Briefcase Study: Clutter: When Too Much Is Just Not Enough

In Articles, Articles: Kansas City Office, Articles: Salt Lake City Office, Briefcase Studies, SLC Summer 2023, Summer 2023 by Scott Dougan

Clutter: When Too Much Is Just Not Enough 

It may be time to declutter. Nobody is forcing you to declutter, but if I were to guess, I bet you’re probably feeling that desire on some level.

You may have done some decluttering during the pandemic, but clutter doesn’t rest; it grows and sneaks up on you. Looking back, we spent an entire childhood wishing for more things like bikes, games, our own room. Then we got those things, and years later somehow found ourselves needing to supply them for our own kids, filling our homes with stuff. After raising kids, you may be viewing things – lumpy objects – very differently now. Sure, you may love your new truck, boat, or a swimming pool for the grandkids, but your desire for more material objects may have begun to wane and even turn into outright disgust. “How did we collect all of this junk?” Now, it seems that we can’t wait to rid our lives of the clutter that prevents us from feeling carefree and at peace.

As the years have gone by, I’ve noticed that retirees will often say things like, “We just want to make things easier for our kids when we pass.” Usually after handling the estate of their own parents after losing them, the natural instinct is to shed all unnecessary items, so your kids won’t have to feel the same burden of stuff that you did. And while this often begins with a focus on physical items, it almost always includes financial assets as well. The idea being that getting beneficiary arrangements established properly, wills, and often trusts set up to facilitate an easy transfer of financial assets brings an added sense of peace to the forward-looking retiree. It’s in this spirit that we begin what I like to call ‘The Great Decluttering’.

Declutter: Physical Items

On the shedding of unneeded physical objects, there are great resources out there that you may wish to check out. One is the now-classic book by Marie Kondo titled, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Another is Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. Both of these books earned their mega-bestseller status by being truly great books about the how and the why behind living a purposeful and rich, less-cluttered life.

When it’s time for the stuff to leave, consider these destinations for your items:

  • Goodwill
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Garage Sale
  • Church Rummage Sale
  • Donate to Family or Friends

Declutter: Financial Assets:

There’s so much emotional and psychological benefit in getting one’s financial house in order.

Here are some steps to consider when embarking on your decluttering journey:

  • Consolidate like-kind investment accounts – Combining IRA, 403(b), 401(k), and 457 accounts into a single IRA can simplify investment management, RMD calculations, and transfers upon death.
  • Create a will and/or revocable living trusts – Direct the disbursement of your assets during life and after death through establishment of the proper legal documents.
  • Establish a written financial and retirement plan – By living within a plan, the resources you’ve accumulated can be utilized in the most efficient and effective manner for you and for future generations.
  • Make thoughtful decisions about risk – Nothing clutters the mind quite like worry, so align your investments with your desired level of risk so you can keep your focus on the most important areas of your life while allowing your money to support you and not require you to worry about it.
  • Consider making meaningful charitable donations – Having excess or unnecessary financial assets can represent a unique form of financial clutter so why not give some of it away? If there’s an organization you cherish, chances are they’d cherish your generosity.
  • Communicate with family about your wishes – The best plans don’t work well if they don’t involve those whom the plan is designed to benefit. Taking advantage of your support network can pay big dividends when life gets messy.

Decluttering is a process and not a destination. Admittedly, it requires time, effort, and patience. Stuff was great and is great, but only when it’s used for a purpose greater than itself. Once that day has passed, it’s time to pass it on. Let’s unclutter and live more fully.