If you are feeling bogged down by the clutter in your home (and maybe also humidity in DC these days?), then going through your things mindfully can help you create a space that reflects who you are in your life now. But what about your finances? Many of us get into a routine of not checking bills that get automatically deducted from our accounts, don’t add up our happy hour spending week to week, and buy summer clothing we see online, all while assuming our money is doing what it is supposed to because our checking account balances ‘seem fine.’

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” -Marie Kondo

Instead of looking the other way at what is happening in your bank account, a more mindful approach can actually improve your financial health. Take a page from Marie Kondo and her book, ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. She addresses how to set up your home only with things that spark joy and are useful, principles which can also be applied to your finances. Here are some tips using her KonMari method to give you structure and compassion in this process so that you can move forward towards financial freedom with a clutter-free bank account.

Visualize Your Ideal Financial Situation

While ‘immediate and string-free wealth’ may be what first comes to mind with this title, lets be realistic since that isn’t the immediate next step for most of us. But many other things can be: would you like to buy a condo soon? Take a trip through Southern Africa? Treat your friends to brunch at Le Diplomate? Take some time to think about what your financial goals are and how well they are aligned with your life now. Write down your goals and calculate the cost of each one. Maggie has suggested setting up separate bank accounts to save for different goals (trips, homes, emergency savings, etc). This is a great step. You can even figure out how much you need to put away towards these goals over the month and year so that you can achieve them in the time frame you set for yourself. The question you should ask yourself here is: are you prioritizing funding for the things that you say are most important for you?

Sort Items by Category

Go through your financial expenses by category (housing, student loans, internet, gym memberships, travel, going out, etc.) so that you can see how much you are spending in each one. Compare that to your monthly earnings. What do you notice? Are you able to put away enough money each month to achieve the goals you laid out for yourself above, or do you feel constrained to do that? Is the percentage you are spending on clothing or food higher than you thought it might be? Once you have done this, thoroughly consider using a budget feature within your bank account, an excel spreadsheet, or an online platform (like Learnvest or Mint) so that you can keep track of these categories over time and watch how they change as your spending habits adjust through this process.

Focus on Joy

A main principle of the KonMari method is that we should focus on keeping the things that bring us joy or are useful. Maybe paying your rent isn’t joyful, but it sure is necessary. But this is where you can look at what purchases you have made that brought you the most joy; maybe it was a trip to France with your partner, or the veggie spiralizer you bought last year that changed the way you cook. The things that bring joy to your life are what you should prioritize saving for and spending money on as you move forward. Focus your finances on the things that matter, as opposed to mindless spending that takes your time, attention, and funds away from the important stuff. Be sure to leave space for new items that pop up: emergency vet bills, finally finding that antique table you have been looking for online for months, etc. You want to be able to have space in your finances to grow into the life you are setting up for yourself.

Honor the Past

As you go through this process, you will see receipts from shoes you barely wore, dinners spent at restaurants you didn’t want to go to (or with people you didn’t REALLY want to spend time with) and Amazon purchases that maybe you don’t even remember making. Don’t beat yourself up over these, but do consider what they can teach you. I often say with my clients “it’s okay if that seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you have recognized that you don’t need to do or buy that again.” You are honoring the past by learning from these moments and then letting them go so that they don’t keep cluttering up your life – either with the physical item or with the guilt that is associated with them. You can consider trying to sell items that can be sold, of course, but even more valuable than getting back some of that initial money is knowing that you won’t make the same purchase again for something that won’t be valuable for you in the long run.

Do It All At Once

Give yourself a timeframe in which to get this decluttering and organizing done. You are busy with work, friends, exercise, etc. and tidying-up your finances shouldn’t be something you do every-day. Set aside time to go through your items on your own one evening or weekend when you can pull out all of your paper bills and receipts and open up all of your online credit and banking accounts. If you are able to do all of this and then come up with a financial plan that is focused on the ideal vision you have for yourself, you will be able to refresh how you spend your money, your day, and your life.

Once you apply the KonMari method to your finances, you will feel more confident putting money towards the experiences and items that bring you joy and move you forward toward financial freedom. An investment of your time now to go through this process thoughtfully will increase not just your bank account in the long run, but also the quality of your life.

Jenny is the only consultant in Washington, DC area certified by Marie Kondo to offer her KonMari method of decluttering, which she does through her company Declutter DC, which was recently featured in the Washingtonian Magazine’s ‘Best of DC’ 2017 issue. For further information please visit www.declutterdc.com or email Jenny at [email protected].