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  • Simplifying by NOT Buying Ahead

    Simplify by Not Buying Ahead - chieffamilyofficer.com

    For years now, I’ve prided myself on my ability to save money by buying ahead. I’ve stocked up on laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, juice boxes, cereal, crackers, and my kids’ clothes.

    But as I walked through Target the other day, I found myself reluctantly perusing the clearance rack in the boys’ section. And I realized that my reluctance stemmed from not wanting to buy something just to stick it in the closet for a few months or even a year.

    As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve discovered that a clutter-free house is easy to clean – and that has made me averse to bringing things into the house, especially if they’re not consumable but sometimes even when they are.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a bargain hunter, and I’m still stocking up. But only on those things I am absolutely confident we will use up – things like toilet paper, facial tissue, and OxiClean, and only enough for a few months at most. I’ve been passing on deals on things I’m not completely 100% positive we’ll use up – things like cereal, mouthwash, and even toys.

    I’ve also been making an effort to use up what we have, and to get rid of things we don’t need or won’t use. I think my house feels better without all these extra things in it. And I know I feel better having less clutter around!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by sumetho.

    Throwback Thursday: Tips for Eliminating Paper Clutter

    This post was originally published in 2011. Although I’ve since pretty much gone entirely paperless, I still have a lot of old paper clutter to purge, so these tips continue to be relevant – especially the last one!

    Eliminating Paper Clutter - chieffamilyofficer.com

    As I’ve decluttered the house for the last few months, I’ve discovered that the worst culprit of all is paper clutter. I can’t believe how much of it there is. Here are some tips for getting rid of it, and keeping it from returning:

    1. Know what records you should keep and what you can toss. Here’s a handy list of financial documents and how long you should keep them.

    2. Start purging. Not everything needs to be shredded, but I find that the type of papers I hold onto for years are the kind that have lots of personal information on them. So create a “purging station” with a wastebasket for papers that can go straight into the trash, a box for papers that need a new home, and either a shredder or a box for papers that will be shredded later. I opt for the box for subsequent shredding, since I store my shredder in a closet for safety reasons.

    3. If you don’t have a shredder, get one. There’s no easier or faster way to get rid of documents that contain personal information, and a good cross-cut shredder is relatively inexpensive.

    4. Condense and re-label your files if appropriate. For example, I’m a cover-all-bases kind of girl, so I keep copies of payoff statements and such. Rather than keep each sheet of paper in a separate file, I created a “closed accounts” file to hold all of these papers.

    5. Go paperless. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m starting to really go paperless. I started by eliminating hard copies of documents I really don’t read, like the annual reports and prospectuses for investments I’ve committed to holding. I download and don’t print e-statements for accounts that never sent paper to begin with (such as those with ING and Sharebuilder). I’ve now begun the process of completely switching to paperless with all of our banking statements, investment statements, and bills.

    6. Have a digital backup plan in place and use it. I wasn’t ready to make the full switch to paperless until I had a plan for backing up all of my saved documents. I do this regularly, at least once a week. And I’ve stored a backup of my backup in our safety deposit box at the bank. It obviously won’t have the most recent documents, but at least if disaster strikes we’ll have something. You may want to read this article on digitally storing financial documents.

    7. It’s not as overwhelming as you might think. Flylady has taught me that I can accomplish a lot in 15 minutes – even just 5 minutes. You don’t have to go through all of your files at once. Keep the task in front of you small, and eventually the big task will be done.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by scottchan.

    The Key to a Clean House: Less Stuff

    Key to a Clean House: Less Clutter - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Our kitchen light had been acting up for years, but the other day it finally stopped turning on when the switch was flipped {it did eventually turn on, but it was rather unpredictable!}. So we decided we couldn’t postpone the work any longer, and had an electrician out to replace the light as well as the old, rattly ceiling light/fan combo in the back half of the kitchen.

    Since I knew they’d be working in the kitchen, I removed everything that I could – my back up laptop, small appliances, a couple of small butternut squashes … everything that didn’t need to stay found a new {sometimes temporary} home.

    When the work was done, I walked into the kitchen – and delighted in the bright light, but marveled even more at how great the cleared countertops looked.

    Although the workers were neat, there was still some cleaning that needed to be done. And normally I hate cleaning and put it off for as long as possible, but I discovered something that might just revolutionize my home: It was incredibly easy to clean the kitchen because I didn’t have to move anything. It took just seconds to wipe down the counters. I used wet and dry Swiffer cloths to give the floor a quick scrub. And I even washed my dish rack and its mat – all in about 15 minutes!

    Then it hit me: If I cleared out the clutter from the rest of the house, the rest of the house would be easy to clean too!

    And then maybe I wouldn’t put if off for as long as I do.

    So now I’m on a quest: to declutter my house from top to bottom, wall to wall. I’m going through my own stuff, but also anything and everything that’s in a common area, as well as the kids’ room. I know it’s going to take a while – I’m giving myself the year to go through everything, so that hopefully by the end of 2014, my house is optimal easy-to-clean shape.

    Do you have a secret for keeping a clean house?

    This post will be linked to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by David Castillo Dominici.

    Balancing Decluttering vs. Stockpiling

    As you may already know, I’m a huge fan of decluttering, but I’m also a big fan of saving money. And lately I’ve been finding that these two priorities are clashing more than usual.

    Partly it’s because I’ve been on a big decluttering kick. I am trying to get rid of and use up as much as possible. There really isn’t much left to donate, which puts more weight on “using things up.” But, to some extent, the whole point of stockpiling is to not use things up – because by buying things at their lowest price, you never have to pay full price.

