We are still in that time of the new year when we make promises to ourselves.

I love the opportunity for a fresh start. I think everyone does. And this year, I have a new challenge for you.

In previous years, I’ve encouraged people to do a 21-day financial fast during which they couldn’t spend money on anything that wasn’t a necessity. For 2017, why not start off the year by getting rid of things you don’t need in your home and financial life?

For three weeks, I want to help you tackle decluttering your home while also clearing away debt. This is the #NoDebtNoMess Color of Money Challenge.

The task of decluttering and organizing your home is much like getting out of debt. A sense of orderliness will help you stay focused and not let things get out of hand. Plus, you might find some hidden treasures, like a birthday card with money. Seriously, while decluttering recently I found a birthday card from my 40th birthday with $40. (Ahem, I haven’t been 40 for a while.)

For the next three weeks, I’ll be joining you on this journey. Here’s what we’ll be doing.

WEEK 1: ASSESS THE MESS

The first week, you’ll spend time evaluating your space and financial situation.

 Your financial house: You’ll take stock of your finances by organizing your paperwork and creating a net worth statement.

Your net worth statement is a way to assess where you are financially. How can you know where you want to go if you don’t know where you stand?

• Your real house: Walk around your home and take note of the clutter. Literally take notes. With a critical eye, look at and inside drawers, closets, cabinets, shelves, etc. Focus on the messiest areas. Narrow down which areas you want to target during this challenge. You only have three weeks, so you may not get to every area.

• Social media/online tools: Here’s a link for a net worth statement you can download and fill out: wapo.st/2iUuUZp.

I’ll be doing a live online chat at noon Thursday at washingtonpost.com/discussions. Also check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/MichelleSingletary) throughout the challenge for videos of my own decluttering battles and for encouraging messages. You can also follow me on Twitter (SingletaryM) to ask questions as we go along.

WEEK 2: REDUCE REDUNDANCY

Time to get rid of whatever is superfluous.

 Your financial house: You’ll spend this week getting rid of credit cards you don’t need. You’ll pull the statements for all your cards to figure out which ones you use the most. You’ll compare fees to learn what you really get out of the cards and which ones you don’t really need. You won’t be canceling them yet – just putting them away. You’ll also look at your bank and credit union accounts. Do you have too many? Are you paying too much in bank fees for multiple accounts?

You’ll shed the financial documents you no longer need. I’ll walk you through which documents you should keep, and for how long.

 Your real house: You’ll be tackling the areas you identified during your assessment. This isn’t a marathon decluttering exercise. Which drawers or cabinets do you spend the most time in trying to find stuff? I have a cabinet devoted to plastic containers. But it stays messy because I have too many containers. Out they go.

Social media/online tools: I’ll be doing another online chat at noon Jan. 19 at washingtonpost.com/discussions.

WEEK 3: LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD

This is when things get tough.

 Your financial house: You will create a plan to pay off your debt. I call it the “Debt Dash.” I’ll show you how to list your debts (including credit cards, auto loans, personal loans, etc.) from smallest to largest. Follow the Debt Dash process to devise a plan to be debt-free.

 Your real house: Are there things you can sell to raise money to reduce your debt? What can you give away and possibly get a tax break, assuming you itemize on your tax return? The point is to look at the big things you can clear out. Furniture you don’t need. Extra dishes, pots, mixers in the kitchen. Games and toys the kids no longer use.

 Social media/online tools: I’ll be doing a Twitter chat Jan. 23 to wrap up the challenge.

WEEK 4 AND AFTER

The end is not here.

The Color of Money challenge doesn’t stop after the 21 days. The aim is to kick start what I hope will be a lifetime mission of #NoDebtNoMess.

Michelle Singletary can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: SingletaryM


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: