, Newburyport, MA


April 2, 2013

Cleaning out your nostalgia and inertia intertwine

The two greatest obstacles to putting order in any of the cubbies of our lives are nostalgia and inertia.

Why do we resist clearing out the unused and unusable accumulations in our files, our closets, our garages, our basements and our kitchen drawers? Why are we saving books we will never read?

Life’s clutter builds up over time and we stuff it into the space under the stairway and into the dark corners of the attic.

I’m reminded of George Carlin’s piece, “A House is Just a Place for your Stuff with a Roof on it.” When you run out of room in your house, you go out and buy a bigger house so you have more room for your stuff. We rarely throw out the stuff we don’t use when we move, we just pack it up and find a new place to store it.

We keep stuff because of its sentimental value or because we just may have some use for it. After all, the accumulation of my tax records, going back to my first job 50 years ago, are a story of my life — a story somebody someday will want to tell . . . though nobody’s likely to want to listen to.

Many of us will have just completed filing our 2012 tax returns and now we have to decide where to file the supporting documents, which we should do for no more than seven years. But do we pitch the 2005 file? What holds us back from heaving all of that personal information from the distant past?

And now that we’re thinking about tax files, what about the other financial records from years gone by? Statements from accounts closed long ago?

Time and time again when I sit down with clients to initiate a comprehensive plan for their financial future, we first have to sort through piles of unopened envelopes, contracts for lapsed insurance policies, copies of superceded wills, and CD renewal notices from banks that don’t even exist anymore—detritus from the past.

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