Have you ever had an “aha!” moment that really rocked your perspective?

I had one last month, and you may find it helpful too, since we’re starting a new year. It’s similar to my post about why I threw out my Tupperware.

Bottom line: Clutter Sucks!

When your life is cluttered, there are a ton of things that can divert you from achieving your goals.

Know what’s important to you, act on it right now, and forget the rest.

A Clutter Story

My “aha!” moment came as I was cleaning out our office room and found a stack of old thank you cards.

While digging through them I realized – These were cards I meant to send to people who came my college graduation party.

Four years ago!!!

This made me think: Why did I not send these… Why do I still have them years later…  What was I thinking?

Maybe I ran out of stamps, maybe I thought I’d write them all then send them in one big batch, maybe I thought I’d finish this project when my life was less busy.  Whatever my reasoning was, clutter had a negative impact on my relationships with people I care about.

I meant to tell them how much I appreciated them and the good wishes they gave me, but I let life get in the way.

That feels terrible.

Even worse, I spent a lot of time and energy carrying this unfinished project around. I literally moved this box of unfinished cards across the state  – twice!

Why wasn’t this energy spent actually thanking these people!?

It stunk to realize that I’d been BS-ing myself for years, thinking that I’d go back through a closed box and finish a project.

Closed-box projects rarely get done.

New Perspective

I started looking at everything with this new lens: Money, career, the other rooms in the house, everything. I finally saw that I’m not going to go back and pick up where I left off, and I should break projects into bite-size pieces if I want to make meaningful progress.

I looked in my filing cabinet – I had three separate folders of “great ideas!” Twenty pocket notebooks filled with ideas. They must have seemed like messages from the Oracle when I scribbled them down, but now, out of context, they make no sense at all. What the heck?

I clearly had a grand vision of collecting all my fabulous ideas as they came into my head, then making them a reality “one day.” Maybe when I was wealthy, the rest of my life was on autopilot, and I had time and money to burn (yeah, sure), I’d follow up on them.

I looked through my emails and browser bookmarks – I had hundreds of bookmarks. I had dozens of email categories filled with “great reads” that I planned to come back to “one day”.

The problem is, “one day” usually never comes.

“One day” is Today.

Thinking of “one day” as today was liberating. I felt I could safely ditch a ton of baggage that I had been carrying around, digitally, physically, and mentally.

It brought to mind a lot of old wisdom: “strike while the iron is hot,” “seize the day,” “make hay while the sun shines,” “seek the Lord while He may be found,” “get busy living or get busy dying.” Clearly, humanity has had a problem with clutter for a long time.

The wisdom of the ages can be boiled down to this – identify what’s important to you, do the heck out of it while you can, and don’t sweat the rest.

Until this week, I thought being organized meant having a systematic, well-labeled, alphabetized way of storing all my crap. I’m seeing now that being organized actually means knowing the difference between the crap and the things to take action on – today! The saying isn’t “store a bunch of hot irons in a filing cabinet until you feel like striking them.” That would be weird.

I don’t want my children to have to guess what was important to me – I want my actions to visibly demonstrate what’s important to me every single day.

So, what does all this about action and clutter have to do with money? It’s connected because money is an ongoing project. It’s a constant battle that involves lots of behavioral work and staying organized – knowing the difference between what matters and what doesn’t- and taking action sooner than later. Don’t treat your money like a closed-box project. Open that thing up and take bite-sized actions every day.

So my message for money this week is this:

  • Know exactly what you want your money to do
  • Act on those things as soon as possible (today)
  • Celebrate bite-sized victories
  • Ditch the rest – simpler is better

Clutter keeps you from doing what you really want. It’s a distraction that leads to inaction. Spend your energy actually doing the things that matter instead of exhausting yourself lugging around the baggage from unfinished projects. Save your ideas, but act on them as soon as you can. Let your actions this year demonstrate what you value.

And to all those who wished me well at graduation, I appreciate you, even if you never got my card 😉

Until Next Time,
Do Brave Deeds and Endure!
– Ben

If you’re ready to cut the clutter from your life and your money and take measurable action toward your goals, consider personalized financial coaching. I’ll help you open those closed-box projects and identify the actual actions to take to accomplish them. We’ll differentiate between the actions that will move you toward your goals and the ones that will just spin your wheels. Click the button below to find out how it works.

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