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Spring Cleaning: De-Cluttering Your Home in Retirement

Once you retire, you have more time on your hands, but how do you spend that time? I segment this into two categories:

  1. Do’s: things you do
  2. Need-To’s: things you feel you should be doing

Prior to retirement, everyone thinks they’ll have more time for the need-to’s, but here’s how my conversations go with clients after they retire:  

Do’s are told with a smile with enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment:  Here’s what I’m doing:

  • I’m volunteering.
  • I’m taking a class.
  • I’m traveling.

Need-to’s, on the other hand, are described with shame, guilt, and the same zeal in which you’d talk about your next doctor’s visit.

  • I need to clean out my basement.
  • I need to get rid of all that junk.
  • I need to organize my closets.

Might as well be, “I need to get that mole looked at.”  

Not surprisingly, we prioritize the things we enjoy.  So why do we dread the others? Often, it’s a feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin.

A common example is de-cluttering. We long for tidy living spaces. From a practical standpoint, it’s easier to find stuff and we don’t trip over things. It’s visually appealing (which is why realtors stage houses to create an environment everyone wants). There’s also a psychological advantage to tidying up. A visually clean environment has been proven to improve your ability to focus.

So how to you begin organizing a lifetime of accumulated stuff?

1. Downsize your Project

If the magnitude of your project has you paralyzed, shrink it.  As Karen Swart, President of Organizing Ect., explains,

“Don’t look at your house as a whole [and feel the need to organize it all]. Pick one room and don’t pick the worst one. Then, think about only part of that room and start there. Start with one drawer.”

Indeed, the likelihood of starting, let alone finishing a de-cluttering project goes down as the space gets larger. So, take it in bite-sized chunks that can be finished in a relatively short period of time. The momentum from getting one thing done will propel you to the next.

2. Edit Away

Once you’ve chosen a small, manageable project, you move to what Karen and her team of professional organizers call “Editing,” where you go through your belongings and ask yourself these questions:  

  • Do I use this?
  • Will I actually use this in the future?
  • Is it broken?(you laugh, but wait until you’re doing this)
  • Is it sentimental?

If you’re not sure, the tiebreaker is the popular Marie Kondo question: “Does this item bring me joy?”

3. Give It Away

This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard to overcome the feeling of being wasteful. You’ll know how much something cost and attribute value to an object. Remember, if it’s broken, throw it away. If not, donate the items. Feel better knowing someone in need will use it.

"I'm saving it for the kids."

The younger generations have grown up with abundance, with stuff being cheap and replaceable. They value trends and style, not fine china that’s kept for life. Don’t be hurt when the kids have no interest in your crystal stemware. What the kids do value are items of significance—items with a story or sentimental value. So tell your kids the story behind the stuff.

4. Embrace Digital

90% of the paper you’re storing in the file cabinet is unnecessary. Bills, vehicle maintenance records, and receipts can be scanned and stored as a digital copy on your computer (or better, a cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or Google drive). Banks and financial companies now archive your statements online. And for fun, check out Artkive (, who will turn a box of your kids’ childhood artwork into a book—preserved and neatly stored on a bookshelf!

Need help organizing your financial life? Email me at


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Greg Dillard

Greg Dillard

Greg is a co-founder of BridgeQuest Wealth Strategies and a Wealth Advisor. He strives to ensure that clients gain clarity and focus in the financial planning process. Clients appreciate his ability to distill down his in-depth analysis into an understandable game plan.