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Marie Kondo Tidies Up Finances As Well


These days, it seems like half my Facebook feed is about Marie Kondo and her Netflix show, where she helps people tidy up their houses by getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring them joy.  For some people, it’s their first introduction to a larger movement of Minimalism that has become increasingly popular lately.  


As far as I understand it, Minimalism is the process of stripping out the aspects of your life you don’t absolutely need.  This largely goes for products you have accumulated over the years in the course of an average “need-to-buy-stuff-so-my-life-is-comfortable-and-not-boring” existence.  After all, you don’t want your home to look like a depressing hospital room, with bare fluorescent lighting and cold, white walls bearing down on you.  


Eventually, this normal process fills up your living space, and can even outgrow your home.  In my home country of the USA, over 33 million American families have run out of space in their homes and have to rent self-storage space as to not be overwhelmed with all their stuff, it’s a growing $38 BILLION dollar business.  


That pursuit of more more more is not limited to the US, it certainly characterizes many people’s lives here in the UAE.    So much of people’s lives here is about going shopping at malls.  They are incredible places in the UAE, with ski slopes and fountains and cinemas and everything else you could imagine.  Even if we avoid the malls, we have souq.com making continuous accumulation as easy as a push of a button.  


Just to let you know, until recently, I had way too much stuff for an apartment my size.  Not only that, a lot of the stuff was just sitting around, not doing anything, cluttering up my space and stressing me out.   Every corner was stacked high, boxes on chairs with magazines on top. Cupboards that wouldn't close, where lids to pots and pans slid out every time I got something out of them.  I was feeling claustrophobic just being in my living room.  Every extra item was shouting at me, and it felt overwhelming.


Like many of you, I also am an expat, and with that comes uncertainty as well.  My job could always end, and I’d have to leave the country before my visa was cancelled.  The overwhelming amount of stuff I owned taunted me, making me feel trapped because I had no idea what I would do with all my stuff if I had to leave.  When I was younger, I’d been able to pack all my important possessions into two suitcases, which made me feel free and flexible.  Now, halfway through my 30s, I felt like there was no way I could move without getting a whole shipping container.  


In many ways, Minimalism is a push back against that excess of stuff.   While I appreciate Marie Kondo's idea of going through everything you own and only keeping what brings you joy, personally, I go by the "have I used this in a year" rule.  If I haven't used it in a year, I donate it, sell it, or throw it out.  For clothes, there's a donation bin in a nearby building that goes to the needy.  For other stuff like electronics or kitchen ware, the cleaners in my building light up like Christmas trees when you give it to them.  Dubizzle is a great way to turn that stuff into extra money as well.  

In order to fight the suffocating amount of stuff I had accumulated, I took a week and every evening I went through an area of my apartment and decided what to keep and what to get rid of, and it reinforced why Minimalism can be so fantastic for your personal finances.  


Firstly, if you know you don't want more stuff, it keeps you from buying more.  If you think about how much you have when you're contemplating a purchase, you're more likely not to buy, which is great for your bank account.  


Secondly, going through your stuff reminds you of what you have, which keeps you from buying new stuff because you forgot what you already own.   I found two pairs of pants I loved but thought I'd lost forever, tucked away behind a suitcase.  Now I don't need to buy replacements! 


Third, I sold a lot of stuff!  I had meant to get around to selling several big items, and this gave me the push I needed, and now that money is going straight into my investments and savings.  


Now, I can breathe easily when I come home.  Less clutter lowers my blood pressure, so not only is it cleaner, I'll live a happier, healthier, richer life.  And if I need to, I can pack my belongings up and move to another country a lot easier.  I may not be able to fit my stuff into 2 suitcases, but I could probably do four pretty easily!


If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!

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Currently in Dubai, UAE