Monday, October 3, 2011

Clutter and Debt 1: Stop Using Credit

Photo Credit:
Only after I announced this series last week, I thought of checking if the topic had already been discussed. I was shocked to find that Google found 2,700,000+ pages on "debt clutter". So, I guess I do not need to explain why I believe clutter and debt are cousins! But in order to apply the debt-free lessons to help get out of clutter, I dug a bit deeper to find out their relationships.

The Birth of Debt

Debt occurs when we start to spend money we do not yet have. We swipe that credit card or finance that car because we think we could pay it off overtime - our monthly income should be enough to cover those monthly payments. Then, suddenly, we found out that we might have swiped that card a little too often, or worse, our income tanked with the economy, our bills left unpaid.

The Birth of Clutter

So, with my clutter problem, what am I taking an advance on? What did I use that had become unavailable and cause my clutter to build up to an overwhelming level over time?

Then, I realized, first and foremost, it was time itself! How often did I put off doing laundry to check emails? How often it turned out, my little girl woke up "prematurely" from her nap, or, my son need my help for his homework, or, some important phone call came unexpectedly? Then, I either got totally distracted and forgot Laundry needed attention or that it is already time for preparing dinner. Procrastination is simply spending the time that I do not have yet !

With the number of books and websites that I have read on the topic of getting organized, I cannot remember how many times procrastination came up as the name of the enemy. I have learnt that working on chores immediately would make them much easier. I knew that it was something that I needed to work on. But this time, the message came to me a bit differently.

In Dave Ramsey's Getting Started Guide, one of the beginning lessons was to commit to stop borrowing. As long as we are still borrowing money, we are living in this cycle of debt and payments. Only when we pay with the money we already have that we can get out of this cycle.

No matter how good I could be in getting my desk cleared after piles and piles of paper build up on it, it will return to such condition if I do not learn to take care of paperwork as they come in.

In other words, it is more important for me to stop borrowing time and work on things in a timely manner than to unclutter my desk or my closet.

Now, conceptually, I know I need to do things as they come in but practically, it is a bit difficult to keep track and report. So, how do I put this into a to-do list? Since bad habits could be difficult to break, it may be easier to work on a few concrete areas first. I figured that there are four major areas I tend to slack and contribute a clutter-looking sight:

  1. Laundry
  2. Dishes 
  3. Putting away things from Grocery shopping 
  4. New paper come in through the mail or schools

To add to this list, I also found delaying bedtime is one of my worst way to steal time from tomorrow. Even when I thought I was preparing for tomorrow, tomorrow was sacrificed. I think How to Be A More Patient Mom from Inspired to Action has this explained very well.

Different people may be taking an advance on different issue. Space is another area that could be the issue. But that probably deserve an entirely different post to focus on.  So, for now, I will focus my energy to:

  1. Get a load a laundry done when there enough dirty clothes for one
  2. Get the dishes done after each meal
  3. Putting away grocery immediately unless little girl need to potty
  4. Do not check mailbox unless I have the time to look it over
  5. Check the boys' school paperwork when I signed their binder
  6. Go to bed before mid-night...
Now, I am already late for number 6...

How about you? Which area(s) do you tend to "borrow"? Would you join me in building new habits?


  1. I would like to second the laundry and dishes! I feel like I do so.many.loads of laundry per week. Part of that is because we cloth diaper and don't have paper in the house. The problem that I have is not washing the laundry, but getting the stuff put away. I have seriously considered making my family pick out their 2 favorite outfits and that's it :-) Good post!

  2. Thanks, Heather.

    I cloth diapered my last baby too. So wished to have done it with my older kids. I am also weaning myself off paper towel, I have had the habit of using them for too long. One step at a time, I guess.

    Yes, I still have my little one's cleaned cloth diaper sitting in a laundry basket even though she has already been wearing underwear for a few months...