Money Dates & Creating Financial Wellbeing for Women

The Financial Services Council of New Zealand recently launched a fantastic campaign about inspiring financial wellbeing in women! Since we already love talking about all things finance, lifestyle and mindset we naturally took up the challenge to be involved in this great initiative.

It all starts with action and the first step is starting conversations about money so Amy & Emma jumped on board to lead the way asking and answering the 50 questions that the FSC provided to prompt some great conversations about money. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but in a 3 part “Money Date” podcast series Amy and Emma shared their stories, experiences and views by answering the below questions.

Check out our 3 part podcast series “Money Date” (podcast # 23-25) to hear their answers to these great questions.

Thanks to FSC for the opportunity to be part of a great initiative. Find out more about their initiative here: https://www.fsc.org.nz/it-starts-with-action/financial-wellbeing-for-women

  1. Does what you earn affect how you feel?
  2. How much of your income do you save?
  3. Is building wealth good, bad, or morally neutral?
  4. Who taught you about money?
  5. Do you ever go to bed worried about money?
  6. Are men better investors than women?
  7. What would you change about your life if money was no object?
  8. What do the words “financial freedom” mean to you?
  9. What makes someone good with money?
  10. How many times a day do you think about money?
  11. What would you tell someone if they asked how much you get paid?
  12. What’s one thing you would tell your younger self about money?
  13. How have you gone about negotiating a pay rise?
  14. Do you think it’s easier for men to negotiate a pay rise?
  15. What’s your money superpower?
  16. What’s your money kryptonite?
  17. If your wallet could talk to you, what would it say?
  18. Is it better to pay by cash, credit card or to use buy now pay later?
  19. Is it better to live for now or save for the future?
  20. Is it more important to be paid well or do a job you love?
  21. What’s one thing you want to do differently with money this year?
  22. Which do you enjoy more: earning or spending money?
  23. Do you know how much you have in the bank right now?
  24. Could you be with someone who earns less than you?
  25. Who is the best at managing money in your household?
  26. How old do you want to be when you retire?
  27. If someone gave you $100,000, what would you do with it?
  28. What was the last big thing you bought? Was it worth it?
  29. Will more money make you happier?  Why or why not?
  30. Did your family talk about money growing up?
  31. How do you handle financial emergencies?
  32. What money lessons did you learn growing up?
  33. What do you use to help you manage your finances?
  34. Do you have a budget to help you manage your money or do you just wing it?
  35. Do you usually have money left over at the end of each pay?
  36. What is the best money tip you’ve ever been given?
  37. What would you say if someone wanted to borrow money 
 from you?
  38. Who needs to have a will?
  39. Who do you go to for help with your finances?
  40. Does life get more expensive the more you earn?
  41. How do you protect the things you value?
  42. How does taking a career break impact someone’s financial situation?
  43. How do you feel about investing in shares?
  44. What would you change about your money education?
  45. What’s the best thing about KiwiSaver for someone in your situation?
  46. Is there such a thing as good debt?
  47. Have you ever hidden a purchase?
  48. What does the prospect of retirement look like to you?
  49. How have your beliefs about money changed over the years?
  50. What’s the role of money in your life?

Book your own money date with your nearest and dearest female friend, family member or colleague and participate in this awful initiative.

How to Create a Budget

So, you have decided to take charge of where your money is going and what you are doing with it – you have some goals in mind and know the main tool to help you get there is to have a personal budget in place. A budget is a great snapshot of where your money is going, and it can help you feel more in control of your finances, and it helps to make your savings goals achievable. The trick is to figure out a way to track your financial comings and goings that works for you.

Below we have put our heads together to come up with some steps to help you create your own personal budget.

What is your Net Income?

Net Income is what is deposited into your bank account each pay day. Knowing what this amount is and what day you are paid, is the foundation of an effective budget. If you’re a freelancer, gig worker, contractor or are self-employed, make sure to keep detailed notes of your contracts and pay in order to help manage irregular income.

Categorise and Organise

Track and categorise your spending. Where is your money going? A good place to start is to list your Fixed Expenses these are the regular monthly bills such as Rent, Mortgage, Utilities, Internet, Car payments etc. Next list your Variable Expenses, these are the ones that change from month to month, such as Groceries, Petrol, Power or Gas, Phone and Entertainment. Using your bank statements and previous bills, record the average you would spend in these areas over a three month period – these amounts can now become the minimum you budget for the expense in that category.

Date and Stamp it

Its time to write down what you now know. This can be done in a budget book, A4 paper and stuck to the fridge, written in your phone, via an app or download our free budget template here Shop/Resources – (femmefinance.co.nz)  If you want to add stickers and sparkles, do it, make it yours!!

