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

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.

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?

  1. Robin Henry  

    My wife and I sold our large four bedroom house last April to downsize and access some of the value of the house for retirement. We’re waiting for a new house to be built at a retirement village later this year when we will move into it. Meantime, we’re travelling in our caravan and going overseas.

    After we sold our house, we had to rid ourselves of 40 years of stuff. Stuff we had gathered here and there and furniture that was age and not really suitable for our new house. We managed to get rid of about 30 cm of unwanted bits and pieces and tossed a lot of old tax files, work documents etc into the bin.

    It was cathartic and our first steps towards having a minimalist retirement home. No doubt when our stored 30 cm of stuff arrives at our new house, we’ll find more things we don’t want and have a secondary culling.

    Moving house is a great time to get rid of one’s unwanted, unneeded stuff.

    • Robin Henry  

      Measurements should be cubic metres ie, m3

    • About three years ago, my wife and I retired. We sold our 300 Cu meter home and moved to a 100 cu meter condo. In the process we downsized, letting go as have others of 40 years of accumulated stuff…furniture, knick knacks and all.We were living in a small city on the New England Coast, just north of Boston. We were in walking distance of nearly everything. Theater, restuarants, museums, coastal beaches. Only thing missing were are children and growing number of grand children. And they were only missing because they lived in four different places separated by hundreds and thousands of miles in the US and the UK. Life was good for a while until the first winter storm hit and then the next and the next. Ten feet of snow in 5 days. The condo roof leaked, the basement flooded, the parking lot went unplowed for a week. The condo association nearly imploded under the weight of all the bills accumulating under all the snow. And we missed the kids and the grandkids. Trapped inside, virtual prisoners for two weeks in a weather paralyzed city, we took stock of ourselves our lives and what possessions we had left and decided to pitch it all.
      So 18 months ago, we sold the condo. We bought a little yellow Fiat Station wagon. Packed it with two suitcases, two back packs, our set of carving knives, my golf clubs and my wife’s art supplies. Invited our kids over to look at everything else we owned and take anything they wanted. They took a few things but not really very much at all. What was left we donated to charity. Since then we have started to travel the US and the world. Moving from vacation rental to vacation rental every three or four months. Making sure we are within an hour of two of one of our children and their children in three out of every four moves. We have lived on a barrier island in the US South Atlantic, the Green Mountains of New Hampshire. We have lived in Wales, the Cotswolds in England and Edinburgh Scotland. Just yesterday we moved in to an adobe home in downtown Albuquerque NM. Just my wife and I and our two suitcases. We see more of the kids, spend more time with the grandkids, and have reduced our housing costs by about 25% compared to home ownership. Life is no longer just good. It is awesome!

  2. Jude Power  

    Still no editors? The word is HOARDERS, not horders!

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