We don’t need stuff: Decluttering and letting go of excess in our golden years

Mar 23, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

In my seventies, I am attempting to declutter and as I sort through items I find I have more stuff since Christmas which only adds to the burden. I wonder what will I do with it or where can I put it. I am at a stage in life of trying to let go of things and hopefully ease the burden for my children when I am not here.

Change in priorities

As we get older our priorities change. We become more self-aware about what is important to us. We become less materialistic with a greater focus on personal relationships and less on the non- materialistic aspects of our life. I don’t wish to offend well-meaning, caring family and friends either so

I thought time to be upfront and see if others in my demographic feel the same way. Our society has placed so much emphasis on gift-giving as a means of showing you care. Some incorrectly believe that the more expensive the gift the more impressed the receiver is.

How often have you felt guilty when receiving a gift over and above the expected norm? I know I feel guilty and then feel obligated to reciprocate. Retirees normally are not in a position to do so or don’t want anything in the first place.

What we don’t need more of

We have so much already. No more cups. I have limited cupboard space. Apart from giving many items to St Vinnies or other organisations, I still have a box of gifted cups on top of my kitchen cupboards.

Suggestion: Instead, purchase special loose-leaf tea leaves or tea bags that will be used.

Home decorations: We already have so much on our walls and furniture tops. I live in a townhouse where space is limited. There are times I modify the décor. Suggestion: Instead, purchase a voucher at a homewares store.

Pet animals: We don’t need pets unless we have agreed to it. Don’t assume we are lonely. Pets take time and money to care for them and many of us are away travelling. I like to babysit pets for the owners, and then hand them back. Suggestion: Always ask about a pet first and respect the response.

There certainly will be more items to add to the list. Best not to assume, always think carefully or ask first.

Please consider if the recipient is travelling and needs to carry their gift home on public transport like a bus, train or plane. Most of us have some sort of issue like arthritis and it can be painful. Due to the size and weight, I have needed to leave my gifts behind until I can carry one at a time. Other times I have needed to pay a large amount to post them home to myself.

What is important

If there is a sick family or friend who wishes to pass something on to me, then I would treasure it. The same goes for my grandchildren. Any gift they have spent time making or choosing, I will always find a place. I still have artwork from my grandsons when they were toddlers. When I stare at them memories flood back and put a smile on my face.

Gathering of friends and families. Most of us don’t need big parties, we prefer small groups where we have time to talk to each other. Lots of people can be exhausting. With all the noise, people with hearing aids tell me the fluctuation in noise levels can be uncomfortable and, at times painful.

For me, it is the special moments on special days, not the gift, that hold the most value. As long as I have time with that person, those moments are a priceless gift.

Memorable gift experiences for my 70th

  • My daughter and grandsons took me on a surprise train ride in Melbourne. It had been years since I had been up to the Dandenong Ranges on Buffing Billy.
  • My family in Tasmania contributed to an extravagant day tour around the Tarkine Wilderness area in Tasmania, seeking out the extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).
  • A friend organised a surprise group art class, other friends a small intimate dinner, and another a Mecca Cosmetics treat.
  • My niece took me on a phenomenal hot-air balloon ride.

I had never expected any of these gifts but they are unforgettable unfeigned experiences.

Gift suggestions for the ageing population:

  • Vouchers/gift cards including supermarket options
  • Personal treats like massages, facials, nails
  • Tickets to a show, movie or a gallery
  • Flowers, a plant or book
  • Anything hand-made by children or grandchildren
  • Dining out or cooking something special at home
  • Inexpensive trips away
  • Donate in their name to a cause special to them
  • Posting a card with your message

Non-material gifts

  • Spending time with a person you care about
  • Facetime for interstate or OS
  • A phone call
  • Just being remembered can be a gift

When thinking about what to gift your older family or friends, consider what will they do with it. Will it be wasted, is this something they really need or do they just want time with me?

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