5 Ways to Declutter Your Life and Your Finances

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a room with no idea how you got there? Or maybe you’ve been about to push “Start” on the microwave, only to realize you’d been thinking about work and were about to nuke a bottle of hand soap? If so, you’re not alone. Our work and personal lives have become so busy, and so full of distracting stimuli, it’s easy to feel out of sorts at times.

The good news is that this condition doesn’t have to be permanent. So read on for a few suggestions on how to make your life a bit more simple. Our palettes aren’t the only things that need cleansing!

Get Moving

Step one: get moving. That run-down feeling may actually be the result of not running enough. Many experts consider sitting to be the new smoking with regard to how it can take years off your life. So get away from your desk, get off that couch, and start to move. If you’re feeling invigorated, you’ll be able to focus better and do more. Your stress levels will fall and your appetite for life will increase.

You might even buy an activity monitor to encourage yourself to move throughout the day. When you’re feeling healthy and strong, you’ll be ready to make the big decisions in your life.

Unless It Brings You Joy, Throw It Out

Marie Kondo became a household name in Japan by promoting a radical approach to decluttering that states you should “discard anything that doesn’t spark joy.” As she writes in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, “If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us. This process in turn helps us identify our values and reduces doubt and confusion in making life decisions. If we can have confidence in our decisions and launch enthusiastically into action without any doubts holding us back, we will be able to achieve much more.”

So, tomorrow, open your closet and take out a piece of clothing. If it brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, or even if you’re not entirely sure, donate it or throw it away. Rinse, repeat.

Learn How to Say No

Most of us are people-pleasers who vastly prefer to say “yes” than to risk disappointing someone by saying “no.” While understandable, this often makes matters worse when we promise something and don’t deliver. And, when there are already 10 things on your plate at work, it may only take one more “yes” to put all of your tasks at risk—and to fully break the proverbial camel’s back.

When we learn how to say no, we liberate our minds and give ourselves the freedom to concentrate on activities and relationships that are truly vital. And odds are, we’ll have a far better chance at success.

Chuck Those Receipts

Are you saving a tree’s worth of documents in an overstuffed file cabinet? You may not have to. According to Consumer Reports, the only personal records that you need to keep forever are birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, Social Security cards, military discharge papers, defined-benefit plan documents, estate-planning documents, life-insurance policies, and an inventory of your bank safe-deposit box. The rest of your personal documents you can discard, but only after a certain period of time.

For example, tax returns, both online and paper, can be ditched after seven years. Loan documents, vehicle titles, and purchase confirmations for investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., should be held for at least a year and discarded only when the asset is paid off or sold. Documents that you can discard in under a year include insurance policies and statements (throw out when you get new versions) and bank and credit card receipts (hold until you can match these with monthly statements).

Finally, always remember to shred your paper documents so that your financial life story isn’t sitting in your trash bin for the entire world to see.

Forget the Stickies—Use an App

Unless you’re a designer by trade, you probably don’t need to cover your wall in yellow sticky notes to organize daily tasks. You can save a few trees, and some sanity, by creating to-do lists on your smartphone. Some of the most popular apps include Wunderlist, Google Keep, Todoist, Any.do, Remember the Milk, and Clear.

These iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps enable you to organize tasks by category, set due-dates, and—here’s the best part—make you feel like a winner every time you check off the box that says “completed.”


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