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Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 05/26/2022

Cutting Clutter: Advice from an industry veteran, Matt Paxton

Cutting Clutter: Advice from an industry veteran, Matt Paxton

Matt Paxton knows clutter. After nine seasons on A&E’s popular show Hoarders, Matt is now focusing his attention on moving and downsizing. He is working with PBS on a new series called Legacy List with Matt Paxton. The show captures the emotional trials and triumphs of families downsizing out of their homes, as Matt and his team of expert movers and conservators pack a houseful of memories. 

Crisis to Calling

When Matt was just 24, he became the oldest man in his family when his father, stepfather and both grandfathers died in the same year. Matt was sad—and overwhelmed. He had to settle several estates simultaneously.  In the midst of this personal crisis, Matt found his calling—helping families find the upside to downsizing.  

Legacy List with Matt Paxton focuses on preserving memories instead of keeping stuff. “Whether it is hoarding or downsizing, the message is the same. The stuff is holding us back.  The stuff is only important because of the emotional stories that go with it. You have to tell those stories, share those stories, and then you can let the stuff go,” Matt explained.

Getting Started

Whether you are ready to downsize from your long-time family home or just need to clean up a few rooms, you have to deal with your stuff. Matt Paxton offers a few tips for getting started:

Tip #1 : Be Patient.  “It took you 50 years to fill the house. You’re not going to clean it in an afternoon,” Matt said. The process of downsizing takes time. Give yourself time. 

Tip #2: Address Pictures. Pictures pose a problem for many older adults. There are so many pictures collected over a lifetime. Matt suggests addressing them early in the process by first eliminating all doubles. Next, you should throw out pictures that contain people who you can’t name. Finally, get rid of generic landscape pictures.

Tip #3: Shred. After pictures, paperwork is the item that causes the most challenges for older adults. Matt recommends spending 20 minutes a night shredding old mail and bills. 

Tip #4: Start Small. Focus on sorting through a single room or even a single drawer. “I love going through the junk drawer in the kitchen,” Matt said. “We also find a lot of great stuff in the guest room closet. That’s where good things go to die. Why not start in those areas?”

Tip #5: Give it away. Use Freecycle, Facebook groups, charities, and other options to unload unwanted stuff. Often, the amount of money you would earn selling items is negligible. There is a much larger value to giving something to someone who will actually use it. This is especially true for old furniture and clothes. 

Tip #6: Share and receive stories, not stuff. Older adults often struggle when their children or grandchildren don’t want all their furniture and household items. Instead of simply refusing an item, ask about the story behind it. Explain that you don’t have room for the item, but that you will treasure the story. Focusing on stories can make downsizing easier for older adults and their loved ones. 


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