Decluttering tip #9: reduce your financial account clutter, and I don’t mean the paper kind


When most people think about financial clutter they think about the piles of paperwork that come with financial accounts. So we read blogs and books and websites about how many years of statements to keep, whether we should digitize or laminate our tax returns, whether we should go out and buy fireproof safes to keep all of it secure. We don’t think about the source of the clutter.

Have you considered reducing the number of accounts you have? I really mean ‘accounts’ — not just credit cards.

Add up the number of financial accounts you have: savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, IRAs, TSPs, 401ks, 529 plans, CDs, mutual funds, stock purchases, bonds, etc., and of course loans and credit cards. How many are there?

Why reduce the number of accounts you have?

Reducing the accounts automatically reduces the amount of statements you receive. It  makes it easier to keep your statements straight and you’re less likely to make mistakes that will land you with fees when you know where your money is.

It’s also easier to quickly add up your assets when you need to. And boy, does it make the taxes easier come April 15th.

Large purchases are another reason to cut down financial clutter. My husband and I just bought a condo. If you’re going to be in the market to purchase a home anytime soon, you should know that you will need to provide two months’ documentation for every single financial account you plan to use for the purchase. That can be an awful lot of statements. We had nearly 20 accounts (and only four of them were credit cards). That’s 40  statements. Forty.

Additionally, when you can see more of your money in one place you avoid the ‘silo’ effect. Keeping your money in ‘silos’ (eg. one savings account for the house, one money market account for the kids’ college, one for the Disney trip next year, one for the Europe trip, etc.) means that you may not have much in any one account. Banks often give better interest and return offers when you can invest a larger amount of money at one time.

Don’t suddenly get rid of all of your accounts, though.

Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor before closing a number of accounts. Closing certain kinds of accounts can affect your credit rating. Not to mention, it’s a lot to deal with all at once.

If you’re making a large purchase where you will need to prove the sources of your cash, you don’t want to close accounts just yet. You might be asked to provide not just statements for those accounts, but documentation that you closed them.

My ‘virtual’ decluttered item for today is three financial accounts (all with the same bank): two CDs and a savings account. We need them to pay for the condo and we won’t be reopening them. But alas, they’re not tangible, so I won’t be adding them to my 365-item tally.

Have you decluttered your financial world? What’s worked? What’s been a mistake?


Decluttering tip #8: get organized by repurposing your old tupperware

Like everyone else I’m buried in tupperware. My husband has a set, I have a set, and we got third completely different set for our wedding. Then I bought tupperwares that I thought would be good for homemade ice cream but they didn’t work well. Now I have a drawer of much more tupperware than I could ever use.

Repurposing tupperware (and not replacing it) is a great way to empty out your tupperware drawer and get more organized at the same time!

You can use tupperware for storing food of course. I keep some of my dry food staples in my old set.

 Don’t forget that things other than food store very nicely in tupperware. Add in a label maker, or make your own labels and voila! Instantly organized sock drawer. For this I used all of the tupperwares I bought to use for homemade ice cream. This only took me a few minutes to set up this weekend and it’s already saving me time in the morning.


You could use tupperware to store your makeup, batteries, small tools, or sewing items. What other  items could you store in tupperware? Or do you already do this?

Decluttering tip #7: Stop keeping gifts you don’t like just because they were gifts

Everyone has gotten gifts they didn’t like. Many of us have felt like we have to keep the gift simply because it was a gift, or because we’re afraid we’ll be “in trouble” if the gift-giver suddenly shows up at our home and inquires about the gift. Before you let yourself be fooled into this line of thinking like I have, ask yourself these questions:

Is the gift-giver likely to show up at your home? (and by this I mean, are they likely to show up frequently and in the near future, not 5 years from now?)

Are they likely to ask about the gift if they stop by? 

In many cases, the realistic answer is “probably not.” Don’t get caught up on the “probably.” Get rid of the gift!

For many of us it’s not that easy. We are concerned that Aunt Norma will show up and ask about that ugly, fragile cake plate she gifted you at your wedding or the florescent orange onesie she gave you for your newborn son.

A friend of mine had a great solution to this problem: take a picture of you using the object. Put junior in the hideous onesie, snap a photo and mail it off to Aunt Norma. Then give the onesie to goodwill. Aunt Norma feels loved and you don’t have something in your house you hate. And in case she goes asking, you can always say that the object met an unfortunate fate at some point in time.

