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What a Messy House Can Teach You About Financial Success

Originally published in March 2012

I woke up to a very messy house today. After being gone all last week and taking Sunday to just rest and reconnect with family, I was met with real-life this morning: unwashed dishes in the sink, dirty laundry to be done, suitcases to be unpacked, and stuff strewn about.

As I thought about how I was going to attack the piles, I realized that the same plan of attack could be applied to finances:

1. Don’t Panic!

Truthfully, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by how bad the mess was–especially with everything else I needed to accomplish today. However, I quickly realized that being overwhelmed would do nothing to fix the issue.

In the same way, if you find yourself in a huge hole financially, panicking won’t do anything to improve the situation.

2. Make a Game Plan

Once I got over being so overwhelmed, I created a game plan: I surveyed the whole house and realized that the mess really just concentrated in the kitchen and bedroom areas. So I carved out a block of time during the day when I would devote my sole attention to dealing with the mess.

If you want to achieve success in your finances, it’s imperative to have a game plan. Dreaming and wandering around in circles doesn’t accomplish anything. Consider where you want to be financially in a year, two years, or five years from now. Write those goals down onto paper and figure out what changes you’re going to make in your life to help you get where you want to go.

Moving forward...

3. Break It Down Into Bite-sized Pieces

After I blocked out the time to focus on the messy areas of my home, I divided those areas up by sections, set the timer, and got to work. Instead of trying to tackle entire rooms, I focused on specific areas one at a time. This made it much more manageable.

A game plan is great, but if you don’t break your big idea down into bite-sized pieces you’ll probably find it’s just too hard. Simplify your game plan by breaking it down into yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. That way, you’re not trying to scale a mountain in one leap; you’re just focusing on the next few steps in front of you.

4. Keep Going–Even When It Takes Longer Than You Expected

I had hoped to knock out all of the messes in an hour or so. But it seems things always take longer than I hope. I got distracted, children needed help, and things came up. But by continuing to plod on, even when it was slower than I’d hoped, I finally finished and had almost everything cleaned up and put away by the time Jesse got home from work tonight.

When you’re working toward financial goals, you’re almost guaranteed to have unexpected things come up: job loss, extra expenses, cars that break down, medical bills, and more. It’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up when it seems like the going is so slow. But press on and remember that moving forward–even at a microscopic rate–is still moving forward!

Ah! So much better!

quote photo credit

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  • I can relate to both the financial mess and the messy house. When my husband and I decided to get out of debt 4 years ago it seemed never ending but after 4 years we are debt free except our house and his student loan. It was one little step at a time!!!
    As for the messy house that was my week as well, since both my husband and I got sick the week before Thanksgiving and then with the holiday and family the house got out of hand but like you said one step at a time and it’s all put back together.

  • susie says:

    Another thing is that it helps to do a little every day!

  • I needed that today. I’m feeling like I’m drowning right now – a mess in the house that I can’t seem to quite catch up on and a new bill every time it seems like we’re finally ready to quit paying for stuff and re-stock our emergency fund. Moving forward – slowly but surely!

    • This is exactly what’s been happening in our house – every time I feel like I’m getting ahead, something comes along and puts me back where I started. But I keep trying to remember, if I weren’t taking the steps to TRY to get ahead (even when it doesn’t work), I’d actually be getting behind! A little bit at a time…

  • Anna says:

    This post gave me a cyber kick in the pants when it was originally posted, and motivated me to clean my whole house. Seeing how clean Crystal’s house is when it’s a disaster was the real kicker!

    • Linda says:

      I thought the same thing! If Crystal came to my house, she’d have a heart attack! It’s such a mess right now. With full time work and school, I don’t have the energy to clean. I have piles everywhere, especially paper and mail. The only saving grace is that my laundry is done and put away 🙂

  • Amy says:

    This is so true!

    Crystal, are you planning to tell us more about your new rental house? I would love to hear about it! 🙂

  • another thing – when you clean up the messes you find there is stuff in them! I don’t know if that is ‘no duh’ – but our kids ‘needed’ black long sleeved shirts for their christmas concert at school so I of course drove over to target & took money out of the clothing envelope for two black turtlenecks. When I came home to hang them up I noticed my daughter had a plain black long sleeved shirt with the tags still on shoved in the back of her summery clothes!! I had bought it at the end of the season last year! I almost missed it bc I was disorganized but now I can take back that turtleneck – yay! saved $7!

  • Angie says:

    I’ve wondered before, is that a window where the double curtains are? or doors? If it’s a window your bed might look very nice up against it (with the headboard against the window). Not sure what the rest of the room is like though, so perhaps that wouldn’t work?

    Anyway, very inspiring post (:

  • Lisa says:

    Your house looks beautiful I would love to see your tree and your decorations when you get them up and where you put it .i love seeing the way people decorate and if they feel all cluttered when tree is up. That might sound crazy I guess I mean a little crowdedlol

  • Tara says:

    I can’t believe you think that house is messy up there! That’s normal, and I consider myself a neat freak! But great article. Good points! We are trying to sell our house and have a 2 year old and 4 mos. old, so it’s very stressful cleanliness-wise and financially speaking!

  • Jill Savage says:

    Love the pictures to illustrate your points!

  • Amber says:

    I have the finances under control…but this post helped me realize that my house cleaning stalls at several of those steps..overwhelmed, distracted, too big of bites….thanks for letting me know that it is not only me…I can tidy a budget or bank account gleefully..but a messy house almost paralyzes me..I now also understand the panic many people feel about finances…so you helped me with my messy house…and empathizing with others about money on a new level.

  • These are really good points. Using the same skills I use to organize my house, I can organize my finances…who would have thunk it?! Now if only I can get past the first point of not panicking!

  • Sandy says:

    Great timing in this post! My mom passed on November 19th and our home has been a disaster ever since. I made great strides the past 2 days and am hoping I will make another dent today. I so needed this article to keep going, escpecially the before and after pics. Thanks for motivating me.

    • AC says:

      Sandy, I am so very sorry for your loss. Remember it’s not only normal but healthy to take time to grieve though sometimes staying busy helps with that as well. Blessings to you and yours.

      • Sandy says:

        Thank you for your kind words. My mother was one of the great loves of my life. She taught me so much. Most importantly…to love the Lord.

        • AC says:

          What a blessing to know she is with her Savior and waiting for you! It doesn’t lessen the pain but it does give us hope and a promise that the time we are apart is temporary.

          • Sandy says:

            Amen! I know taking care of my mom was a calling for me. I also know He has more for me to do. Thank you so much for the kindness you have extended me. What a wonderful heart you have to take the time for me. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  • Kimberly says:

    okay.. holy moly!! First of all, great post 🙂 Secondly, your ‘messy’ kitchen looks clean to me 🙂 Where do you keep everything like your mixer, canisters, coffee maker, etc?

    I love your ability to break things down, stay focused and have discipline on not to become controlled by discouragement or feeling overwhelmed. And i love how you encourage your readers to do the same!!

    I also love the quote about moving forward. Being a ‘big picture’ person that sometimes struggles with focusing on individual tasks, I have often found that “moving forward, at any rate, is progress!! And we should celebrate that success. A better definition of success may be noting that we moved forward. A goal of ‘perfection’ only makes us feel defeated, but noting progress provides encouragement” I also remind myself that how God views perfection is very different from how I view it. I think He loves it when we just move forward to the best of our capacities 🙂 He’s not looking for us to be ‘flawless’ 🙂

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