Let’s Talk About Physical Clutter…

physical clutter

What Is Physical Clutter?

You know what it is; physical clutter is that “stuff” lying around your house, hiding in closets, toy boxes, maybe even lining the walls and floors… it gets everywhere. And let’s just be honest; that stuff cost money. Maybe you regret spending it or maybe you are hung up on the amount spent on it and don’t want to let it go.

As a noun, Merriam-Webster defines clutter as, “a crowded or confused mass or collection.” Crowded and confused? That sounds about right. As an intransitive verb, it is, ” to run in disorder.” If your life or home feels like a confused crowded mass that runs in disorder then you probably have a clutter problem.

Do you know what this cost?

That’s probably what you think when someone mentions getting rid of your clutter. I have a different question for you, “do you know what it costs you to keep?”

Is it costing a storage unit fee every month? Whatever it cost you to buy it’s costing more to store. Is it costing you your peace? Do you walk around the house wondering what happened? Do you feel overwhelmed at the sight of it all and think it’s hopeless? Does it make you not want to come home at the end of the day because you’ll be faced with all the… stuff? Worse yet, do you fight with your family over it? Chances are your physical clutter is costing you more than you realize. A lot more.

You Can Do Something About
Physical Clutter

When I think of clutter I’m reminded of a Dave Ramsey quote on debt that floats around a lot on social media, “The bad news is you are the problem. The great news is you are the solution.” I think the same principle applies to clutter. Heck, it probably applies to any and all our issues. But back to clutter…

You made the mess by bringing home too much stuff. Plain and simple. You let it come in the door. Stuff doesn’t walk in on its own, not even the stuff with its own legs. Someone has to get it in the house. Even if you weren’t doing the heavy lifting you allowed it in. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s not a very good feeling, is it?

I’ve been there. You can read all about my Beginnings of a More Minimalist Approach here. Trust me, I know it’s overwhelming. I know it can feel hopeless. I also know that just a ten-minute walk through of your house reevaluating things and picking even one thing per room to donate or sale can feel so good. Dare I say it even feels better than retail therapy? Yes, yes it does.

Unlike retail therapy, you aren’t spending money to temporarily fill a hole that probably requires actual work and time to fill properly, decluttering can help lighten the load physically and mentally. By freeing yourself of things that no longer serve you (if they ever did) you are also freeing yourself of the need to replace them with more things that won’t serve you. Stuff is stuff. The moment you realize that big changes start to happen in your home. And in you.

How to Rid Your Life of Physical Clutter

Yesterday I started working on decluttering my kitchen more. Today I hope to pick up some empty boxes so I can safely pack away glass items to donate. I don’t want any more accidents around here!

I have also started to declutter my bathrooms. Again. This is an ongoing process at our house since our kids are still young, but growing and our needs change. We need to reevaluate from time to time if things are still serving a purpose, and if is there is a need to replace with something that would sere a purpose better.

Most people have heard of the one-in-one-out principle where if you buy one new thing you need to get rid of one thing you already own, but if you haven’t done a thorough decluttering this isn’t going to work. You aren’t getting rid of any clutter this way; you’re simply maintaining the status quo with newer clutter.

One Room at a Time

Pick a room and spend some time in it evaluating the items in that room. Chances are you’ll fill a bag or box, or four rather quickly if you haven’t done an edit recently. Once you get some momentum going and see the items piling up in your donate and sell piles you will likely have some sobering realizations about your choices. That’s okay. You’ll also have feelings of relief and the ability to move around and breathe a little easier at home (literally and figuratively – stuff collects dust and just gets in the way!).

This will motivate you to keep going and will hopefully cause you to stop and think next time you pick up a trinket or doodad in the store and consider taking it to the register. You’ll start asking yourself if you really need something, if it will really bring you happiness in your home as opposed to buyer’s regret, or if it would be better left in the store.

You may even find that you aren’t as tempted to go to certain stores anymore. I know, shocker right? I didn’t use to think I could live without going to Target on a weekly basis, which is weird to me now because I survived most of, if not all of the first two decades of my life without one. Now I almost dread going; there is so much stuff. So much stuff.

Part of this comes with age, maturity, and minimalism, but part of it admittedly comes with having kids. I don’t want to go to most stores now! I have two little helpers eager to put anything and everything in our cart and bring it home.

If you have triggers or stores you know you don’t currently have the willpower to get out of with just the essentials you may just have to find a way to get around that for the time being. You can pick a new store you don’t like spending much time in but seem to find most if not all you need, or if you are brand loyal on certain things try putting in a grocery pickup or drive up order for what you actually need. I love doing this.

