Declutter Your Life

Ringing in the new year always feels like a new beginning, the perfect time to shed those behaviors, habits and attitudes we no longer need or want.

This kind of decluttering takes many forms. A successful Realtor in her mid-60s remarked at a gathering I attended that once the sale she had in progress wrapped up, she thought she might retire. Asked what else she was ready to give up, Diana said, “Costco.”

Nothing against the store — it’s the bulk packaging she wanted to live without.

Maybe you are not ready to retire, and maybe you still like buying 40-ounce jars of mixed nuts, a six-month supply of toilet paper and body lotion sold by the liter. But as we get older, many of us do change our ways.


‘Ridding Myself of Self-Disdain’

“Around 50, we start to shift from externally-imposed pressure or guidelines to choices that are more internal, freer, unique to each of us,” said Leslie Davenport, a Northern California therapist in private practice for over two decades.

Davenport also noted that obsessions about body image tend to fade over the years. “At a younger age, what we eat may be dictated by a clothing size or a particular weight,” she said. “Older women tend to focus more on food that is enjoyable and feels healthy, and they let the dress size or number on the scale just be whatever it is.”

As we age, we often let go of the belief that circumstances or people are supposed to be a certain way.

— Leslie Davenport, therapist

Cheryl, 66, can relate to that. She had joined a gym in suburban St. Louis, and when asked about her goals, said she wanted to improve her balance, strength and stamina.

“Previously, the first thing out of my mouth would have been that I wanted to lose weight,” Cheryl said. “I am ridding myself of self-disdain and loathing.”


Embracing Free Advice When It Hits Home

Tuning in to our own wants and needs doesn’t mean we can’t still benefit from outside advice when it suits our larger purpose. Shannon, 55, is a freelance wardrobe worker in New York City theaters. Words from a boss just happened to be words Shannon needed to hear.

“A supervisor told our crew, ‘If you are using this job as your life, I suggest you go out the door and get one,’’’ Shannon said. “That statement changed my life.”

Shannon stopped thinking of work as a competition, and says she no longer cares whether she is in charge. “Now it’s much more fun to go to work, do the job well, be a helpful and productive part of a team — and then clock out at the end of the day,” she says.


Rekindling Relationships or Letting Them Go

Sometimes, as we consider more carefully what we want for ourselves, we find we are ready to give up long-held grudges.

“Maybe we’ve kept a family member or friend at arm’s length, but as we age, we often let go of the belief that circumstances or people are supposed to be a certain way,” Davenport said. “Letting go of rigidity in our beliefs can lead to a rekindling of relationships.”

Or, in some cases, the opposite occurs.

Half a dozen people interviewed for this article reported that aging has given them the courage to cut ties, ending one-sided friendships and relationships that bring them no joy.