Downsizing in Retirement: Purging My Closet, Office and Bathroom and Learning to Breathe Again
I love the change of seasons because it gives me an opportunity to do one of my favorite things: purge my closet. The good thing about purging one’s closet at the beginning of the season is that the things you get rid of are still wearable by someone else.
This year I was ruthless. If something didn’t give me a good emotional vibe, or if it made me feel old, or if I was holding onto it because it was a gift but no longer felt or looked right, out it went! Five large shopping bags were filled of sweaters, shoes, hats, bags, belts and jewelry. It was liberating.
But that feeling of liberation quickly subsided when I walked into my office. There I found a different kind of emotional connection to things.
Accepting Things Can Live Online
I’ve kept three banker boxes sitting on the floor in front of my bookshelf for quite some time. They were filled with newsletters from health practitioners I’ve followed for years. Some were even arranged by category in binders.
In the back of my mind I thought, “Someday I’m going to write a book about alternative health.” In truth, I am well aware this is not going to happen. Moreover, just about every single thing in all those papers is available online.
I spent one extremely satisfying day pulling all of those newsletters out of their respective boxes and binders and throwing them into the recycling bin. Then, as I was able to see my bookshelf more clearly, I turned my attention to its contents.
There’s some joy in keeping books that were meaningful at one point in one’s life. But frankly, a lot of these things – especially some that have been following me around since my 20s – simply weighed me down psychologically. Into the recycling bags they went.
My desire to stay in the present always overrides my sentimentality. This was a liberating exercise that allowed me the freedom to breathe deeply and move forward.
The Bathroom Purge
Afterward, like Patton marching through Europe, I attacked everything in our bathroom, starting with my makeup drawer. Out went the aged and likely bacteria ridden mascaras, eyeliners and eyeshadows.
Out went the last vestiges of lipsticks that had been sitting in the drawer for years. Out went the foundation that was expensive but makes my skin look yellow.
Since my hair is now short and curly, and I’m not likely to ever wear it long again, I spent a good deal of time washing and cleaning some brushes that I hadn’t used for many years. Out, too, went old hair products designed to “straighten your hair over time.” They simply didn’t work.
When now I open the door to my closet, or my makeup drawer, or walk into my office, the most wonderful thing happens: I breathe. Creating space – physically or psychologically – makes room for breath.
What are you holding onto that’s keeping you from breathing? What areas of your life really could do with a major purge? Are you holding onto old makeup, paperwork or clothes? In the comments below, please share your best practices to get rid of the clutter.
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of “Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Better Wardrobe for Every Women – Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes and the Over Fifty”, and “She’s Got Good Jeans.” She writes about fashion, style and the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please visit her blog Shopping for the Real You.