Thursday, October 22, 2009

Uncluttering: One Way of Preparing for Happy Retirement


Much as I love my work, age 70, the magic age I promised myself I would retire is just around the corner. As I contemplate happy retirement, one mantra comes to mind, unclutter. It is amazing how many things we hang on to, how much we accumulate and how many of them have any real meaning. I decided to spend this next year weeding out the clutter and focusing on what is truly important. Now, this takes real focus, commitment and brutal determination. People like me who were born during WWII are natural born hoarders. We just can't throw anything away.

The first things that went were the contents of my refrigerators and freezers. Note the plural. We have a refrigerator in the kitchen, in the garage, two beverage refrigerators, two dorm refrigerators from the kid's college days. And they were all full of stuff, like commercial size mayonnaise from the wholesale club, big tubs of margarine and large jars of olives, just because they were cheaper, never mind that they expired the next month. I am embarrassed to confess that I kept food until they turned green and only then could they be thrown out on trash day. It was not easy, but I was determined. Today, my freezers are empty. The cooler section only holds small jars of mayo, condiments, milk and today's food. I plan to get rid of all but one refrigerator. If I travel in retirement, there is nothing in the refrigerator to spoil. Having done that, I am confident I can tackle closets, shelves and yes, the garage so if I decide to look into retirement communities, I will be unencumbered.

Of course, refrigerators and closets are just metaphors of life, my life. I look into my mind and my heart and I examine the clutter. Caught in the busyness of contemporary living, I aspired to achieve goals I thought at the time were important as many were. In younger days, developing a career, financial stability were right in there with raising good healthy children. My husband I lucked out in having great children who raised themselves and us. It is a priceless blessing. Just like having a closetful of clothes and not having anything to wear, many a time, I failed to see the forest for the trees and to savor the moment because I was too busy getting ready for the next activity. There were some relationships I failed to nurture; the phone call I had been meaning to make; the letter I wanted to write, all when I could make time.

We are a culture of doers. We measure our self worth by what we have done. We act as if tomorrow is a certainty and not just a promise. We postpone the joy of being for the clutter of activities. We have great difficulty in being present where it counts, in savoring the moment as if it was the last, and in simply being. Like most I have to learn just to be. Seventy might not come but today I'm here. I choose to retire from the clutter of everyday life. I cherish good memories. I count my blessings. I promise to rekindle friendships and relationships. Today I empty my mind and heart of clutter so I can be open to just be.

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