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Retirees and Clutter - Some Thoughts
Written By : Cynthia Barnett 
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I never cease to be amazed by some of the unique characteristics of clutter. For some reason, clutter is often associated with the homes and workplaces of retirees or "seniors." We have all heard stories and read accounts of elderly people who live in tumble-down houses filled with unbelievable amounts of clutter. This is not, however, a universal characteristic of retirees.

So what are the essential characteristics of clutter? Here are a few that come to mind at the moment:

  • Clutter takes many shapes and is composed of many items
  • Clutter has the inherent property of expanding to fill all available space
  • Clutter is generally collective - it builds up over time
  • Clutter is generally composed of items we believe we must continue to keep
  • Clutter is composed of items we believe to be important for some reason
  • Clutter is generally composed of items we have not used in years
  • Clutter is often composed of items we cannot find
  • Clutter is often made up of things we actually don't need
  • Clutter can be dangerous for retirees
  • Clutter is hard to remove

Let's face it. At some point in time, everything that makes up clutter was important to us. What we do with it and how long we keep it is often directly proportional to the sentimental or emotional value we attach to it. For example, some of us keep every memento of every activity shared with a loved one. Others keep some souvenir of meaningful travel destinations. Some keep newspapers or magazines. And some of us are collectors gone wild.

We all know clutter in our homes can be dangerous - it can pose a fire hazard or a tripping or stumbling hazard, especially as it expands to mega-proportions. We hear so many stories of retirees who are victims of home fires, who fall and break fragile bones or who fall and get a serious head injury. For these reasons alone, de-cluttering is a really smart move for retirees.

Clutter can also be emotional, mental or psychological. This kind of clutter can often be most difficult to clean out of our lives. This kind of clutter distracts us or re-enforces negative self-images or continues to reopen old wounds. This kind of clutter makes us feel unhappy, stressed out, angry, or even guilty.

While the physical clutter around us might be more noticeable to others, it is easier to remove. It just takes determination and a realistic appraisal of the value of things. Clearing out old animosities, guilt, sorrow and pain, however, is even more important if we really want to enjoy the second stage of our lives.

My advice to all retirees who want to experience a feeling of a new freedom and a fresh outlook on life is: DE-CLUTTER. Start with the "stuff" that is cluttering your environment. If something has real value, but you don't need to keep it, give it to someone who will appreciate its value.

Remind yourself that if you haven't used or read something in over a year, you don't need it. A first step is to get rid of anything you have been saving to which you have access on the internet. This, for example, is a great way to get rid of stacks or boxes of newspapers, magazines, and the like. A little de-cluttering will give you a great sense of freedom and space. It's a wonderful feeling.

Start de-cluttering your psyche. Deal with unresolved guilt: make apologies, make peace. Put old animosities and anger to rest - recognize it, ask yourself if it really matters any longer, move beyond it. Deal with old sorrows and pain. Make the decision to put them to rest.

Finally, you can start the fun part of de-cluttering your mind. Make a list of all the ideas and activities you have stored up to do someday. Prioritize your list. Discard those things that just are not that important any longer. And make a plan to do the things you still want to do.

De-cluttering will give you a new sense of freedom, focus and direction. Your home will also be much safer.

Dr. Cynthia Barnett is an author, teacher, life coach and a leading authority on how to "re-fire" and reinvent by making the rest of your life the best of your life. For more articles and tips on how to rejuvenate yourself in retirement, visit

Find out more about: retirement
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