Whether you’re new or an old hat to frugality, you might face issues with clutter.
You start saving or hanging onto things because you might need them someday. It can be challenging to figure out what to save and what to toss. One reader, Janet from Toronto, says: “There is a psychological term called physical noise. It’s the energy that’s given off by too much stuff. This actually stands between us and peace of mind and restfulness. It’s like having a brass band playing all the time.”
Clutter drains your energy and can waste a lot of your time. For most people, the problem is limited space, lack of time, disorganization or indecision. I encourage people to reuse and save items to a point. If you can’t close a closet or cabinet door or are overwhelmed because of clutter, it’s time to rethink your frugal objectives. Sometimes letting go is liberating. Too much stuff detracts from your enjoyment of the things you love.
You’ve got to start somewhere, and decluttering before a major holiday is as good a time as any. Heather from Idaho says: “I break it down in three ways: 1. What is the worst that will happen if I don’t have this? 2. Have I had it for six months and not needed it? 3. The space rule: Once this is full, the rest gets trashed.”
I like her system. I also like using boxes and simply going room to room and deciding what I want to keep, donate or toss and putting it into its appropriate box. Here are a few more ways to set some clutter boundaries.
ONE IN, ONE OUT: Set a goal that nothing new enters your home unless something is removed. For example, you can’t get new socks until you declutter your dresser drawers.
DON’T PROCRASTINATE: Papers and mail accumulate quickly. Don’t set them down and stack them up.
SELL OR DONATE CLOTHES: Saving clothes that might fit someday or hand-me-downs for your family is great if they’ll be used in the near future. Look at some of your belongings for their resale value. Having a garage sale and making money from these items might be your best option. Often, styles change or younger siblings or family members aren’t the same size as the clothing in the right season.
SIMPLIFY: Look through your kitchen and check for duplicate items. Do you have multiple items that do the same thing? Eliminate some. While it’s great to have a backup, do you need three appliances that chop or five sets of measuring cups? Go through your cabinets and decide whether you really need that punch-bowl set you’ve never used. This is a great weekend project to do with a friend or family member.
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.