Most people have no idea how much stuff they have accumulated in their lives until they decide to move. Try packing all of your possessions and watch the boxes multiply. You will be amazed at how your stack of possessions becomes larger than the house they were stored in. Moving defies the laws of physics.
In a similar vein, you may be wondering where all your money goes. You may think that you have budgeted properly, but constant unexpected and undocumented expenses slip through the cracks and consume your paycheck.
You always end up with too much stuff and not enough money. There is a common thread to solving both of these problems. Downsize and simplify.
Here are a few tips to help you restore order in your physical house as well as your financial house.
- Avoid Procrastination – It's important to dive right in, even with the understanding that you cannot deal with the whole task at one time. Simply starting the downsizing process will help to create positive momentum.
Cleaning up your house by sticking all of your things in a storage locker just prolongs the inevitable and gives you a false sense of having dealt with the problem. Similarly, cramming all your bills into a shoebox with the intention to sort them out and prioritize it later delays the process. Start the simplification process today. You will feel so much better once you do.
- Downsize in Consistent Increments – To paraphrase, Rome wasn't de-cluttered in a day. Unless you are already in a position where you have to move soon, or nearing the point of being featured on a TV show about hoarders, attack your downsizing and organization in manageable increments.
Downsizing and simplifying in increments on a regular basis is an excellent way to be prepared when you hit the empty-nest years. Instead of spending months trying to deal with twenty-plus years of accumulated possessions and feeling pressured to make snap judgments, you have the time to think about items that you cannot get rid of just yet. Think of it as a series of trial runs at de-cluttering.
- Make Value Decisions – Too many people simply let items pile up or accumulate running expenses out of a combination of tradition and laziness. Do you have a premium cable package, but only watch three channels? Consider downsizing the premium package or cutting the cord. Do you auto-renew gym memberships you don't use or magazine subscriptions you don’t read? Out they go. Have a stack of magazines and books you've been meaning to read someday? You will probably never get to them.
It's good to evaluate possessions and expenses periodically to see if you are getting value out of them. If an object or expense doesn't provide value, you don't need it.
- Beware Duplicates – Possessions have tremendous powers of accumulation. Do you have 47 storage boxes full of each child's mementoes from preschool to grad school? The chances are pretty good that you won't need all of them to retain your happy memories. Make choices that preserve the sentimental value without adding to the clutter. Keep one third-grade project if you must, but not all of them. Apply the same principle to all of your possessions.
- Budget Money and Space – Set a goal for a certain amount of space in your home for storing mementoes. Similarly, set a budget for your expenses, and leave yourself a certain amount for discretionary purchases. If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers. Now, stick to those goals and follow the principle of something in, something out. Any new memento displaces an older one, and any new discretionary expense replaces an older expense. With expenses, this may not always be possible, but do the best you can to stick to the rule.
Once you are comfortable with periodic reviews, shrink the allotment over time. Shrink your expenses and transfer the difference to savings. Shrink the memento space in your home and enjoy the reduced clutter.
Consider novel space-savings methods. For example, sentimental mementoes can take up enormous amounts of space. Would any of them be equally preserved with a space-saving photo of yourself with the memento instead of the physical memento?
We'll say it again: Downsize and simplify. Do this on a regular basis and you are likely to enjoy less stress, better physical and financial health, and greater efficiency with your time. You may even have time to watch some hoarding shows on TV featuring people who could never make value decisions in their lives. Feel free to gloat.