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Downsizing in Retirement: Purging My Closet, Office and Bathroom and Learning to Breathe Again

By Andrea Pflaumer November 15, 2022 Lifestyle

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.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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.

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During covid I cleaned closets I got rid of 13 / 30 gallon bags of clothing. I retired worked in Pharmacy no longer needed dressy clothing . I had over 50 blazers they were only to be worn then taken off & hung up to put the lab coat on as son as I arrived at work.I had shoes slacks, dresses,skirts, sweaters,blouses,boots coats etc I called the Mission House & the director lived in my town & she kindly came on the way to work & I helped her put them in her van . When she told me I would be clothing a lot of women I was beaming & then told her my husband also donated from his closet as well.That was a rewarding happy day !

Andrea Pflaumer

That’s one of the best stories I have ever heard. It’s so liberating, isn’t it! Thanks for writing.


In August, I laid in the hospital E.R. waiting for a surgical suite. During the 4 hour wait, my heart stopped 3 times. It is a miracle that I am alive. That gave me a hard, cold dose of reality. A week later I thought…I could have been 6 feet under today….my clothes could be going to a thrift store. The “wake up call” has motivated me to do some deep cleaning and clearing out things. In the grand scheme of life “stuff” does not matter! My next breath does matter! Boxes of books and bags and bags of decor and clothing all went to the thrift store in October. I’m still sorting and pitching!


Bethany so happy you are doing well! You are so right our ‘stuff” is just stuff it is our lives that matter ! My brother was dying of cancer when he was visiting me form California I live in Pa., he told me you will do anything for one more breath of life , In times past I would put stuff first to enjoy not any more ,I put my life first not material things. Have a lovely day !

Andrea Pflaumer

Wow! Yes, our mortality can be a huge wakeup call. I feel such a wave of joy when I clear things out. Thank you for your comment.


I cleaned out my office condo. It was very liberating. I, too, took many tons of paper (things I couldn’t remember anymore) to recycling. At least it felt like tons.

Andrea Pflaumer

Yes, liberating is the right word. The recycling center is one of my favorite places on earth…literally. I smile the whole time I am there. Thank yu for your comment.


Absolutely love this…very motivated to start my purge!

Andrea Pflaumer

Thanks Ali.

The Author

Andrea Pflaumer is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Shopping for the Real You, and an e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans. She has been a regular contributor to Sixty and Me for more than five years and blogs from her home in the San Francisco Bay area. Her most popular online course is Discovering Your Inner Style: an Adventure in Dressing Authentically.

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