For example, I prefer up and up diapers for my youngest but don’t buy baby food or formula anymore so I don’t get free shipping or $15 or $20 gift cards for stocking up on baby food and diapers once a month like in the past. I have taken to placing a monthly drive up order and asking my husband to stop in on the way home from work. This saves time, money, and gas.

I have recently also started placing a grocery pickup order for things I can’t or don’t like to buy at my regular store. Any day I can avoid going into a supercenter is a good day!

Time to Get Started!

Ready to get started?! We’re here all week just for this! Even while I discuss different types of clutter I am re-decluttering my own home and showing you on my Instagram feed, @alifeonadime, my progress throughout different rooms. I’m not just talking about it I’m doing it with you.

Check out my decluttering efforts and post your own to share and motivate others using the hashtag #clutterweek. Happy decluttering everybody!

Join Me This Week and Let’s Talk Clutter

Let’s Talk Clutter and Excuses…

let's talk about clutter

Let’s talk about clutter. It is so easy to come up with excuses why you have clutter and why you don’t do anything about it, and they sound like, “We’re busy,” or, “We have kids. They come with a lot of stuff.” Maybe it’s, “But this may come in handy someday.”… Then there’s my personal favorite, “do you know what this cost?!” As if the fact that you wasted money on something means you’re saddled to it forever.

Murphy came to visit and threw our week off. I could use that as an excuse to put this off, but if I can do this with all the excitement going on at my house then what better way to show you that you can do it as well?!

Let’s Talk Clutter and its Consequences

The accident last week with our son (see my post on Our Emergency: Why We Cash Flow Medical Bills here) actually spurred us on in our decluttering efforts. We are now getting rid of a lot of glass items. Talk about clutter having potential consequences; someone at my house got hurt. That particular item wasn’t necessarily clutter, it was serving a purpose. But it did open our eyes to how much glass we have in our house that is not in use and how a lot of these items were probably another accident waiting to happen. Case in point, I had eight empty pasta sauce jars in a kitchen cabinet waiting to serve a purpose. I have more recycling than usual to take in this week.

We don’t want the stuff in our house anymore. Projects I was excited about are now on hold while I get rid of what I will no longer use and slowly replace all those glass jars with metal canisters. Looks like my gift cards from my taste testing side hustle are going to be put to good use!

I had quite a wish list on Amazon of all the glass meal prep containers and cleaning bottles I was hoping to purchase slowly, but those items are being removed and replaced with stainless steel and silicone options. You can see my list of recommended items on Amazon here. My wish list items aren’t on there because I haven’t bought and tried them yet. Whenever I try a product and love it I will add it to the list of items I recommend.

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Let’s Talk Clutter and What it Robs Us of

This leads me to a really good point on clutter; if you stop wasting money buying lots of little, cheap, random items and get rid of all that isn’t useful or valuable to you (and this looks different for everybody) you will have a better idea of what you truly want and need.

It is quite sobering if you try to imagine the sheer amount of money going out the door when those items were bought. You can recoup some of the money by selling items whenever possible, but keeping it in a closet or stacked up against the wall in a corner isn’t going to regain your money or your sanity. You have to let it go for that to happen.

Once you have your possessions down to a manageable amount you will get more use out of them and this may lead you to discover that some of these things are no longer working for you. That is okay. It isn’t like you still have everything you started with and aren’t using and bringing more junk home.

Let’s Talk Clutter that isn’t Stuff

We live in the digital age, so we’re bound to have some digital clutter. We will talk about that this week as well. It can be very overwhelming even though it isn’t technically a physical item taking up space.

Did you know there is also mental and emotional clutter? Your mind and emotions can get crowded with unwanted junk from time to time as well. We’ll touch on unpacking that as well.

Gonna Practice What I Preach

It wouldn’t be fair for me to just sit here and type about what clutter is and what to do about it if I didn’t walk through it with you. All this week I will be walking you through my decluttering process in different areas. I will post everything on my Instagram, @alifeonadime, so you can follow along. I will use the hashtag #clutterweek and invite you to do the same as well so we can do this together! This should be fun!

It is amazing even though I thought I did a great job before we moved, while things were in storage, and again as we unpacked I seem to have no problem filling the back of my car every week with random stuff we do not need.

Who’s With Me?

Let’s do this! #clutterweek starts now!

Our Emergency: Why We Cash Flow Medical Bills

If only I’d known how timely my post schedule was…

Just Tuesday I posted Emergency! Why You Need an Emergency Fund Now! I talked about how this particular item is our financial focus right now and where we are in the baby steps. Little did I know that Wednesday we would experience an emergency. Murphy must’ve heard me talking about him.

