Episode 19 – Clearing Out Your Clutter—with Guest, Evan Michael Zislis

It’s time to get rid of the clutter that’s weighing you down, both in your everyday life and financial life.

Today, Danielle Howard is joined by special guest, Evan Michael Zislis, a professional organizer and author of the Amazon bestseller ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World. Together, they explore how Evan helps people simplify their lives so they can focus on what matters most: who you love, what you do, and how and why you live.

Here’s what you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How getting organized can help you embrace life’s ever-present transitions
  • Evan’s three-step process for getting organized
  • How stuff and mental clutter can hold you back in retirement
  • How Evan helps clients connect the dots between the social and environmental impact of stuff
  • How Evan’s principles can be applied to your financial life
  • Why our stuff is often attached to our identities and emotions
  • And more!

Tune in now to join Danielle and Evan for a meaningful conversation about how clutter impacts all areas of our lives—and how to start clearing it out

[00:00:02] Welcome to the Wealth Done Differently Retirement Podcast. Danielle Howard a certified financial planner shares insight into the financial tools techniques and temperaments needed to make the most of your retirement dollars and relationships. Danielle bridges the gap between Wall Street and Main Street bringing complex financial topics down to earth. Danielle will educate and inspire you as you define and refine your version of prosperity.

[00:00:35] Hello and welcome to Wealth Done Differently Retirement with Danielle Howard a Certified Financial Planner. Today we have a special guest and I’m very excited to get started with this.  Before we do, I’m going to give a little bit of an intro to Evan and I’m pretty excited. Danielle are you there. Yes sir. I am so excited about your guest, do you mind if I do the intro?  Please. All right. Today we’re talking about organization and really this is kind of a big part of doing your dollars differently in retirement. Everybody’s got to get organized.  So you’ve brought in Evan Michael Zislis and he is a professional organizer and author of the Amazon bestseller Clutter Free Revolution Simplify Your Stuff Organize Your Life and Save the World featuring a foreword from Dr. Melva Green, star of the hit TV series Hoarders.  Clutter Free Revolution has been acclaimed as a must read for every household in America by Patagonia’s former CEO Casey Sheehan. Evan is listed on House dot com as Aspen Colorado’s number one professional organizer and a 5-star top rated firm. His work has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Minimalist, Reader’s Digest, Mind Body Green, Modern Luxury and Ink Magazine. Evan helps households and businesses to simplify so they can focus on what matters most; who we love, what we do, how and why we live, because everything else is just stuff. As a social entrepreneur and corporate member of the 1 percent for the planet Evan helps people connect the dots between their clutter and the environmental and social impact their stuff has on a global scale. Evan welcome to the show. How are you. I’m great. Thanks for having me. Yeah I’m so glad Danielle brought you in.  And Danielle how did you and Evan meet.

[00:02:15] We were in a mastermind class with Roaring Fork leadership, like two years ago already. Time flies. Yes.

[00:02:24] All right. So how did this relationship develop when when you guys met you were just kind of talking about the things that you do the things that he does and a lot of this stuff fits together really really well.

[00:02:34] We’re both authors. We’re both focused on very similar trajectories as far as walking alongside people helping them to focus what’s important in life. And many times the stuff and the financial aspects get in the way and I really appreciate what Evan does with clients and for the world.

[00:02:56] Danielle you and I have spoken a lot about the fall season of life and people entering retirement and really life transitions.  And our life transitions are huge motivators for us retirement moving change and marital status. Can you guys discuss these elements as well as other motivators for people to get organized. Why is it so important.

[00:03:16] Danielle if it’s okay I kind of feel like life is transition.

[00:03:21] We are in a constant state of flux, and when we embrace the next there’s this wonderful tension that exists between the now and the next. And when we become complacent we kind of stagnate.  And in my line of work stagnation is sort of the root of the problem.

