Declutter Your Home & Financial Life with These 11 Tips
Minimalism is a Trend That's Here to Stay!
Minimalism is becoming more and more popular, though it’s hardly a new concept to reject the modern world’s stuff-addicted materialism and opt for a simpler lifestyle. Decluttering your space not only improves the aesthetic and functionality of your home, but it can also help you relieve stress and improve mental focus. Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips to get you going on decluttering your house:
Look for Things You Just Don’t Use
Focus on one area of the house at a time as the project may become too daunting if you try to do it all at once. Look through everything in that area and ask yourself whether you’ve used it in the past twelve months. If you haven’t used it in a year, odds are you won’t use it for another year either, so separate it in two piles: donate or toss.
Look for What (Really) has Sentimental Value
Do you really need every picture your kids drew in school? Or every greeting card you’ve received? Or every event ticket you’ve used? If the stuff you’re keeping for “sentimental value” is more than the space you have to keep it, find a way to cut down to what is essential.
Part of this process might include digitizing some things. For example, in addition to keeping digital photo albums, there are companies that will receive boxes of artwork or other scrapbooking items and turn them into books that are sturdier, easier to look through, and take up less space.
Donate Rather than Throwing Away
One of the reasons it can be difficult to get rid of stuff is the sense that it is still capable of use. We don’t want to be wasteful, so donating to a second hand-store can help us feel like our items will continue being used and appreciated.
You can also ask if friends would be interested in any of your items. It also allows us to turn our home-improvement (and self-improvement) project into something that benefits the community. Many nonprofits like The Salvation Army, The Arc and others in your local area.
This blog from the website Moving.com has lots more great tips about nonprofits that will pickup your household items.
Contain, Contain, Contain.
Once you have the things you want to keep, take stock of the number and size of boxes, folders, bins, or other storage containers you will need to hold it. Containers can help limit the amount of things we accrue, and they are a helpful way to organize what we have so it’s easy to find again.
Use caution, though! With stores like the Container Store around, the containers themselves can become their own source of clutter! (Yes, guilty here!)
Who doesn't want their house to go from something like this to this!
Bring Minimalism to Your Financial Life
Hopefully decluttering your home sparks your motivation to do the time for your finances! This time of year is perfect timing given you've likely already gone through stacks of paperwork in order to file your taxes.
Here are some tips on how to review and organize your financial documents and accounts and keep them that way!
Declutter Your Budget
Along with simplifying, purging, and organizing your space, take some time to look through your expenses and “declutter” certain items like monthly subscriptions you don’t use frequently. Old gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, or that massage service you swore you'd use each month can really add up.
You might be surprised how quickly little savings like these add up! As a reward, take yourself to dinner once a month with the money you're saving!
Know How Long to Keep Paperwork
It's not necessary to save every receipt, bank or investment statement and piece of mail that comes through your house. This article from Real Simple magazine lists out what paperwork to save, and for how long.
Of course, certain documents should be kept indefinitely. Hold on to important documents like tax returns, wills, birth certificates, insurance policies, marriage and divorce decrees, and military discharge paperwork. Store them in a water and fireproof safe.
Finally, consider giving copies of your will and insurance paperwork to your financial planner, a trusted family member or your lawyer in case something should happen to you.
Shred Paperwork if You Have Electronic Versions
In many cases, much of the paperwork you have in print version is available online. Think bank, credit card and investment statements and vehicle, utility and other miscellaneous bills. Check with banks and financial institutions to make sure they retain these electronic records for the appropriate amount of time.
A home shredder can work just fine, or if you have a huge pile, many office supply stores offer in-store shredding services for a small fee. Many local communities will host free "shred-a-thon" events, so check with your city or county or visit Shredit.com's shredding events calendar.
Commit to Moving Paperwork to an Electronic Form
Once you've taken the time to eliminate as much of the paperwork crowding your file drawers as possible, get into the habit of moving ongoing paperwork to an electronic form instead. This will prevent a paperwork pileup of things like receipts, medical documents, warranties, statements, bills, etc.
You can a purchase a standalone scanner or use the scanning function on your home printer, but mobile scanning apps make it even easier to do. This article from TechRadar rates mobile scanning apps for 2022 so that you simply take a photo of any document from your smartphone or tablet, save it online and then shred it.
Back it Up
Once you are comfortable scanning paperwork and saving it online, make sure it's protected. Cloud storage providers like Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive make it easy and affordable to backup and organize your data.
This article from PC magazine rates cloud storage and file-sharing services for 2022. Backups can protect you from accidental deletions, computer failures, and ransomeware.
Make or Update Your Insurance Inventory
Renters and homeowners benefit from keeping and maintaining an inventory of possessions. If the unthinkable happens and your home is destroyed by a flood or fire, you will have the documentation you need to file an insurance claim.
Use a smartphone and take a room-by-room video in which you point out and describe the value of possessions you would want to file a claim against. Don’t forget to include items outside your house, like vehicles, sports equipment, outdoor furniture and structures, etc.
Going forward, photograph or video new possessions as you acquire them, and save this along with a scanned copy of the receipt and any other important paperwork that came with it. Once a year, review and discard the records for items you no longer possess.
Review Your Retirement Saving Accounts
Have you reviewed your assets and retirement accounts lately? Have an old 401(k) you haven't rolled over from an old job? Separate, small traditional and/or Roth IRAs with different investment companies? Consolidating your retirement accounts can make it easier to track and manage retirement savings.
At the same time, make sure to update your beneficiaries, if necessary, and get in the habit of double checking them each year. Especially if you're divorced or have lost a spouse, out-of-date beneficiaries can cause a real headache.
And while you're consolidating, consider bumping up your contributions by 1% or 2% on your 401(k), Roth IRA and/or traditional IRA accounts if you aren't already maxing them out. Promise, you won't miss the money, but even small increases could make a big difference in the long run due to the power of compound interest.
Does Getting Organized Feel Overwhelming?
If you're really motivated but feeling overwhelmed by decluttering your life, consider hiring an expert. You can hire a local, professional organizer to come into your home or look into online courses that break it into manageable chucks.
I've used Major Mom professional organizers and taken the Uncluttered course with great success in the past. (Speaking of, I feel like it might be time to take my own advice and go for another decluttering round with my husband and kids this spring!) ;-)
Decluttering is something I'm passionate about, which is why one of my favorite things to do is help clients get their financial life in order!
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