Our Emergency

In case you don’t follow @alifeonadime on Instagram, here is a little recap I posted after the dust settled:

My newfound love affair with glass is over. This dispenser shattered on the tile and sent us running to the ER this afternoon. 
Not long after I tried to deter my 2 year old from the lower shelves by storing things in bins he snuck in and pulled the dispenser off the shelf. 
We thought it was safe from his reach. We were wrong. Thankfully he appears to have avoided any permanent damage but we should know for sure in a few days. Praying that little thumb keeps moving. 
Today was by far my scariest moment as a parent yet. And I saw this kid angel flighted to Little Rock at 2 days old. This was unexpected and the sounds of glass and screaming are not going away from my memory any time soon. 
I am only posting this because he is currently sleeping on me. I am soooo thankful we have savings however small and insurance in which his deductible has been met. This is why we need emergency funds. Money was not on our list of concerns sitting in the ER through x-rays and shots and sutures. He was. I am so thankful we are not the typical household that could not cover a $1000 expense. I sincerely hope you aren’t either.

When I sat down two weeks ago and mapped out my blog posts for the month I had no idea that I would be the one needing them most. I guess this week I’m just posting my personal diary.

Medical Bills Happen

If you are breathing and especially if you have children you can expect medical bills. My husband has glaucoma. His eye exams are more in-depth than what vision insurance typically pays. He also goes every six months as opposed to once a year (ca-ching). If the pressure has changed, and it usually has, he gets a new prescription eye drop (ca-ching) and has a follow-up in two weeks (ca-ching) to see if it is relieving the pressure. If it isn’t, you guessed it, he gets new drops (ca-ching_ and another recheck (ca-ching).

Insurance Makes Things Interesting

To make things more interesting insurance takes a while to process the claims so it can be a few months before we see the bill. It is not uncommon to get two or three bills at once and sometimes they are already 60 plus days past his appointment date before we ever see the amount owed. Depending on the size of the amount due I typically just pay the oldest first and then pay the rest off in two or three chunks. It’s not perfect but it works. It seems expensive but he never seems to meet his deductible. Gotta love insurance.

To make our insurance situation even trickier our kids were double insured until last year when I left my full-time job. Prior to that, we hadn’t paid a dime for our son’s physical therapy that hadn’t been refunded. After my insurance expired we were surprised by a $600 bill from the therapy clinic. I called and it turned out that even though my insurance was secondary it was picking up the tab on everything while the primary insurance policy was just applying everything to the deductible.

January 1st rolled around and we had to start over on our deductible and there was no secondary insurance paying the balance. So we are making payments on that as well.

Why We Do Things This Way

You may ask why we don’t just pay the medical bills and be done. That is a valid question. Technically if you follow the baby steps you pay off all your debt before finishing your emergency fund.

We are also a single-income family at the moment. Heaven forbid my husband were to lose his job our little medical bills would not be our biggest concern. Our focus would be on buying food to feed our kids, keeping the lights on, and paying the mortgage so we could stay in our house. Paid off medical bills and little to no money in savings would not help us in that situation.

On the flip side, if we had an emergency fund not only could we feed our kids, keep the lights on, and stay in the house for a few months until we found a new source of income, we could also continue to make smaller payments on the medical bills. When it comes to personal finance you have to do what makes sense for your family. This makes sense for our family and helps us feel more secure.

Emergency! Why You Need an Emergency fund Now!

In Case of Emergency…

Sooner or later an emergency is bound to happen. Sometimes more than one will happen in a short time. Sometimes they’re not so little. Whether you call it your E-fund, your Murphy repellent, or just your savings you need at least three to six months worth of expenses set aside. This money is not your 401K, your Roth IRA, or another type of investment account that comes with penalties for early withdrawal.

This is a separate account (think high-yield savings, traditional savings, or even a money market) you can easily access funds from when you need them.

What is an Emergency?

An emergency is an unavoidable, unplanned circumstance that leads to an unavoidable, unplanned large expense. Think job loss, a major illness, unplanned leave-of-absence from work, not plane tickets are cheap so we’re going to Maui. True situations you need to make sure that as unpleasant or traumatic as they can be your family is ready to weather the storm financially.

Not ready for one?

Most Americans aren’t; in fact, according to a recent Bankrate survey referenced here, most American households can’t even handle a $1,000 setback. This in itself is an emergency! If you really think about it, $1,000 doesn’t go far in a true emergency. It might not even cover your deductible if you settled for a low premium, high deductible plan. It probably won’t replace the old hot water heater that seems like a ticking time bomb in your basement either.