[00:03:42] It’s where things sort of tend to accumulate and just sit and rot and that is a lie. In many cases that is how my clients describe their clutter to me and clutter is such a metaphor for other things. So if we can embrace the transitions that are in front of us whether it’s you know I just finished high school and I’m off to college, or I just graduated from college and now I’m looking for an apartment, or we just got married and now we’re having a baby, or mom is sick and she’s going to be moving in with us. Life is transition no matter where you are in in whatever stage of life you’re in there’s always I have a three step method, there’s always something to simplify. There’s always something that we need clarity about. And there’s always something that we need to kind of get organized in so that so that we can be inspired to embrace the next transition. So a lot of my work is based in helping people to transcend the physical clutter into what else is going on in your life. That’s my thought on

[00:04:50] life transition Thank you Evan. I think there is a lot of similarities here again where we overlap.  As I work alongside clients in looking at rewirement, reaspirement, refirement.

[00:05:04] it is a life transition. And when you’re looking at different financial aspects there is such an opportunity to say what do I need to get organized about to redefine this time of my life around what’s truly important to we’re working on hospice saying the whole idea of retirement that it is not pulling away from and into a life of just ease but it is how do you stay focused on what is truly important in your life. And when you’ve got so much stuff or mental clutter or financial clutter it holds you back. And Evan as you noted you stagnate you just end up kind of falling into the status quo. And many times just complaining or blaming your the negative emotions that come out with that. And I really feel that both Evan and I are focused on how can we help people you know how do we shine a light on what’s truly important and then put the pieces together to keep them going in the trajectory that they’re going to feel good about.

[00:06:19] Yeah absolutely. I don’t want to hijack these next questions and things that we’ve got coming up but I really need an example. Evan if you could see my garage you know that I have never engaged anyone in an organization or anti-cluttering which I know if we didn’t live so far apart I’d probably talk to really quickly about this. However I’d love to hear an example. How does it work with a client. Can you give us an example maybe of some client outcomes. What was it like engaging that relationship with them working with them through that and kind of what was the final what did it look like after you did your work.

[00:06:54] Sure. So most people call them they have something specific in mind. They’ll say you know my garage is a mess. You know I’ve got 30 years of accumulation and we’ve just never dealt with this.

[00:07:05] We’ve we’ve never strategically or tactically looked at the stuff in our space with any sort of intention. And here we are, and it’s a mess.  Or it could be a home office or our filing system or the kid’s room or it doesn’t really matter what room of a house it is it could be the kitchen or whatever and they’ll they’ll have something specific in mind and I’ll say sure no problem let’s go out and have a look. I come in and I kind of assess what the situation is.  Is it stuff that is predominantly trash is stuff that can be thrifted or recycled back into the community. Are these things that are materials that might be useful to repurpose or are these things that have held their value and can be consigned sold or traded for other things. I really look at the volume of things and then we kind of assess together what are your goals here. What do you hope to get out of our time together. Do you want this to be an immaculate space that you can eat off of the floor or do you really just want to get rid of the stuff that you no longer using and feel like you know you’ve got a little bit more time in your life and you don’t need to be so compulsive about how things are put away just so. And there’s a spectrum of people who want it to look like the brochure and there are other people who really just want to spend more time with their family. And they haven’t  accessed to their running shoes in a while and they’ve gotten out of shape because they they just can’t find their basketball and all they really want to do is be able to get to their bicycle go for a bike ride and come home and get out of it. So there’s a spectrum of people that are looking for a different goal. And so my job is to sort of reconcile what are your what are your individual or family goals with what is realistic for what you have here. Very often times people will discover that they have things of significant value and that has huge financial implications if they’re able to move those things along and recoup some of that income in the form of a consignment or a trade or a barter or what have you. Other people are shocked to discover that the family heirlooms that they’ve been carrying around for centuries, in many cases, are not worth the boxes that they’re in. So there’s a full spectrum of what I discover when I show up.  People work with me in one of three ways I have an hourly rate a 20 hour package and a 40 hour package. And usually you know about 80 percent of my clients buy the 20 hour package and over 50 percent of them renew because they find other things that they want to work on. So what is the result of that work is people discover a lightness of being; right. They discover a shift in their priorities in many cases away from material accumulation to focus on experiences or quality time with their families or pursuing a second degree or advancing their education in some way or their profession in some way. It’s not unusual for me to do some work with someone in their home and then have them at some point discover you know what I really want to work on is growing my business. So a lot of my work sort of ends up in distant aspects of their life including relationship dynamics and business development and family planning and so there’s all – clutter is just a metaphor for what else is going on in the world. So we don’t we don’t get organized. We don’t declutter because it’s cute or because it’s trendy. The subtitle of my book is Simplify Your Stuff Organize Your Life and Save the World because my focus is helping people ultimately helping people to connect the dots between the social and environmental impacts of their stuff with what is going on globally so really helping people to understand the impact that their consumerism has on a global scale.

