sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

How Clearing Clutter Can Help You Find Freedom and Happiness After 60

By Margaret Manning November 20, 2023 Lifestyle

I came across this quote about clearing clutter on – of all places – a medical website, and it struck me as the perfect way to look at the “too much stuff” conundrum I’m still struggling with.

Peter Walsh, an organizational expert and former host of The Learning Channel’s Clean Sweep show, said about the deleterious effects of having too much clutter in your home: “If you have so much stuff it drags you into the past or pulls you into the future, you can’t live in the present.”

Past and Future: A Great Way to Think About Clearing Clutter

That’s a great way to analyze your clutter, as far as I’m concerned. It allows for having a variety of possessions, for one thing. It’s not advice about how to strip your belongings down to only the essentials. Instead, it concentrates on the draggy effect of being surrounded by too many things that remind you of times gone by or tasks that you haven’t done.

This way of looking at clutter is new for me, and I like it. The wildly popular piece of advice, often quoted to me from that mega-selling “Magic of Tidying Up” book, about holding each of my possessions in my hand and seeing if it brings me joy, just doesn’t do it for me.

First, I don’t have enough time on this earth to touch each individual item that I own, one by one, and commune with it to determine its joy value. Does this include each pen in my drawer? Each greeting card in my stash? Each pair of earrings? Each measuring cup? Ugh.

Second, there are many possessions I own that I already know do not bring me joy – or that in fact bring me sadness – but I wouldn’t part with them for anything in the world. Things that were my mother’s. The leaning-to-the-side vase that my son made for me a zillion years ago. Pictures of my wedding the first time I was married. They’re important to me. They’re sentimental. I’m keeping them.

And I’m not a hoarder, by the way, in case you’re wondering. But I do have too much stuff that’s dragging me down. And now I have a different way of setting my mind to tackling it.

On the Hunt for “To Do” Items That Pull Me into the Past or Future

Now I’m on a quest to survey my home for all the “to do” items – and often stacks of items – that are placed around my home. I admit there are a lot of them. They are indeed a source of bad feelings. I’m ready to concentrate on just those things about which I’ve said, maybe a thousand times, “I’m going to [sort, do read, file] that.”

It might be organizing piles of books, many of which I know I don’t really need to keep. It might be needlepoint that I meant to do for my children that now I plan to do for grandchildren. It might be photographs I intend to sort meticulously, labeling each by date and event.

Clearing Clutter Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Throwing Away

I can face these things that make me feel bad with a different intention now – to bring them into the present, or banish them from my daily living situation. For that collection of books, I’m going to tackle them with a couple of bags, with the goal of filling those bags with the books I can admit I don’t need to keep.

Off to the Friends of the Library they’ll go. Then I’ll organize the rest of them. A bit of banishment, plus a bit of moving items from “I’ve got to do something with those” into an organized part of my present-day life.

The handicraft projects I’ll either give away or store with my gifts stash. (I always have a stash of things I buy for loved ones whenever I find things I know they’ll like; I hold them until the next birthday or holiday.) That way I don’t feel that I need to complete those projects now. I’ll complete each of them when the time is right for giving them as gifts. They’ll move from “I have to finish those projects” to “Gifts ready for giving.” When an event arises for one of those needlepoint projects, I’ll be motivated to complete one.

The photos I’m putting into boxes by era based on my life and my children’s lives, and I’m not going to sort them down into exact sequence or dates as I had planned to do. I don’t need to create the Library of Congress here; I just need to organize an easy-to-navigate collection of photos that I can enjoy when I want to look at them, and that my children can look through whenever the mood strikes them. They don’t need to find “First Day of School 1991” or “Christmas 1987” or “Halloween 1993.” I think “Kids’ Baby Years” or “Kids’ Middle School Years” will suffice. That I can get done.

It’s Not Really About the Stuff; It’s About the Demands You Place on Yourself

Conquering too much stuff is about letting go a little, being more reasonable about what can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time and lowering the sometimes-ridiculous standards you’ve set for yourself.

