Recently, I was listening to a teleclass on de-cluttering your life with emphasis on the multiple kinds of clutter that people accumulate without even realizing it. Gathering clutter can become an unconscious obsession that ends up taking on a life of its own. Within one month of listening to this teleclass, I received my Oprah magazine in which she devoted space to a number of articles and tips on how to de-clutter your life. I thought it was interesting that the topic of clutter had shown up several times in such a short period of time. It must be a springtime topic.
As you all know by now, I have a passion about assisting people in creating a successful retirement. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that life’s clutter stands in the way of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. The following are some of the various kinds of clutter that interfere with our lives on a daily basis whether we are retired or not.
Physical clutter is the most obvious to all of us. Things, objects, papers, books, tools and old clothes that are too large or too small crowd our closets, drawers, garages, attics, etc. Many of these are things we will never use again, and they could easily be thrown away. Others could be given away to people who can use them. Some have too much sentimental value for us to part with them. Are you in a place in your life where you could make those decisions? Some of these “things” separate the way we were and what we did with who we are today. As we think about retiring to a new life stage filled with new experiences and possibly even a new residence, what are you holding on to that no longer serves you well and has no real purpose in your life? It is ironic that some people actually postpone retirement because it would mean facing the clutter accumulated over the years of their lives. Could the excitement that this next stage of life offers you motivate you enough to let go of these “things”?
People or Relationship Clutter
Are there people in your life who are no longer supporting you in the way that you want or need them to? Have they changed or have you changed so the relationship is no longer serving you well? When you are with them, do you feel good about your life and yourself? Maybe you aren’t sure how to let go, whether it’s out of fear of hurting them or having regrets about losing a long-time friend. Before you make a decision, ask yourself, “will I be helping or hurting myself by staying in this relationship?” In the planning stages of retirement, it is not unusual to reflect on your past, present and future relationships. You might be wondering who will be there for you in this transition. Can you give less time to some relationships that are unsupportive while you give more time and attention to other relationships that are supportive? Reflecting on past and present relationships may include colleagues, friends outside of work and even some family members.
Often we are burdened and held back by emotional clutter, which I define as old feelings that have never run their course in order to make way for healthier emotions. We notice that our energy is chronically compromised by those heavy emotions. It is almost like you are carrying a backpack full of bricks around with you. This emotional clutter comes in the form of would-haves, could-haves, should-haves and regrets about ways we wish we had behaved differently in our lives. Did you hurt the ones you love or fail to reach personal goals that would have enhanced your life? Were you so rooted in your comfort zone that you avoided risks that may have led to success? Do you regret being held back by fear of the unknown and missing important opportunities? These are the kinds of unhealthy feelings and emotions that can affect your physical, emotional and social world in retirement. This is not a healthy way to enter a new stage of life that should be free and clear of all this unnecessary emotional clutter. You will have many years in this new life stage, so reflect on what you need to let go of. Revisit those people and situations that need mending. If you do, you will have much more peace of mind in this new career called retirement.
Instead of being immobilized by physical, relationship and emotional clutter, face it with the courage that you have demonstrated in other life situations. Clear out the clutter and make room for new and exciting opportunities. Here are some ideas for you to consider that will help you manage the clutter so it doesn’t eventually control your life.
1. Begin by going through the “things” that you have and create three separate piles: a) things to keep b) things to give away c) things to throw away. You will be surprised what shows up as you do this exercise. It will begin to affect how you are feeling and thinking about yourself and your environment.
2. Explore your relationships and lovingly let go of those relationships that can’t be successfully mended. At the same time, nurture those relationships that you believe are supporting you. You will often find these relationships in surprising places.
3. Identify the paralyzing emotions that are cluttering your psyche and try to understand them. Let them speak to you in a way that you can let go and move on. Is it fear of letting go of regrets that is holding you back? Could you repackage your career by using your skills in a different way? Do you need to work on your marriage before retirement magnifies hidden problems?
As you unpack that heavy backpack of clutter that you have been carrying around, you will begin to feel lighter, freer, less responsible for others and more ready to move on. Now is the time to embrace the possibilities that are waiting for you. Now is the time to make the best of your life for the rest of your life.
Dee Cascio specializes in Retirement Lifestyle Strategies. She is a Certified Life & Retirement Options Coach, an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and a member of the International Coach Federation. Dee is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a National Certified Counselor, a Certified Couples Imago Relationship Therapist, and a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). For the tools you need to build the retirement of your dreams, sign up for The New Lifestyle Retirement newsletter at http://www.retirementlifestylestrategies.com.