Enter your income, your expenses, and the amounts you are going to budget for each. Ensure you also record when each bill is due so that you do not default on any payments – good account conduct goes a long way if one of your goals is to apply for finance for a home loan!

A good rule of thumb to ensure defaults don’t occur, is to set up the payments for each expense to be paid as soon as the bill arrives, or the money enters your account. Another handy tip is to have separate accounts for different groups of expenses – an account for the house utilities, an account for groceries and dining out, an account for retail and entertainment and an account for your Savings. Just double check that you don’t have fees charged on each account!

Setting Goals and Regular Reviews

Now you have documented your income and spending, you can make the necessary adjustments so that you don’t overspend and have money to put toward your goals. Are there any wants that you can cut back on or remove altogether? Is there the possibility of getting a better deal to save money with car insurance, internet provider?

Once your budget is set, it’s important to review it and your spending on a regular basis to be sure you are staying on track. Make a note in your diary or do it every pay day!

Good luck and happy budgeting!!

Catastrophic thinking to possibility thinking

As we know, mindset matters – so what are some of the things we can do for ourselves in order to move from catastrophic thinking to possibility thinking? First, what is catastrophic thinking and why do some of us think in this way, as opposed to others who think in a more positive way.

Catastrophic thinking is a form of cognitive distortion which leaves some of us focusing on the negatives in life, rather than perceiving the positive aspects of life. We make mountains out of molehills, we expect the worst and fear is more likely to set in ahead of other positive emotions such as excitement when there are unknowns and uncertainty. Essentially, we overestimate the likelihood of negative events taking place and this prevents us from seeing the positives and the many other possibilities in a situation which can certainly impact on our mental wellbeing.

Some of this may be explained by our genetics and our desire to protect ourselves. It’s a throwback to our primitive human history where our ancestors had to look for danger in their environments to ensure their survival. However, in these modern times we aren’t faced with the possibility of imminent death going about our daily business but yet somehow for some of us our brains continue to recognise our more modern-day stressors with their reptilian brains.

So what can we do to train our brains to move from catastrophic thinking to focusing on the positives that already exist in our lives as well the possibilities available to us? Here are just a few tips:

  1. Acknowledge that life isn’t always rosy:  Life will always have its ups and downs and it’s important to acknowledge this. Accept that you’re going to have good days and bad days and know that its normal to have some days where you are able to reframe, refocus and find positivity in the day and others where you won’t master this, but the point is to go easy on yourself.
  2. Become aware of your thoughts: If you want to redirect your thinking, you first need to become aware of the automatic thoughts that are occurring. Where these are negative, they are called “automatic negative thoughts” and in order to make a change you need to identify the patterns. 
  3. Challenge your thoughts: Where your thoughts are ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) challenge them and ask yourself if this is a thought that is true and whether it’s adding any value to your life.
  4. Replace the ANTs with something that better serves you: Where you identify that your thoughts are irrational or untrue, replace the thought with something more positive. If you identify a repeated thought that isn’t helpful, write yourself a new and positive affirmation to train your brain to replace the irrational thought. You could write this out and put it in a prominent position that you’ll see on a regular basis. 
  5. Gratitude and appreciation: There is science to support the fact that stopping to take time to look for evidence of positive things in your life, changes your brain chemistry and literally rewires your brain. It’s a great idea to keep a gratitude or success diary to highlight all the wonderful things in your life. The act of putting pen to paper and acknowledging the positive aspects in your life will literally make you feel better!
  6. Practice self care: There are so many ways to make yourself feel better and some things may work better on different days. Why not write a list of some of your favourite go to self-care options. These could include, walking on the beach, journaling, meditation, coffee with a friend, playing with your dog, being in nature, dancing, having a hot bath or anything that generally just makes you feel good.  

Setting yourself up for success and developing a tool kit to manage your thoughts and feelings is a great act of self love. With a tool kit at the ready you can feel more in control. Whilst we’re all allowed to have ups, downs, highs and lows it’s a wonderful gift to yourself to look for ways in which you can improve the way your think and perceive the world. Afterall your thoughts and feelings are with 24/7 so it’s going to be a sweeter ride if your head space is a wonderful and supportive place from your mind to reside.

Shopping your own Wardrobe!

What does shopping your own wardrobe even mean? Let’s define that first!