So what do you do?

You need to adjust your budget to start saving for that emergency before there is one. Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Isn’t that the truth! Don’t wait for an emergency to start your emergency fund! Look at your monthly budget and see if you have any wiggle room to add to your savings. Don’t have a budget? That’s an even bigger emergency! See my Budgeting pages for information about how to get started.

Any amount you can set aside will be beneficial. If you just save $100 for a year at the end of that year you will be in a more comfortable position than most American households.

Maybe you have a side hustle. If you don’t, but want suggestions, see my article “How do You Hustle? Legitimate Side Hustle Ideas,” for more information. Instead of throwing the additional stream(s?) of income at debt consider funding your emergency fund first.

However you choose to fund your emergency fund, be sure to start! You can’t prevent bad things from happening, but we can do our best to make sure we are prepared if and when they do happen. Don’t let that inevitable $1,000 emergency wreak havoc on your family’s finances; get your emergency fund ready as soon as possible!

My family is in Baby Step 3; we are out of consumer debt and beefing up our emergency fund. We currently have almost 32% of our goal saved. I am trying to get creative stretching our budget and working some small side hustles to add to it. You can follow our progress on Instagram under my handle @alifeonadime. We are 9 days into July and I’ve managed to save $30 so far! It isn’t much, but every little bit helps! Follow along for updates on my family and share yours with me here in the comments! I would love to cheer you on too!

Sinking Funds

avoid that sinking feeling

Avoid the Sinking Feeling that Comes with not Planning Ahead

Set Money Aside for Larger Expenses in Advance

Sinking funds are an excellent way to cover infrequent, larger expenses and avoid that sinking feeling you get when you reach for the credit card to cover an expense you knew was coming but just didn’t plan for. They aren’t as complicated as they may sound either! We used them to cash flow home renovation projects and major purchases long before we knew what they were called.

In essence, a sinking fund is a separate bank account or cash envelope you contribute to for a specific, typically larger expense. Say you plan to “sink” money into vehicle maintenance, a new(er) car fund, or save for a down payment on a house. You may pay your insurance premiums quarterly or annually for a discount. You expect these expenses and set aside money on a regular basis. These are all sinking funds. You may have one or more going and simply refer to it by its purpose; the car fund, new house fund, maintenance fund…

More recently we employed the sinking fund method to cash flow our property tax bill. We set aside a specific amount each month for three months and then paid the bill in full. This avoided an uncomfortable budget deficit one month or the need to raid our primary savings.

Or, you may find it beneficial to set up sinking funds for other recurring expenses that add up but don’t necessarily happen every month. Examples include a birthday fund, Christmas gift fund, clothing, etc. Avoid that sinking feeling and the urge to go into debt when the kids hit that inevitable growth spurt or tear through the knees of all their good pants.

You know it’s going to happen, so why not plan for it?

If you have any questions or just want to join the conversation drop them in the comments to this post or send me an email. I would love to talk more.

Healthy on a Budget is Possible and Here’s How

Yes, you CAN eat healthy on a budget! Very healthy!

Put down that boxed meal and hear me out…

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I know it can be hard to get a meal, any meal, on the table in a decent amount of time when you work full-time, have kids to haul to various activities. Heck, it’s hard if you’re home with the kids all day. Any of the above scenarios can make you want to give up and dial take-out. In fact, according to the USDA Americans spend more money eating food away from home than they do on groceries. And we have for almost a decade! You may be tempted to just open up a box and cook up a meal in 30 minutes or less. Been there, done that, gained the weight…

Wanna know a secret?

You can make a healthy meal from scratch in one dish in under 30 minutes as well. It doesn’t always require meal prep in advance either. Still with me? Good. Cooking at home can be healthier, less expensive, and have a ripple effect across your lifestyle and budget!

Instead of pulling up to the drive-thru on the way home prepare a simple, healthy meal (like the sheet pan chicken posted on my Recipes page) with a side salad and homemade dressing. The dressing is easy; pour a little olive oil in a jar, add minced garlic and other spices to taste, put the lid on, and shake. Voila! Salad dressing without preservatives! Maybe cut up a cantaloupe (under $2 in season here in Northwest Arkansas) or other fresh fruit for dessert.

After dinner, you probably feel pretty good (instead of bloated and icky from your fast food meal that sat who knows how long under a warming light) so you gather up the kids, or the dog, your spouse, and take a walk or play together outside as a family.

