'Clear Your Clutter Day' creator says decluttering can improve your finances, well being

By Marianne Curphey


The first National Clear Your Clutter Day in the UK is March 11, 2017. It's aimed at encouraging people to declutter their home and dig out unused items to recycle or sell.

Jasmine Birtles, founder of the Money Magpie website and creator of Clear Your Clutter Day, says while a good decluttering can rid you of all the extra "stuff" that you don't need, it also has the potential to make you wealthier, especially if you clear your financial clutter, too.

"People are reluctant to get started because they think it will be boring, or they find it worrying to think about money and credit," she says. "However, it is nearly always easier - and quicker - than you think."

The feeling of achievement you get when you have sorted something out or made a call about your finances is remarkable, she says.

All in a day's work - or in a week's work?
When it comes to financial clutter, you have a choice of tackling it in one day or breaking it up over several days, Birtles says.

Maybe you set aside an entire afternoon to sit down at the table with a shredder, your file folder, your laptop with a spreadsheet open, and a cup of tea. It's a great way to check off a huge project from your to-do list.

Alternatively, she says, you can choose to do one job a day, or one a week.

"If you want to perk yourself up and feel better, then doing one of these jobs will help," she says. It can be a satisfying activity to check something off your list every day or every week.

Birtles has some advice for organising your finances and clearing the clutter:

  1. Don't procrastinate. You're just postponing dealing with the clutter - just because it's out of sight doesn't mean it will be out of mind. Having the weight of the task on your mind can leave you feeling overwhelmed or distracted, which can negatively affect other areas of your life.

  2. Don't give up. Commit some time to the process, don't become distracted by other tasks and push through feelings of being overwhelmed. It will be even more of a mess if you half-organise your financial matters and leave the rest to gather dust on your desk.

  3. Break it down. Break down the task into bite-sized chunks, and it will be far more manageable. If you're going to commit to doing your financial decluttering in one day, make sure you have a list of what all you want to do: throw out old statements and papers, organise your finance drawer into categories, cancel unused store credit cards, etc. Then complete each task before moving on. If you're going to organise over a few days or weeks, do one task from your list each day rather than halfway doing two or three tasks.

  4. Face the hard stuff first. Birtles says you should think about sorting out debt - and that includes outstanding credit card balances - as a priority. "For some people they put it off because it is one of those jobs that they can't bear looking at." If you fall into this category, it could be time to seek help. You can go for advice from one of the free debt charities, such as StepChange or National Debtline.

Set goals to avoid a future mass purge
"When it comes to clearing your financial clutter, there are two aspects to it - sorting out the actual physical clutter that comes with having lots of bits of paper lying around, and then getting things done and planning for the future," says Simonne Gnessen, money coach and life planner at Wise Monkey Financial Coaching.

Think about your goals for the next year, five years and 10 years - do you want to have paid off a debt or your mortgage, or simply keep your financial documents in order?

Gnessen says the worst option is to ignore mounting debt, or to put off your goals.

She suggests you take a "little and often" approach. For instance, if you make it a goal to organise your finances twice per month, you can avoid such a daunting task next year.

Buy a lever arch file and some plastic wallets and organise all your bills and bank statements in chronological order, Gnessen says. Keep receipts in a folder or plastic wallet labelled by month.

Decluttering your finances may make you feel better
Being orderly clears your head and gives you back an energy which you may find has been sucked away by the stress of being disorganised.

If your home is full of paperwork and ignored or unpaid bills, you're living in chaos and you are likely to feel that you are not in control of that part of your life, Gnessen says. "If you don't feel as though your finances are under control, then you might not be able to make important life decisions, for instance, changing jobs or buying a home."

Sorting out your finances also can improve other areas of your life, she says.

"This could include being more present for your family, feeling more resilient, or not waking at 3am worrying about your finances," Gnessen says. "Some of my clients say that the side effect of becoming organised can make a difference to their stress levels, to their sleep, their appearance and their capacity to believe in themselves and what they can achieve," Gnessen says.

Know, too, that you cannot clear your financial clutter one day in March and expect your life to turn around. You must create new, better habits.

"Bad habits continue to be reinforced and feed into self-limiting beliefs," Gnessen says. "For example, you might feel that you will never be able to get things sorted and that you will always live in financial chaos. It is unhelpful to keep reinforcing these messages in our lives."

See related: How your debt, mental health issues are related, Can credit card debt make you sick?, Is your debt hurting your kids?

Published: 9 March 2017