Debt and De-Cluttering

Unlikely connections

I’ve had a pinched tendon in my right shoulder for about five years now, and while it doesn’t bother me too much on a day-to-day basis, it has prevented me from swimming. For a life-long camper and a former competitive swimmer, it’s not an insignificant loss. My physiotherapist sometimes uses acupuncture, and one day, when she was addressing my shoulder’s limited range of motion, she placed a needle in my shin. “Try again,” she said. To my amazement, it worked.
            Most of us, when we experience a physical ailment, focus on the point of pain. But our bodies are so interconnected that treating an ankle can ease hip pain; treating the neck can solve back problems; and treating a shin can increase a shoulder’s range of motion. In the end, the biggest problem with my shoulder is poor posture. So if I want to be able to swim again, I have to work on standing up straight. Another interconnection.

Debt and de-cluttering

                In our efforts to reduce our debt, DH and I have recently taken on the task of de-cluttering our home. We take on a single cupboard or drawer each week-end, and so far, we haven’t made it out of the kitchen. “What does clutter have to do with debt?” you might ask. There’s no simple answer to that question, but I’m making some discoveries as we sift through our excess stuff.
  • We had 3 boxes of pancake mix. We only buy pancake mix when we go camping, so that means for the past three summers, I’ve purchased it when I didn’t need to. Why? I couldn’t even see the other boxes in our over-stuffed pantry.
  • We had 4 boxes of Graham Cracker crumbs. I only buy Graham Cracker crumbs in December for Christmas baking.  Same problem. I kept buying the boxes each December because I didn’t see the ones we already had.
  • We have two bottles of Worchester sauce – both nearly full.
  • We have more salt and pepper shakers than anybody needs.
  • For some of our spices, we had a bottle full AND a box full AND a bag full.
  • Packages of aging bread-making ingredients were on every shelf. DH used to make bread, but he hasn’t for years.
  • We had bags of dried beans, lentils, and quinoa that I’d barely opened. Every now and then I get on a healthy diet kick and decide to eat more beans and less meat. Apparently it never lasts. (Note to self: Get ready-to-eat canned beans if this inclination ever strikes again.)
  • We have some items – like containers, salt & pepper shakers, watering tubes for plants – in perfect condition, but we just don’t use them. “Throw them out,” DH said. I’ve put them aside for a garage sale.

So what have we learned? And how does it apply to debt?

  1. Where there’s chaos, it’s hard to discern the details, and poor choices are made. I bought pancake mix, Graham Cracker crumbs, Worchester sauce, and spices that I didn’t need simply because I couldn’t see that we already had them. Our pantry and cupboard are now so neat and organized that we can see everything clearly. Similarly, when our finances are in chaos, we don’t know what we have or what we owe, so we spend on the premise of uncertain information, and we spend too much. To the extent that we are current with our finances – everything is out in the open and clear – we make informed decisions about spending. And not spending.
  2. If we’re not real about what we can take on, we accumulate things we don’t use. My dad used to make bread, and I love the idea of DH making bread, but he just hasn’t had time to do so since he started his business. So we’ve thrown out all those old ingredients. And I really would like to eat more beans, lentils, and quinoa, but until we discover easy recipes that we really like, I won’t buy bags of the stuff on inspiration. Similarly, we have to get real about our spending priorities. I would love to fly south right about now, for instance – as many of my friends are doing – but we’ve taken on debt-reduction. And we can’t have it both ways.

Eighth Slice out of Debt #3

                February is typically a slower month for DH’s business. So I find it encouraging that he’s putting $3,000 against the business debt this month. Debt #3 was $80,800 when we started our journey out of debt, and now it’s down to $45,300. Such a long way to go, but I think we’re on to something. There are more cupboards and drawers to clean out in our house. And the basement. And the garage. We’ll keep tossing and re-organizing and setting things aside to sell. And hopefully our de-cluttered home will be reflected in de-cluttered finances, and our debt will go down. It’s a reasonable hope I think. A needle in my shin increased my shoulder’s range of motion, and good posture will let me swim. So why shouldn’t housecleaning help us get out of debt?

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  1. Oh boy, lots for me to respond to!

    1. the clutter: one of the first couple of steps in “Your Money or Your Life” is to make an inventory of what you have in your house, along with calculating the total money you’ve earned up to this point in your life. The idea is to tweak your brain visually that your wealth went somewhere. And although not directly addressed in financial books, organizing and decluttering books will make a direct link: “cluttered house, cluttered brain”. If you’ve ever watched the shows by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, she also goes looks at the state of her subject’s house.

    2. Speaking of the book “Your Money or Your Life”, you can find the program at the following address: . It’s the same program with less narrative to explain the basic principles. I still think the book is a good addition to any library for reference.

    3. About beans: if you don’t have one already, get yourself a pressure cooker, and beans can be ready in 25 minutes with no pre-soaking. Lorna Sass is a reliable source of pressure cooker recipes, and you can find her books at the library. Although not a vegetarian, I use her cookbook “Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” as a reference for cooking beans and grains. Apart from that, pressure cooking can help with getting a meal on the table quickly. Unlike using a slow-cooker and the planning involved, you can use the same cut of meat and have dinner ready in 30-40 minutes. You can read this recent article in the NYT:

    1. “Cluttered house, cluttered brain.” That hits home – and hurts! I didn’t know Gail Vaz-Oxlade looked at the state of people’s houses. Makes me think I’m addressing something important. I will check out the URL for Your Money or Your Life – though I do plan to get the book. A pressure cooker? Hmmm . . . I think I need more convincing. Great recipes with beans are in order first. Perhaps I’ll leaf through a copy of Lorna Sass’ cookbook to see if the pressure cooker route is the one I want to take. Thank you for your comment! You’ve encouraged me to go at my de-cluttering quest with a sense of purpose to de-clutter my brain!

  2. We’ve done a lot of decluttering physically and financially over the last few years. For us, the physical decluttering of our home was a continuation of the need for life simplification as a result of starting to fix our finances, Feels good to clear out all the “stuff” cluttering up our lives for years, doesn’t it??

  3. I’m ashamed to tell you how much clutter there is in our cabinets and closets. I recently sorted through the kitchen cabinets and was horrified by how much expired food was in there. I hate food waste, so it made me really reassess how much food we’re buying (way too much apparently!). I’m trying to be better about meal planning so that we waste less (food and money).

    1. Don’t be ashamed! Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s always good for me to know I’m not alone in these predicaments. Like you, I hate food waste, so I’m keen to buy exactly what we need and no more. As Holly said above, the key is to go through the pantry, cupboards, and drawers every few months. I’ve averaged once every five years or so. OK – now I’m ashamed too : )

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