[00:11:03] Yeah that’s that’s powerful and Danielle and I have spoken many times about different types of transitions and one thing I remember in one of our previous podcasts we had spoken about somebody downsizing their home and how difficult that type of transition can be because there’s so much emotion wrapped up into letting something go. And so that’s just one thing that I think of when I think about decluttering.  And you just listed a ton of great benefits. So if there are so many great benefits besides and I know we can touch on the emotional side of things too. But what keeps people from actually doing this.

[00:11:37] You know oftentimes it’s just momentum sheer momentum. Life has been kind of plodding along. Here we go from one decade to the next and I’ve never really dealt with it.

[00:11:45] And now I’m overwhelmed because of the volume of the things that I have to deal with is just simply overwhelming. There’s also an identity that becomes assimilated to physical objects.

[00:11:59] So if somebody has an armoire that belonged to your great great aunt who came here who immigrated from Poland for example and the guilt trip that was laid upon you about the value and the worth of that human being is now sort of all bundled into the object itself. And so I have seen people schlepp physical objects items from their ancestry across back and forth in shipping containers and moving vans just in order to preserve the memory of an individual that is long long gone only to discover that the object itself has little or no value where it ends up. So yeah the emotional attachment that we have to things it’s often connected with an identity or a lost time. I’ve had mothers who have lost children hold onto things forever and rightfully so. So we we create a narrative a story around the objects of our things that helps us to feel grounded in an identity. And oftentimes you may be one of these people. I know I have been varsity jackets from a period of time when we were you know star athletes in a high school football team.  That identity for me has long gone and I have been able to put those things down because I’ve moved on and I’ve sort of taken on a new identity and so there’s things that were not important for me to hold on to anymore. But talking people through that process in a way that makes them feel honored that helps them to relive an era that helps them to, oftentimes, I do a ton of bereavement work after someone passes or if they’re in the process of passing where I pore over story after story after story.  And oftentimes these these stories are recorded in a way that enables the family to capture those stories you know indefinitely on a digital device for example so that we can capture what is the ancestry what is the narrative that goes around these things, so that families can get to a place where they’re more comfortable moving them along or you know passing them down or not just storing them in the basements of the houses of this country indefinitely forever just collecting dust where we’re not honoring those individuals and the journeys that they went through. So oftentimes just helping people to identify what is your connection to this object. What is the life of this object and how can we together with intention move through those narratives in such a way that you feel like you can productively and intentionally make decisions about how we move forward.

[00:14:50] Thank you, Aric. In asking that question from the financial perspective,

[00:14:56] I think there are things that hold people back that are similar mindsets. You’re not you’re not hanging onto an asset allocation because you’ve got a historical connection with that. It’s like our stuff may be that more of an emotional connection with financial stuff. There’s still an emotional element with that. People will hang on to holdings a stock position for emotional reasons.  Well, I bought it. It’s it’s lost money. I don’t want to lose money so it may not fit my life goals that may not fit my financial trajectory anymore but I’m going to hang onto. So there’s a lot of anchoring around financial tools that we need to address also. And it may not be the same type of connection that we have with our physical stuff.

[00:15:50] But we also have to recognize that we get emotionally tied to financial objects too.  Whether it is the best example of it is is a house and many times I’ll be talking to people again coming up with the goals looking at what direction they’re wanting to head. What’s important in their life and they’re hanging on to this home that the kids you know the thing I hear a lot while the kids are going to come visit. Let’s talk about that.

