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Downsize to a richer, happier life

October 27, 2023


What do you want to do with your life? Would you like to travel, downsize, have more money and more free time? Do you ever feel like your stuff holds you back, but the thought of decluttering just seems too hard? If so, you’re not alone.


This is the first of a series of articles dedicated to helping you to downsize, declutter and rightsize your life, brought to you by Ryman Healthcare in conjunction with decluttering expert Peter Walsh. 


It’s not really about the stuff 

When helping people to declutter, Peter never starts by focusing on the stuff itself. Every item in your home has a story, so the first step is to think about what that story is.  

Maybe you’re thinking about downsizing as you approach retirement but still have all the artwork and toys and books that belonged to your now adult children, and don’t know what to do with them. Perhaps letting go of that old sports equipment means letting go of a vision you had of yourself that no longer fits who you are. Maybe you’re holding onto heirlooms you have no use for because you want to keep the memory of the person alive. 

No matter what your situation is, it’s easier to declutter and downsize if you start by identifying the feelings that underlie your attachment to your stuff before tackling the stuff itself.  

This series of articles is designed to help you figure out what stuff enhances your life, what holds you back, and what to do about it. 

So, let’s get started! 


If everything is a treasure, nothing is a treasure  

Downsizing offers you the opportunity to surround yourself with things that benefit your life in the present day, rather than holding onto the past or waiting for an imaginary future. What enhances your present differs for everyone, but one thing is true in a cluttered home: if everything is a treasure, nothing is a treasure. 

Overall, clutter that holds you back from enjoying the present day tends to fall into one of two main categories: memory clutter and I might need it one day clutter.  

We’ll define these categories in this article, and in future articles we will explore some of the different types of clutter that fall under them. You’ll discover how clutter holds you back and how to let it go while retaining things that enhance your life: treasures which trigger happy memories, and the genuinely useful stuff. 


I might need it one day clutter 

The first type of clutter is I might need it one day clutter, which is unnecessary stuff that people hang onto for the future. This type of clutter is often seen amongst people who feel anxious and don’t want to let anything go, just in case. 

A lot of this clutter relates to your hopes and dreams for the future. But if you’ve got a house filled with stuff such as clothes that don’t fit, unused furniture, broken appliances, paper clutter, pieces of scrap wood, meaningless ornaments, old hobby and sporting equipment, and clutter that belongs to adult children, it holds you back.  

It’s hard to think clearly in a cluttered space, it’s hard to find things, it’s much harder to clean and to move around, and clutter tends to attract more clutter, so it’s not good for your wallet either. All these things make it harder to plan for the future.  

“When you can't let your stuff go, your stuff won't let you move forward,” says Peter. 


Memory clutter 

The second type of clutter is memory clutter. This type of clutter, which can include photos, awards, souvenirs, heirlooms, and objects associated with people or places is often the hardest to deal with. 

This is often because you worry that if you let go of the stuff, you’ll lose the memory. A feeling of guilt can also accompany memory clutter associated with a person, making you feel that if you get rid of the item, you’re throwing out the person.  

Peter’s advice is to identify the treasures that invoke the best memories and hang onto them while letting the rest go, so in our next article we will explore some practical strategies to help you to do this. 

“You can hold onto your greatest memories whilst letting go of stuff and then find yourself stepping into this incredibly exciting future,” says Peter. 


Letting go of what holds you back 

While it is easier said than done, if stuff you own is holding you back from creating the life you want in the present, then it will benefit you enormously to let it go.  

When you declutter – whether it’s your home, your head, or your heart – you create room for things to flow into that space that will truly enrich your life. 

We hope this article has been useful for you, and if you’d like to know more about how to tackle clutter, you might enjoy the next article in this series, which focuses on the common memory clutter conundrum of how to deal with gifts and heirlooms




About Peter:

Peter is the author of seven popular decluttering and organising books, including two New York Times bestsellers.  

Born and raised in Australia, he moved to the US in the 1990s and started his first series, Clean Sweep, for Discovery’s TLC Network. 

After 120 episodes of that show, The Oprah Winfrey Show put Peter under contract, and he was a regular guest on her show for the final five seasons. 

He’s currently working on the fourth season of his Australian series Space Invaders