Personal Finance Interview with Beth Dargis on Decluttering Your Finances

The idea of a simpler and de-cluttered life is one many of us aspire to, but it seems as if it is nothing more than an ideal. That's not so. Beth Dargis of My Simpler Life is one person who has found a way to get there, and she now shares her tips, secrets and also resources to help you at her My Simpler Life blog.

We decided that it would be great to share some of her tips here by way of an interview. Introducing Beth Dargis:

Tell us more about what you do and why.

At My Simpler Life, I help the overwhelmed create saner, simpler lives through my writing, classes and coaching. So many people are tired and unhappy trying to keep up, yet are always feeling behind. When I worked as a full-time graphic designer, I realized I was trying to do and have too much. I was overwhelmed and scattered. I needed to streamline my systems, time and finances. As I simplified, I wanted to share with others so they could have more peace in their lives.

What do you say to people who feel overwhelmed by their finances?

One reason people are overwhelmed in this area is they don't know what's going on with their finances. People need to know the numbers in order to make changes. Too often, people think it is easier to not know how much they are spending or how much debt they are in or what all their bills are. But they are left with this vague feeling of unease. Once you know the numbers, this subtle anxiety can be changed to action. Action feels much better.

How do you apply the words 'declutter' and 'simpler' to your finances, and why do you think these are important words?

The word 'declutter' can apply to finances as you declutter too many file folders, too many bank accounts, or over-complicated systems. With your house, decluttering means to get rid of items you no longer want, need or use. When you look at your finances, what is no longer working? What do you no longer want to spend as much on? What do you think is a need, but may actually be a want? What are you paying for that you don't use, like gym membership, Netflix, or cell phone minutes?

When you simplify your finances, you are discovering what is really important to you and your family. It's easier to make buying decisions based on criteria you have thought about beforehand. In our family, clothes and home d├ęcor aren't all that important. We like organic food, traveling and learning experiences. We cut back on clothes and buying stuff for the house so we can have a good meal or take a course. When you know what is important, you can make conscious decisions. We could buy five outfits or we could buy one outfit and tickets to the play. Since we know what our priorities are, we know what to choose.

Who are your 'decluttering' heroes?

My decluttering heroes are the ones I work with in my classes. They may have health issues or young children or disorganized habits, but they focus on the progress they are making instead of giving up.

Why is the simpler life really better?

There is an overwhelming amount of things to do, buy, and read. If you try to do it all, it's impossible. But, if you are clear on what is important to you and set limits, your life becomes more fulfilling. What's the point of getting a bunch of things checked off your to-do list or keeping up with what your neighbors are buying if you are miserable doing it?

Why do we buy so many things we not only don't need but often aren't even sure we like?

Buying things is fun. We get a surge of adrenaline when we are on the hunt for something new. But the bought item rarely gives us that good feeling for long once we have purchased it. If we spend more time getting that good feeling by doing something we love to do, connecting with other people or doing something kind for someone else, we will need that primal shopping adrenaline less.

How do you remain positive when the debts are calling?

When creditors call, we may want to hide, letting voicemail pick up. Instead of avoiding, make sure you know how much you owe. Create a plan to pay off these debts. Get creative with ideas to pay it off faster, like getting a side job, selling something or deciding not to eat out for a month.

Many people turn finding ways to save into a game. It's a challenge they enjoy, instead of thinking in terms of deprivation.

Every time you pay down your debt, notice and congratulate yourself. Keep seeing the progress instead of focusing on how much is left to do. Get an accountability partner who will encourage you when you get discouraged.

How do you think tools like Mint help people to declutter and simplify?

In my finance classes, I always mention Mint as a tool to help people simplify their money systems. Instead of the old way of putting everything in a checkbook and using papers for budgets and tracking, tools like Mint allow you to download from your bank, sort into categories quickly and have reminders so you know when you are staying in budget. When it's this fast to track your money, it's easier to keep up with your system.

Get more from Beth at the My Simpler Life blog, follow Beth on Twitter or like Beth on Facebook.