There are other gifts though that just sit around simply because they were gifts. I got this very pretty perfume bottle from my ex-aunt almost 20 years ago. I’ve never used it once. But I held on to it because it was a gift and because it was pretty.

How do you know if you should keep a gift? Ask yourself, Do you use it? Do you love it? Would you have bought it for yourself if you had the money to? Is it sturdy enough to be kept easily without special care? If the answers are a resounding no, no, and no, then be rid of it and your guilt.

Today’s decluttered object is #38, a fancy perfume bottle. 

~The Reckoning~

Original Cost: Free, a gift.

What convinced me to get rid of it: I only liked it because it was purple (so no, I didn’t love it), I would never have bought it for myself, I don’t use it, and it’s so fragile I’m perpetually afraid of breaking it.

Fate: Left it in the “free for the taking” area in the basement of our apartment building.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $203.

Old hobbies are like exes. Both belong in the same trash bin. (decluttering tip #6)

from’s nothing quite like discovering a new hobby. The rush of a new experience, as powerful and enjoyable as a first date. You feel alive. It’s love!

Then comes the commitment. You rush into the craft shop to buy the things that will keep this relationship going strong. You try new things together. It gives you a new sense of accomplishment. Didn’t realize you could make this, or do this, did you?

But now you want more. Perhaps you’re getting good at this hobby. But maybe you’re realizing that it’s starting not to have the hold on you that it once did. What once gave you a thrill seems to bore you now. What could fix this? Something new! A new tool, a new material. You’ll fall in love all over again, right?

So you try again. You’ve introduced new and shiny things to the relationship but it’s all starting to feel like baggage. The spark’s gone. You’re not in love anymore. It’s over.

Yes, it’s over. Admit it. Time for a break-up. Some things just can’t be fixed. Move on and put your energy into other things.

Take a look in your cabinets and closets and see how many hobbies you’ve picked up over the years. My short list includes guitar, cello, indoor gardening, quilting, yoga, cycling, running, cross-stitch, latch-hook, cake baking, and cookingWhat do you know, I’m my very own parks and recreation department. Honestly, some of them I don’t even do anymore but I still have the stuff. 

We can lie to ourselves that we will go back to those hobbies, but how realistic is that thought? It’s okay to give up a hobby that you’re not really enjoying or don’t have time for. Would you have stuck around with a boyfriend or girlfriend who you felt just wasted your time? I did that for quite a while. What happened? I was miserable. I missed out on two years’ of dating other people and enjoying the friends I had because I was afraid of losing the jerk I had. I learned that I deserved better. And soon after I finally got away from the ex, I had the time, the means, and the emotions for a good relationship. That’s when I found my husband.

You deserve better than to be stuck with something you don’t like because you think you’ll want to go back! You deserve to get to spend more time with the hobbies you really love. You deserve to have the shelf space back to properly stack the things you need for the activities that give you the most pride and pleasure.

I’ve decided that I really want to work on studying guitar instead of cello, so most of the cello music should go. I want to sew instead of make latch-hook rugs, so I’ll donate my latch-hook kit. My husband decided he doesn’t want to do yoga anymore so I’ll donate our spare yoga mat to the studio upstairs.

Pick your best hobbies and get rid of the rest, and all the junk that goes with them. You deserve nothing less!

(Oh, and you know what the best part of breaking up with an old hobby is? It will leave you alone once it’s out of your sight, unlike the last jerk you dated. No sappy letters begging you to come back!)

Decluttering Tip #5: Your keys meant it when they said “do not duplicate.”

Did you ever move into an apartment, get handed your keys, and read the “do not duplicate” statement stamped on them with a bit of frustration? (And then like me, did you run out to the hardware store and immediately get them copied?)

They keys were right. I’m realizing that keeping duplicates typically just wastes space and energy.

Last week I found that I owned 13 baking dishes. I can tell you that I also own seven pairs of gloves, over twenty pairs of shoes, over a dozen mugs, at least ten jackets, enough lipstick to wear a different color every day for more than two work weeks…you get the point. Don’t even ask about my handbag collection. Therefore, I must learn:

Don’t keep something if you have another item that serves the same purpose. 