    So … I’ve been thinking that I have to decide which I value more: stockpiling or decluttering.

    How do you resolve this dilemma?

    10 Ways Decluttering Saves You Money

    This is a guest post from Tiffany, who took on a massive decluttering mission last year and quickly learned that not only could she make some money from decluttering, but that she actually loved living with less. She writes about her decluttering & organizing missions on her blog, No Ordinary Homestead, as well as how to organize your life and create more balance in all that you do.

    Take a quick glance around your home. Does it seem that more and more things are going lost lately, and less and less gets put away? If your home looks to be covered in a layer of clutter and chaos, it’s time to start thinking about tackling the mess. Not only will you start to feel better emotionally and probably become more productive, but you will likely even save yourself money.

    Find that hard to believe? Well, here are 10 simple ways that decluttering saves you money:

    1. Find stuff you lost & stop buying multiples – As you start cleaning things up and getting more organized, you are going to find many things that you may have thought were lost forever. It’s happened to me time and time again. The great news is that once you’ve found these things again, you can create a specific home for them so they don’t end up lost again.

    2. Stop worrying about late fees for overdue bills you’ve lost – Don’t you hate that feeling looming over your head that you have forgotten to do something? Or when you know you’ve forgotten to pay a bill but can no longer find it in all the stacks of paper around you? Once you create a system for your bills and other incoming mail, you’ll never have to feel like that again. Or pay late fees and higher interest rates!

    3. Waste less food – When your pantry, fridge and freezer are organized, you can not only find the food you’ve purchased, but you also don’t end up wasting food because it expires or goes bad. Keep an inventory of your food items so that you can make sure to use up your food storage wisely in your weekly meal plans.

    4. Discover the joy of empty spaces – Once you start getting really organized, you’ll probably find yourself being happier while living with less. And you might even end up with empty drawers or shelves. Although you could buy things to fill them up, you’ll likely discover that those empty spaces are far more satisfying than the “stuff” that once filled them.

    5. Impulse buys have less control over you – We all get suckered in by impulse buys from time-to-time. But when you are more in control of the things in your home, and give some thought to where you would actually store those purchases, you’ll often find you don’t feel compelled to buy those gadgets and trinkets anymore.

    6. Collections become less attractive —Avid collectors who once lived only for the next item to be added to their collection quickly find that decluttering and living organized makes maintaining and adding to your collections seem less worthwhile. You find yourself not wanting to give up more space (or money) for new items.

    7. You need less living space – Clearly it’s not something you have to do, but you’ll probably find once you start decluttering that you actually need less space to live comfortably because you have less stuff. You can save a lot in rent or mortgage payments when you need less space to live in, not to mention lower heating, electric, water and other utility bills.

    8. Save more on moving and storage costs – If you have a move coming up or are sending a child off to college, you will find yourself facing some unpleasant costs to move items, even if you plan to do most of the hard work yourself. The great news is, if you’ve gotten rid of all the stuff in your life that you don’t need or care about already, you’ll have a lot less to move.

    9. Think about the sunk costs – I don’t recommend dwelling too long on this. But if you really want to make an impact on your brain regarding your finances, tally up the cost of things you bought but never used or only used once. I’m pretty sure that the number will be shocking – and I’ll bet it will make you think twice about your buying habits in the future.

    10. Sell your stuff & make some money – One of the very best things about decluttering? Making money off your stuff! Regardless of how you decide to sell your old stuff, I’m sure you will find many things that someone else will want to pay you money for. {Ed. note: My favorite way to sell stuff is on Amazon.}

    Letting Go of Sentimental Items

    I shared some tips for decluttering yesterday, but didn’t discuss sentimental items, which can be extremely difficult to get rid of. It’s hard to let them go because it’s like tossing out a part of your life, not just a thing. And the difficulty is compounded if the item(s) are valuable.

    I speak from personal experience:

    I had some jewelry that I no longer wanted. They had been given to me by loved ones over the years but I never wore them and they truly were clutter. They were the type of items I’d saved for years to give to a daughter if I ever had one. But it’s been pretty clear for a while now that I’m never going to have a daughter of my own.

    I could have sold the jewelry, but wasn’t sure how to start. I didn’t know exactly how much my items were worth, and I didn’t know how to find a place that would pay me a fair value.

    So the items sat in my donate pile for at least a few years. Every time I made a big trip to Salvation Army or Goodwill, I would look at the bag full of small jewelry boxes and think about giving them away. But I was never able to bring myself to do it so the boxes just sat and sat.

    Then, a couple of months ago, a friend’s house was burglarized and a lot of her jewelry was stolen. She was understandably heartbroken, as much of it was heirloom jewelry treasured in her family.

    One night, as I lay falling asleep, it occurred to me that maybe my friend would like the jewelry that I’ve been saving. She has a young daughter and I couldn’t help thinking about how my mother gave me a jewelry box filled with her jewelry when I turned 16. I wanted to make it possible for my friend to do the same for her daughter.

    So I organized the jewelry – finally – and gave it to her with a card that said she should give away whatever she didn’t want. That way there’s no pressure on her to keep anything that’s not her taste. But maybe it will help heal her injured heart. She burst out in tears when I gave her the jewelry, and that was how I knew I’d found the right place for my sentimental but unwanted items.

    The moral of the story, at least for me, is that it’s okay to have a hard time letting go of certain things. If you keep an open mind and heart, the right time to let go will come.

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