Fall is the Perfect Time to Declutter

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Most people think of spring as the time for cleaning, decluttering, and airing out your home.  For me, I prefer fall.  As autumn weather moves in, the crisp, cool air makes me feel motivated and productive.  I love to open the windows to let in the fresh air, and the clean chill it brings to the house motivates me to keep moving.  As a result, you will often find me decluttering and cleaning during the fall.

The trees shedding their leaves is another motivator.  It’s healthy to mimic the trees and use fall as a time to shed possessions that no longer serve us.  Autumn is the perfect time to consider shedding parts of our previous selves and move forward to a new “us.”  So, consider clearing out old hobby equipment, clothing items that no longer fit, or other items from your past that no longer serve the person you are today.

This autumn, I’m decluttering financial as well as household items and challenge you to do the same.

Summer clothing

The end of a season is the best time to purge your closet.  When cool weather moves in, survey your closet and determine what summer items never saw the light of day the past season.  Out they go!  What items did you wear frequently, to the point where you have worn them out?  Purge them!

Once you know what is left, you can inventory what you have and assess your summer wardrobe.  What will you need to purchase for your wardrobe when the warm weather returns?  Make your list now versus waiting for the spring, since you’ve got a clear sense of what you’re tossing and what you’ll want to replace.  If you aren’t concerned about sizes changing for you and your kids, consider hitting the clearance racks now to stock up for next summer.

Summer gear

Like summer clothes, this is the ideal time to review your summer gear.  Was there a sunscreen you tried but hated?  Declutter it!  Were there sand toys, beach towels, or goggles that never even made it into your bag, let alone to the pool?   Bye, now!

Kids’ art and craft projects

It might seem strange to include this, but the beginning of fall is ideal for sifting through your kid’s art and projects.  All year long, your kids produce projects that you proudly display.  Over the summer, they have forgotten all about them.  In order to make room for the new school year’s onslaught of arts and crafts, sort through and keep those favorites you want to hang on to, but purge the rest.

Credit cards

How many do you carry in your wallet?  Do you have half a dozen more at home in a file?  Figure out which cards are the best to carry – the ones that are accepted at most places, cost the least to maintain, and offer the perks that matter to you.  Take thirty minutes and either call or go online to cancel the account.  Request (or print out) confirmation of your cancellation.  Declutter those cards!

Remember though, closing several lines of credit can negatively impact your credit score.  So, if you need to apply for credit (for example, a car loan or mortgage), you might postpone this purge.  But unless an imminent need for new credit exists, close unused lines to protect against fraudulent use.

Financial files

I purge paper throughout the year, but I do a big paper purge in the fall.  It just feels like the right time!  Since I use a simple filing system, consisting of a single “To File” file, that sucker fills up over time.  Taking five to ten minutes a few times per year to clean it out helps maintain the file folder’s sleek silhouette.

In the fall, I also go through more permanent file folders and clean out items that are no longer of use.  Over the years, I have tried various filing systems, including very elaborate ones.  The system that works best for me, however, is to keep as few files as possible.  This prevents having to search several folders when I can’t remember where I filed something.  Throughout the current year, I know there is only ONE place a filed piece of paper could be – in my To File file.  Silly, but simple.

Fall is the perfect time to start gathering your tax-related documents, if you haven’t been keeping them separate all year.  Bringing awareness to your tax situation now, versus in January, has the added benefit of giving you the chance to do some additional tax planning before the year is over.

Retirement plans

Fall is also the ideal time to review all things related to your retirement plan.  Typically, employer plans will have a window of time to make changes in your withholding for the coming year.  If you combine all your retirement planning tasks together in the fall, you won’t neglect them.

In addition to reviewing your paycheck withholding (are you saving as much as you can?), review your investments.  Make sure your allocation of investments still matches your risk tolerance and if it needs to be different, re-balance your allocation.

Do you have multiple investment accounts that pertain to retirement?  Investigate consolidating two or more of them in an effort to declutter your financial affairs.  At a minimum, consolidation will reduce the physical paper or email alerts about quarterly statements that you receive.

If you are actively working on a financial plan for your retirement, either on your own or with a professional, this is a great time to review your plan and update any numbers used for retirement projections.  Again, combining all your retirement-related tasks into one time of year helps you stay focused.

Insurance policies

And finally, with most health plans offering open enrollment this time of year, fall is a great time to do a full review on all of your insurance coverage, too.  Pull out all your insurance policy declarations pages and ask yourself two questions:

  • Do I still need this coverage? Life changes occur, and perhaps you have outgrown a need for one or more of your policies.
  • Is this coverage adequate for current needs? Again, things change, and you don’t want to get caught in a situation where you are underinsured.

While I could add to these fall decluttering projects, these are my favorites.  Choose one or two and get to work!

What things do you like to declutter in the fall?  Share your thoughts below.  Or if you want some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your stories!

You might also enjoy:

4 Quick Ways to Eliminate Paper and Simplify Your Life

Shoring Up Your Retirement Plan

Insurance, Simplified:  Your Bod (Part Four in a Six-Part Series)


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