DECLUTTERING IN MIDLIFE: HOW TO DECLUTTER IN MIDLIFE WITH EASE
Midlife is a time of change and transition. Whether you’re downsizing, moving home, want to free up time and energy or just want a fresh start, here are some tips on decluttering in midlife with more ease and less stress.
Midlife is a time of transition. You may have older kids who are finding their way in the world, or ageing parents who need an increasing amount of support.
Maybe your body is changing and for women, the symptoms of menopause may be leaving you more tired, flat and lacking in energy than before.
As your kids are getting older, maybe you’re experiencing empty nest syndrome and having to adjust to a new life with more time on your hands than you’ve had for the last few years raising children.
And, if you’ve been so used to having no time to yourself, what do you actually do with your new found time?
Maybe you’re getting out and doing things for yourself? Finding leisure interests and widening your social circle? You don’t want to be tied to the home and managing the stuff in it.
Perhaps work is busy, or you’re able to dedicate more time to work now that you don’t have childcare worries.
For some of us, all these changes can be emotionally difficult and take time to adjust to.
And, they certainly raise some extra issues when it comes to decluttering and simplifying our home and life.
With this in mind, I’d like to share some tips to help you declutter in midlife with ease. As I was writing this article, it turned out that I have quite a lot to say on the subject so I’ve included links to further reading which you can explore if you’re interested!
TIPS TO HELP YOU DECLUTTER IN MIDLIFE
Here are some gentle tips and ideas to help you declutter in midlife with more ease and less stress!
1. Be kind to yourself
Midlife can be a turbulent time, for all the reasons I’ve listed above and more. You may have more time and freedom to clear your clutter and get rid of stuff, but it’s equally likely that you come up against a few other obstacles which we’ll cover below. That’s why the first tip I’d like to remind you of if you’re decluttering in midlife, is to be kind to yourself.
Don’t think you can’t do it or feel stuck with clutter habits that you feel you can’t break. Don’t imagine decluttering your stuff is an overwhelming task that you won’t complete.
Be kind to yourself. Go slow, get a friend or family member on board, take baby steps and build confidence and momentum.
2. Decide on your why
With anything that we do, it’s best to understand why we’re doing it. This will help you find motivation when your decluttering progress is slower than you hoped.
Do you want to make more space, downsize your home, clear the baby and children’s toys that are no longer in use, turn an unused toy room or bedroom into an office, make a fresh start?
Why do you want to clear your clutter? Give yourself a clear and precise reason and remind yourself of it often.
3. Break old clutter habits
Sometimes we build up habits that stick. We’re not always aware of them but the things we do each day just become the norm. If you have a tendency to hoard, or save items ‘just in case’ or because you worry about where to get rid of them, or that it’s a waste of money to let them go, revisit those habits.
Clutter will come into your home every day, even after you’ve decluttered, so be mindful of your existing clutter habits and make steps to deal with them as part of the decluttering process. If you don’t implement a strategy for staying clutter-free, clutter will soon build up again right after you’ve decluttered!
Decluttering in midlife is a good opportunity to review your good and bad habits!
Further reading: 20 habits for a clutter-free home.
4. Decluttering is demanding
As we move towards midlife, our energy levels can dip. Decluttering in midlife (and at any time really!) can be emotionally draining but it can also be physically exhausting as we clamber into the loft, haul heavy boxes around in the garage and get on our hands and knees to clear out cupboards.
Just do bursts of decluttering when you have bursts of energy (and time). You don’t need to declutter the entire home in a weekend. It’s ok to break big projects down into manageable-size chunks that fit your energy and mobility.
If you need a break or to stop for today, then do so. Your body will thank you for it tomorrow and you can carry on decluttering tomorrow if you feel like it too!
5. Get good sleep
Talking of the physical demands of decluttering, here’s a quick little reminder to get good sleep. Declutter your bedroom and create a sanctuary that’s calm, relaxing and clutter-free.
Further reading: How to declutter your bedroom.
6. Get help with decluttering
Don’t feel that you have to declutter your stuff on your own. Encourage other members of your household and family, even friends, to help you out. Either by helping you sift through your clutter or helping you dispose of your unwanted items by taking them to the rubbish, a charity shop or donation and recycling centre, and may be listing your items on Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle!
Decluttering in midlife doesn’t need to be a solo experience. It can be a team effort!
7. Your stuff is just stuff
Looking around your home and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is difficult, especially if you have many memories tied up in your stuff. However, your stuff is just your stuff. It doesn’t own you or define you and if you give something away, it doesn’t mean that memory is lost. You still have memories in your heart and mind.
