To me, financial clutter is linked to organisational clutter
So we should clear our clutter so that we can be fiscally fit!
and that is what our family did this recent July
timely too… since it was just past midyear.. and it is a good time to review those beginning-of-the-year resolutions(related to money goals) one had so mindfully crafted
it makes sense really-beginning with your end goals-and working backwards..
I believe every organising system is customised based on an individual’s goals
These are the following tips we have carried out over the last 10 years to ensure our house stays lean (aka ‘purged’ of clutter), things are where we want them (cos in singapore, or any other busy city in the world really,time equates money) and we increase our savings by year end.
1. Gather similar items together and store them at ONE site
As an example,
when you gather all your disparate stationery items or electronic spare parts or accessories, sort them into ‘Throw'(T), ‘Keep'(K), ‘Sell'(S), ‘Donate'(D), *’Not Sure'(NS)
*this last category is more for my children 🙂
I remembered one memorable purging occurred when my children were in Primary school. After experiencing repetitive requests to buy files for individual subjects, the children and I found ourselves caught up in a frenzy of ‘to buy that school file or not since we already have one that is similar at home’ scenario..
And the stationery..o the stationery we had amassed over those primary school years was horrific – they were just everywhere and there were ‘extras‘ and my children loved their stationery shop at school so much that they could forgo recess just to save up and buy a mechanical correction tape or stickers.
Gradually over they years we have purged all extras, grown wiser in our spending, share a vision of a fiscally fit home (yes,family cooperation very important here!)and I am glad our stationery and electronic related items have dwindled to these:
2. Label label label !
You know the organisation mantra “A place for everything and everything in its place”..
After you have that saying down pat…
label all your storage boxes and shelves
This tip serves me plenty…
Even when I am away on one of my wanderlust overseas trips or I am not at home when in Singapore, my family does not need to rely on me to find things around the house – the house is literally ‘idiot-proof’ because we label
We started this as soon as the children were infants. We had already let go of the maid since my younger child turned one then
I remembered even labelling the kitchen cabinets back then in our former home which was far larger to clean and tidy up. I labelled them because back then my husband would keep late nights and often times wander into the kitchen to ‘fix himself a night snack’- naturally everyone would be sleeping then..but if I labelled the cabinets, he could easily find what he wanted..I really think self-reliance started from then..
3. Establish House Rules
Believe you me..if a couple are both working(and you have no help whatsoever for housekeeping), do establish some house rules so that the whole family is ‘on the same page‘.
Hold a ‘family meeting’ , usually on a weekend, after a lazy Sunday lunch when everyone’s spirits are slightly perky and thrash out a couple of house rules. This is ours below:
This has been updated a few times ever since the children were preschoolers. The list of rules above were drawn up in 2011.
We haven’t had to change them since because the habits were engrained in everyone, including the adults, and that reminds us parents finally, the children follow what we do , not what we say.
Of all the rules,number 8 has proven to be the most useful because I have needed to do very little ‘reminding’ for ‘items to be put back where they belong even if it was not where they had found it’
It was a rule that had been discussed and agreed upon some time back (I think it helps when you establish and reinforce rules before the children grow up to be teenagers..)
What is more, the rules save everyone time(we can find things quickly when we need it ), it leaves furniture surfaces bare so that we can perform cleaning tasks easily – all in all providing for a serene environment , clutter-free, family home, allowing us to focus on our personal pursuits and increase our family bonding time every day.
There are just some things money can’t buy and one is family harmony
And a clean, clutter-free home creates harmony.
If a parent has just ironed the clothes and placed them on the child’s bed and the child just before going to bed simply moves it to another place WITHOUT putting it back in his closet, the parent should make sure he coaches the child to put back their clothes in the cupboard before going to bed until the child has internalised it and does it on his own- the parent’s patient coaching will have paid off and this habit carries the child through to adulthood
3. Stocking Up
As the saying goes, ‘Out With the Old, In With the New’
According to an article in Frugal Housekeeping,
“After you’ve gotten rid of the stuff you don’t use, make sure you have stuff that makes sense for the space.”
