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Seniors embrace life by letting go of their things

September 8, 2018
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Rita Prothero gives a presentation on downsizing during the Conference on Extraordinary Living on Friday at Umpqua Community College.

Glenda Zalunardo from Winchester realized she needed to downsize her life when her mother passed away. She was responsible for handling everything from her mother’s life and, thinking forward, she decided she didn’t want to put her own sons through that.

When the Conference on Extraordinary Living for senior citizens returned to Umpqua Community College on Friday, Zalunardo attended as a quilting presenter, but took advantage of the class on downsizing taught by Rita Prothero, a professional organizer in Roseburg.

“I have a 57-year habit of collecting things,” Zalunardo said. “I don’t want my sons to have to figure out what to do with 7,000 yards of fabric.”

Zalunardo was worried she wouldn’t get in the class because it was full, but she ended up grabbing a front-row seat to watch Prothero use a mix of facts, stories from her work experience and her own sentimental stories to explain the why and how of decluttering.

“Do it now,” Prothero told the class. “Do it while your brain is involved and while you’re physically active. Clutter internally and subconsciously beats you up every time you walk in the room.”

Prothero said her classes are predominately full of senior citizens who are looking for organizational tips.

“It’s generational,” Prothero said. “They’re more sentimental, they have more space, and they have the time.”

Prothero said surveys show that owning more things doesn’t satisfy people in the long run. Instead, it wears on people emotionally and physically as they put time and money into moving, storing and sorting things.

Nancy Murphy of Roseburg is already on the path to clearing house after she and her husband acquired their parents’ possessions on top of their own. She took an “amazing amount of stuff” out of the house already.

“Too much stuff causes chaos in my head,” Murphy said. “I just have this need to get rid of the thing that is not useful, beautiful or valuable. I find myself much more peaceful when I have a minimal amount of stuff to look at. You don’t need to keep it all.”

Prothero students for the morning shared their own stories of taking on their children’s things or choosing what was most important to share with their grandchildren.

“I think the biggest thing they get out of this is they are not alone,” Prothero said.

The 36th annual conference focused on the theme of embracing the moment and targeted topics such as finance, health, recreation, nutrition, travel, fitness and technology. The organizers call it “Douglas County’s premier event for people 50 plus.”

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