That being said, I completely understand that our stuff is important. It’s just a personal decision as to the trade-off. Is the stuff more important than the space it could create if it wasn’t there? Only you will know the answer to that and it’s not my place to tell you otherwise. I would just like to offer an alternative if you’d like to consider it!
8. Find other ways to create and hold memories
Building on the point before, if your stuff reminds you of people, places and events that you cherish and hold dear, find another (less cluttered) way to retain those memories. Scan original photos onto your computer, keep a single plate from a dinner service, a piece of fabric from your wedding dress instead of the whole dress…
You don’t need to keep everything your grandmother passed down to you. Choose your favourite items and get creative on how and where you display or use them.
9. Downsizing or decluttering before moving
Midlife can be a time when we look to move. Our kids are growing up and may have moved out so we want less home to manage and more time, freedom and freed up money to enjoy in later years.
Decluttering in midlife if you’re getting ready to move is a wonderful time to sort through what you’ve got and start out again with a fresh canvas.
Try not to box things up just because you’ve always had them in your home. Use this opportunity to really sift through your stuff and what deserves a place in your new home and what needs to be donated or thrown away.
Be mindful of the space you’ll have available in your new place and what room you’ll have for furniture, ornaments and accessories etc. What look and feel are you going to try to create? Which of your existing items will fit with these plans?
10. Shifting priorities
As a parent of young children, when I first started out decluttering my home and simplifying my life, it was important to me to declutter the toys. I was fed up of constantly moving, tidying and clearing away – no matter how many times I asked my children to help! I usually spent my evenings catching up on housework and tidying the mess of the day.
As my kids have grown and their interests and independence has evolved, the focus on decluttering my home and life has shifted. The toys are not so important, but I prefer to focus on having a home that’s really simple to run so I have more time and freedom for enjoying my life.
Self-care and developing my own hobbies to fit around work have become important. In preparation for when my kids might want to leave home, I want to make sure I have a plan for my new-found time and independence!
11. Decluttering as self-care
On the subject of self-care, midlife might be a time when you too are needing or able to prioritise taking care of yourself a little bit more – your physical and mental health. Decluttering in midlife is a wonderful form of self-care as decluttering has important psychological benefits.
Create a less distracting, less visually cluttered and easier-to-manage home by clearing clutter and freeing up time, space and freedom.
Further reading: Decluttering as self-care.
12. Dealing with difficult emotions
Midlife can be a time of shifting emotions. It’s common, especially for women going through the menopause, or for many more of us going through that infamous ‘mid-life crisis’ phase(!) that we feel anxious, fatigued, lacking in motivation or unsettled.
Perhaps our kids don’t need us around so much anymore, we’re trying to carve out a new life for ourselves without the familiar responsibilities and pressures of raising a young family. We might have more time on our hands, or conversely, a job that’s stressful and taking up our time and energy.
Midlife can be a challenging time emotionally. Don’t let decluttering in midlife feel overwhelming or stressful.
Further reading: Try these tips on how to make decluttering fun.
13. Decluttering sentimental items
You may be the recipient of family heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations. Perhaps you’ve kept baby clothes and toys from when your kids were little, just in case your kids might want to re-use them when they have children of their own.
You might have collected mementos from travel, held on to vintage record collections or have a huge library of books waiting to be read or re-read on your bookshelves.
Over time we collect things and letting go of them is difficult as we declutter in midlife, especially if they’re sentimental items that mean something special.
A common question is whether you want to pass heirlooms and sentimental items onto your future generations. You could ask your children and younger family members if they’ll want to receive these items in the future? Depending on their answer, you could store the item, repurpose it, or create other keepsakes that take up less space.
Further reading: Decluttering sentimental items can be difficult for all of us, but try these tips on how to get rid of sentimental clutter for some helpful ideas!
14. Decluttering without feeling guilty
One of the most common reasons why many of us struggle to declutter is because we feel guilty. Guilty at wasting money or guilty at getting rid of something that’s still perfectly useable.
Decluttering in midlife is about taking purposeful action to make positive change for the future. It is not meant to be painful, frustrating or stressful!
Feeling guilty will get in the way of you feeling the full benefits of decluttering your home and life so reframe how you think about decluttering.
Instead of getting rid of stuff, think of it more in terms of freeing up your space, time and energy for making the most of the next chapter in your life – without being held back by stuff. Keep what adds value to your life and let the rest go.
Further reading: Here are some tips on what to do with your unwanted stuff that you’ve decluttered. Perhaps somebody else could make more use of it now than you?
15. ‘Just in case’ clutter
Be mindful of keeping stuff ‘just in case.’ If you feel anxious in general, stressed out by decluttering or uncertain as to where your life may be heading over the next few years, keeping stuff ‘just in case’ might seem like a safety net.
