Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Clutter: What We Can Learn From Younger Folks

You start out in life as a young adult with few belongings. Your music, of course, whether in your day that meant albums, 8-track tapes, cassettes or CDs. Some clothes (more if you're female), a few mementoes from your youth, some treasured books and maybe some posters for your walls.

And then life kicks into gear, and you become so busy working and doing that you don't realize how the clutter creeps up on you. Each stage of life brings more stuff with it, and before you know it,  you're anchored in place by everything you bought or were given since those long-ago days when your prized possessions only filled a couple of boxes.

Been there, done that, and am relieved that most of the stuff is gone now. There's nothing like a good decluttering to give you a new lease on life. But I sure wish I'd done it sooner, or better yet, hadn't hung onto so much stuff from the get-go.

Not that I'd want to be like this gal. Yes, she travels very lightly (and kudos for that!) but she appears to be rootless. That sounds lonely. Besides, I'm one of those people who quotes Dorothy ("There's no place like home") when I come home from a trip, whether I've been gone a day or two weeks.

But this guy: he's got the right idea. Yes, he's smart because he's only 31 but is already mortgage-free. In these tough economic times, that's very wise. But better yet, by living in a small space, he's limiting how much stuff he can take on in the coming years. This will save him so many headaches!

We who are facing retirement, or have already retired, can learn from these younger people. They're a reminder to us that we are not our stuff! There's plenty to do in this world, no matter what your age, and it's a lot easier to pursue such things when you're not anchored down with decades' worth of belongings.

What kind of opportunities are you missing because of your "anchor"? In my book Downsizing Your Life for Freedom, Flexibility and Financial Peace, I share the story of a dental hygienist who retired young and discovered the joy of helping children in Haiti after going on a mission trip there. When a long-term opportunity to do even more good there arose, she was all pumped and ready for it....until she realized that she'd have to do something about her overflowing-with-stuff, 3-bedroom ranch first. That'll dampen your enthusiasm!

These young folks who are trying to live lightly have the right idea. Those of us who are a bit (ahem) older may not have their youth or energy, but we can still pursue our dreams with gusto once we jettison the weight of too much stuff.

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