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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Downsizing

January 13, 2020

Like many of you, I am guessing, I set aside January (and into February) to get organized both inside and out. Recently, I came across a very interesting book, The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough by Dr. Sara Hart, PhD.

 An issue many of us are facing, or will be in the not too distant future, is moving from the home where we lived the second chapter of our lives (age 30-60+), and where we may have reared our family, and loved many pets. I am not quite there yet, having just turned 60, but I have begun to give it some serious thought. What my husband and I decided to do is to pretend we are moving on December 31, 2020, and go through our house, basement to attic, and get rid of anything and everything that no longer serves us. At the point we do decide to move, the stress of cleaning out and decluttering will not be added to the stress of finding a new home and physically moving. I also think this new dawning decade is a good time to open every cabinet and closet, and take stock. Next, tossing things attached to old energy, will invite fresh energy to revitalize our home and ourselves.

Dr. Hart makes a brilliant opening suggestion: Start decluttering a place that will be easiest for you to clear out and “begin there so you have some ‘wins’ and also keep your energy and spirits up.” I could not agree with her more, so for the Rohans’ that means starting in the laundry room where cleaning supplies, plant stuff, nails, screws, and all manner of hardware, and some strange odds and ends have found their way there.

I found Dr. Hart’s approach, her gentle encouragement, and her honestly at the difficulty she encountered within herself as she parted with beloved heirlooms, refreshing. She spends time talking about the emotional response we might feel at getting rid of a lifetime of objects we love. This is a woman bearing her soul in what can be one of the most painful processes we experience in our life. She constantly asks, ‘How will I know when I have enough?’ I like this question, and along with the mantra of the younger declutter queen, Marie Kondo, I am asking, “Does this bring me joy?” which is helping immensely to clarify my true feeling toward the object I am holding in my hand. This second question actually makes parting with things easier. I can tap into how I really feel about an item, and put it in the give-away pile, even if my mother spent a million hours creating it.

You may be wondering why I am talking about this topic? Because, as we get older, research confirms and seniors agree that downsizing may ramp up the fear of losing control over our lives; possibly creating a downward spiral into feelings of despondency and depression. Cortisol levels become and stay elevated when we feel out of control, allowing illnesses and diseases to take hold easier and hammer us, sometimes all the way into the ground. Exerting control over our lives lowers our cortisol levels and gives us a greater sense of well-being, hence, my idea of decluttering because I want to, way before I have to, so I feel empowered by taking control of my clutter and stuff and deciding thoughtfully to let it go. With our world so fraught with serious issues at the moment, many which I feel helpless to influence, going through and getting rid of some of my accumulated objects gives me a reassuring sense of at least having control over my little patch of the world, and hopefully, making it a better and more serene spot for me and my family.

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