Checking under car seats and couch cushions may uncover enough change for a copy of the daily paper, or most of a drink at Starbucks. But Jamie Novak suggests there’s more money — the foldable kind — hidden in junk drawers, hanging in closets and collecting dust in bookshelves, if only we would recognize it.
As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has pointed out, major environmental improvement will probably require government intervention — tax-generated price signals for consumers and cap-and-trade regulation for polluters, for example. But enough individuals working to reduce landfill waste by selling off unwanted possessions could make some difference. In “Stop Throwing Money Away: Turn Clutter to Cash, Trash to Treasure — And Save the Planet While You’re at It,” Novak,an organizer for NBC’s ivillage, offers practical ways to sell what you don’t want, use what you have, and buy only what you’ll use.
Novak knows decluttering takes courage; just thinking about closet clearing sends some people searching for smelling salts. And, she knows it takes time, though people locked in “busy contests” (anything you can do I can do more of), will say they can’t spare the hours. A perfectly free day for decluttering probably won’t come. So she recommends the brownie method: schedule an 18 minute block — the time it takes to make a batch of brownies — and see how much you can do. Decluttering with a friend or rewarding yourself with something other than shopping may get the project started, she suggests.
Emotional questions color decluttering, so Novak addresses them. Should you keep those “skinny jeans”hoping you’ll fit into them again? No, she says, they’ll keep you from accepting your body as it is. Should you keep the outfit you bought on sale but haven’t worn? No, she says, seeing it hanging there unused will just depress you. Should you keep something that reminds you of a cherished moment or person? Probably not, she says; the memory’s in your head, not the object.
Where’s the money? Maybe in the kitchen, she says, in unused waffle irons, bread machines or knife sets. Maybe in the rec room, in unused digital video discs, game discs or music discs. Maybe in the closet where clothes sit unworn. All of these things can be sold, and new, unused items can yield substantial prices.
After you’ve made money selling things, Novak tells you how to save some money with lifestyle tweaks. Switching your printer to fast draft will make ink cartridges last longer. Washing clothing in cold water and using a cup of white vinegar instead of fabric softener will make laundry cheaper.
We can also save by buying only what we need and spending less if we can, Novak says. Therefore, she suggests planning two week’s meals ahead of time and heading to the grocery store with a list. Items earmarked for recipes won’t go to waste in the refrigerator.
Novak’s sunny spirit keeps “Stop Throwing Money Away” moving; she hangs with you like a personal trainer, even offering a 30-day plan toward a less cluttered home.
Perhaps the best savings “Stop Throwing Money Away” offers isn’t money, but time. Once the clutter’s gone, you’ll waste less time hunting through piles for keys, tools or important papers. You’ll have time to breathe.