Let go and lighten up!

Discover a new-found freedom by purging household items — without regret or guilt

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If you’re over 50, you’re likely past your accumulation phase of life and no longer need the volume of stuff you once did.

As our lives transition into a new phase, we usually require fewer things, because we’re not raising, housing, feeding and entertaining as many family, friends and business associates.

When was the last time you hosted a dinner for 40? It’s time to let those ’70s-era chip-and-dip trays go.

It’s time to shed some of the other stuff, too — kid’s art and schoolwork; photos; sets of china, kitchenware and gadgets; small appliances; sentimental items; unfinished craft projects; things you might need someday and much more.

Whether you’re pondering moving into a smaller home, or not, reducing the number of your belongings will give you a feeling of freedom and lightness, as you transition to a different lifestyle.

Now it’s time to decide what else is leaving your home along with those space-hogging chips and dips!

Set ground rules

Before you begin clearing out items, it’s important to create some simple guidelines for yourself.

Decluttering experts find it’s best to go through one room at a time, one item at a time.

Once you touch an item, you should decide its destiny.

This strategy has been made hugely popular recently thanks to Marie Kondo’s bestselling book — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

However, if you just can’t make a decision in the moment, you can place it in a “sell” or “donate” pile for 24 hours.

If you haven’t thought about it during that time, then get rid of it.

Focusing on one room or area at a time permits you from allowing yourself to drift to another room to avoid making decisions.

Should I keep great-grandmother’s soup tureen? I can’t decide. I think I’ll work on the basement!

Also keep in mind that the two biggest stumbling blocks to letting go of belongings are emotional attachment and the hope of recouping money spent.

Here’s how to tackle those factors:

Emotional attachment

Try to stay in the present when making decisions about what to keep and what to shed. Separate the emotion from the item as best you can.

Belongings with sentimental value are hard to part with: When you look at them, you relive their stories.

There’s the sweater you wore on a special evening with someone you loved; the bathing suit you wore on a memorable island vacation (but haven’t worn since); your children’s artwork from various stages.

Gifts and inheritances from relatives and friends are hard to let go of, too. If you’ve never really liked your grandmother’s porcelain figurine of Empress Josephine, it’s time to let it go.

She wouldn’t want you to hang on to something you don’t love just because it’s associated with warm memories of her. Take a photo of it, and let it move on to someone who will likely enjoy it more than you.

The key to parting with something is to concentrate on how it serves you now. Does it bring you joy or drag you down with guilt and clutter? Is it even in a place where you can appreciate it? Or is it stored in a box?

Recouping money

Focusing on what something once cost can unnecessarily put the brakes on the decluttering process.

It’s always challenging to give away something you bought, especially if you rarely or never used it. Donating a perfectly good set of dinner plates you no longer need is hard.

Often the idea of selling something takes the sting out of letting go.

However, selling things takes lots of time, and the payoff is often far less than expected.

It’s hard, time-consuming work, not to be taken lightly.

Garage sales require days or weeks of work. Selling items online necessitates photographing items, writing descriptions, researching value (to determine a reasonable price) and answering queries.

All are labor intensive. Even if you take the stuff to a consignment store, it involves packing and transporting and, sometimes, returning to pick up unsold items.

Selling online and consigning can become a hobby in its own right. Is that a hobby you’d choose willingly?

Just the thought of the decisions and effort involved in doing any of these things stops many people from decluttering.

If you have the time and the will to host a garage sale or sell items locally or online, then, by all means, have at it.

However, give yourself a deadline. If your sales plan doesn’t come to fruition in the allotted time, give the items away or donate them and take the tax deduction. You will breathe a sigh of relief when they’re gone.

When you finish decluttering, your home will be in alignment with the way you want to live now — light and free!


DeeDee Welles is a Twin Cities professional organizer who specializes in helping baby boomers declutter and get organized, so they can transition to a new lifestyle and feel much lighter. Learn more at detailsorganizingitall.com.