[00:16:23] Let’s tell me more about that. What is your vision and how does that look in your eyes. Have you had that conversation with the kids and what I hear a lot of times is once they have the conversation their adult children are starting to raise families of their own and they live a long ways away and it’s financially cumbersome for them to come home to mom and dad’s place.  It would be much easier for mom and dad to come visit them.

[00:16:50] And you know I think it’s just asking ourselves the questions asking our family members the questions on the physical stuff in our life. Is it time for a change.

[00:17:02] What questions do we need to ask ourselves.  Is this still serving us in a way that is living our life in our integrity or our authenticity, or is it holding us back from that. So whether it’s your physical stuff in your garage or those piles of papers that are coming in on the quarterly basis to show you you know what is your asset allocation. You know what is that life insurance policy that you bought 30 years ago, because a salesperson said you know you can build cash value in this and you can use someday and you’ve completely forgotten how that’s supposed to work. Let’s take it out. Let’s pull it apart. Let’s look at how it’s working for you or not. And based on what your current life circumstances and what your short term and long term goals are.

[00:17:55] Figure out how to make it work for you. It’s the same. It’s the same conversation that Evan is having with people around their physical stuff. And I’m having the conversations around the financial stuff and I feel that the reason people don’t do it is because they have to face a lot from the financial side.  Sometimes they have to face some financial pain and maybe some of the guilt that the financial services industry is pushing on us.

[00:18:25] Oh you didn’t save enough or you’re not doing it the way the Joneses are. You’re not setting yourself up to sit in a bathtub on the hillside clicking champagne glasses with your spouse when you ebb into your retirement years.

[00:18:41] And we have to let go of that shame and guilt and the way we maybe thought it was supposed to be and redefine what is important to each to yourself. What is your version of true prosperity. What is your version of success. And then take a look at the material stuff and the financial stuff, peel it all apart and let’s get down and dirty and make it work for you and enjoy life.

[00:19:08] Absolutely Danielle you and I’ve talked about this quite a bit.  It’s just looking at getting started is incredibly overwhelming and bringing Evan in today matches right up with that because Evan you were talking about what is your goal what is your I’d like to park a car in my garage. That would be like one of my favorite goals and I have a two car garage and there is not a single car in the garage right now. So looking at both the financial side and the stuff side if you will it’s incredibly overwhelming. So can you – I’d love to pick your brain a little bit I don’t want to give away all your secrets but what are some hacks both on the financial side and on the stuff side that you can use to really de-clutter yourself.

[00:19:50] I have a three step method that I use for everyone no matter what we’re doing.