Don’t take this as a rule, but instead as a guideline. Sometimes having two items isn’t necessary but sure is nice. For example, my husband and I keep two vegetable peelers. Why? Because when we’re peeling fruit to can, which happens several times each year, we’re both peeling at the same time. Peeling 25 pounds of peaches is a lot more pleasant when you’re not sharing a peeler.  But do I need four peelers like my mother has? No!

Same goes for shoes. I could live with one pair of black heels, but I have a nasty habit of breaking bones in my feet and my pants have been tailored to different shoe heights. So, I plan to whittle my way down to somewhere between two and five pairs of black dress shoes of different heights and styles. I own ten right now.

Go easy on yourself. Living more simply is not going to happen overnight and it will happen more slowly if you make yourself miserable in the process. Crash dieting only makes most people want to overindulge afterwards, right? So don’t throw out all of your shoes at once. Or all of your DVDs. Do it one at a time. You’ll get there eventually. Did you even notice the duplicates were gone?

(Occasionally there are some things that it is wise to keep duplicates of. Ironically, keys are one of these things. I do keep a spare house key key in a safe location in case I get locked out.  So far it’s only happened twice. However, I’m not sure I need to keep keys to my old apartments anymore. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who has had to conquer that habit.)

Decluttering tip #4: If it’s not yours, give it back or give it the boot!

‘Could you keep this for me?’

Part of my clutter problems started with this simple question from a family member.

Ever been asked that? What did you say?

If you’re like me, the answer was ‘Sure, why not?’ Turns out that there is a good reason why not:

Your home is not your friends’ and family’s spare closet!

Again, if you’re like me, you can already hear the whining and see the (crocodile?) tears welling in some of those folks’ eyes. But we can handle this now!

If someone is trying to foist an object on you, ask for some time to consider where you’ll put it, and tell them you’ll get back to them. In reality, you know that you’re not going to put it anywhere. But hopefully in that time they’ll forget and will find another alternative.

If they still insist on “giving” you the object, say honestly that you do not have the space. Keep saying no.

If they won’t listen when you say no, then it’s time to look at why they are so stuck on you keeping this item. Remember that they may be struggling with the same issues letting go of items as we are. Share some of what you’ve learned about downsizing. And offer to help take that TV to the Salvation Army.

Sometimes the items that don’t belong to us are more sneaky about the ways they get into our house. The sweater a friend left when she visited from out of state. The baking dish left by your cousin at Thanksgiving (no, this is part of the reason I don’t tend to host Turkey Day for my family).
If the objects are already in your home, call the person who gave them to you and give them a deadline to pick up the item, or you’ll donate it. If they can’t stop by, offer to mail it. The postage to mail it may be worth the emotional cost of keeping it.

But most importantly, do not give in and say yes figuring you’ll get rid of the object later. Even if you do get rid of it, this other person now may feel that you’re their spare closet just because you said ‘yes’ once.

I realize this is how I became my paternal grandmother’s dumping ground for kitchen equipment. Her best friend died and Grandmom got to clean out Emily’s house. Now I’m stuck with half of Emily’s kitchen because Grandmom didn’t want to see all those pots and pans ‘go to waste’ and I couldn’t say no. Teriffic. All part of the reason I’m doing this challenge, right?

What’s the most aggrivating thing you’ve kept just because someone else asked you to?

Decluttering tip #3: Keep your memories in memory books, not in your clutter.

The hardest hurdle for me when it comes to decluttering is definitely dealing with the emotional attachments I have with objects. Even broken ones.

I’ve really had a hard time getting rid of anything that I associate with my grandmother. She was more involved in my life in some ways than even my father, and now that she’s gone I know I’m using her stuff as a way of keeping her memory closer. I’m keeping really silly things — a broken pair of scissors she gave me, curtain clips (I don’t have curtains!), two pairs of her shoes…

But I don’t have to be a pack rat to remember my grandmother, as it turns out. Throwing away stuff does NOT mean you’re throwing away your memories. 

The most elegant (and space-efficient) solution to this problem I’ve found is the idea of a memory book. When I see an object that I don’t need that reminds me of her (or even an object I do need that reminds me of her), I get out a little spiral notebook that I’ve turned into a memory book.

I write down the object and then a little bit about why it reminded me of her. Then it goes back on the shelf and the useless object goes out the door. I can even tape in a little picture if I want to.

I’ve found this works for any object really. It’s far more satisfying than all of the clutter. And this I can scan and back up on a computer, never to be lost if my apartment burns down!