Not only did you eat well, but you also got some healthy movement in too without really even thinking about it. Over time this can result in a smaller waistline, fewer medications/doctor visits (even just a reduction in indigestion would be nice, right?), and money typically spent dealing with those issues can now go to beef up your Emergency fund or pay down debt.

Examples of healthy meals that can be made inexpensively are included on my Meal Plan on a Dime page. Eating healthy on a budget is so much easier if you make a meal plan before you go grocery shopping. This helps ensure only what you need goes on the list and saves you the headache of wandering the aisles hoping for some dinner inspiration before settling on the frozen food aisle.

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated; you need a protein, a few vegetables, and if you choose a (preferably) whole grain. One handy trick I like to use is to make sure to eat the rainbow; the food on your plate should be really colorful, not monotone. This will help you make sure you are getting a better variety in your diet. I am no nutritionist, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

Don’t have a lot of time to cook or just don’t like to cook? Batch cook! You can easily double a recipe and freeze one batch to heat up for an effortless meal on a day you’re not feeling the motivation or won’t have time to prep a meal. I love batch cooking a turkey meatloaf or in the winter chicken pot pie filling. It makes the second time around a breeze! Either place the frozen batch in the fridge the day before or allow more time in the oven.

Batch cooking can also come in really handy if you are fixing a meal for friends or family. Just double the recipe and you won’t be left wondering what you’ll be eating for dinner when you get back from delivering the gifted meal.

Portion control is also a lot easier at home than in a restaurant. This is both healthier and good for the budget. We eat pasta two to three times a month, which is very economical and filling. Pasta dishes at restaurants tend to be much larger than a typical, healthy portion. It is much easier to control how much you eat when you control the plate size!

Stretching your meat out is both good for your bottom dollar and your waistline; when cooking pasta dishes opt for a meat sauce or make it a casserole and use less than you typically would by cooking up meatballs or individual chicken breasts or tenderloins to serve on the plate next to the pasta.

Sheet pan meals are an excellent way to stretch your meat as well; simply chop up several veggies and add chopped meat to the mixture. Clean up is a breeze when everything is cooked together as well!

Take a dish you typically order out and hack it to make it cheaper, easier, and healthier to prepare and eat at home! This can be a great way to get your “treat” meals in without breaking the bank going out to eat when the urge to eat it hits. If the ingredients are simple enough keep them on hand so you can make them without making an extra trip to the store. Incorporate them into your regular meal plan.

It helps a lot to have ten to fifteen tried and true recipes you know you can pull off easily, are health conscious and don’t have expensive, hard to find ingredients. Once you have a good set of recipes to fall back on meal planning and list making gets easier and less stressful. Free recipe apps and food blogs can help a lot for inspiration and cook times. Eventually, you will find yourself coming up with your own favorites and new combinations.

What are you waiting for? Get cooking! Can’t figure out how to hack a recipe to make it healthier? Reduce the sugar and/or salt. Reduce the portion size. These are always good places to start.

Would you like to see healthy, budget-friendly recipes/meal plans in your inbox on a regular basis? Let me know! If enough people are interested we will make it happen!

Birthday Party Budget Breakdown

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How’d we do?

I previously posted how we planned to host the kids’ birthday party on a $150 budget including food and kids’ gifts. You can click here to read that if you missed it. Here is the budget breakdown:

budget breakdown

We spent $69 for martial arts lessons for our daughter and she is loving the classes! Our little white belt just earned her first stripe this week for learning her first basic form!

We also spent a total of $54.93 on the previously mentioned sit on tractor and T-ball set from Amazon.

I also spent $12.92 at Target on a felt tool set for my son and favor bags (which I forgot to fill, so they’re ready for next year!). That made a total of $136.85 of the $150 budget.

But what about the food?

budget breakdown
Pickup portion of food

Where is the food in the budget breakdown you ask? We didn’t have to use the budget for the party food! My husband helped a coworker after work one day and was given $40 in return. I used that unexpected money and paid for burger patties, turkey dogs, buns, cake mix, frosting, a fruit bowl, condiments, lettuce, and tomatoes with cash!

So for the budget breakdown purposes, we were able to use $13.15 elsewhere in our monthly budget. Like the newbie I am at this blogging thing I forgot to take pictures of the spread before everyone dug in!

Not too shabby! Would you call that under or over? Technically I think it could go either way since we did spend money, but it wasn’t all from the budget. Let me know what you think!

Have you hosted any parties lately? How did you do on your budget? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you entertain your loved ones on a dime!

budget breakdown
Play Ball!