For many of us January is a time to get back into healthy habits with eating and exercising. In a previous post I talked about making financial resolutions as well; getting rid of clutter in your life likely will help you achieve all of your 2016 goals. While decluttering may not completely relate to your diet and exercise resolutions, clutter-free and organized spaces can positively impact your mental health. According to an article on Lifehacker by Mikael Cho, “A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings…Physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”
If you’re up for the declutter challenge, here’s how to get started.
First, decide on a timeline and deadline. For some people it may be 30 days; for others it may be 60 or 90. No matter what you choose, this is important: write it down and stick to your self-imposed deadline.
Take inventory and ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I need it?
2. Do I like it and is it useful?
3. Have I used it or worn it in the last 12 months?
Then make 4 piles of the items you decide to go through.
1. Keep it
If you answered yes to 1, 2, 1 & 3, or 2 & 3, then that’s your ‘Keep’ pile. Be sure to organize these items and put them away somewhere you can find them easily. You may need to add the ‘Organize your closets, cabinets, or dressers’ step for this one.
2. Toss it
If you answered that you don’t need, like, or haven’t used/worn it in a year plus it’s not in good shape and you can’t sell or give it away, then TOSS IT. Don’t look back…just get rid of it. Have a pile of old electrical cords and you don’t know what they’re for? This is a great example of something to get rid of; you’re probably keeping it just in case. If you haven’t used it in a year (or more), you likely never will. If you have a large ‘Toss’ load, check into prices at your local dump. As long as it’s nearby and relatively cheap, it may be quicker and easier to get rid of items that way as opposed to rationing them out in several weekly trash pickups.
3. Donate it
Business hours may conflict with your school or work schedule so make a plan and give yourself a few days to get the items out of your house. Think about places like local homeless shelters, Salvation Army, or Goodwill first to donate new or gently used items.
4. Sell it
Now it’s time to sell some items…check out online garage sale or other safe selling sites. This is where the decluttering can really help with your financial goals. Use the cash you make to boost your savings, pay down debt, set it aside for Christmas presents, or for whatever other fiscal resolution you chose. If you have items that might not be worth selling, like cheaper jewelry, ask your friends if they want it or bring it to work and put a ‘free’ sign on it. If no one takes it, toss it.
The hardest part might be the emotional attachment or sentimental value of something…for example, paintings from your child. It may be hard to part with them, but do you really need to save ALL of them? Save the most important ones and recycle the rest. Or, make a scrapbook that’s easy to store. If you have adult children, give their stuff back to them. That way, you won’t feel bad for getting rid of something and they can make the decision about keeping or tossing it. I may have personal experience with my parents giving me back TONS of my old awards, art,etc. You name it, they probably gave it back to me. 🙂
If you’ve decluttered your home, please comment below with your tips for success. I plan to start this challenge within the next few months and will post a blog about the outcome. Okay…now I’ve officially written down my goal so I have to make it happen. Wish me luck!
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.