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

Your guide to open enrollment

Health care costs have continued to rise, but employers are enhancing benefits for 2023.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
November 2022

Don't Give Up on Developing Markets

Most investors today worry about inflation and the response to it from the Federal Reserve, but it's time for a longer view.

4 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
November 2022

The Right Focus Helps This Fund

Health care services is a bright spot in a shaky sector.

1 min read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

Nibble at These Core Index Bargains

THE KIPLINGER ETF 20 UPDATE

2 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

Democracy's Civilian Force

PAYING IT FORWARD | His group's mission: to promote American values around the globe.

2 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

TURBOCHARGED TAX INCENTIVES FOR EVs

The Inflation Reduction Act created new tax breaks for electric vehicles. Here's a guide to which vehicles count and the best time to buy.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

How to Navigate a Down Market

If there were a prize for living through unprecedented events, millennials might win first place. Older millennials entered the job market during the Great Recession and have since experienced a devastating pandemic and a spike in inflation not seen in 40 years.

2 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

Plan Your Holiday Tipping Strategy

Tipping is a way to thank people who have provided a service all year. But how much? And who?

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

Stock Buybacks Are Here to Stay

A new tax will barely dent a corporate buying spree. But be selective about investing in firms repurchasing shares.

4 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022

A Lump-Sum Payout Might Make Sense

If you're considering taking a one-time payout, don't put it off. Its value will decline as rates rise.

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
December 2022
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

TWO-DAY Declutter Cleanse

Experience the joy of getting organised - our simple but clever solutions will help sort your life out and make you feel lighter, brighter and more in control

3 mins read
Club
July 2022

Close the door on clutter

One extremely messy man embraces the great unknown: an ultra-clean, hyper organised, and “joyous” apartment

4 mins read
Men's Fitness South Africa
January - February 2022

How To Make Relocating Less Stressful!

Moving home involves careful planning and organising, especially when shifting base. Here’s how to make it easier on yourself.

3 mins read
Femina
September 2021

10 Steps To A Tidy Home

Whether you’re a Marie Kondo wannabe or a chronic mess maker, cultivating daily habits is the key to a healthier home and happier you. We share our 10 steps to a tidy home.

8 mins read
WellBeing
Issue 194

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