If you had to leave your home in the next 30 minutes, and were not sure if you could return, what would you take with you? Hopefully none of us will ever have that scenario, but it does make you focus on what you actually NEED in life. In today’s society we have a tendency to accumulate possessions as we go. Am I the only one who finds it a challenge to leave Target with just the one item I went in there for?
When our children start to fly the nest their old school projects, toys and outgrown clothes are shed as they embark on their new lives. It is a time of transition for parents and realistically we can’t keep every lego piece and work of art.
By the time we reach middle age we start thinking about what we absolutely need. The overflowing closets and cupboards are also giving some of us a hint that it is time to simplify. The task of simplifying seems overwhelming to many of us, but the rewards and the freeing feeling you get make it worthwhile. Time to keep what is important, donate, recycle or throw it in the rubbish.
Where do you begin? Here are several of my takeaways from working through the midlife declutter.
- Small steps are key to avoiding overwhelm. Focus on a particular area in your home that needs attention. Focus on one thing at a time. For example, I recently reorganized my photo albums and photos. There were many that were duplicates of others. I removed the duplicates which can be passed along to someone in the family who would value them or in some cases where they were definitely a bad photo, they were disposed of. I say small steps because some decluttering is emotional to do. It can also take time – I kept stopping to show my family photos that made us giggle, or reminisce about a loved one that had passed. Be kind to yourself but keep focused on the task in hand.
- I used to have a habit of saving things that reminded me of a certain event, or time in my life. My dad used to take my younger son to the golf driving range when he visited us and one year my parents bought him a small golf bag and clubs. He was probably around 7 years old at the time. I have struggled with donating them, even though my son outgrew them years ago. When I saw them I got a flashback of my dad and son together sharing quality time. I finally donated them with the logic that it is time for someone else to enjoy them, and build their memories.
- Once you are on a roll decluttering it does get easier. Don’t reward yourself with more clutter after the declutter though! Going forward think carefully if this is something you need, or a passing fancy.
- Paperwork. Generation X is probably the last to gather so much paperwork. Tackling our filing cabinet was a tough one, but a rewarding one when the declutter was done. Save only what you need to, and you can also scan important documents as a back up. Put an efficient labelling system in place in the cabinet and archive some paper documents by saving a certain place in the cabinet for them. Make sure you shred what you are discarding.
- Children’s school projects. This was another emotional one, but we can’t keep everything. Save your absolute favorite projects, and put them somewhere safe. Preferably save the smaller items only, as you can always take a photo and save them digitally.
Do you have any great tips for midlife simplifying and decluttering? Mine continues to be a work in progress.