Moving, clutter, and retirement

Packed household goods for moving into new house

Image: Yastremska/

Moving at any stage of life can be challenging. There’s so much to think about and do. That includes making lists, advising people, institutions, and companies of your new address, and wondering what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away.

A recent report in a financial journal made the comment that ‘more households are seeking to trade down than trade up’. The reasons given in the report include freeing up capital for retirement, increased convenience, family circumstances changing (for instance, the death of a spouse), as well as unemployment.

Other reports agree that the ‘S’ word (simplification) was a motivator in down trading. The desire for a simpler, less hectic life often tops retiree lists.

Also mentioned in reports as reasons for down trading were factors such as less cost in running a home, less cleaning, and less exertion in the garden. Not being responsible for the upkeep of a larger home and garden can free up time and allow people to go travelling and explore other opportunities.

People find they don’t necessarily want the things and the clutter they’ve had for years. Many retirees talk more of wanting experiences and activities than having responsibility for a larger home.

Of course, not everyone wants to move. For some, retirement allows them the opportunity to spend more time in their gardens or engage in their hobbies.

However, it can be an interesting (and sometimes stressful) experience for some to look in their cupboards, the garage shed and spare bedrooms and see how much stuff they’ve accumulated. Stuff has a habit of hiding—ranging from old sports equipment to hobby materials long since forgotten.

A couple I knew had kept all their children’s junior school artwork, school uniforms and other clothes. The ‘children’ were almost grandparents themselves so it was a long time since the clothes had been worn and the artwork admired, but it remained.

It takes a determined effort to sort through the treasures and decide what will be kept, what will be given away, and what needs throwing out. Moving can be a very emotional experience for some.

I once met a man who had an excellent range of tools in his garage. When he moved into a smaller home, many of his tools had to be given away. He missed them, but joined a Men’s Shed in his local community and still had access to woodworking supplies and tools. He also found the Men’s Shed a great way of getting to know new people.

Making a list of our needs and wants in retirement living is important, so is planning ahead. Will you move or stay?

Jill Weeks is the author of 21 Ways to Retire and co-author of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi. She is a regular contributor to ABC radio.

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Category: Where to Live

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