The Clutter-Free Retiree

Hitting the road in an RV or downsizing provides the freedom to purge the possessions.

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Retirement can welcome a new lifestyle with more time for traveling and hobbies. Older adults might downsize their homes, move into retirement communities or hit the open road in a travel trailer or RV. To prepare for these changes, individuals must cut the clutter in their lives by dispersing, donating or selling their stuff.

“I have found that seniors who have reached this stage have a much easier time of letting go of their possessions and passing them down to their family,” says Anne Spero, a certified professional organizer and owner of Organized Living in Tulsa. “Couples who once maintained very large homes have little problem living in motor homes or senior living apartments. There is a freedom and weight lifted from ‘worldly things,’ and they are free to enjoy the remainder of their lives.”

However, freeing yourself from belongings doesn’t mean forcing them on your children or family members. Becky Marple, a professional organizer and owner of BeeNeat in Edmond, says it’s important to consider everyone’s preferences and have realistic expectations.

“Parents need to know their kids, their families and their personalities and give their children the chance to choose what they would like,” Marple says. “Something that may not be important to the parent may be important to the kids. For instance, one thing my grandpa would have probably never thought about was his hankie. He always carried hankies around and to this day I keep one in my Bible. But I didn’t keep 20; I only kept one.”

There is a freedom and weight lifted from ‘worldly things,’ and they are free to enjoy the remainder of their lives.”

Marple says people are often disappointed that their children don’t want items they consider to be valuable, such as fine china or silver.

“I work with clients all the time that say, ‘My kids don’t want this,’ and no one wants to take the time to polish it,” she says. “While these things were valuable 20 years ago, they just aren’t anymore. They are really hard to sell, and you don’t get much out of it. It’s sad, but it’s the way it is.”

Marple emphasizes that starting to clear the clutter early can relieve stress for the retirees and their families.

“Always with love and extreme gentleness, I talk to clients about how we never want to be a burden when we’re gone,” she says. “But, by not going through your things and purging, it could end up feeling like that for your family.

“Go through things with your family long before you are actually moving. Start when you’re even thinking about it. Start pulling things out of the cabinet and delegating where it’s going to go.”

After this process, it’s often helpful to involve professionals, Spero says.

“Once the children’s possessions have been distributed, and the family has been given preference, an estate sale is a good option to part with the remainder of property they won’t need for retirement,” she says. “Hiring a certified professional organizer is found to be beneficial in assisting the elderly in downsizing and many professionals specialize in this area.

“Having an outside-the-family, objective viewpoint, someone to keep them focused and keep the momentum going, is what they need to get through the downsizing in a timely manner.”

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