No, it is not directly related to personal finance, but since when is everything I do related to money? But it can play a big role in your piece of mind and lifestyle, which can directly affect your financial well-being. When you live an organized and clutter-free life, things are just…easier. You know where to find stuff, you know when the last time your cars oil was changed, you know where your wallet is. It saves time, money and headaches that otherwise can make your life miserable. I have always been a neat freak. Ever since I was a little kid, I was very clean and organized. My room was sometimes the most organized and neat room in the entire house and I did it all myself. As I got older, it was almost as if I had OCD…in fact, some of my friends think that I do now. Even I think about it sometimes, but since I do not have a need for alphabetizing the kitchen cabinets, I am guessing that I don’t have it.
Usually, once a month I go through the house looking for stuff to get rid of. It is amazing what you find that somehow you missed the last time you went looking. Either it was not ready to go last time or you just plain missed it. But it never fails; I always find something to get rid of, whether it be clothing, old candles, boxes from stuff we had delivered, unused gifts that will remain unused. It is a never ending battle. The funny part is that my mom is the exact opposite in that she loves her stuff, and it is difficult for me to be at her house without trying to “fix” it. Her sister is the same, as was her mom. But I got my “OCD” from the other side of the family, where everyone is clean and neat and orderly. We own a label maker…who the hell has these things? It can be a problem, especially when people come visit and they think that no one lives in our house.
But we like it that way.
Being clutter free and neat clears my head for more important endeavors other than worrying about where my car keys are; I already know where they are. I know that we have enough toilet paper to last us X amount of days, and I know we have enough dish soap to last until two weeks from now. That way, I can be much more effective at my “day” job and can work longer and harder at my side projects, such as my two blogs, my new company I am trying to start (slowly), and studying our financials to see where I can make some adjustments in order to increase our earnings and investments. They key is to be diligent in your tidiness…and here is how you can start:
1. Be a thrower-awayer. (Is that a word? I think not) If you have not used something in a few months, you probably do not need it. I am not talking about your pizza cutter because you have not had pizza in two months, but rather I am talking about clothes, old sporting equipment, back massagers, whatever. Having used and tired candles is of no use to anyone, clear them out and keep only the good ones. Year old rice in the back of the cabinet is probably bad, and a new bag runs about $1.50. Throw it away.
2. Do the above on a constant basis. Stick to a schedule, even if it is only once every two months. Put it on your calendar if you need to, but it is important to always go back and look again once in a while.
3. Have a system. For your keys, designate a place you put them every day. We have a little guy screwed to the wall (that sounds funny, no?) that holds our keys, including our car, house, the storage room, the laundry room, etc. No one ever has to go looking for a key, because they are all right there. For your financial and life documents, invest in a file cabinet and file paperwork the minute you are done with it. A lot of people are using the Getting Things Done program, and although I find it overkill for my needs, you might get a lot out of it and should check it out. Until you deal with said paperwork, have an inbox on your desk that can hold everything you need to deal with in the immediate future, that way you will not forget to do it.
4. Sell or give away your movies and CDs that you do not watch or listen to anymore. I have touched on this before, but how many people are still seeing their old VHS copy of Point Break? You planning on watching it again? Did not think so. Utilize sites like Freecycle to give things away or Craigslist and Half.com to sell the stuff that has some value left in it.
5. File File File. No I am not talking about your paperwork, I am talking about articles from newspapers and magazines you want to save and even the rest of your CD collection. When we see something in a magazine we want to save, such as a recipe or information on a vacation spot, we cut it out and put it in the blue binder in the kitchen cabinet. Each page has its own clear file folder, and things are categorized in the book so we can find them later. About 2 years ago I took all the CDs and DVDs we wanted to keep, recycled the plastic jewel cases, and put them all in black binders that sit in our bookcase. It takes up much less room that way and makes your space feel bigger. Go ahead, try it, I am sure you will be happy with the change.
The above 5 things are ways you can start today with decluttering your life. Your mental health will be better, your relaxation time will be nicer because you are not worried about anything, and your financial life will benefit because you know bills are paid and how much is in your accounts. When I went to my moms house in February, I was surprised (not really though) to find two old computers sitting in the downstairs living room…from 2 years ago! They did not even work! So my brother took them to be recycled and destroyed. It is amazing how much clutter we all carry around without realizing the affect it can be having on our daily life. Get rid of it!