When you think about what you learned in school about the 1920s, it was a great time until October 29, 1929. Prohibition couldn’t even slow it down or stop it. People became more creative and resourceful. No one thought the party would end or could even imagine what the Great Depression was going to bring down on them. Nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. For more than a decade, constant worry, fear, anxiety, and stress ruled the day. You had to learn to do without and be creative with what little you had. Families and friends did everything they could to take care of each other.

When the US entered World War II in 1941, things were far from normal and calm on the home front, but the economy was back on the road to recovery and there was a general sense of relief from the recent financial problems that affected the nation. However, nobody forgot the hard times and the thought of it happening again was always somewhere in their minds. Families were determined to be prepared, and they taught their children to be prepared. The notion of holding on to everything as a matter of basic survival became fully ingrained in family dynamics and has, in many ways, been passed down to baby boomers and beyond.

Now, holding on to some things is not necessarily a bad thing. On a practical note, women used to get married at a much younger age and really cherished inheritances as they struggled to start their own homes. The notion that someone could always use this more or less range is true. Family treasures also remind us of who we are, where we came from, and the memorable moments in our lives. If they are true treasures, then they deserve to be honored and not buried and forgotten in the dark corners of the attic. What makes them valuable are the stories they tell when shared with your children and grandchildren.

On the downside, sometimes we need to shed this depression-era hold on our psyche and recognize that clutter gets in the way of our daily lives and even future memories. It really is okay if no one in the family wants some of that perfectly good stuff. There are worthy charities that would welcome you with open arms. An additional advantage will be that you will be able to better see and appreciate what is really important. Chances are, new opportunities will present themselves when you organize with a whole new attitude and game plan. Perhaps the house is really too big and time consuming and you would rather downsize and spend your time pursuing more pleasurable interests. The options are endless.

The Great Depression Mentality served our mothers and grandmothers well during those difficult times when it was literally reduced to basic survival. It even serves many of us well now if we learn to keep it in perspective. Balance comes when you can step back and separate the clutter from the real treasures. It is the treasure that reminds us of lives well spent.