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Is This What Happens At 50?

office unpacking

Purge, Toss, Recycle, Reflect: Is This What Happens At 50?


“I hope you will remove the clutter that prevents more from coming into your life.”

– Suze Orman

Purge, Toss, Recycle

As I ever so slowly continue to unpack my 200+ boxes from the move, I am purging, tossing and recycling like a mad-woman…not crazy-mad (although some would argue that) but a MAD WOMAN. As in, I am furious with myself for accumulating so much damn stuff over the years, never mind holding on to it for so long.

Upon reflection, here’s what I’m noticing…

The actual decisions as to what to keep and what to toss are easy. As I enter my sixth decade on the planet, I know what I want, need and love. As Marie Kondo would say, I know what “sparks joy.”

Making the decision is simple. Executing the decision is fast (put the item in the recycling bin, the thrift store box, the garbage or place it where it needs to go in the house). Where I am struggling is dealing with the psychological fall-out of purging all the old files in my office.

For it’s not just papers I’m getting rid of. I am also having to let go of an awful lot of goals, hopes and expectations I had set for myself as a writer. Not that I’m dying…I’m sure I still have plenty of time left to write. But I AM having to face the fact fact that despite my best intentions, I have not achieved anywhere near what I had hoped to, in the writing-department, by this point in my life.

Perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that it’s not like I’ve been sitting around for the past 20 years, thinking about writing instead of actually writing (like the old days, before John’s death when I was 32 and got the wake-up call of all wake-up calls about the importance of working towards our dreams instead of just talking about them).

No. I have been writing…like a mad-woman. And yet I have not accomplished anywhere near what I had set out to. This is an extremely uncomfortable conclusion to arrive at.

And yet, I think it’s healthy. As such, I am trying to embrace this discomfort (rather like hugging a cactus) instead of denying it or running from it.

The fact of the matter is: time IS passing very quickly. And I’m hoping that the sooner I can shed that which I no longer want or need (or is no longer serving me), the more time and energy I will have to focus on what really matters to me – the relationships, projects, causes & activities – in the years that remains.

Is this what happens in our 50’s? We reach some sort of…point of reckoning? 

I would love to hear your perspective!

In the meantime, here are some photos from the past few weeks of purging, tossing & recycling:

Boxes of stuff headed to the thrift store 🙂


My wood nymph dress from ballet, complete with adorable cat pin (this did NOT get tossed)


My Nan Nan’s telephone table fits perfectly in the foyer


A cozy nook by the fire a.k.a. the reflection chair


My assistant on yet another backyard break

And here comes the new…

Of course, now that I am shedding stuff left, right & center, this is creating a vacuum in which to receive new stuff – but believe me, I am being VERY selective as to what new items make their way into my home and life.

Case in point is a BBQ.

I had left my old, rusted, beast of a BBQ behind in Sidney so was going to have to get a new one. But I looked out my living room window a few weeks ago and low and behold, right across the street a BBQ had appeared on the curb overnight – with with a big FREE sign stuck to it.

I raced out my front door lickity-split, dashed across the street and pounced on that BBQ like a fat kid on a Smartie. I had just opened the lid to inspect inside when the home owner came out her front door and greeted me with a big smile.

“It’s older but it’s barely been used,” she said. “Can you use it?”

Beaming, I rolled that puppy back across the street, parked it in my backyard and have been using it almost daily every since 🙂

Slow Motion Multi-Tasking

Interestingly, shortly after beating myself up about not getting enough writing projects completed yet, I heard on the radio about a concept called “Slow Motion Multi-Tasking.” Apparently it is a creative process that many geniuses (such as Einstein) have utilized to their advantage over the years.

Basically slow motion multi-tasking refers to the practice of working for a significant period of time on a single project then putting it aside, working on another large project then putting that aside and returning to the first project with a fresh perspective. I have been doing this for years with multiple projects and I DO see the benefit. I just get freaked out sometimes that nothing will ever get finished and sent out into the world.

Apparently, however, I am in good company with this practice of slow motion multi tasking, so I shall continue to persevere with patience and passion!

But I reckon a little self-reflection now and then is not a bad thing.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.


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10 thoughts on “Is This What Happens At 50?”

  1. Hi Maryanne — your place looks so beautiful — especially love Nan Nan’s table! — remember, you are a child of the universe, so go placidly amid the noise and haste! — just thinking of the Desiderata yesterday when I commented to a friend that I am just a “child of the universe” meaning that I need to be easier on myself — then I remembered where this came from — hey, carry on with the slow motion multi tasking! Hugs to you and Sadie, Glynis

  2. To purge and declutter is to gain freedom. I’ve been on a purge for several years and yet there is still more to be done. I’m a big fan of Peter Walsh and recommend his book, “It’s All Too Much – An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff.”

    I first encountered Peter on a show called Clean Sweep – and he was more a therapist than anything else when helping people to declutter because of the emotional attachment people have to their possessions. I know that’s why I kept things but if you begin the process it gets easier.

    So, happy purging and thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi James…I will check out Peter Walsh! We do tend to have an enormous emotional attachment to possessions. This purging process has been really interesting. And you’re right…just beginning the process is a significant step.

  4. Thanks, Glynis…I will for sure carry on with the slow motion multi-tasking AND yes, I will also try and be a bit easier on myself!

  5. Love this post, Maryanne. It’s true for all of us I think. We have all these goals for what we want to accomplish as writers, but then there’s what we actually achieve. I think it speaks to the inherent difficulty in completing a project that we feel proud of. It takes more time than we think.

  6. HI-FIVE on the de-cluttering successes!! Love the quotes and love your inspiration! I, too, have been slowly emptying closets, drawers, and piles that sit on floors and desktops… It is freeing, cathartic, and scary as all get out (in the split second before tossing…)

    And your reflection chair is soooo inviting!!!

    Gratitude for the inspiration to keep going with my own mess removal so I can get back to the art of writing and creating new dreams!

  7. Hi Annah! So glad you enjoyed the decluttering blog…and yes, it sure does feel GREAT to get rid of stuff! And like you say, so freeing, too 🙂

    Carry on with your tossing…and I shall do the same!

  8. More than 200 boxes? Wow!! Yes it certainly sounds like some decluttering is necessary, and this is something that I can totally relate to. As I prepare to move house myself, one of the things I’m most excited about is the opportunity to toss away as much as possible and leave only what really matters. It’s an exciting time, and I don’t know about you but whenever I get rid of things and reduce the amount of items I own, I feel lighter, my head feels clearer, and I feel a greater sense of freedom.

    And I can appreciate what you say about not having achieved as much as you’d have liked to have achieved, and it’s good to use that as motivation; but please don’t forget about the things you HAVE achieved.

    Elliot 🙂

  9. Thanks for the reminder…I do have to remember that I’ve accomplished a great deal. Sometimes it is just a bit of an eye opener that I do still have a lot to do…but everything in due time, I guess.

    Re the decluttering…yes, you are right smack in the middle of that yourself now, as you prepare to move. All the best!

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