For me “makes sense” is also translated into “makes cents” 🙂
After habitual purging, and having done the TKSD (Throw , Keep, Sell, Donate), I have occupied the ‘vacant’ spaces with items my family regularly use..
The items I stock up are
Cleaning Supplies and Paper Products
This VERY MUCH lessens the trips I need to make to the stores.
In fact we have honed this so well until we only buy toiletries once a year
This once-a-year purchase is made possible because we keep an expenses diary (I compute mine in the app Evernote)
We had been able to count the number of dish washing detergents, rolls of toilet paper, shampoos, dental floss etc. needed in a year based on our recording of our expenses every year
With that clarity of what we needed, we were able to stock up during sales and buy in bulk beforehand
Once-a-year shopping saves time and you save so much!
A suggestion for all your savings is to start a Fun Account for the family..use the money from this account to pay for movie tickets or admission fees to places of attraction in Singapore
5. Establish A System For Filing Financial Documents
When you have all your financial documents in order, in the event of a personal mishap of any family member or if claims to insurance companies need to be made, the immediate family members will know where to look for those needed documents.
(note: customise your organising system according to what you wish to get out of it. There really is no one final system. Systems are eventually very need-centred and depending on which financial document or information, do store them with care)
So, gather all the documents and place them at ONE site (yes, you will need to look for ONE place in your home to store these documents or the keys or the passcode (to a fire-proof safe) which should be made known to at least one family member)
Some significant financial information or documents one should be collating include the following : personal information such as NRIC and marriage certificate, educational certs, bills , warranties, bank records, investment statements, title deeds, insurance policies, medical records ,emergency numbers and a will
This is how we do ours..
Organising such financial information also comes in extremely handy when you need the collated information at your fingertips to work out for eg. your net worth before deciding how much you have to invest
Update: Calculate your net worth by clicking this link
6. Setting Up Routines
Set up some routines to follow up …on your tidy, clean, ‘purged’ home
a) Firstly, tracking your expenses (or what others call keeping a ‘spending diary’)
I do this at least once a fortnight (or else my wallet will be bulging with receipts)
I scan my receipts and record my expenses in Evernote
In this way, I
-keep my weekly spending in check(budgeting)
-am informed of my buying history eg. I know how many crates of eggs on average we purchase every month or when it was I bought a bottle of laundry detergent
This regular routine allows me to set aside an annual budget for the next year in many categories-groceries, holidays, children’s spendings etc. It therefore allows me to carry out Tip 8 above “Stock Up” and I can buy ahead and save time and save some more money!
b) A second routine is paying your bills before time and filing away documents at least once a month will help you tame that ‘paper jungle’ 🙂
When it does not require me to produce the actual bill or receipt , I scan or take a picture of these documents and ‘file’ them away in Evernote . I know of some friends that file them in Inboxes in their email if they have a Google account. This allows them to access their personal information from wherever they are.
c) A third routine worth carrying out is at least once a year, at about midyear, update your financial records– toss expired warranties, update bank records or significant contact information, dispose of (or delete online) unnecessary bills, invoices or bank statements and TKDS your personal possessions
7. Habitually Clean Your Home
We place a used toothbrush and a scouring sponge (we buy those green ones in a pack -they are hardy and do the job just great) just beside all our sinks in the house.
We also have a set of cleaning supplies beneath the sinks.
Anytime, we find the sink or its surrounding utility areas gritty, we clean at once, as all the cleaning tools are instantly at hand.
You don’t really need to wait for the weekend to do a thorough cleaning. In fact, if you arrange it this way, other than the toilet bowls, you can do a thorough cleaning just once a month- because you clean regularly
This July I cleaned up those nooks and crannies of the house that were beginning to collect dustballs, wiped down the window grilles, cleaned off the water spots on the glass panels and the faucets as well as cleaned some shelves…. ..these go a long way of making sure your most costly ticket item, the house, with its internal frameworks, are regularly maintained, warding off unexpected and sometimes costly repairs, renovation and making new purchases unnecessary.
