I know I speak for many when I say that when you reach a certain age, one begins to put as much effort into getting rid of a lot of the things one spent a great deal of effort acquiring.
There is not a room in our house that does not provide the potential joy of de-cluttering. There are clothes – some are fit only for another climate or for activities in which I no longer engage; some short shirts are no longer appropriate for public appearances by someone older than 40, some are worn out. And some are simply excess to requirements. I don’t need two pairs of high boots, four winter caps, two parkas, three purses, eight scarves – or whatever it is that’s in the next drawer down.
The kitchen yields a surfeit of dishes, pots and pans, glasses, jars, bottles, vases, flatware, utensils, and cookbooks.
Speaking of books – we have thousands. It feels almost like a sacrilege to throw a book away, even if it is a travel book written 35 years ago about the best places to stay. Mostly I put them into plastic bags and push the burden onto Oxfam.
Then there’s jewelry. I rarely wear jewelry anymore, partly because styles have changed, partly because even in the theatre people tend to wear jeans unless they are coming in from the suburbs, and partly because on the subway or walking home through the city at night, jewelry on display doesn’t seem like a good idea. The worst pieces of jewelry are potentially valuable pieces I have inherited. I don’t have relatives who wear these things, but I have to convince myself that not keeping them isn’t a betrayal of those who have left them to me.
Then there is that collection of gadgets and machines and utensils that promised to magically solve the problems of cleaning, repairing, renewing, extending, adapting, updating and transforming. I don’t buy much magic anymore, and I don’t use many of those we’ve acquired. The vacuum cleaner and lawn mower are still in frequent use, but the nano-cleaner for the front walk, the steam mop for the tile floors, and the printer that doesn’t work with the version of Windows I now have on my computer are all excess to requirements.
Research shows that as people let older, they generally get happier. Maybe having less stuff is as liberating for others as it is for me.