Further reading: Here are some tips on how to deal with ‘just in case’ clutter.
16. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of
This may be the first time you’re decluttering. Perhaps you’re just looking for change and a fresh start, or having to declutter to move or downsize. Decluttering is like a muscle, and the more you use your decluttering muscles, the more you’ll be able to declutter with clarity and confidence.
However, getting to that point can be tricky and the first hurdle is knowing what to keep and what to get rid of. There are some simple ways you can guide yourself to making good decluttering decisions.
17. Getting other family members on board
It’s one thing deciding for yourself to declutter your home but how do you introduce the idea to your partner, spouse or other members of your household? Especially if you’ve got years of accumulated possessions! You might be worried that your decluttering efforts will be met with resistance or resentment.
I know from first-hand experience that decluttering is easier for some than others. My husband took ages to come around to the concept of decluttering and still pokes fun at my minimalist lifestyle from time to time! However, over the years, we’ve found a happy middle ground.
Further reading: How to declutter when your spouse doesn’t want to. In this article I share some tips I’ve used myself in getting my family on board with decluttering.
One of the reasons my husband struggled with decluttering is that he’s a hoarder. He doesn’t like to throw things away or get rid of them.
If you have hoarding tendencies, or live with someone who does, decluttering a lifetime of hoarded possessions can feel difficult, if not impossible. It’s particularly difficult when you associate memories of people, places and past times with actual physical items and we don’t want to let go of the sentimental attachment, or if you feel that your stuff makes you feel comfortable, familiar and safe.
Decluttering in midlife and letting go of clutter is so much more than just getting rid of physical stuff. It’s about facing up to our emotions and feelings too.
Further reading: Decluttering tips for hoarders.
19. A mindset shift
As we get older, sometimes we get stuck in our ways. We’re not always as open and receptive to ideas and new ways of doing things as we once used to be. Although we may get wiser with time, sometimes it pays to look at things with a fresh perspective and that applies to how we look at our stuff too!
Decluttering in midlife is about making space, time and freedom. Removing the weight of clutter and responsibility and giving ourselves breathing space for making the most of life.
Although there are many benefits of simplifying life and choosing less stuff and more life, decluttering does require a mindset shift. Think of decluttering more in terms of what you’re going to gain, not what you’re getting rid of.
Further reading: The minimalist mindset – how to think like a minimalist.
20. Holding on to other people’s stuff
If you find yourself storing stuff for your kids and others, perhaps it’s time to tell them to collect and deal with their clutter! Sometimes we’re asked to hold on to our children’s stuff whilst they’re at university or finding their first home. It’s ok for a while but often, temporary storage becomes a permanent home.
Agree a timescale and if their clutter is still stored in your home beyond that deadline, give them a choice – they deal with it or you will!
21. Use decluttering resources
Decluttering on your own is one way to declutter. You might enjoy going at your own pace and finding out what works for you. However, if you feel you’d benefit from some guidance, support and structure to help motivate and keep you on track, then why not take advantage of the following resources:
- Project 333 – Courtney Carver’s popular minimalist fashion challenge.
- 100 things to get rid of right now – My own free checklist with 10 items from 10 areas of your home to get rid of right now (plus a free printable which you can tick off as you go!).
- Simplify Your Home – My complete home declutter guide, workbook and checklists which you can follow, work through at your own pace and revisit whenever your home needs a little declutter. The checklists mean you can get on with decluttering without worrying where or how to start. It’s all laid out for you in a simple, easy-to-use and practical format.
22. Prepare for decluttering
One way you can make decluttering easier, physically and emotionally, is to prepare beforehand. Not only does this save time and make decluttering more effective and efficient but it will prevent you from getting stuck along the way and block your decluttering progress.
Further reading: 11 simple things to do before you start decluttering.
23. Decluttering is more than just physical stuff
Lastly, don’t forget that decluttering is more than just clearing physical stuff. You can declutter your mind, your digital world and many other things that aren’t actual things in the same way. So, if you begin to feel the benefits of decluttering your home environment, why not declutter other aspects of your life too!
Further reading: 10 things to declutter that aren’t actual things.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
If you’re decluttering in midlife, I’d love to hear your experience. What made you want to declutter, how did you find it and what was the most difficult aspect? How did you overcome any problems and do you have any tips to share to add to this article? Leave a note in the comments as I’d love to hear from you!
DECLUTTER STARTER KIT
If you’d like to learn more about decluttering, the why, what and how, then why not try my free Declutter Starter Kit? It’s a free workbook to help you clear clutter from your home, heart, schedule and mind!
Pop your details in the box below to get started…