Simplicity and Retirement Brought to you by contemporary retirement coaching


The less stuff you own, the less you have to clean, store, maintain, manage, protect, worry about, stress about, waste money on, forget, and pick up. Have the minimum amount of stuff for you to be comfortable. (This level is different for everyone and you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.)
Erin Doland

If you have too much stuff and not enough room for it...

If you feel guilty about disposing of family 'heirlooms' that you no longer want to keep or stuff that you've spent good money on but which no longer feels appropriate for your lifestyle...

Or if you just want to have a good old clear-out now that you've retired, read on...

Retirement is the perfect time to simplify your life - whether you're downsizing into a smaller home or just finally getting the time to 'get your act together' and decide what to do with all the stuff you've accumulated over the course of your working life.

Which is where it all starts to get a bit more difficult!

Why is it so hard to give up our stuff?

As we get older, we tend to accumulate more and more stuff. As well as our own stuff, we inherit other people's stuff too - mainly stuff from deceased family members that we either want or feel obliged to keep.

We also have all our own mementos - the kids' old toys, books, books and more books, photos, stuff that might come in handy one day...

No one's saying that it'll be easy to simplify. Ask anyone who's downsized into a smaller home in retirement or moved to a more minimalist lifestyle, and they’ll tell you that there can be a lot of resistance to parting with possessions. "But it’s only stuff!", you can hear the logical part of your brain saying. So why do we have such a hard time finding a new home (including the bin/trashcan) for items we no longer need or use? (Clue: It’s all about the emotions surrounding the items that cause us to hold on tightly.)

Stuff makes us feel secure - we buy with our emotions, not logic, which means we invest emotionally in our possessions. Having a lot of stuff makes us feel safe and secure. How many things do you keep around “just in case”? Having a lot of stuff or expensive items gives us status in our society, which also makes us feel important and secure in our place in the world.

We spent our hard-earned cash on it - many people feel wasteful and guilty when they start decluttering their things. They think about how much they senselessly spent on items that are now simply cluttering up their homes, garages, basements, and sometimes even the storage space they're paying a monthly fee on.

We know we should use it - guilt also comes in the form of 'shoulds'. We should use that treadmill. We should wear that expensive suit. A lot of times we buy special or nice things and then only use them for special occasions… which are usually very rare (or we forget about them when we actually ARE preparing for a special occasion).

It was a gift - even if our least favourite aunt gives us a hideous lamp for Christmas - something we would never dream of putting out on display, we keep it in a cupboard, attic or storage unit. We feel it’s mean to donate something that someone put thought and money into, even though we hate it. So the guilt keeps us hanging onto it.

It reminds us of better times - we hold onto stuff from our past, most of which has little or no monetary value, but a large sentimental one. Keeping a few small items isn’t a big deal, but when we feel we need to keep everything from our carefree uni days or all the love letters we’ve ever received, it can take up a lot of space and emotional energy. Being unwilling to part with things that remind us of happier times can be a red flag that we aren’t happy with our current situation.

Everyone feels emotional when going through their stuff to declutter. It’s natural, so when you experience this, don’t beat yourself up. Just be aware that even though they're just things, we're typically connected to them in various ways because of the emotions that we have attached to them.

So, now we've got our heads around why it's so difficult to part with the stuff we've been hanging on to, let's have a look at some the reasons why it's a good idea to do exactly that...

Top benefits of living more simply

There are many benefits to living more simply, and everyone has different reasons for choosing to simply their life. But there are definitely some recurring benefits that you see on almost everyone’s 'reasons to simplify' list. See which of these could motivate you to choose a simplified lifestyle...

More time. Everyone would like more time, but 24 hours each day is all we get. So using this time on the things that are really important to us is of the essence. When you say no to more activities and obligations and have less stuff to maintain, you end up with more time to live the life you want to live. (Especially when we're getting on a bit and time, mysteriously, appears to speed up.)

Less stress. Along with more time, people are desperately seeking ways to lessen the amount of stress they have in their daily lives. Fewer obligations, less doing and fewer possessions mean there’s less overall to deal with. You can even simplify the number or types of people you hang out with. People who are always stressed out and complaining can be weeded out so that you have more time to spend with people who bring real value to your life.

More focused energy. Much of our limited time seems to be eaten up by responsibilities and obligations that add very little, if anything, to our lives. Once we simplify how much we do and have, we have the time and energy to focus on the things that are the most important to us, like family, lifelong learning or hobbies.

Less debt. In our materialistic world, we're constantly bombarded with ads telling us if we only have this product, we'll be happier. In an attempt to gain that elusive joy for ourselves, we 'buy into' sales gimmicks that leave us with little but debt. Dedication to living more simply means we have less desire to impulse spend because we're spending more of our time doing the things we enjoy, so our happiness naturally increases. And, since we're hanging onto less stuff, we're no longer willing to 'own' things we don’t need… especially on credit.

