As the end of the year approaches, I begin to putter around in closets and cabinets, donating those things that I am not using. I enjoy simplicity and orderliness. But it’s not just the cabinets and drawers that deserve attention, it’s the stressful things in our psyche that we should be willing to give up.

The cycle of life is a wondrous shedding of old skin and getting comfortable in the new skin. So, I invite you to think about the worn out things you will retire at the end of this year and the new ones you will embrace.

When I turned 65, I got rid of a lot of stuff. They were all items of clothing, replete with a box of hair dye. Those things were designed by someone who thought that I should be pulled in, pushed up, squeezed together, have to balance when I walked… and oh yeah, have different colored hair.

And yep, I had bought into it. When my husband moved from full time work to the part-time, semi-retirement that we now enjoy, I got rid of the things that were someone else’s idea of how I should be:

Dreaded Panty Hose

Any leftover pairs of panty hose that I had hiding in the drawers, I axed. I hope that whoever invented these sausage casings of the late 1960s has to spend time in a pair in some purgatory like place.

High Heels

Every last pair bunion-producing, blister-inducing, high-heeled shoes that I saved, thinking that one day I would wear them to a Christmas cocktail party were replaced by something flat, warm, cozy and wide.

People in my little valley wear warm flannel shirts when they gather, and no one gives cocktail parties anymore, do they?

Bad Bras

I wanted to burn all of my underwire bras, with the tight, nasty, cutting straps. But they don’t actually burn – I know. I tried once in 1969 by ceremoniously placing my bra in a trash can and lighting it. It kind of melted, but didn’t really catch fire.

Thongs

Does this even need an explanation?

Hair Dye

I worked with my hair stylist so that I could stop dying my hair. Now it’s turning silver. I prefer the word silver over grey, because silver sparkles and I think that women our age sparkle.

Now here’s the new skin in which I am still growing comfortable:

Laughter

A commitment to spend more time laughing – any old comedy with Robin Williams usually does it for me. A glass of wine and chocolate can definitely enhance the experience.

Tears

We don’t let ourselves cry nearly enough in this culture. We judge it as negative or unnecessary, or we’re embarrassed. Forget that! Tears are cleansing, soothing and releasing. A good cry can give you a sense of tenderness and open-heatedness, or a much needed sense of release.

Walks

More walks with friends are both a great exercise as well as a social activity. When I worked every day, I sometimes met friends for lunch. It was convenient and a way to connect.

These days, I’m able to invite friends for a walk, early morning or late afternoon. The goal is still to connect, but connect in a place where we get some good exercise and are surrounded by nature. I haven’t given up on lunches, either.

Volunteer

I didn’t have the time to volunteer during my office days. These days I do, and as a result, I’ve met wonderful, like-minded people who share similar interests.

I get to feel good about giving my time and energy to a worthy cause, and giving provides a balance to my life, reminding me how fortunate I am to have good health and love.

Creativity

A lot of women our age pursue in earnest those arts or crafts that they never had time for. For me, it’s writing. I wanted to write in my younger days, but it seemed that life was always intervening with marriage, mortgage and work.

With fewer restraints, I enjoy a full and rich writing life and a literary community. This is a great time to immerse in your passion, be it an art form, a craft like sewing or knitting, or words on a page.

What we shed are the ‘things’ that gather dust: the things that bind; the things that have become clutter. The new skin is made up of the intangible – purpose, meaning, connection, joy and love. It’s really a pretty good trade off.

Happy Holidays to everyone. I celebrate Christmas, and this is my second Christmas with Sixty and Me. It’s been such a pleasure to be part of the Sixty and Me family! May your holidays be warm and may your heart be filled with love. I appreciate you.

What things are you willing to shed and what are you reaching for in your new skin? Please share with the community in the comments section.

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

Let's Have a Conversation!