By Jo Gardner

Recently, I have been listening to a book about spending reduction and decluttering.  Honestly, this is a regular occurrence with me, to read or listen to books on organizing your home, or watching programs that show an entire team coming in and cleaning out all the clutter in a home.  I always struggle with hoarding tendencies, because, well, I MIGHT need that widget after I get rid of it.  Sometimes I even know how I will use it.  As I listened to the book, I had my own epiphany.  I finally grasped that saving money and decluttering are about more than just accounting, but are about rethinking my habits and attitudes.  I came to the realization that I had to stop trying to get the right stuff for a better price.  Life is about experiences, not about just living within my means.  Let me explain.

I knew I was trying to stay within a budget, so I would search for a way to get what I wanted at a price within my budget.  That way of thinking is a trap!  I finally realized that if I focused on events, and not stuff, I would usually spend less, because it was no longer about buying the special item, but about living.  It is about not striving for a stylish lifestyle and instead focusing those energies on people around me.  Why this just occurred to me after years of spending too much spare time in search of a perfect deal; I have no idea.  Maybe it was just hearing this last book, The Year of Less, by Cait Flanders, written in an honest, vulnerable voice, that made me realize how much attitude plays into living debt and clutter free.

Cait Flanders tried an experiment.  She decided to create a moratorium on spending for one year.  Cait knew there were things she would have to replace, so she created exceptions for the moratorium, such as replacing necessary items when current ones broke (like smart phone) and buying gifts for others on birthdays etc. Things not allowed were BOGO’s for the sake of the savings.  Cait would no longer stockpile shampoos to get the deal, unless she ran out of shampoo at home, and then could only buy one to replace the empty.  In the process, Cait figured out why she bought like she did and conscientiously decided when it was ok vs. when it was not healthy. She also had a support group, encouraging friends who she could call when struggling with her moratorium.

So, today’s life hack is pretty simple.  Work at decluttering your space – apartment, condo, or house.  Then set your own spending moratorium.  

decluttering is not just organizing…
  • What makes it simple?  Start.
  • What to get rid of? 
  • Anything that does not improve your life, or
  • Does not improve your productivity, or
  • Anything that is not a memento of event or person that you still use to remember. 

While we on this subject, if you haven’t looked at that dust covered ticket stub for years, and it is not mounted or cared for in any way, then I’m not sure it counts as a memento of that special night.   

Make sure to include the fair purchase exceptions to your moratorium, not as your spending escape clause, but as way to stick to your no-spending resolution while still allowing for life events (like when the water heater goes out).

Some of us are such hoarders that we have to declutter ourselves a few items at a time. Others dive in and ruthlessly go through every room, every drawer in every room and clear it out!  I believe diving in is better, but it is most important is to start, however you can.  When you declutter, you begin to realize that space is a tangible and valuable thing, and you must stop filling that space in order to keep it.  That means you can’t declutter and then buy more to fill it.  If you decide to do your own spending moratorium, make sure you also unsubscribe to all the special deals emails, because not buying every time there is a deal can save lots of money as well as space!   When you achieve the additional space in your home, you can begin to organize your mind to work on dumping the debt and living a truly enjoyable life. 

I wish you a good journey.  Mine begins Monday with my new spending moratorium. I began the decluttering by starting with the smallest room of the house, the bathroom, and removing all the cleaning and personal toiletries that I haven’t used in the last twelve months, OR that I know are not really useful or helpful to me.  I only hope I can keep this up all the way through my home office!  Oh, the exceptions?  Those have to include birthday gifts, and broken item replacements, but my list also has to include tools and supplies needed to finish three projects that I had lined up for the last six months.  I have given myself until fall to complete the refinish project and other two repair projects.  If I do not finish by then, it is time to list it to see if someone else can do it.