The life-changing magic of tidying up | PostIndependent.com

The life-changing magic of tidying up

Danielle Howard
Personal Finance
Danielle Howard
Staff Photo |

My parent’s Christmas gift was to carve out time to spend in their home to declutter and organize. Think the 12 days of Christmas with subtraction instead of addition. Because of her cheerful demeanor, I invited my sister to assist. She agreed gratefully, as it kept her from having to shop. Ahead of time we decided — nothing comes back to our houses.

Dad is a retired engineer and has had an active side life in the real estate and equity trading world for as many years as I can remember. His records are copious and impeccable. Mom is a health and spiritual guru that keeps detailed notes of every workshop and training she has ever participated in or taught. Fifty-five years of marriage produces lots of stuff.

Where do you want to start, we queried? Dad replied, “Start with your mom’s stuff.” She volleyed it back into his court. “Start in the furnace room and your Dad’s stuff.” The furnace room it was and with dust rags, bags and boxes in hand, we set to task. As I opened cabinets, I commended my Dad, “Nice labels.” The second small box I grabbed was “kitchen soap.” A vision of hard soaps from adventures afar came to my head. Upon opening it, though, I found a kitchen soap pump dispenser that threads through your counter top. I need this. Mine had broken several months ago. It even matched my faucet. Smiling, I asked, “Dad, can I have this?” My sister grinned and opened another plastic bag.

We sorted through boxes of travel brochures. We organized office supplies, light bulbs and indoor maintenance tools. We dug into boxes of financial records and meeting notes. My Dad sat firmly rooted at his computer nearby to make sure nothing too important got thrown away or put in the donation pile.

At lunch, I shared a letter sent by an acquaintance praising my parents on their commitment to their marriage and what he appreciated about them that I found. It was a heartfelt treat for all of us. We laughed at the tie clip signed by Al Gore that my Dad received from a colleague upon his retirement back in D.C. We talked about their travels, and it was easier to let go of the boxes of brochures and itineraries. We discussed the donation pile. “Your trash is someone else’s treasure,” I reminded them.

We organized office supplies, light bulbs and indoor maintenance tools. We dug into boxes of financial records and meeting notes. We perused and purged. We examined and expunged.

Organizing and decluttering our stuff is liberating. What do you want to do to put your financial house in order? Do you have old 401Ks that need to be consolidated? With current market conditions, have you reviewed your asset allocation and rebalancing strategy? Have you lost track of how that life insurance policy is working or not for you? Do you have brokerage account records from 20 years ago that you are just not sure what to do with? What do you keep, why, for how long? What can you shred? Who should know where your records are kept and why? When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan? Should you review your spending plan to intentionally use your money in ways that align with your values? Look at your mindsets around money and possessions. Are there areas you need to “declutter”? What does it take to create an abundance mindset instead of being consumed by the pursuit of excess?

The inspirational and motivational books, blogs and videos are out there. Check out our own Roaring Fork Valley’s Evan Zislis and his book “Clutter Free Revolution.” Marie Kondo is also creating momentum around simplicity and surrounding yourself with that which brings you joy in her book “‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up.” In every area of our lives, the concepts apply.

The overriding theme is reconnection with your values. Clarify what is important to you, and you can start letting go of the rest. It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. My mom declared, “Wow, this feels great. When are you coming back?”

Towards the end of the day, I found another box. A heavy duty three-hole punch machine. Compared to mine that I use daily, it was a treasure. Dad, can I have this? My sister just laughed.

Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner. Her office, Wealth By Design LLC, is in Basalt. Visit her at http://www.wealthbydesign4u.com. Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and WBD are not affiliated.


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