More freedom. When you start to let go of the mountains of burdens you have taken on in the form of overworking, overspending and overextending yourself, you begin to feel more free. Maybe for the first time in your life! You begin to recognize the trap that you’ve been in, simply because society told you it was the way to happiness and fulfillment. True happiness comes from the freedom of DOING less so you can BE more.

So, have I managed to convince you? Are you willing to give simplicity a go? If so, read on...

5 Ways to start simplifying today

Get the right mindset. While you can make definite headway in a weekend, simplifying your life is going to be a process and that’s okay. Get your mind in that place where it’s okay to take one step each day toward your goal. A plan to simplify should be simple, right?

Spend just 15 minutes. In just 15 minutes a day, you can reduce clutter, put filters on your email, make a phone call to implement an automatic payment, unsubscribe from newsletters that clog up your email or cancel a credit card you don’t use. If you're feeling like you just don’t have time to simplify, it’s a sure sign you need to! Decide on one small task to complete each day. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish.

Chose one place. What room or area makes you feel the most overwhelmed when you walk into it? What have you been meaning to clean out and declutter the longest? Start there. It’s taking up mental energy you can use for more important things.

Involve your family or housemates. The common areas of your house are not going to stay decluttered if you're the only one maintaining them. Sit down with the people you share your living space with and have a chat about why simplifying is so important to you and how it will benefit everyone.

Keep a donations box. Once you’ve made that first (or second) big trip to the charity shop of your choice, you'll still come across stuff that you didn’t notice on the first go-round. Keep a donation box in an out-of-the-way place so that you can chuck things in as you find them. When the box is full, take it to your local charity shop or donation centre.

Buy one, chuck one. Make a new rule for the household: when you purchase a non-consumable item and bring it into the house, you must get rid of something. For example, if you buy a new pair of shoes, either throw out your old, disgusting running shoes or place a pair that is still good, but that you don’t care about keeping, in the donations box. This rule works in two ways - it helps you maintain the minimalist lifestyle you're creating, and it cuts down on impulse shopping. You’ll probably be surprised to discover that there’s no pair of shoes you currently have that you are willing to part with in order to have the new, shiny pair. Problem solved.

Simplifying your Finances

Many people ignore their finances as much as possible because thinking or talking about money can often be scary or embarrassing. But getting a handle on your financial situation is a smart and necessary part of a simplified lifestyle in retirement. There are easy ways to get your finances in shape and streamlined so you can be a smart money manager without a lot of hassle.

Consolidate accounts. Lots of people have accounts here, there and everywhere due to moving jobs or locations. If you have your banking or retirement savings at a few different locations, consider consolidating them to one bank or investment firm (as much as is possible). This not only helps you keep better track of where you stand, but you will avoid fees that each institution implements for services or balance restrictions.

Use one credit card. If you want to keep several cards active to improve your credit score, that’s fine. But it’s difficult to pay down debt or even just keep mental track of payments when you use multiple cards. Store the other ones in a safe place and only use one card for everything. That means only one statement and one payment a month. Since it'll be easier to keep track of, you're also less likely to incur late fees and will notice any suspicious card activity faster.

Go paperless. Gone are the days when everyone needed a filing cabinet or a pile of box files cluttering up your spare bedroom! Make all of your bills paperless and then keep one file in your email system just for bills and receipts. It’s unlikely that you'll ever need a copy of a statement, but if you do, they'll all be right there in one place, safe and sound. Plus, what could you do with that extra space where your filing cabinet now is?

Set up automatic payments. Most bills recur monthly with a consistent payment amount. For these bills, set up automatic payments through your bank, not through individual websites. That way you can go to one place to get a snapshot of your financial situation at any given time. Taking a little time to set this up will save you hours later, and you'll never accidentally forget a payment and be charged a hefty fee.

Use cash. When you buy something, pay for it with cash. This includes food shopping, petrol, anything and everything. We often overspend without realizing it when we use credit or even debit cards. If you're using cash, you know exactly how much you have available to spend so you won’t end up with surprising overdraft fees.

Unload unused stuff. Everyone sells their stuff online nowadays, but it’s still worth mentioning. If you have collectibles, unique or high value items sitting around gathering dust, unload it and put that cash in your emergency fund or savings account. Don’t have anything nice enough to sell online? Have a car boot sale. (Or just donate it all to a charity shop if the thought of having a car boot sale fills you with dread.)

Cancel unnecessary subscriptions. Most people have at least one subscription that they never use. It might be a magazine subscription, weight loss program, a podcast, TV streaming app or a gym membership. It’s one of those things you always mean to get around to but never do, and it’s costing you every month. It feels great to plug your money holes and put that little bit each month into your savings account!

