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Declutter Your Retirement

Leonardo da Vinci called simplicity the ultimate sophistication. Bruce Lee called it the key to brilliance. And Gandhi, who many believe was the definitive minimalist, said the secret of life lies in never missing material things. What’s no secret is having less seems to be bringing more peace and happiness to those who have embraced this way of life. From small cars that counterpunched the SUV to tiny houses with their own television shows, it’s an increasingly popular choice.

But it may be easier said than done. Downsizing to a more manageable retirement home or sprucing up your current one means weeding through a lifetime of stuff, which can seem overwhelming. Even more so when it comes to making decisions about items of sentimental value. Thankfully, there’s wisdom out there to make the purging process manageable and liberating. Here’s how to clear space for a fresh start.

Ponder, Talk, Prepare

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo encourages readers to ask whether belongings “spark joy.” If they do, we should choose a wise place for them. If they don’t, we should say goodbye. And in “Behind the Clutter,” June Saruwatari talks about how clutter can be psychological as well as physical. She believes decluttering isn’t just about getting rooms in order. It’s also about letting go of emotional baggage and creating breathing room.

Whether you follow Kondo, Saruwatari or someone else, what matters most is finding a method that makes sense to you and getting started. If you need help, remember there are professional movers (e.g., senior move managers) with experience to help guide you.

One way to begin is by taking inventory – making a complete list of the items in your home. Everything. It’s a great way to see just how much you have and begin thinking about how your things can be put to better use.

Tip: If you donate, remember to keep receipts so you can claim charitable deductions on your taxes.

Share the list with family and friends. Are there items they hold dear and would like to have? Are there items you’re keeping because you think your children might want them? Have you asked? They may have their own style and preferences. Inventory could help frame these conversations and ready you for action.

Then, with some other minimizing tips, you’ll soon be discovering your inner Leonardo.

  • Give it the Third Degree Keep it? Sell it? Donate it? Trash it? These are questions to ask of all your belongings. Would you believe many people own two identical can openers? Pick one, lose the other. You won’t need both in your new space. Depending on its condition and your energy level, purge the surplus by immediately deciding to sell it or give it away. An honest assessment and some decisiveness can lead to more space for the things you really cherish.

  • Work Backward If you had to start over, what would you buy again? This mind bender will really get you thinking. Make a list someplace other than home, like a coffee shop, where you’re not staring at your possessions.

  • Tackle in Short Bursts Trying to pare down your home in one day is near impossible. Instead, set aside a few hours on weekends, or around holidays when your loved ones can chip in. Whether you tackle one room or category at a time, you’ll likely find this approach easier to accomplish.

  • Resolve the Sentiment An item you’re tied to emotionally might take extra work. To find out just how much joy it sparks, try scoring it from 1 to 10 on your own personal joy scale. Get rid of anything scoring 1 to 3 and keep whatever scores 8 to 10. What about things that score 4 to 7, you ask? Let’s proceed to the next tip, shall we?

  • Get Creative with Technology Consider digitizing photos, documents, movies and music. That coffee cup collection from around the world? How about keeping your favorite cup and making a cool poster from a picture of the rest? You could even create a photo album of items that your family didn’t want, but help tell the family story. Ideas like these don’t only create space, they can actually be fun.

  • Be a Little Greedy Items in good condition, even vintage clothes, can be sold through consignment or Craigslist and eBay. There’s a good chance something you loved and cherished will be loved and cherished by someone else.

  • Start Fresh After you’ve lightened your load, you can develop some new routines. After all, living simpler isn’t just something you do until the clutter returns. It’s a new lifestyle that takes practice. With some daily actions, you’ll be able to maintain the order you’ve worked so hard for. A few of these include:

  • Don’t buy unnecessary things (ask the tough questions when tempted)

  • Make the bed every morning

  • Put away clothes every night

  • Sort mail as it comes

  • Clean as you cook and never let dishes pile up

  • Put things back where they came from

  • Enjoy Your New Freedom Once you’re in a tidier home, or living comfortably in a smaller one, you can ask yourself a much easier question. How great is it to sit back, relax and bask in this newfound simplicity? The relief says it all.


Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors

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