[00:19:53] So if it’s business development if it’s cleaning your garage if it’s sorting the overwhelming piles of mail that you haven’t gone through in years or decades it’s the same three steps. And it speaks exactly to that overwhelm. Step one is simplify. I want this to be as easy of a process as possible. And I want you to step out of this place of discomfort and pain where it’s too overwhelming to even get started. So number one how can we make this process easier. For me the answer is let’s identify the things that no longer serve us and get them out of the equation. So those are the things that we deal with first. For me it’s what’s trash what’s recyclable what’s thrift or giftable and what’s consignable like the things that we can sell or trade. So we get rid of those things first. Those are the things that just we figure out what power they go into and they go away and they really go away. They don’t just sit in a pile in the corner of the garage.  Those things go away as we’re working.  So that’s step 1. Step 2 is the things that remain are the things that are essential and by essential I mean they serve directly serve who you want to be and what you want to do before you’re dead and gone. So who do you want to be in this lifetime and what do you want to do. What do you need to be that person and do those things. Those are the essentials. Those are the things that absolutely help to propel you through the life that you intend for yourself. Those are the things that we need clarity on when we get organized. Step two is all about getting clarity. And I have four rules of organization and this is all step 2. So like things together so that are easy to find easy to reach but out of the way. So those are my four rules of organization.  That’s step 2.  Step three is if you’re going to expect to maintain a long lasting results you need to be inspired to do that maintenance.  It’s just like physical fitness. If you’re going to maintain a level of fitness and fitness is a wonderful word because it’s an analogy for a lot of things whether it’s financial fitness or physical fitness or being able to maintain a space with an aesthetic that pleases you, you have to be inspired to do that maintenance.  So that step three.  That’s where we make everything beautiful. What most people do is they skip the first two steps and they go straight to Pier 1 or World Import or Target or Wal-Mart and they start buying tchotchke used to decorate their junk their clutter. And so what they’re doing is they’re just adding to the problem rather than dealing with the real issues which is what are the things that no longer serve me that really ought to go away. Now incidentally on the cover of my book is a pair of old sneakers that’s not trash.  That does not belong in a landfill. Just because the sneakers are a little worn doesn’t mean that they won’t serve some individual in your community who’s walking around barefoot and needs those things. So what we want to do is we want to think philanthropically when we’re thinking about how and responsibly environmentally responsibly how are we purging things out of the space that no longer serve us. Then you know how are we going to organize the things that are essential to our lives in such a way that we have access to those things in a timely manner in a convenient manner in a way that everybody in the household has equal access so that it’s not cumbersome or inconvenient for the youngest member of the family to participate in how we put things away when we’re finished with those things. Right. Everything has a home. When my daughter puts her bicycle away in the garage it’s in a location that is uber convenient for her to put her bike away because I want to make that easy for her so that she can learn. Yeah when we’re finished with these things we put them back where they go. Now my bicycle is at a much more inconvenient location in the garage. We have nine bicycles hanging in our garage and the ones that are hardest to get to are mine because I’m taller bigger and strong and it’s ok I’m motivated to put my bicycle in and out of the way location. But if I told my wife that she has to you know hoist her bicycle up to some hook on the far end of the garage she’ll ever do it. So I want to make things easy and convenient for her. And then we just make the space gorgeous and beautiful. We want to make sure that when we do parked the car in the garage because it’s snowing outside I’ve got room on both sides of the car where I can open the doors and get in and out of the car and I’m not bumping into something that’s going to fall on me when I when I accidentally bumped into it. So those are the three steps. They’re not hacks. It’s not anything that is secret. You know I tell people all the time ninety nine percent of professional organizers they use a little bit of a different narrative to describe what they’re doing. They all do exactly the same thing. Get rid of the junk that no longer serves you, organize the essentials and then make it gorgeous so that you’re inspired to maintain long lasting results.  What about on the financial side Danielle, what tips and tricks do you have for this.

[00:24:59] You know again I think many people especially as they are transitioning in towards into or towards the fall season of life you’re overwhelmed with

[00:25:09] oh my gosh about three years and I need to look at where everything is at and what’s going on. I think the first step is to look at what are you rewiring for instead of what are you retiring from. So you want to look at having forward momentum and what you’re what you’re building in your life instead of what are you leaving behind. To me it’s it’s an attitude to start with. From there, you know, you start pondering your why. Why do I want to get my financial life in order and to to really take a look at the differentiation between oh I’m just going to start and come up with a drawdown rate from my 401k. And how do I slide into the grave writing my last last check and i bounces.  To me it’s all a lot more than that nowadays we don’t know how long we’re going to live. We’ve got longevity factors to consider. We want to look at you know what type of lifestyle do you want to live in this second adulthood that we’re encountering. Because we’re looking at you know 30 to 40 year lifespans in what traditionally was you know a quick five years and you’re going to be gone. So coming up with your why and just having a conversation with the significant family member who has impacted by your financial decisions.  Why do we want to simplify our financial life or get it organized as we look at this change this shift in life season.  A couple things is you know again you’re eating an elephant and you do that one bite at a time.  And just like many organizers and I don’t know if Evan does this but you know just start with one piece. Start with a closet. And for me it’s pick out one aspect of your financial life. It might be how do I communicate? Do I feel like that is organized. I’m meeting with my significant other on a monthly basis to go over our spending plan to look at our quarterly assets when the reports are coming in. Are we hiring the right people or what do we need to do to communicate better. That might be one bite.  It might be simply well we need to check our beneficiary designations. That’s a big one that with life changes all the time with divorce and death and life transitions that happen; check your beneficiary designations. Make sure that they’re set up in the way that you want them. You may want to take a look at what economic season or tax environment we’re in and drill down on the impact of that. This is our first year with our new tax law changes so everybody is getting ready to visit with their accountant and take a look at what has happened. There might be bits and pieces that you need to to get organized and make some changes in because of tax law changes. So just take, one of my first steps is take a small bite build on a win. So look at what you have done well in your financial life and work character assets have you facilitated to have that win. And then what would be a step in another aspect of your financial life in getting organized or simplify, and apply those character assets and do the same thing there. Take one small bite, take one small step. and I think you know you get that forward momentum you’ll build on your wins you’ll be inspired you’ll have new conversations you’ll get some things cleaned up and it’ll feel really good and you’ll want to move on to the next piece.

