In the middle of September, I decided to make a goal to change my life. I had just gotten married to my best friend on the 12th (see my post here about how to hold a DIY wedding on a budget!) and was in the honeymoon phase, but then we decided to take a look at our finances.
It wasn’t a pretty sight. My wife and I, together with student loans, car debt, and credit card debt, owed a grand total of $192,453.40
I won’t spend a long time going into detail about how this changed our world and freakin’ terrified us. Or about how I spent hours looking at debt calculators to find out how long it would take to pay it off (answer: you can’t). Or about how I wish I could have started out with nothing rather than $192,453.40 less than nothing. But you can read all about that here if you wish (click here).
Anyway, we made the decision to become debt free and live a simpler, happier life and since then we have taken many steps to make this decision / goal a reality. I’m sure that I will be going over many of these steps as we keep moving forward with DIY Jahn, but the one that I want to focus on today is de-cluttering our house – and how life-changing it can truly be.
How cleaning our house helped us to pay off our debt…
First of all, we had to make a plan. Our plan of attack began by looking at our indoor storage area. We went through each and every bin – one item at a time – and decided if each of these items sparked joy in us (it works!). Why did we do it this way? Because I read a fantastic book that changed my life and changed the way I look at cleaning forever. You can read about it and check it out here:
We stopped keeping things just because we felt obligated. Little trinkets and gifts that had been given to us – we gave them away. The way we looked at it: It had served its purpose. The gift had sparked joy in us when it had been given to us, but now it was kept merely because we felt obligated to keep it. But let me ask you this, do you really think that we were truly enjoying those gifts in boxes stored away in a room in our house? Not really.
So what we did was simple: we took a picture of the item (so that we could remember it later if we wanted to) and then we gave it away so that somebody else could be sparked with the joy of it.
It’s not to say that we gave away all of the gifts we have ever been given, but ones that were years upon years old that we have not used in a long time: it was time for them to be given to someone else who will enjoy them too. And we will always have the memories of them.
The hardest part was the memorabilia section of our storage units – boxes of papers, letters, photos, crafts, cards, etc. We decided to save this until later and still have not decided how we want to minimize the storage on these items without giving up things that we have a deep-seated emotional connection to. I’m sure we’ll get there. One step at a time.
After the storage area was clean, we began cleaning rooms one at a time – different storage shelves that had gotten cramped. My philosophy as we went was as follows: if we need to buy items to store what we own in, we probably own too many things. Our goal was to buy nothing, but get rid of as much as we possibly could.
We got rid of boxes upon boxes and bags stacked atop bags of clothes that we either didn’t wear any more or wore, but didn’t enjoy. Any small hole, stain, or worn down item was thrown into the give away pile because nobody wears all of the clothes they own. We got rid of 2/3rds of the clothing items that we had and we probably could get rid of more still, but that is still to come!
As we finished more and more shelves becoming clear, more space becoming available, and more light entering our clean home, we realized something. This experience was more rewarding than it seems on the surface. It was more than clearing up space for more junk. It was more than a simple cleaning.
It was life-changing.
We took all of the old stuff away and found ourselves in a large house that was…. simple. We felt relieved at how simple the house felt. How a room could be comforting and calm and not need anything in it. We also noticed how happy we felt when we could look around and notice that every single item in the room was kept because it sparked joy in us.
We also noticed that we had to spend less money because our house wasn’t as cluttered. How? You might ask. Simple.
- We found coins and dollars that had been tucked away that we didn’t know we had. All of these we put toward debt or our coin jar.
- We sold items that we didn’t need – especially larger furniture items. We would have had a yard sale as well (we had plenty of stuff for 3 or 4 yard sales, even), but we live at a camp so we couldn’t have. However, we probably would have made a few hundred dollars if we had had the chance to have a yard sale.
- We decided to de-clutter our kitchen cabinets which meant eating more of the food we already had.
- We felt happier about our simple life and didn’t want to buy more things to re-clutter it so we stopped spending as much.
- It was easier to cook, so we spent less on going out to eat.
- Things were packed away better so that Sofi, our puppy, couldn’t get into them – which saved us having to replace items that she ate.
Most importantly, we were happier. And even if we have debt and are suffocated by it and feel like we can’t go anywhere, at least when we enter our home – filled with air, space, light – we can be comfortable and happy. Content, if you will.
And that’s good enough for now.
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