Seventy is the new sixty for our longer-living population. Many of us feel better and are happier in our seventies than ever before. It's tempting to put off those big life event projects until you really need to. Well if you're approaching seventy it's time to start formulating a plan and taking those first action steps toward creating the life you want to live moving forward. Here are three reasons you shouldn't wait to declutter or downsize.
One: Improve your quality of life.
Although retirement investing, savings, wills, and directives are certainly part of that plan there is something that is often overlooked - your quality of life. This is probably the greatest reason to go through your stuff now.
Living in a cluttered home is a documented source of anxiety for many people, especially women. Women's stress levels are proportional to the amount of stuff in their homes (Anne-Marie Gambelin, January 11, 2018). Your home environment is something you can control. Why spend the rest of your life living in chaos? Take this time to create the nest you've always wanted. Imagine how great it would feel to come home to a peaceful, satisfying, nurturing space.
Two: Have control over the pace and price of the process.
If you've lived in your home for more than ten years you have most likely accumulated a lot of things. Many of us have lived in the same place for thirty years. The truth is that to declutter or downsize is a big project. It will take many hours, weeks, or even months depending on how much you have collected.
It will take a considerable amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy to sort through everything and make decisions about what you will carry with you into the future.
Unfortunately, many people wait until there is a life event that forces them into action. These events could be the death of a spouse, a long-term illness or disability, or a financial setback. All of these events greatly reduce your ability to manage even regular tasks.
Suddenly downsizing or decluttering seems insurmountable. You may need to rely on family members or friends to help you go through the house. If family is out of town or friends are not physically able to help, you will need to hire a professional organizer. And if you are downsizing you will need a contractor or a handyman for home repairs.
That can be a lot of expense at one time. It's so much easier and less expensive to start sooner. Set a pace and timeline that are comfortable for you and spread out the cost over several months or even a year.
Three: Have the power to decide where your treasure will end up.
You've heard it a lot - your kids don't want your stuff. And it's true - for the most part. Your kids will want some things. But their choices will most likely surprise you. (I recommend asking them what they want instead of assigning gifts.) If you care where your stuff ends up you have to work that out now. The odds are that if you don't, much will end up in the trash.
If you have collections or things that are significant to you decide now where they will go. It's empowering to make those decisions. It feels good to give something to someone who gets it and appreciates it. Give yourself that gift.
It can also feel good to make a little money. They are your assets after all. Why not sell something and recoup some investment? Spend the money on something that means more to you now. That can be fun!
Four: Make things easier for your family.
If you leave a house full of stuff when you die someone's got to dispose of it. And it will most likely be your family. It's an enormous task that will take many hours if not weeks or months to do. It will take time away from their jobs, and money spent in dumpsters, haulers, and movers.
Your kids won't know what things are worth unless they do research which is time-consuming. Your family won't know who is in pictures or dates or significant events for your family genealogy once you are gone. They will be in get-it-done mode and will by virtue of efficiency take the path of least resistance. It will most likely go in the trash or end up in their garage or storage room for the next generation to deal with. Not because they don't appreciate you or your things, but because they just don't have time to do otherwise.
Many families opt to hire an estate sale expert which is a big help. But even then, the family has to go through the entire home first to pick out any personal items before the sale. This includes all the paperwork. And people with full houses are usually swimming in paperwork. Your family won't know what is important unless they look through every piece of paper. This takes hours and hours.
Take the time now to go through your papers and family heirlooms.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is to take care of as much as you can before you are gone.
If you're ready to move ahead but not sure where to start, contact a pro organizer. Even if you decide to do the decluttering work on your own they can give you a plan of action. Plus, if you get stuck they can become an accountability partner to help you keep the momentum moving forward.
You've got this! Start now. You won't regret it.