Why taking care of our home will get us to FI faster
I know that we’re not the only ones for whom trips to the dump have been one of the highlights of lockdown. I know because a few weekends ago as we were gleefully loading the boot we realised that we were one of five households on our estate who also had a lunchtime slot at the recycling centre.
I’m not sure whether this urge to clear out is because spending so much time at home is making us more conscious of clutter. Or maybe it’s that there’s not much else to do. For us, making our house a nicer place to be is something we want to focus more on, even as lockdown eases. For me in particular (the one with the minor FI obsession) it’s turning into an important part of our journey to more time and financial freedom.
We’ve started a home improvement project we are affectionately calling Project Don’t Live in a Pigsty (DLIAP). This weekend’s accomplishments were cleaning out the fridge and taking our excess recycling to the dump. I don’t really want to be spending my weekend cleaning. I prioritised these jobs though because Project DLIAP is important for reasons I will explain.
If you are feeling like you should be working on your own home but are lacking the motivation to tip you over the edge into actually doing it, then read on. I’m not naturally house proud but the more I think about financial independence the more I realise how important my relationship to my living environment is.
Our reasons why
Nothing can dampen an urge to spend like properly appreciating what we already have. This is true for little purchases and big ones. If my clothes are stored neatly and ironed then I’m less likely to feel I need new ones. If the car is clean and shiny, a new (or new to us) car holds less allure. Being happy holding on to possessions for longer significantly reduces discretionary spending. As we have high fixed costs due to our childcare then one of the main ways we are able to save money to invest is by cutting down on buying things for the home that we don’t need. Then if we do really want to get something we will have more time to research how to get it affordably and sustainably.
Keeping track of what we have
A brilliant side effect of having a more organised home is that it’s easier to find what we have, meaning we waste less precious time looking for this. It also means we are less likely to buy things that we already have. How many arm bands do I have to hold my phone when I run? Three. How many do I need? One. Where are they? No idea.
Cutting down “inventory” to earn extra money and keep things easier to tidy
A big part of Project DLIAP is systematically going through our stuff and finding things that we long longer need that I can sell or donate. I’ve made almost £300 in the last six months through selling things on Gumtree without focussing on it very hard or exploring lots of other online markets to sell on.
Our next target is a mountain of “old tech” and some special occasion dresses that I never wear. I’m going to try Thrift+ for the dresses. If anybody has suggestions for good places to sell old Apple products (laptops, phones, Apple TVs, monitors etc) please let me know in the comments below. Selling things secondhand also makes me wish I had bought it all secondhand in the first place, as I probably could have resold it for a similar price.
A clean and tidy home makes us feel good
Working hard with two small children and trying to keep up a high savings rate can be stressful. My vision for our home is that it’s somewhere we can relax and have fun. This means it’s clear and tidy enough for us not to feel overwhelmed by the mess. However, I do want to make space for toys and hobbies and not try to keep it looking like a show home.
Tips to make clearing and tidying easier
You can probably tell by the fact I’ve had to explain this (largely to myself) that this doesn’t come naturally to me! There are a few tricks and mindset shifts that I apply to make the process easier:
- I listen to the Declutter Hub podcast as I declutter. It’s full of tips that inspire me to start other projects and also goes into the psychology of decluttering two.
- I figure out where to sell or donate a particular theme of things first, before deciding what to get rid off. It means I have a precise task to complete: e.g. select fancy dresses for Thrift+, rather than just starting with a full wardrobe and working through the whole thing. This worked well when I was selling baby things on Gumtree as I’d just think “what is the next baby thing I’m ready to get rid of”.
- If I feel attached to something I just think about how happy the new owners will be to get something in good condition at a great price and how we will have a little bit more space at home.
- Playing a “selling to spend” game can also be motivating. For example, deciding that the proceeds of anything sold will all go to a holiday or date night fund, or working towards a lump sum to invest.
- Recently I’ve become aware of how sensitive we are to dust as a family, especially my daughter. As we are all spending so much time at home, I think about how the more I can minimise our stuff, the easier it will be to keep it clear and dust free.
- Doing a bit a day, like a bathroom one day and the vacuuming the next is a great way to keep on top of it and get more of our weekends back.
- As I don’t enjoy the cyclical and neverending nature of cleaning (!) at least having decluttering projects on the go makes me feel like I’m making a long term improvement that will make it easier to clean.
- I make sure we have a balance between cleaning and decluttering and home improvement projects that bring us more joy, like adding plants to the garden.
At the end of the day, the reason I care about financial independence is that I want to gain back time with the family and improve our quality of life. But it’s important to make the most of life along the way, and taking care of our home is a great way to improve our everyday life in a way that supports our goals.
With that said, it’s probably time for me to actually get up and do something towards Project DLIAP rather than just write about it.
I’d love to hear about people’s own projects and the impact it has on their life. Please comment below!