How many times have you entered a room in your home that’s cluttered with boxes of belongings and felt an immediate pang of anxiety or jangled nerves? Maybe you have more than one room in your house that has become a warehouse for unused things. As a Certified Empowerment Coach, I advise clients, who are over 50, that downsizing their belongings can often be a huge stress reducer and a way to bring them some added peace of mind.
To Find Peace, Less Becomes More
Like most people, you’ve hung onto lots of things you haven’t used for eons mainly for sentimental reasons. You may even have thought that you might actually need all those things again someday. But the truth is, if they’ve been sitting collecting dust, maybe even creating a safety hazard in your home, you likely don’t need them anymore and it’s time to let go of them.
You may have tried before to go through your stuff with the plan of reducing it but got caught up in the memories attached to it. You sit down, start pulling things out of boxes, and remember the day, place, or who you were with when you got that item. Those memories can also be attached to loved ones who may not be with you anymore. So, you hold onto these things in an attempt to keep people with you still. You may even feel guilty giving away, or selling, some of these things as it can feel like you’re getting rid of the person(s) as well.
However, you may be planning on moving to a smaller home someday soon and there may not be space to accommodate extra items. From a more practical standpoint, all those boxes of books, papers, photos, clothes, etc, can all become a fire hazard. They can also be a source of a trip and fall accident for you, or your spouse, that could result in a disabling fracture and loss of income if you’re still working. So, whittling down your collection of stuff has a few important benefits, namely:
- Decreased safety hazard, increased space
- Less stress, more peace of mind
Some Tips How To Downsize
Generally, the best way to start downsizing large collections of belongings is to keep this simple rule in mind: If you don’t use it at least once a month, you likely don’t need it.
Next, make plans for what you can do with all the extra space that you’ll have after clearing the clutter. Keeping a mental picture of what the room could become can be a positive motivator in getting through all that stuff. Just think, in a week you could have a fun and useful:
- Home gym
- Hobby room, sewing room
- Guest room
- Home office
Next, break the task down into manageable parts that you can complete in a week, or less, time. Start and complete 1 room at a time if you have multiple collection areas. Focus on one task a day to keep from getting overwhelmed, stressed out, or just plain exhausted, especially if there’s a lot of stuff/memories. For example:
Day One: Take in a garbage bag, a paper shredder, and a recycle bin or box and go through everything with the intent to just throw out/shred outdated papers, receipts, statements, that you don’t need. Go through expired things like boxes of vitamins or old prescriptions, coupons, magazines, newspapers (no historical). Sort any materials that could be recycled and be sure to shred old credit card receipts, especially if you still use the card.
Day Two: Sort things that you may want to give to your kids or other relatives, especially if some of the things once belonged to your deceased parents or other family members. This can include glassware, art work, photos, books, etc. Better to ask/show first before you just toss out or give away and prevent a family feud. If you have a lot of old photos, it’s a good idea to take all of them to a copy place to make duplicates of them first. This both preserves the image and gives you/your family more than 1 photo to share. Take all these things and either move them all to one corner of the room, or transport them to the garage, if there’s space. That way your new empty room is free to be turned into whatever you want it to be.
Day Three/Four: Decide what you really want/need to keep and be ruthless about the rest. This includes collections of books – are they valuable enough to keep or sell some to a collector? Decide on all the things you could sell at a garage sale or donate to a charity for a tax write off. This can include just about anything, clothes, equipment, tools, furniture, etc. Most charities have a list of items they will take for donation.
It’s easy to collect things over the years and it’s so hard to give them up. But try to think of it as passing them on to someone who may really be able to make good use of them and get some happiness out of them. Letting go of some things from your past through downsizing can help you start a whole new chapter in your life, feel less stressed and more at peace.
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Certified Empowerment Coach