Declutter Your Way To A More Meaningful Life
The Upside of Downsizing
We know. Just what you wanted—one more article about downsizing. We hear your pain, and we’re doing it anyway. And, yes, we know that when it comes to maneuvering the complexities of getting older, downsizing is a ripe topic. It’s the rage on all the over-50 sites.
But, there’s a reason for that. Whether you’re a newly-minted empty nester or an octogenarian, at one time or another, we all have to get rid of our stuff. And while John Lennon might have imagined a world with no possessions, it’s not so easy for the majority of us. Root canals and enemas are often more inviting than downsizing. Nobody likes it. Of course, we aim to change that.
But, you need to keep reading.
We begin our journey by acknowledging that our resistance to downsizing makes sense. To one degree or another, so much of our history, identity, and self-worth is tied into the stuff we own. It’s easy to become melancholy and irritable at the thought of parting with it. Downsizing is a reminder that the kids are gone, we can’t fit into our skinny jeans, we’ll never play the banjo, and we used to have one chin. If we let them, our possessions can become reminders of who we were, not who we are. And, of course, downsizing is also a subtle (and not so subtle) reminder that “we can’t take it with us.” In the words of Denzel Washington, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”
Yes, my friends, where we’re all headed, we won’t need our iPhones or that adorable pencil holder our kids made us in second grade. And while we probably should have learned the lesson when we were 21, as we like to say at Oxygen Buzz, you’re never too old to change. As the old Chinese proverb reminds us, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
And while downsizing may be annoying, unsettling, and even morbid, it can just as easily—cue the Chariots of Fire music—change the course of the second half of our lives. In fact, we’ll go so far as to argue that getting our affairs in order is one of the most empowering acts we can take. Downsizing has the potential to bring us freedom we may not have experienced since childhood. If done right, downsizing is bold and vulnerable—decluttering your life to live large. And this is precisely why we are calling downsizing the new upsizing (trademark pending).
And to make this process a little less overwhelming, we have reduced it to two simple steps:
Step 1: Master the art of decluttering (the hands-on and sensible step)
Like most things worth mastering, there is an art and skill to decluttering your life. And while you could hire yourself an expensive consultant, you can save yourself the money and visit Marie Kondo’s website (www.mariekondo.com). You need real help, which is why we’re punting responsibility to Marie who, quite frankly, wrote the book on decluttering. It’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. It’s a practical and inspiring read on how to get rid of the things in your life you no longer need. Her book is a step-by-step guide to declutter and upsize your life. She will show you what to get rid of first, how to do it, and why. Her mission is not just to help you clean out your underwear drawer. Her real purpose is to inspire the world to choose joy, or as she puts it in her book:
“Take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge. Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
And if Marie Kondo isn’t your cup of tea (and she’s not everybody’s), check out these two other sites, both filled with sound advice and inspiration to get you started:
1. Be More With Less (https://bemorewithless.com). Through focusing on the right things in our lives, and then decluttering, Courtney Carver encourages readers to live with more savings and less debt, more health and less stress, more space, and less stuff, and more joy with less obligation. Or if you want, you can just read her article: 25 Ways to Simplify Your Life in 10 Minutes or Less. Choose 4 or 5 of her ideas, and you’re on your way.
2. The Minimalists (https://www.theminimalists.com). A site dedicated to helping all ages find freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around, thus allowing us to make lifestyle decisions more consciously and more deliberately.
Step 2: Change your thinking (where the real work is done)
Regardless of the specific approach you take to declutter your life, it’s best to start by reframing your thinking about the downsizing process. Decluttering is one of those practical exercises that is symbolic of a deeper meaning and purpose. Yes, it’s good to get rid of single socks, threadbare t-shirts, and old copies of War and Peace (which you know you’ll never read). Yes, it’s important to make your homes cleaner, simpler, and more efficient, hopefully passing on what you no longer need to someone who could use and appreciate it more. And, yes, it’s important to consume less and leave a smaller footprint for the generations that follow. We can agree on that.
But, it’s more important to discover who you are and how you can make your life richer and more intentional, which, in turn, will make the world around you a better place. And this takes a new way of thinking and a bold approach.
Here are some simple ways to get started with this new mindset:
- Don’t think about downsizing without also thinking about upsizing—what you take away must add to your life. Decluttering is not an emptying of your life, but a refilling of your life with only that which is useful and brings you joy.
- As you start to declutter, see how less brings your more. More freedom. More creativity. More time. More everything. Noticing the difference is the key to your success.
- See decluttering as your opportunity to reset, recharge, and refocus—to shift priorities that will allow you to eliminate stress and replace it with peace, space, and a more intentional life.
- Use decluttering as an opportunity to redefine how you store, keep, and preserve memories. Take your life out of drawers and off iPhones. Seek creative ways to display your most precious items.
- And when it comes to those treasured items in your life, seek quality over quantity—cultivating a deeper appreciation for the few chosen objects that mean the most.
- Think of decluttering as an opportunity to learn about yourself and to see what you’re attached to, what you value, and call important.
And, finally, while you’re letting go of all the unnecessary baggage in your life, you might as well let go of grudges, regrets, guilt, self-criticism, anger, blame, comparing, procrastination, excuses, assumptions, control, perfectionism, unhealthy relationships…and anything else that doesn’t belong in your life.
It's time to let go of all the things that don’t matter…so that you can focus on what does.