I like this new way of tackling clutter. It will bring me one step closer to the feeling of freedom and possibilities that I long for – the idea that, hey, if I wanted to pack up and move again one day, that would not be an insurmountable task. And freedom and possibilities are what life is about, right?

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you thought about clearing the clutter in your house this year? Do you have more than a few items in your house that make you feel that you haven’t accomplished what you’re supposed to?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I have cleared my clutter on a regular basis. BUT now I plan to dive in deeply and have a whole new mindset than I have before.

I had thought I would take pictures of the family items I display then let her take what she wanted and pass on anything she didn’t to younger family members that might appreciate having them. This was to happen after I passed then I thought WHY WAIT? I don’t need it cluttering up my house. I’ll put it out among my cousins to see if it would be anything a certain younger family member might want.

As far as pictures, I have the boxes & made my own dividers. Since I love to post pics of people I love on social media for their birthday, etc I now plan to do a quick sort by names/families, etc. Better than trying to find one amongst the pics I have stored in many places around my house. Think of the cupboard space I will gain.

You know those things you hate to get rid because you think you might need it again some day. NOPE! Those things CAN go and be donated. There is someone out there that may be thrilled to find this. If I do need it later I can always go buy it if necessary but I’d rather have the space they take up.

I’m really, really excited to go room to room and create more open space.

Ciara Roots

I’ve set a goal to put my house on the market in January, and be moved 1100 miles away by April 1. I’m not doing too well with getting rid of decades of stuff, but now that time is crashing in on me, I MUST get moving on the downsizing. This article was helpful, as are several others I’ve read lately, along with some videos I’ve watched.

I don’t have kids, but I’m close to nieces and nephew. They have totally different taste than I do, so they won’t want any of my stuff. So, it’s give it away, throw it away, or sell it. I’m so into recycling that I’m finding that slows me down. I can’t bear the thought of just putting good stuff in a landfill, but really, who wants my used underwear, even if it’s in good shape? Ewwww, I wouldn’t want anyone’s used undies!!!

Good luck to all my fellow Boomers who are going through this. It seems like everyone I know is in a “clear the clutter” phase.


I love the idea of sorting the photos, I am overwhelmed with big Rubbermaid containers with photo albums and photo-hundreds if not thousands that my mother took. I also have my own, but now they are digital of course. I have been working so hard to go through kitchen, Knick-knacks. Then there is the jewelry—my mother had SO much. It is overwhelming and I have given many family members free rein to go through and get what they would like, but still so much.


22 years ago the house we owned then was flooded by a burst pipe in the attic, it happened when we were on holiday. A neighbour contacted us to say there had been a lot of banging noise in the house and the windows were streamed with condensation. We cut short the holiday and when we got back all of the downstairs ceilings had collapsed, the electrics were dangerous and the place was unfit for habitation. 80 percent of our furniture and possessions were lost including sentimental items like our wedding photos.

After the trauma of this and the house being dried out and redecorated twice, I decided I wasn’t going to have loads of “stuff” cluttering the place. I became a bit minimalist. However, I’m now living in 2 different countries with an apartment in one and a house in the other, so things are creeping up again. I’ve decided to have a good clear out in the spring and to donate unwanted or unnecessary things to local thrift shops and the Salvation Army.

About 17 years ago I was very ill for 2 years and clutter made me feel very overwhelmed, I don’t want to feel like that again.

Janne Perry

I thoroughly agree! This is a really nice way to think about tackling clutter. 

My daughter made a good point about family photos – don’t over organise absolutely all photos because part of the fun for our offspring is the element of discovery. Basic organisation is great but looking through a box of jumbled photos can be a lot of family fun!

I’ve gone from a mini home library of books to just a couple of shelves of that I know I’ll re-read and refer to; it makes room in the home and in my head. After many years of absence I’ve also started using the public library again, ordering what I want to read (I prefer actual books to a digital reader) and having them delivered to a local point for pick up. Perfect!

The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

You Might Also Like