Retirement Hacks: Spring clean your home – for your sanity and your future retirement

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When the weather warms up and the flowers start to bloom, it may be time to consider a little freshening up inside the home. Donating or getting rid of excess items in your home can create physical and psychological space for now – and the future.

Retirement Tip of the Week: Whether you’re planning to retire in a month or a decade, cleaning out the home every year or so is a nice way to stay on top of your stuff, and make it easier to downsize in the future if you choose. 

Cleaning out the clutter is never easy. Sometimes, an item may only be useful every once in a while, and in other instances, we may become attached to something even if it no longer serves  a purpose in our lives.

But clearing out old possessions and donating them to someone who can use them not only clears out the house a bit, but makes it easier to consider our next moves. For example, some people choose to move far away in retirement, and having an already clean slate prevents extra headaches when it’s time to pack. For others, downsizing may be a requirement for their health or financial wellbeing, and having already cleaned out the house will ease the burden of doing so during an already stressful time. 

See: Thinking of downsizing in retirement? Consider these questions 

Here are a few things to consider when spring cleaning your home for a future retirement: 

Don’t keep stuff just because you think your kids may want it: Adults have their own clutter, and not everyone wants to take on their parents’ and grandparents’ belongings. There may be  items of value or immense emotional attachment – the first baseball a grandfather and grandson ever caught together at a game, a handwritten letter from mom to dad during their college days or old photos before smartphones were around – but other things, like a old lamp or a radio, may be worth ditching or donating instead. Instead of keeping household goods just to keep them until “later,” ask your kids, grandkids and other family or friends now if they want it, and if they don’t, toss it aside. 

Find charities you care about, and see what they need or want: Many of us may have one too many blankets or towels, or clothes in good condition that we don’t wear anymore. Consider donating these goods to local charities with causes close to the heart, such as an animal rescue shelter that uses blankets and towels to keep the puppies warm, or a veterans’ association or women’s shelter, which may use the extra clothes for their beneficiaries. Some charities also take bigger items, like furniture and electronics, so if you’re looking to get rid of things like that but don’t want to lug them across town, call a few local spots and see if they have pick-up days (many do). 

Also see: 6 things to consider before you move in retirement 

Try the Marie Kondo method: Marie Kondo is the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and the inspiration behind a Netflix show NFLX called “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” In her book and series, she teaches people how to declutter their homes and make their shelves and drawers neater. The biggest takeaway may be the question she asks herself and others: “does it spark joy?” If you’re unsure about keeping certain possessions, ask yourself this. If you’re still on the fence, consider taking photos of items you like but just don’t want lying around the house anymore – you can keep a digital record of what you used to have just to look back on if you ever wanted. If you have a million cards from loved ones through the years, try placing them in a photo album or scanning them so they’re not taking so much space on your shelves or desk. Other questions worth asking yourself: “Would I buy this again?” or “When was the last time I actually used this?” That could help you decide if you actually need to keep the item or not. 

Weigh what you need now versus what you’ll need in retirement: If you’re planning to age in place, you may need to make a few adjustments to your home for accessibility – adding ramps, changing the bathroom layout, widening the doorframes and so on. Some of these renovations may take up extra space in the home, so getting rid of unnecessary items in the house now could make the process easier. These future upgrades (for accessibility or even just to refresh your home) could be the incentive you need to get rid of old furniture or unused items clogging your closets.

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