house, and try to sell the rest.
“This is good to know,” Candy said. “As of a few days ago, there was no indication he was going to have to get rid of stuff.”
The Klines often teased each other, saying the “mess” was hers or his. But they both know they have a common goal in mind — their dream home on the lake.
What is helping them as they consider this next chapter is the fact that their oldest son and his family will be moving into the Klines' Suffield Township home. But while their son and daughter-in-law would like some of the furniture, there are many things they don't want.
Committing to this project has helped the family, including their boys, start to come to terms with downsizing and getting rid of things, Candy said.
For instance, Candy has collected glass bears and porcelain bells that Bill and their boys have bought for her as gifts over the years. There is no room at the new house for bells, which now sit in custom-made cabinets that will stay at the house. Nor is there room for the shelf that the bears sit on, which was built by one of Candy's sons when he was younger.
Candy said she now realizes she can't take the knickknacks. Bill suggested maybe she pick one or two of her favorites and he reassured her that their son would not mind if the shelf gets sold or donated.
Poulton also suggested taking photos of some of the sentimental things that won't move on to the next house to have a record of them.
After our visit, Poulton told me: “Bill and Candy are capable of making decisions and have a high level of insight on what will fit in their new home. This is critical.”
The Klines said they plan on taking many of the things they no longer need to a local auction house. Anything not sold will be donated. Poulton gave them suggestions of other ways to sell their items, such as local Facebook swap and sell groups.
She encouraged the couple to establish monthly tasks so that when next spring comes and they are ready to finalize their move, they will be ready. They've also been slowly moving things to the new house.
Candy agreed to “just get started” by following Poulton's suggestions: 1.) Play some music. 2.) Set a timer for 20 minutes. 3.) Commit to one portion to start. 4.) Build in a reward upon completion of the task. 5.) Remember Candy's vision for her new home of “light and airy.”
Poulton also gave Candy an idea of how to purge some of her collections.
For instance, the Klines for years have hosted the large family holiday gatherings and an annual pig roast. Candy has enough dinnerware and slow cookers and other things needed to host up to 60 people, but she doesn't have room to host the big gathering at her new house.
Poulton suggested that Candy pick the few pieces she's keeping and then invite family members over to take what they may want. Whatever is left should get boxed up and taken to the auction house or donated. The Klines do not want to have a yard sale.
Another problem area for Candy is a roll-top desk she's had since 1980, the year they got married. One drawer has receipts from their early marriage. She doesn't want to throw away the receipts, which are sentimental because they were the “first” things they bought.
“But if you lift up the roller, that's where it's a mess. That's where I shove everything,” she said.
Candy said tackling the desk in small increments will make it manageable.
Another challenge: Candy wants to take much of her vast Christmas decoration collection to the new house, but knows it won't fit.
“Whether it is talking about your vision of your future space or writing it down, the idea is to begin to process and examine your thoughts and feelings about the change,” Poulton suggested. “People are surprised to find that just because they have owned something forever that has been a ‘treasure' that when they step back and really think about what they are doing they can often shift their thinking.”
The Klines said they feel equipped to start their big task, albeit slowly. They're realistic in knowing they have the benefit of some time before next spring and they want to enjoy time at the new house this summer.
They've agreed to let us return in about seven weeks to see what they've gotten done.
“I definitely feel that I'm less overwhelmed with it. I have some thoughts on some paths to follow and that's very helpful,” Candy said.
Consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.