Downsizing could be the secret to a happy retired life

Have you ever seen an episode of the TV show ‘Horders’? Now I’m not saying I’m anything like the people on that show, but it became apparent not too long ago that after years of living in the same house my home had become more organised chaos than peaceful sanctuary.

I had ornaments I had collected on my travels before I married, photographs of my family, happy and smiling, dotted throughout the house, blankets my grandmother had knitted for me before she passed, and book shelves filled with my favourite stories. Each of these things made me smile when I looked at them; they brought back happy memories and filled me with warmth.

On the flip side, I had a kitchen cupboard packed with three sets of measuring cups and dozens of baking trays and cake tins; I had a linen cupboard stuffed with ratty towels and bed sheets I bought when my second child was born, and a bathroom brimming with products I had never used. Often when I looked at these items, I felt annoyed. I would swear under my breath almost every night as I dug through kitchen drawer trying to find the peeler and the salad servers. I would accidentally knock over a dried-out nail polish and watch in dismay as the rest of my beauty products tumbled over in a domino effect. It was time to make a change.

We often get attached to items in our home, thinking we are meant to hold onto them because they were given to us by a dear friend. Birthday cards lay stacked up and dusty in draws because we fear throwing them away would be some kind of terrible of insult to the sender. Unwanted gifts are tucked away in cupboards, fading and useless, fuelling pangs of guilt whenever we catch a glimpse of them.

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The cold hard truth of the matter is that we don’t need any of this stuff. You don’t need that slightly hideous novelty mug many of us have lurking in the back of our cupboard. Holding onto Tupperware you never use isn’t necessary just because you spent a lot of money on it 15 years ago, and keeping a decaying stack of spices on hand even though you never cook with most of them is counter-productive.

Followers of ancient Chinese and Japanese traditions say when you clear out the clutter you make way for happiness. Removing all the things you can do without is like breathing new life into your home and your body. Without all the obstacles, good energy can flow through and create a more peaceful and nurturing environment. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but ridding myself of everything I didn’t need or use did somehow make me feel lighter and more relaxed.

Aside from the somewhat mystic reasons for decluttering the house, the ongoing effects of the process can be life changing. I became more conscious of my spending habits and what I brought into my home. Not wanting to undo all my hard work, I bought less and made a concerted effort swap out old items when I did purchase something. Buying a new dress meant throwing away an old cocktail dress I had only worn once. No matter how beautiful it was, I never went anywhere fancy enough to wear it and if I did have a special occasion I usually wanted something new to wear anyway – never mind the fact that that beautiful dress didn’t even fit me anymore!

There are three things to consider when your de-cluttering your home: does this item make you feel something? Does it remind you of a happy time? Does it really need to be there? Experts in the art of decluttering will tell you to think about this as your move through the house. Is holding onto that item necessary for your happiness, or can you let it go?

Going through this process had more of an impact on my life than I thought it would. Not only do I save money, I feel so much calmer and more peaceful when I’m at home. Cleaning the house on the weekend has become a whole lot easier too; there is less to dust and to wash and tidy up around, and really, who wouldn’t be happy about that?