Grow your own food. Rather than adding more work to your life, gardening can be a relaxing and healthy way to spend time alone or with your family. The garden doesn’t have to be huge to make a dent in your shopping bill, and it can be a new and satisfying hobby if you never had time for it while you were still working. Gardening is also a great thing to get your grandkids involved in so they understand where their food really comes from – not wrapped in plastic at the local superstore.

How to Maintain a Decluttered House

So you’ve followed all the advice and decluttered your house. But all too soon, you realize that you have clutter creep. Stuff is starting to build up again. Maybe you ended up replacing some of the stuff you got rid of or maybe everyone isn’t playing their part in keeping the house decluttered. Here are a few simple, quick habits that all family members can do to keep the house decluttered.

Deal with mail immediately. Throw flyers and other junk mail directly in the recycling bin. Put bills and other important papers in the specified place and shred sensitive information that doesn’t need to be filed. To make this even easier, make all your bills, banking and other statements paperless and get your name and address on the Mail Preference List. Before long, there will be very little mail to deal with at all.

Nightly pick-up routine. As you gather in the living room in the evenings, each family member brings stuff with them - a mug, a glass, a snack plate, an iPod or a Kindle. Have you ever noticed how frequently that stuff stays in the living room, making it cluttered? Set a new rule that each night before heading to bed, everyone picks up everything they brought into the room that evening and puts it back where it belongs. It takes 2 minutes to do and keeps clutter creep to a minimum.

Add a coat rack and baskets. As soon as the family walks in the door, they're likely to take off coats, scarves and gloves and put down bags and briefcases, all right in the hallway where they'll be tripped over for the rest of the evening. To keep this area decluttered, add a coat rack and an 'I'll need this tomorrow' basket for each person in the hallway. Get family members used to hanging up their coats and putting the other stuff they bring home in a designated place, like their 'I'll need this tomorrow' basket. It'll take a little time and a few gentle reminders, but everyone will eventually appreciate the new peace that a decluttered house exudes.

Eliminate your junk drawers. This may sound undoable, but it really isn’t. Have a place for everything, including the small items that tend to end up in a junk drawer. Get small containers and keep these small items separated and organized in drawers. Things like batteries, paper clips, rubber bands, twist ties, etc. can all have their own place in a drawer or two. Take a rubber band off the Sunday paper? Put it immediately in the correct container before sitting down to enjoy the paper.

Gratitude: the unexpected benefit of simplifying

Simplifying increases your gratitude. And more gratitude makes you want to simplify even further. It's a virtuous circle!

Simplifying keeps you focused on what you have, not what you want

It’s easy to focus on what we want. After all, most of us have had a lifetime of setting goals and striving to get what we want. But there’s a lot to be said for appreciating what you have and where you are in your life! When you simplify, you have more time to appreciate the little things in life - a grandchild’s laughter, the sunset, and even that extra cuppa in bed now that you're no longer involved in the morning commute! Having and doing less makes it so much easier to appreciate what you already have.

Simplifying reminds you that the best things in life aren’t things

We’ve been conditioned to buy, buy, buy. We’ve come to believe expensive things and having a lot of stuff are what everyone is striving for. But imagine the simple joy of coming home after your activities each day to a streamlined evening routine, pre-planned meal, and a clutter-free house! Getting rid of all the extra, unnecessary stuff gives you the time and energy to enjoy the simple things in daily life.

Simplifying helps you see how much you already have

In the West, we often take for granted how lucky and abundant we really are. Most people around the world survive on the equivalent of just a few pounds a week, while we feel like we're destitute if we can’t get the latest iPhone! But if you really think about what you need, you probably already have it. Do you have a safe, warm place to come home to? Do you have an income, even if it’s not as large as you’d like? Is there going to be food for you and your loved ones to enjoy today? When we pare down our busyness and take a look at what we have, we can start to realize how blessed we truly already are.

Simplifying makes you think about those who have very little

When you declutter, it feels good to donate your unwanted stuff, knowing that it’s going to go to someone who needs it and will truly appreciate it. If you're finding it challenging to donate things because they're still good or it feels wasteful, think about the homeless person, for example, who will end up with a warm coat this winter… thanks to you. If you're still having trouble, spend some time finding places to donate that are close to your heart, like animal shelters, the Salvation Army or a local women's refuge. When you compare what you still have to what they do, you'll feel instantly grateful.

Created By
Ann Harrison


Created with images by BRRT - "pebbles zen stones" • stevepb - "clothes hangers coat hangers plastic hanger" • monkeyparty - "cup ikea minimalist" • Yummymoon - "egg alarm clock grey" • FirmBee - "office freelancer computer" • jaaron - "Snail Mail" • sheilacraan - "Gratitude"

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