As our daughters graduate from college in May, we are helping them move. Thanks to their somewhat ascetic lifestyle, this should be relatively easy. I suspect that each subsequent move will become more difficult as they begin to need certain things for their jobs, want other things that they could never have afforded as students, and try to determine who they are.
Ironically, as they begin their phase of accumulating, we are in the process of decluttering. This exercise is really around creating a picture of the things that we want in our lives and discarding the rest. It is about choice rather than denial.
"We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of," says Marie Kondo in her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." This emphasis in choosing over disgorging is the essence of financial planning.
Our financial clutter can be reduced through how we make our choices.
For example, leaving work is different from choosing retirement. It is often our clients who liked their work the most that adjust well to their new situation. Since they have been fulfilled already, they know what it takes to be fulfilled. For some of those who left jobs in which they were unhappy, they also became disappointed with retirement. Without defining what they wanted to do with their time, some of these clients felt bored and disillusioned. Boredom is the clutter of too many hours spent in unfulfilling ways. Clients who may not have liked their work but had developed other areas of interest while they were employed, had an easier adjustment because they pictured what was next.
Spending decisions also lead to clutter. Our budgets overflow with decisions not fully formed. A client indulged in a high-performance car that he loved, but learned to really dislike the annual maintenance costs. He chose to sell it.
Kondo writes, "The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can't discard doesn't mean you are taking good care of them." By keeping things that you don't really love, simply because you have them, you spend less time with the things that matter the most.
Spending money on things or experiences is great when they bring us joy. But owning or doing things without reflection as to what they mean to us just brings clutter. Your next move could be life-changing.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is founding principal and president of Accredited Investors Inc., Edina.