If you’ve decided to downsize to make the move into retirement living, one of the biggest jobs you will face is packing up your old house. This can seem an overwhelming task. Moving out of your old home is a big deal – financially, emotionally and logistically. With some planning and a few straightforward strategies, you can make this part of the process feel a little bit more manageable.
How to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed
Like most people, you’ve probably looked around your home at one point and thought it could do with a good declutter. Books have piled up, bits of paperwork – bills, notices, statements, flyers – cover surfaces, overlooked objects and knick knacks gather dust, magazines and journals sit unread on the kitchen bench…
And, again, like most of us, it could be a job you’ve put way down the bottom of your to-do list. “Next weekend”, you say to yourself as you get on with something else.
There’s nothing like moving house to help you turn decluttering into an imperative operation. With the removalists booked, sorting all that stuff suddenly can’t wait any longer. The clutter awaits! It’s time to face it. But where to begin?
1. Give yourself some time
If you can, approach decluttering as an opportunity rather than a dreaded task. Allow yourself time to do it so you can clearly decide what you’ll take with you and what should be donated or disposed of. Decluttering undertaken in a panicked flurry will inevitably mean you hold on to more than you want or get rid of something you later regret throwing away.
Decluttering can inevitably lead to a trip down memory lane – for every scrap of paper that’s easy to put in the recycling bin, there will be a book gifted to you by an old friend or a handmade mug purchased on a fondly remembered holiday. Give yourself time to reflect on and honour those memories. It can make the process more enjoyable and help you reach a point where you’re ready to let go of certain items.
2. Make a plan of attack
There are few things that don’t feel more doable once you’ve made a plan and written it down. It doesn't have to be complicated; just a few notes about how you’d like to tackle the job of decluttering.
You could assign certain days to different rooms or even delegate your kids and close friends to deal with one room if you want to. Don’t plan to spend more than about 30 minutes per day on the task. Breaking the job down into increments will make it less overwhelming and make you less likely to freeze from the sheer enormity of it.
3. Start easy and build momentum
Give yourself some quick wins to get started. This will help build momentum. Deal first with clutter you know is going to be easy to sort. It could be that you’ve decided to donate all your books, so it’s just a matter of loading them into boxes and taking them to the local street library or op shop. Perhaps there are drawers of paperwork that you know you don’t have to keep – old utility bills, unused warranty cards, operating manuals for devices that are long gone.
Making a visible dent early in the process of decluttering can give you the motivation and headspace (not to mention physical space) you need to tackle the harder decisions.
4. Picture the life you want
When deciding what to offload and what to hold on to, keep a clear picture of the retirement lifestyle you want to create for yourself. Imagine the rooms in your new home; picture returning to them after a day out.
For practical reasons, you might also decide that a less-is-more mentality will suit you better in retirement – fewer trip hazards and less stuff to clean and maintain.
And you may also want to embrace the opportunity to move on from the past that your objects represent. Clutter – even when it’s partly made of things we cherish – can be a psychological and physical burden.
You don’t have to kid yourself about a “clean slate” or be unrealistic about what your new home will look like, but you can use decluttering to give yourself a chance to move into retirement living with a positive mindset.
Don’t know where to start? Right here with us. Watch our First Steps Retirement Living Information Sessions, a series of helpful videos with industry experts, on topics such as retiring in today's economy, downsizing, decluttering, costs, lifestyle and more.