I recently attended a seminar on space clearing by Feng Shui expert Clarissa Harison. Feng Shui teaches us to clear our environment to prevent energy blockages. That’s all well and good, if you have the time and energy to do it. Hmm… I wondered if some of my energy was blocked, and if that blockage was keeping me from getting rid of my blockage.
In the weeks following that session, I tackled clutter with a clarity and motivation unknown before. As a result, I realized that it’s the clutter in our lives (physical, mental, emotional, social) that keeps us from feeling free, from feeling abundant. I wondered how I could bring this lesson to our financial lives.
The latest meeting of the “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” Support group focused on the financial benefits of decluttering. We started by discussing Gail Blanke’s book Throw Out Fifty Things as well as Leo Babuata’s blog “Zen Habits.” As always, the group (which, curiously, was the largest we’ve ever had) offered tips, ideas, suggestions and encouragement. Here are some of the things we discussed:
- If you have clutter and/or projects that haunt you, throw a party. Nothing motivates you to tidy up more than the possibility of negative judgment.
- Manage clothing. Use the “I haven’t worn this in a year” rule to donate or sell items (but the general consensus was that garage sales are a giant pain in the rump and not at all worth the effort put into them). This applies to seasonal clothing, out of date items, those that no longer fit or need repair (that you never seem to tackle), as well as those items that don’t match your life (in my case, I have got to start attending more art gallery openings or toss the stuff).
- Photograph items that hold emotional ties, then give them to someone who needs them.
- Embrace generosity. Keeping items that others can use can be selfish.
- Make peace with and let go of items you received which may serve as artifacts of a life not lived (the crystal punch bowl, the chafing dish, the silver tea set) unless you plan to use them. See the first bullet (throw a party).
- Hire a professional organizer. The biggest benefit of hiring an organizer is that you have this objective party who gives you permission to let go of things.
- Hire a therapist. We found that we marry our material opposite (hoarders marry purgers). Be respectful and loving, clear and healthy.
- Unless you are a committed couponer, don’t bother with them. They always expire by the time you need them, or aren’t good on the things you really need or want.
The point of decluttering your environment in financial terms is when you have to spend so much time and energy getting rid of stuff, you arrive at the realization that perhaps you should not buy as much stuff in the first place. Simplify.
You also find things you may have forgotten you had, which can serve you currently and then you don’t have to buy more.
Lastly, you come to appreciate what you have, including a clean and clear living space, which leads to calm, which leads to good decisions.