The Year of Less: Tidying Finances and My Relationship with Stuff

As the Marie Kondo craze continues - by now most of us have binged the show and are probably trying to declutter just like she does - I want to look at decluttering more holistically. As in, How did I get myself into this clutter-y mess to begin with?

On top of that, there are other areas of my life that need desperate decluttering: finances is at the top of my list. How about you?

Relationships with Stuff

Watching Marie work with American clients, it was both surprising and I guess not-so-surprising to hear her say things like, This is the biggest mountain of clothes I’ve ever seen! We live in a material world (as Madonna told us back in the 80s, and it’s only gotten even more so). Especially in America where “things” are cheap, readily available, even free. “Free gift with purchase” is kind of everywhere!

While the point of the tidying process is to work on our relationship to the things we already own, it’s also a chance to examine our relationships with things in general. If we tidy what we have, but then continue acquiring at the same speed and rate as before, you’ll find yourself choking on too many things again.

How do you relate to things?

For some of us, our weakness is clothes. For others, maybe it’s books or electronics or furniture. You name it, you probably know where your money and energy goes. I remember watching one Marie Kondo’s clients on the show who had a massive collection of athletic shoes, so much so he admitted that these shoes had put him $10,000 in debt.

Do you find yourself using retail therapy when you’re stressed or down? Or buying more junk food than you normally would? Stress and emotions usually drive us to relieve those feelings in some way, whether it’s “things” or food or alcohol.

Some people find more positive ways to deal with these emotions, but not all of us do.

My relationship with things

When I’m sad or lonely or feeling down otherwise, my outlet is always clothes. A good sale online or in a store always makes me feel better… for a little while. Then I have to do it again to feel better again sooner or later. And it’s always with the thought, I can pay for this later. One day I’ll knuckle down and pay off all of these things I’ve bought and put onto credit cards.

One day is today.

The Year of Less

The title of this post is also the title of a book I’m listening to by Cait Flanders. In it, she details her struggle with credit card debt, being overweight, and trying to quit drinking. Right now, I’m on the first chapter and she’s laid out her plan to strike out $30,000 in credit card debt within 2 years by forking over at least 20% of every paycheck and committing to 1 year of retail celibacy.

Her plan is to not purchase anything other than food (from the grocery store), toiletries (only when she’s run out), and nothing for the house or herself unless it’s something that breaks and must be replaced.

I think things come to us when we need them, so I find it interesting I found this book when I have, especially since I have semi-committed to a year of less also. My main goal is slashing the credit card debt I have and conquering my weakness for clothes and things.

Tidying finances

While I don’t have as much credit card debt as Cait did, I have more than Mr. Sports Shoe Guy from Marie Kondo’s show. Which is enough to warrant me taking on a second job in addition to my full-time job. Looking at my finances, even with my full-time job, my credit card payments are high enough that it leaves me little to actually live on, let alone save. Not the greatest situation to be in.

I figure with just one year working a second job, I should be able to slash two-thirds of my debt. That is if I’m also able to stick as closely as possible to a fairly aggressive budget. Which means I’ll need to be more creative and restrictive in terms of what I spend money on, and work hard to deal with the emotions that come up in a way beyond buying something; which has never solved anything anyway.

I’m looking forward to figuring out ways to fill my time and head space with other things besides “things.” I notice I spend a lot of time thinking about “stuff” in general and when I asked myself, “What if I never shopped again? What would I do with myself?,” I didn’t have a solid answer.

The two states I’ve noticed which cause me to start thinking about buying something are when I’m:

  • Bored, or

  • Sad.

This is my first week at sticking to this aggressive budget and paying vigilant attention when I think of things I want to buy.

How about you? Where do you struggle with “things”?

Stay tuned for more posts about my relationship with things and committing to an aggressive budget to pay down debt to something more manageable (where I can afford to have just one job).