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Decluttering tips for retirement

“There’s too many things,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said. The Barefoot Investor’s Scott Pape said it too. It’s all very exciting when we buy something new, – but eventually we get bored of it. It ends up in the garage, and no item has ever made it back into the house from the garage. Pape even points out that the word ‘garage’ is one letter shy of ‘garbage’.

 “It’s been said that what your outside space looks like is an example of what your mind looks like,” psychologist Dr Heidi Heron, PsyD, says. “If you have a cluttered home, you’ll most likely have a cluttered mind.” Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be daunting. If you can shop more mindfully, be ruthless with what you keep and what you throw away, and take tidying up room-by-room, you’ll become a decluttering expert in no time!

Decluttering tip 1: Break bad habits

Decluttering begins with preventing the clutter in the first place. You can achieve this by shopping critically. Ask yourself if the thing you want will bring you long-term happiness, or if it’s just a quick ‘feel good’ buy. If it's the latter, chances are it’ll make its way to the back of the cupboard or garage in a few months.  

“When we have less to clean, store, arrange, tidy and look at, we are creating more space and more time for the things that truly matter,” Dr Heron says. “Habits are formed fairly simply, so keeping things decluttered can become a great habit to have. But until that time, hoarding, keeping things, or recreating clutter is too easy

Maintaining a clean home can also help avoid incidents that aren’t covered by your Home and Contents Insurance.Excess clutter can obscure things like the damage caused by gradual water leaks — which isn’t covered by Apia Home Insurance — increasing your risk of loss or damage.

Find out more about Home and Contents Insurance

Decluttering tip 2: Pick the right time to declutter

Dr Heron says there's no better time to clean out your existing space than in retirement. “By decluttering before or while in retirement, you are setting up the rest of your life to be the best of your life,” she says. “Retirement is a time for change, often creating more simplicity, time for family, hobbies or doing more of what you love!”

If you’re a while off retirement, you could keep a couple of weekends commitment-free to give yourself the time and space to clean. Or, “allow two to three months of weekly activity – a different room or area each week,” Dr Heron says. “Sometimes people have a lifetime of belongings to go through.”

Adopt the right mindset

Be brutal when deciding what to bin. “Keep in mind the task at hand – if something hasn’t been touched, used, or seen in more than two years, it’s probably okay to let it go,” Dr Heron implies. Otherwise, she suggests passing on belongings you no longer need to family members or friends – consider it reincarnation. “There are people in your life that some of your belongings may be better suited with. Be okay with that,” she says. “Be prepared to say goodbye to some things and to reminisce about others.”

How to get started decluttering your home

If you have plenty to declutter, take it one room at a time. And no, that doesn’t mean moving the clutter from one room to another!

The bedroom

Dr Heron believes the bedroom should be “one of the most peaceful places in your home”, but it’s often a nightmare of clutter, made up of piles of unworn clothes, shoes and accessories. Toss anything that is tired, torn or outdated. “Clear out any objects that don’t belong, recycle clothes that are not in fashion, things that don’t fit, or even things you don’t wear,” Dr Heron suggests.

She recommends turning clothes hangers backwards, then the right way around after an item of clothing has been worn. This will allow you to see just how much of your wardrobe you wear, making the culling process much easier. “If you haven’t worn it in the next six to 12 months, it’s time to recycle it,” she says.

The bathroom

It’s easy to let expired products pile up under your sink or inside your cabinets. Most toiletry products, from lotions to hairsprays, have a Period After Opening symbol, which resembles an opened jar and includes a number and the letter ‘m’. This acts as a guideline for how many months after opening you should throw the product out.

Similarly, only keep products you use daily in your bathroom. Separate the items you use each day from the ones you don’t and find a new home for the others. “The bathroom can become a gathering place for the old. Let this space be sparse, clean and welcoming,” Dr Heron says.

The kitchen

Whether it’s the pantry, fridge or one of the many cabinets, the kitchen is full of dishes, cutlery, food, spices, appliances and cleaning materials that we rarely use, and probably didn’t even know we had. Dr Heron says we should consider the kitchen the hub of the home, which means it should be kept free of clutter.

“If you have an extraordinary number of dishes, pare down to what you actually need,” she says. “Keep your refrigerator, pantry and cupboards clean. Toss out anything out of date and anything you haven’t or won’t use. Have appliances you haven’t used in years? Find somewhere to donate them – someone else will use them if you won’t.

The living/dining room

The broken DVD player you’ve been meaning to get repaired for years — bid it farewell, along with old DVDs, videos and CDs, magazines and anything else that hasn’t been touched in years. Even clear out underneath the sofa cushions – you’ll be surprised by what you might find.

“Your living or dining room is often what is seen most or first in many homes,” Dr Heron says. “Clear the dining table – find a home for what is there, even if that means throwing old papers, magazines, mail, etc in the bin. Create space in your dining room for dining.” Dr Heron says.

The shed/garage

Do you really need five pairs of pliers and those old paint tins? And it might be time to find that pile of dining chairs a new home, beyond your home!

“Instead of a dumping ground, think of the shed or garage as an extension of your mind,” Dr Heron says. “How can you organise it? Do you need shelves, a rubbish bin, or a yard sale? If there are items that are old, untouched, unwanted – recycle or sell. If things don’t work, call the council for pick-up.” Some councils even offer a free yearly hard rubbish collection. If so, plan your clean-up to coincide with that date.

Get cover for your belongings

Once you’ve done away with the excess clutter, you’ll be left with the things you truly need and value. So, it’s important to make sure these are covered in the case of an insured event, like fire, theft, or storm.

Apia’s got you covered with Home and Contents Insurance catered to over 50s.

You might also have to recalculate your sum insured after throwing away lots of things or replacing the old with new. This article explains how to estimate the amount of Home Insurance and Contents Insurance cover you may need.

 Get a Home and Contents Insurance quote online


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Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency Pty Ltd (Apia) ABN 14 099 650 996 AR 239591 is an authorised representative of AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 (AAI), the issuer of Home, Landlord, Car, Caravan, Motorhome, Boat, Travel & Compulsory Third Party Personal Injury (CTP) Insurance. 

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Any advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.  We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it - please make your own enquiries.

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