The Financial Upside of Decluttering


Cutting Costs, Donations, Personal Growth, Spending, Waste


February 14, 2019

Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up series was a popular choice on Netflix in January. It seemed to inspire so many people to get more serious about de-cluttering their homes.

Amen. 

I hope that it also inspires everyone who watched—and was motivated to clean up their living spaces—to change their buying habits as well. I can guarantee that much of what the people who were featured on Tidying Up bought never sparked joy for them. We are a culture that tends to buy whatever we think we want, whenever we feel like it. But many of those items we never use, or we stop using within weeks. Then regret sets in. And if you’re not careful, you need a Marie Kondo intervention.

I have long suggested that families committed to decluttering dump all their unwanted items in one central area. When you see everything you no longer need or want –and that you likely never needed – I bet it will be a bit embarrassing. That is good motivation to never put yourself in that situation again. If you have yet to go through this exercise, I recommend taking a photo of your pile of discards.

The biggest payoff of decluttering is psychological; when we consume as an emotional crutch it is masking something broken in us. But there is also a big financial payoff: All that spending you aren’t going to do is found money! To build up your emergency savings. To pay down your credit card debt. To save for a home down payment. For financial goals that will bring you lasting happiness.

To keep your decluttering momentum in the coming months and years, I ask you to ask yourself this simple question every time you are about to buy something: Do I really need this?

If the answer is yes, I have one more challenge: Pull up that photo of all the stuff you decluttered from your house, or tap back into the memory of how many garbage bags you hauled out of your home. Then ask yourself: “Will I regret this purchase one week or one month from now?”

By slowing down and thinking through why you want to purchase something, I guarantee you will walk away from many purchases. And be happier for it.

As for how to get rid of your unwanted stuff: If you have the time and interest in a garage sale, that’s fine by me. But the more time-efficient option, with the biggest emotional payoff, is to donate your unwanted items to a local non-profit. Giving back, while giving away, is a powerful way to spark joy for you and the recipients of your giving.

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