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Resolved: Less Stuff

Ron Wayne, 2:55 am ET

CLUTTER IS DEFINED as “things lying in heaps or crowded confusion.” Its origin as a word dates to the 1570s. More than four centuries later, you might imagine we would have got the problem under control, but it seems not.

I had a friend in high school who lived like a monk. He had nothing on his bedroom dressers except lamps and a record player. I wish I could achieve such a pristine state in my condo. Instead, I have too many books, magazines and notebooks. They usually end up wherever I last used them, whether it be my desk, the bed, the couch or the dining table.

One drastic solution: Remove the places where clutter grows. But that would mean getting rid of part of my already minimal kitchen counter space, the top of my desk, the dining table, the front passenger seat of my car and so on. Obviously, that’s not the answer.

Experts say too much clutter can hurt in many ways, including our finances if we don’t keep bills and important records organized. Fortunately, many of these tasks—such as doing the taxes and paying bills—have moved online, where it can be easier to stay organized. I’m trying to convert all my regular bills to emails, but for some reason I cling to the habit of receiving a paper reminder. Still, I have one good habit: I immediately tackle the mail upon receiving it. I open up the legitimate mail and place it in folders or on my desk. I tear up and shred the rest.

Clutter can also cause stress, and that affects our judgment when it comes to financial and other important decisions. I live alone in a small condo without an attic, basement or garage. That’s where many people hide their clutter. I’ve gone to estate sales for recently deceased elderly people and been astounded at just how much stuff they owned.

So what’s my plan for eliminating clutter in 2022? I’m going to convert my remaining monthly snail mail bills to email. I plan to start using a basket or bin for all those items that seem to have no home. And I intend to buy an iPad so I have a mobile device for writing down thoughts, notes and lists.

If you also need help, try searching online. You’ll find numerous suggestions on ways to conquer your clutter, including here, here (I really like idea No. 3) and here.

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MarkP
MarkP
4 months ago

Getting a small basket for the counter where I keep car keys, wallet, phone, etc. that I need to find when leaving has been life-changing. It’s also where I put the few paper bills that I get. I also recommend a scanner.

I have no solution to basement clutter except to keep chipping away at it and negotiating with your partner on what stays and what goes.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
4 months ago

Clutter is definitely something we all deal with as we get older and I, too, am trying to keep it under control—mainly for the sake of my wife and kids if I get hit by a bus.

I love paying bills online, though—so much faster than in the old days of paper bills. I pay them all with a cash rewards credit card, so it’s nice to see the additional points rack up. And the credit card bill provides a basic paper back-up (I still like that on paper although I pay the credit card bill online).

Jo Bo
Jo Bo
4 months ago

Like you, I sort and pay bills immediately out of fear I might misplace them. But I have resisted signing up for e-bills. I worry that unscrambling e-billing upon death could create headaches for others.

Recently, I tried editing an online account to accept a different email address. That took several hours of frustration including phone calls. I wonder what that would have been like for someone else had a death certificate been in the mix.

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