And of course, living in a clean, tidy environment do make the residents happy 🙂
Update: On Habitual Cleaning
After showering, wipe down the walls and floors to keep them dry – this effectively prevents build-up of mold and soap grime
8. Carry Out ‘Financial Fasting’
How this works is for a week every other month, you strive to eat only from the ingredients in your kitchen pantries. No grocery shopping or visiting any stores to buy ANYTHING. You are basically seeking to use up all those leftover cans and opened packets of food or any other ingredients so that you can declutter your kitchen.
I read about this concept from a website called moneysavingmom.com some time back and I thought it a brilliant idea.
We had done it before but never as strictly as not going to the stores – AT ALL!
We did do it this July for a week and learnt some truly valuable lessons from it like being extremely creative with cooking and food ingredients and being unconventional in what constituted a Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner meal!
I saved $150 that week , freed up time as well as cleaned out my kitchen pantries…really happy!
9. Streamline organisational tools and boxes
I use the same organisation system throughout my home..
same-sized storage boxes
They have saved a bundle for me over the long run
Invest in some storage boxes and receptacles after surveying and measuring your available empty spaces, may it be in your cabinets or inside your fridge
Of course it’s easier if you are in a new home and therefore can anticipate using similar-sized storage containers and prepare the renovations for that 🙂
If in doubt, just recycle and reuse the boxes of some consumer items your purchases come in for the time being. Oftentimes, the cheapskate me likes to gain that ‘win-win’ situation by buying a supermarket food item so that I can reuse their empty receptacles once we finish eating out their contents:) I especially love those square ice cream tubs that sell at NTUC Fairprice
Also, go for transparent receptacles whenever possible – it’s so much easier to ‘see what’s inside’ or know if it’s half full or filled to the brim ..
Lastly, ziplog bags are a godsend..because of their soft sides and transparency..a very flexible storage receptable 🙂
10. ‘One-In , One-Out” rule
Our family adheres to this a lot to keep our material possessions at bay.
Eg. If someone gives my children a stuffed toy , then a stuffed toy from their ‘collection’ has to go. If a brand new pair of shoes is bought, one other pair is disposed of or donated.
This rule has a few advantages.
It has influenced our consumer buying habits and makes us think twice before buying something. Through such a rule, the children learn to prioritise their wants and conclude if an item is a need or a want.
In association with this rule, we also teach the adage to our children ‘Use it up,wear it out,make it do, or do without’
This also impressed upon them that they are not defined by what they own.
I think these frugal sayings are really financial intelligence teachings at its best 🙂
Just 2 weeks ago, the my teenage daughters had to ‘purge’ their wardrobe and tidy up their belongings. Naturally, they had to execute ‘TKDS’. Some items were harder to ‘let go’ so on the spur of moment, deciding it as an experiment (the Marie Kondo way) I suggested they ‘thank the item’ for the great service it had performed for them but now they had to ‘say good-bye’. Of course my suggestion was greeted with skepticism but they obliged and to some extent, I think this method does help with parting with personal possessions 🙂
Check out Marie Kondo’s book and the link below for a fuller explanation of a style of Japanese decluttering
writing these tips had been challenging because so many of these practises had become second nature over the years
However, I believe these tips do provide for a happy home
The children also learn life skills such as housekeeping and money skills such as budgeting and cutting expenses.
The atmosphere at home is serene because ‘minimalism‘ is practised and ‘material things are in their place’. There is also a ‘code of conduct’ for everyone to follow.
Most definitely, over the years, these HABITS have contributed to a healthy bank balance and increased savings.
Happy Tidying :))
More good links:
1) Places to donate gently used items
2) 5 Ways To Cut Down On Toy Clutter
3) Menu Planning