Decluttering Goes Hand in Hand With Estate Planning

At Surprenant & Beneski, we recognize that while estate planning is necessary at any age, it may seem more urgent as you age. Similarly, although decluttering is useful when you are young, there is more time to focus on it as you get older. While in the midst of a busy career and/or raising young children, many people resign themselves to letting things pile up as they handle day-to-day crises. For many, it is only when the smoke clears years later that getting organized becomes realistically possible.

Both estate planning and decluttering have some of the same goals: to take control over your possessions and property, to put order to what has taken place in the past, and to plan for the future. This blog is designed to provide some suggestions that will make decluttering easier and more satisfying. For suggestions about how to begin, complete, or modify your estate plan in Southeastern Massachusetts, contact our highly capable estate planning attorneys

Reasons to Declutter

There may be a pressing reason to declutter your home. Perhaps you are preparing to move or rent out a room. Perhaps a loved one has moved out or passed away, or a loved one has moved back in, and it is time to restructure. For many, however, decluttering is simply a way to move forward to a new stage of life.

Unexpected Advantages of Decluttering

Like so many chores, decluttering can become an enjoyable activity since it makes your home cleaner, gives you more living space, and reinforces your sense of being in charge of your life. 

Decluttering also provides a number of benefits you may not have foreseen, including:

  • Making the environment safer as you age, with fewer tripping hazards, less dust, possible awareness, and removal of mold or even infestation
  • Making your home easier to clean by removing dust collectors
  • Realizing that you can now make room for something you’ve always wanted (e.g. a rocking chair, a ping-pong table, or a workroom for crafts)
  • Finding supposedly lost items, even family treasures
  • Giving you the ability to reorganize and streamline your life (e.g. getting rid of scissors that don’t cut and putting those that do in logical, accessible places)
  • Experiencing the pleasure of gifting your loved ones while you are around to enjoy it
  • Lessening the burden for your children when you pass away 

Like an estate plan in which your foundational documents will guide your family when they are overwhelmed by your incapacity or death, decluttering will provide your loved ones with a smoother pathway through a challenging time.

How to Declutter Without Stress

The trick to completing a major undertaking is breaking it down into doable sections. Having a checklist will help you keep track of what you have accomplished and give you the energy needed to attack the next task. If you declutter a single closet or even a single shelf or drawer in one day, you now not only have less to do; you have proven yourself capable and determined. 

We suggest that you remind yourself as you go that beloved items are only tokens of beloved people. Getting rid of a frayed scarf does not mean you are discarding the person who wore that scarf. Taking a picture of the item may well be enough to bring the warm memories flooding back.

It may also be helpful to remember that since items of sentimental value are precious as symbols rather than objects, one special pair of shoes or one child’s drawing may be enough to retain as a keepsake. In fact, a single item may be more special, memorable, and easier to locate than a huge box of entangled memorabilia that is never viewed. 

Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

This adage is particularly meaningful when it comes to documents, jewelry, and collectibles. Make certain that in your quest for simplification, you don’t become cavalier and just chuck large cartons without examining their contents. While keeping every receipt and official-looking paper is silly, accidentally discarding a current Health Care Proxy may be a serious mistake. Similarly, giving away what might be a valuable heirloom is foolish. 

If in doubt about which papers to keep and which to discard, check with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. If uncertain about the worth of a piece of jewelry or set of dinnerware, seek advice from a well-respected appraiser before making a final decision.

The Takeaway

Decluttering and estate planning have a great deal in common. Both help you organize your life in the present and protect your assets and loved ones in the future. This blog offers some advice on how to declutter. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys to discuss your best options for estate planning.