The Joy Of Decluttering
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|July 2017

Don’t let these common but misguided notions derail your goal to declutter and lighten up.

Patricia Mertz Esswein

We spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff and the latter half trying to get rid of it, says Barry Izsak, a professional organizer in Austin, Texas. If you’re in the second phase, we’ll help you make the tough decisions about what to toss and offer suggestions on where to sell your stuff. Still too daunting? We also tell you when it’s time to call in the pros. But first, you need to get over these often-untrue truisms.

I just need to get organized.

That’s probably a good bet, but first you need to figure out what to toss. And many baby boomers face a special dilemma: After decades of accumulating their own possessions, they want to simplify their lives even as their parents are dying and leaving behind a tidal wave of stuff, says Julie Hall, director of the American Society of Estate Liquidators. At the same time, their millennial kids are leaving home and leaving behind many of their possessions. The solution? Dispose of as much as you can, then organize what’s left.

Think of the disposal process as “right-sizing” your stuff, meaning you should have the right amount of stuff at the right time in your life, says Izsak. He advises clients to keep only what they find useful or beautiful and to sell, donate or toss the rest.

The kids may need it someday.

“News flash! Your kids grew up with too much stuff and don’t want any of yours,” says Bonnie Kallenberg, owner of Finders Keepers Consignments, in suburban Atlanta. Millennials value mobility and experiences, not stuff. Tastes have changed from formal to informal, from traditional to contemporary and from cluttered to clean.

Mid-Century Modern furnishings and decor are hot, and “brown furniture” (traditional styles in dark stains or woods) and big, heavy pieces (china hutches and entertainment centers) are not. Many twenty- and thirtysomethings don’t like furniture upholstered in floral, plaid or paisley fabric. They don’t want to clutter their space with Hummel figurines or other tchotchkes. They tend to live and entertain informally and don’t want anything they can’t wash in the dishwasher, so they’ll probably take a pass on the crystal, china and silver.

Ask your children what they would like to have, accept their answers, and don’t pressure them into taking more than they want. As for another issue faced by many empty nesters—serving as Mom-and-Pop Storage Inc.—if you like, agree to store your adult children’s belongings until they get settled, but give them a deadline for pickup.

My cookie jar collection must be worth a fortune!

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM KIPLINGER'S PERSONAL FINANCEView All

How to Surf the Net More Safely

To help you fight identity theft, consider adding a VPN.

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

Tap Home Equity for Extra Income

Home is where the heart is, but it’s also a source of regular income for many retirees.

8 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CAR RENTALS

Get up to speed on how to snag a deal and avoid pesky fees.

10 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

STATES EYE TAX HIKES FOR HIGH EARNERS

The tax revenue could close budget gaps, but the measures could drive away mobile workers.

4 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

THE KIPLINGER 25 FUNDS Unflappable

Our flock of actively managed funds survived a wild year and as a group delivered benchmark-beating gains.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

Another Front in the COVID Fight

The commander of a National Guard task force says they’re filling gaps in the health care system.

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

HOW TO BUILD (OR REBUILD) WEALTH

Our 11-part plan will help you establish a solid financial foundation or take stock of your progress.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

Did Anyone Hear a Pop?

Investors are worried that stocks are in a bubble— and that it’s going to burst.

10 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

Behind on Debts? Know Your Rights

There are limits on what debt collectors can do to recoup what you owe. If you have medical debts, you have even more rights.

6 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021

20 WAYS TO Save on Health Care

From maximizing insurance benefits to shopping for discounts to funding tax-advantaged accounts, these tips will lower your costs no matter how you get your care.

10 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
May 2021
RELATED STORIES

How We'll Connect

Entrepreneurship is not a solo experience. It’s a collective effort—building a team, finding partners, fostering relationships with consumers that could last days or decades. So while the pandemic has changed the way we connect, it hasn’t changed the simple fact that we must connect. With new tools, philosophies, and work-from-home strategies, we’re setting ourselves up for an interconnected future—whether by screen, in person, or a bit of both.

10+ mins read
Entrepreneur
July - August 2020

How To Declutter Your Home

Most people think that stress is usually caused by workplace headaches, traffic, or toxic people. But did you know that one of the major causes of stress and wasting time is actually the mess that you have at home?

5 mins read
Self Improvement International
January 2021

How To Kick-Start The New Year!

It’s the perfect (and traditional) time to set some fresh goals, so why not try something slightly unusual? Here are 14 ways to get your new year off to a healthy start.

6 mins read
Fairlady
January/February 2021

6 Easy Hacks To Declutter For Good

Streamline your life with these genius tips – the kids will even want to get involved!

3 mins read
New Idea
July 20, 2020

Declutter Your Digital Life

Overwhelmed by everything in your digital life? With the help of a few handy tips and apps, you can regain control

10+ mins read
MacFormat UK
August 2020

25 Ways To Self-Care

Declutter and destress with these simple and easy to follow self-care rituals - one for every week.

6 mins read
GlobalSpa
May 2020

How To Get Your Backyard Back In Shape

A tidy garden is the first step to a tidy mind — isn’t that what they say? If your garden’s become a dumping ground, it’s time for you to tidy up!

1 min read
Backyard & Garden Design Ideas
Issue #17.3

Treasures Or Burdens Downsize Your Clutter

The Weight of a move can be lightened with the help of a special swedish technique

4 mins read
New Zealand Woman's Weekly
September 9 2019

Spring Clean The Easy Way

Delight in these new decluttering ideas

3 mins read
New Idea
September 16, 2019

Un-Busy Yourself to De-Clutter and Organise

Then get peace of mind.

3 mins read
Woman's Era
August 2019