Ever tried to find a particular favourite item of clothing when you’re standing in front of a jam-packed cupboard which won’t allow another hanger, let alone your dainty hands? It becomes a guessing game, where eventually you give up, surrounded by a pile of clothes and even less chance of finding said item. To say the least, this can make you feel rather uncomfortable, with warning bells sounding that all’s not quite under control in your world (even if that world happens to be the 1.5 x .5 meters of your closet!)
“We feel a sense of helplessness and lack of control when our outer world is disorganised. This can be anything from a messy wardrobe to disorganised finances,” says Wealth Coach Lianne Lutz of Women’s Wealth, a consulting company specialising in advice and wealth creation for women.
Organising our outer world can help reduce stress by removing clutter that we no longer use or need, so that we are surrounded by a calming environment which makes us feel less overwhelmed. Just as tidying up a room reduces stress, spring cleaning our finances helps us regain perspective of our financial world. This gives us clarity and space for new opportunities, as we are no longer bogged down and overshadowed by disorder (literal or virtual).
Here are 6 ways to start decluttering your financial space:
1. What does your Current Financial Situation look like?
It’s difficult to try and understand where or how to ‘clean up’ your financial situation if you’re unsure of what it actually looks like — from the big picture down to the details. Just like you need to take all your clothes out of a too full closet, you need to print out the bank statement for each bank account and credit card that you have. Next you need to establish what you have been spending your money on as follows:
- Take a clean page, rule a line down the middle, on the one side you can put your necessary expenses and on the other your negotiable expenses.
- Go through every transaction and put it in the appropriate column.
- Take a look at the ‘Necessary expenses’ column. Ask yourself if these are really necessary? Water and electricity (will be a yes), while you may have to say no to those must-have-knock-out black stilettos (plus your feet will be grateful too).
- Write all unnecessary expenses on a separate page to ensure that you have not included any necessary expenses.
2. Be Ruthless
This means knowing when to chuck items which no longer serve you. Just like a particular dress may have sentimental value, different expenses such as your monthly debit order to the gym may have a certain emotional pull.
“This is where you need to be tough on yourself and your expenses,” says Kerri Lutz, PDM graduate and Financial Adviser at Women’s Wealth. “Go through the negotiables list thoroughly to see if the expense should be kept as is, reduced or eliminated.”
Approach this exercise as you would if you were throwing out old clothes. Giving away items of clothing that you no longer need will benefit others, while removing unnecessary expenses will benefit you by freeing up your money, enabling you to put money towards paying off your cards or saving up for that special holiday.
When embarking on decluttering your home, you do it one room at a time. The same applies to your finances. After you have gone through each of your banking statements, it is time to budget.
“Budgeting is essential for financial well-being,” says Kerri. “No matter what you want or need to do from paying your child’s education, to buying a house or even going to the doctor, you need to factor it into your monthly spend,” says the financial advisor.
This means making plans to pay off your credit cards and creating a savings account for unexpected events. Financial goals such as buying a car or house also need to be taken into account.
4. Take No Prisoners
Decluttering is a serious business. “This impacts on both your physical and mental space,” says Lianne, “We all know what’s it’s like to remove items that are taking up space and that we no longer use. We feel lighter. It’s a freeing experience.”
So, what can you do to remove more clutter? Start organising your papers and admin with the aim of establishing a paperless environment. Documents like birth certificates, policies, warranties, licenses and the like need to be filed so that they are accessible. Shred the rest. Once you’ve paid an account, scan it and save it so that you have a digital copy. Recycle the rest.
While spring cleaning is not always fun, use the process to empower you by reframing it an opportunity to create space in our lives to make room for new experiences. “We need to open up our space to create a sense of flow which in turn allows money to circulate in our lives,” states Lianne.
6. Good Enough
While reorganising your finances must be done carefully and efficiently, don’t overthink the process and expect it to be perfect. It needs to be functional and orderly so that you know where everything is. If you are waiting for everything to be perfectly organised and in place, you won’t be able to fully enjoy the benefits of the new order.
“We need to start thinking in terms of good enough,” says Lianne. “While tidying up is a continuous process, doing a major spring cleaning will set the stage, making it easy to continue the process of keeping our affairs in order and giving ourselves (and our finances) a fresh new start,” concludes the Women’s Wealth founder.