Whether you're downsizing or staying in your home forever, reducing your possessions makes life much more manageable for yourself and for your heirs.
When you’ve got a home filled with a lifetime’s worth of stuff, there often comes a time when you’ve got to part with some of it. OK, a whole lot of it. Seniors, especially, have four compelling reasons to pare back possessions.
1. You intend to grow old in your home
Most people want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. AARP pollsters recently found:
Most people ages 50 and older want to age in place. Adults ages 65 and older are even more likely (87 percent) to say they want to age in their current home or community than those ages 50 to 64 (71 percent).
AARP’s Home Fit guide tells how to prepare a home for aging in place.
Decluttering and organizing your belongings while you are young enough to tackle the job allows you to:
- Access what you want easily.
- Enjoy memories stored in mementos, photos, letters, videos and other treasures you’ve been saving.
- Reorganize possessions for safe reach.
- Maneuver more easily through the home in case you become disabled.
2. You may be headed for trouble
Decluttering can help head off these problems that often force elders from their homes:
- Devastating falls. Serious falls can permanently reduce a senior’s mobility and freedom. Reducing clutter opens up space and could reduce the possibility of tripping and hurting yourself.
- Hoarding. Hoarding entails “difficulty in discarding current possessions, urges to save items, and excessive clutter in the home,” according to Psychiatric Times. Hoarding can be an especially difficult problem for older people living alone.
3. You want to leave heirs a lighter load
Estate planning, making a will and a trust and keeping them updated, is a kindness to your heirs. Likewise, decluttering now protects your loved ones from inheriting the burden of a home full of stuff.
4. You’re downsizing
You may find, especially after children are grown, that you’re weary of the cost and maintenance of the family home, and you’d rather move in with adult children or downsize to a smaller place. The problem is, you can’t cram everything you own into your new home.
Paring back a lifetime’s worth of possessions can feel overwhelming. Some alternative ways of thinking about the problem can help. There is, after all, no one way to declutter.
Stay nimble and flexible. If one approach no longer works, move on to another. Keep experimenting, finding an arsenal of tactics that suit you. Unless there’s a deadline (you’ve sold your home, for instance), think of decluttering as a new habit rather than a mountainous job.
For some great suggestions on how to proceed, see “7 Ways to Declutter You Probably Haven’t Tried.” If you need to reduce mounds of paperwork to a manageable amount, read “Clean Up Your Finances in 7 Easy Steps” and check out this video by Money Talks News’ Stacy Johnson.
Here are other ways to get started: