Do your finances stress you out? They do for many Americans.
While increasing your income is always nice, the answer to your financial stresses might simply be tidying up. In fact, you cannot truly know what your income level should be for your goals if you don’t have a clear view of what your finances are in the first place. But how do you do you financially “tidy up?”
The world’s #1 “tidy up” guru Marie Kondo. The question is, can we apply her methods to finances? Let’s find out!
The Tidying Up Expert
Kondo burst onto the scene in 2011 with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In this New York Times Best-Seller, Kondo presents six clear rules to tidy up your home, which is called The KonMari Method. As her book has been translated into many languages, selling millions of copies across the globe, her method has helped millions tidy up their lives. There is no reason that her straightforward methods cannot be applied to your financial life as well.
Following The Method
Rule 1: Commit Yourself to Tidying Up
The first part of commitment is typically time. If you are committed to working out, you set aside time for it. If you are committed to a relationship, you make time for it. If you are committed to tidying up your finances, you’ll set aside time for it. So before you move on to Rule 2, set aside time for tidying up your finances. It could be a half-an-hour each Thursday. Or you could set aside an entire weekend. Or some other time entirely. Whatever works for you is fine, but you need to commit.
Rule 2: Imagine Your Lifestyle
How do you want to live? Do you want to fix-up your house–or do you want a different house? Maybe you want to live without stressful mortgage payments. Or you might be yearning for acreage where you can grow your own garden and have horses. Think about the ways you make and spend money in your ideal life. Write them down, collage them, whatever helps you clarify what you ultimately want. You cannot really begin to untangle your finances unless you truly know how you want to live.
Rule 3. Finish Discarding First
This rule is about letting go with gratitude. Kondo suggests that you may feel guilt about letting go of certain things. Maybe you think that sounds silly or does not apply to finances. But consider this. Perhaps you have a membership at the local YMCA that you don’t really use–but haven’t discontinued because you feel guilty about withdrawing your support. Maybe you are holding on to that second (kind of ugly) kitchen table because it used to belong to your aunt and you use it once a year at Thanksgiving (but it otherwise takes up space in your spare room you can’t use). This method instructs you to say thank you for those good times–then let it go, guilt-free.
Rule 4. Tidy by Category, Not by Location
In the physical manner of a home, this means not to tidy room-by-room, but instead by categories such as clothes, books, papers, etc.–until you finally reach sentimental items. But how does this apply to finances? It means this: tidy up your grocery budget (are you sneaking nonessential items in there?), then move on to your clothes budget, your shopping budget, recreation budget, and komono (miscellaneous items) until you move on to the bigger–potentially sentimental items–such as your car, house, and retirement. By examining items in the vacuum of one particular category, you are better able to examine what brings your joy within that category.
Rule 5. Follow The Right Order
In tidying up a home, Kondo presents the idea of running across old photographs. You may spend hours looking at these photographs because they are sentimental while the pile of old junk mail remains untouched. By going in the correct order, you save the most difficult decisions–those that are sentimental and emotional–for last. When you take a KonMari approach to finances, you don’t try to immediately refinance your home, trade-in your car, or switch your entire retirement into new investments. If you start there, they will essentially be bottlenecks, clogging up your ability to tidy up and execute the smaller categories like grocery and clothing budgets, which will give you the skills and practice before the bigger (or harder) stuff.
Rule 6. Ask Yourself If It Sparks Joy
While all of these rules are important, this rule is perhaps the most crucial and should be the most memorable. Kondo emphasizes that this method is not about what you get rid of, but rather what you keep. You only keep what brings you joy. This is the same for your finances. Don’t ask if you timeshare brings your stress or if it is worth it. Simply ask if it brings you joy. Does dining out two times a week bring you joy or do you just not feel like cooking? Examine your budget–does each item bring you joy? If the answer is no, discard them from your budget. If the answer is yes, enjoy keeping them in your joyful life!
This method is not for everyone, but if you finances are causing you stress, you may want to give this a try. You never know: once you have cleaned up your finances, you might realize that you can indeed afford some of those desirable things you once thought were out of your financial reach.