7 Reasons to Declutter Your Home in Retirement

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

Estate planning is an important aspect of your retirement planning. The main point of an estate plan is to provide for your beneficiaries and make it easy for them to carry out your wishes.

There is a wide variety of estate planning documentation to complete — wills, trusts, powers of attorney, letters of instruction and more. And, you probably have those things under control.

However, organizing your possessions for your heirs is a task that should not be overlooked. In fact, decluttering can both enhance your life now and will be a huge help to your heirs. Organizing your possessions is an ideal post-retirement task. Here’s why.

1. Your Heirs Don’t Want to Do It

Clutter
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A recent New York Times article on decluttering drew over 1,700 comments. Most were from adult children who were traumatized by cleaning out the homes of their deceased loved ones.

Beth from Washington did not mince words. She said, “Having now cleaned out 5 family members’ houses, I can attest to this. Do you hate your children? Your relatives? The executor of your will? If you do, by all means leave them a giant pile of junk. If you don’t hate them, please don’t.”

Jill from Iowa said, “Don’t leave your clutter for your relatives to deal with. Their grief and your death will turn to resentment as they spend days and even weeks (or more) dealing with your stuff.”

Anna from Pennsylvania was delighted by the thoughtfulness of her mother who went through her own things and also documented the significance of the objects she chose to keep.

Anna wrote, “One of the nicest gifts my mother left for all her children was to clear out her attic and declutter her house when she turned 80. When she died at age 86, I found the special items she had kept had little stories taped to the back/bottom/inside: who gave it to her, a funny or poignant anecdote, why the item meant so much to her or to the family history. ”

Kate from Georgia was overwhelmed by the task of cleaning out her parents’ things.

She wrote, “Three weeks ago, my brother and I locked the door of the second of 2 10×8 storage units we had to rent after we donated or discarded the other 90% of our parents’ possessions. As we drove away, I asked my brother, ‘Do you think mom and dad, at their sanest, would have wanted us to spend 6 weeks, working 7 am to 7 pm, going through their stuff rather than grieving their loss with our loved ones?'”

Really consider what you want to leave behind and why.

2. Paring Down Stuff Can Enhance Your Life Now

Senior woman with eyes closed and hands to her heart.
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In Sweden, the act of paring down your belongings after retirement is called “death cleaning.”

The task was documented in a book, “Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Stuff (Minimalist Living),” by Linnea Gustoffson. She writes, “death cleaning is a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”

And, it turns out that decluttering is scientifically proven to help you focus.

If you want retirement to be meaningful, consider ways to get rid of what doesn’t really matter.

3. Clutter Is Dangerous as You Age

Shocked and surprised senior
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People who live in disorganized environments are more likely to make poor eating choices and be overweight.

And, the clutter itself can be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. Tripping is the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. Many falls can be prevented by creating a safer and clutter-free home environment.

4. Too Much Stuff Can Cause Stress

Upset senior surprised while on her laptop
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There is significant research that connects clutter with stress. In one study, people were asked to describe their homes. The respondents who talked about clutter in their house had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reported worse moods than those who lived in more streamlined residences.

5. Clutter Blocks Sleep

Sad senior looking out a window
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Studies have found that people who sleep in cluttered rooms have a harder time falling asleep and are more likely to awaken in the middle of the night.

6. Storing Stuff Is Expensive

storage units
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It is not just us who lives in our houses. Our stuff lives there too. And, the more stuff you have, the bigger your home needs to be — which is an added expense.

And, storage companies are big businesses. It is estimated that 1 in every 11 American households has a storage unit. There are more storage facilities in the United States than there are McDonald’s restaurants. Do you want to fund housing for stuff you don’t really need? Or, could that money be better used on experiences?

7. Getting Rid of Stuff Can Make You Happier

Senior couple at home
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Research suggests that paring down possessions can help you focus on what is important to you in your life. Stuff doesn’t make you happy. Relationships and activities do.

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