[00:29:16] Absolutely.  Bite, chew, swallow,  repeat. I think that’s great. We are running low on time here. Danielle thank you so much for bringing Evan in. Evan how can people get a hold of you if they’re interested in your services.

[00:29:29] The website is clutter free revolution dot com and it’s pretty comprehensive it talks a lot about the wide variety of ways that I help and work with people and there’s a phone number and an email address right on the website. Clutter free revolution dot com. Fantastic. And, I know your book is on Amazon. Remind us again what’s the book Clutter Free Revolution. Simplify Your Stuff, Organise Your Life and Save the World.

[00:29:53] Great thank you so much. Danielle do you have any closing thoughts today.

[00:29:56] Well I want to thank Evan and you also have an online course.  We both have written books. We both have online courses.

[00:30:04] I love that the fact that we are really looking at how can we amplify this voice of of organization, of simplification, of focusing on what is truly important in your life, and putting the pieces together to support you in that. So I encourage people to check out Evans’ course. We have our 8 week but you get 12 weeks to complete it Retirement e course that is now available on Danielle Howard 4 you dot com.  As well as the many opportunities whether it’s to read my book or to work with us individually. You can check out wealth by design number four letter U dot com to see how we work with folks on an individual or family basis to get down and dirty on what’s important in your financial life.

[00:30:57] And I you know I just always want to encourage people to start the conversations. Why is getting organized important in your life. How is it going to make you feel.  Connecting with those feelings of freedom of being able to do the things that you enjoy because these other pieces of your life are organized and in place and you’re not worried about how worried is misspent energy and you’re spending your energy doing the things that are going to make your life easier are going to free you up to pursue the things that are important to you.

[00:31:36] Yeah absolutely. And we could all use a little bit more of that for sure. So thank you guys for your time today.

[00:31:42] Thank you.

[00:31:43] Appreciate it Aric.  You bet. And thank you all for listening to the Wealth Done Differently Retirement Podcast with Danielle Howard. If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet please click to subscribe now button below. This way when Danielle comes out the new podcast it will show up directly on your listening device. This will make it much easier to share these podcasts with your friends and family. And I guarantee you know somebody who has a garage like mine and needs a little help in the clutter department or maybe their finances are a little cluttered and they could use Danielle’s help in that, so please share this podcast with them.  Again, thanks for listening today.  For everyone at Wealth Done Differently Retirement, this is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every day. We’ll see you next time.

[00:32:20] Thank you for listening to the Wealth Done Differently Retirement Podcast click the subscribe button below to be notified when new episodes become available. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guest and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Wealth by Design LLC. The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice.  Always seek the advice of your financial adviser or other qualified service provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning. Danielle Howard, Certified Financial Planner

[00:33:01] is an investment adviser representative of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors a registered investment adviser. Securities offered through Cambridge investment research Inc.

[00:33:11] A broker dealer member FINRA SIPC Cambridge and wealth by design LLC are not affiliated.

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