Shopping your wardrobe is a coined phrase to describe creating outfits from clothing, shoes, and accessories that you already own. It can be a helpful way to make the most of your existing wardrobe without spending money on more stuff you may actually find you do not need. Talk about sustainability – that’s it right there! (Mother earth and your budget thanks you!)

If you are one of our followers that joined us during the Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance, you may now have an organised wardrobe, where what was once damaged is now mended, where it was once brimming and packed is now minimalistic, presenting you with clothing that fits and is season appropriate, ensuring your apparel is detoxed and ready to make you a fashionista dynamo!

Feel like this is something you want to try? Here are some tips and tricks to help you shop your wardrobe:

Get the app

There are a few apps out there that help you style outfits from items that you already own. Stylebook and XZ Closet are some of these. It helps you create a Virtual Closet on your phone, where you can curate outfits from your own items, helping you get organised as well as reminding you of what you already have for when you are online or in real life shopping, so you can extend on what you own instead of purchasing clothing and accessories that do not go with what you have. Head to wherever you get your apps, and you will find a bunch to scroll through.

Curate a Capsule We love a capsule wardrobe! We could scroll through those little infographics all day! This is a challenge you could set yourself – narrowing down your closet (if you haven’t already done so) can spur you into thinking creatively about what you wear each day. There are challenges like 30X30, where you prepare 30 outfits to wear each day for a month. There are also websites like Cladwell which can create a capsule wardrobe for you from your existing wardrobe, (they have a 7 day free trial on their app) Try their ‘find your Style’ quiz.

Window Shopping

Checking out what’s online or instore can help you decide what style you gravitate to, as well as help elevate what you have. Copying the styling tricks from your favourite brands is a great place for inspiration!

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo Op

Did you put together a particularly cute outfit today? Take a photo and save it in a designated folder in your phone for when you have run out of ideas. Then there is Pinterest, our fave, our bestie! Create a folder in your profile of outfits that resonate with you, that suit your workplace and lifestyle and see if you can come up with similar combinations with the items you own.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

What more can we say to you to give this a go? Here are some benefits to shopping your own wardrobe:

  1. It keeps costs down – more money to put to other places…Paris anyone?
  • It will help you enjoy what you have – seeing what you have when your wardrobe is smaller or at least more organised, you can get more creative.
  • It can make you really look at what you have, and you appreciate your things more – changing things up can help us see what we really have, and we fall in love with what we own again.
  • You get to really home in on your personal style and create a wardrobe that is satisfying and easy to select from – when you know what you have and have less, you’re not diving through endless amounts of clothes. Getting dressed won’t consume your time you be curating with it!

Well, we don’t know about you, but we are off to download a clothing app to make fun little outfit graphics and set ourselves up with some staple outfit ideas for the working week next week! Let us know what you think of this idea and happy “shopping”.

Weekend Five – The Final Showdown

The final weekend and challenge of the Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance! We feel like it flew by! This weekend we are focusing on decluttering your finances, friends…and all importantly your car. 

Have you ever had that feeling that your physical environment is impacting on your mental wellness? Where the piles are affecting your mental focus and that sense of overwhelm is setting in due to what seems like a lack of control. This leaves you open to the option of physically improving your environment and tidying it up, putting things in order and ultimately getting that rewarding dopamine hit to remind us that we achieved something by tidying up around us. That achievement is visible and tangible to us and those around us. It leaves us with extra head space to focus on other and more important things as we are less distracted by the chaos. If you have been joining us in the Declutter Challenge, you will have first-hand knowledge of how this feels!

But what about the matters that are unseen? How do we make conscious choices about decluttering areas of our lives that may create stress, worry or anxiety that are not physically in front of us? In particular, areas such as our finances or our friendships. 

Finances

We do love to talk about all things money and finance so let’s start here. We all know that money is one of the greatest stressors in our modern world so it goes without saying that we could all benefit from decluttering our finances. Taking time to refine, revise and re-prioritise all that’s important to us in our lives and our budgets is key, but where do you start? Well, first it comes down to our values and what’s most important to us. Working with your beliefs and values, and understanding what they are, is an important first step in identifying what to prioritise when you are making personal and financial decisions in your life. From there, we can create a framework that matches with our own individual preferences and goals. 

Starting with financial decluttering, we’d suggest that you review your current expenses. A great way to do this is to check over your bank statements for the previous few months and reflect upon what you’ve spent in different categories. Do you feel good about what you see? Are there any items on your statement that make you feel regretful? These are obvious items to address. 

You could either cut these out all together or consider scaling them back if you’ve been excessive in certain areas. Becoming conscious of what has been spent, is also a great way to identify “money leaks”. Those costs that are coming out that you forgot about and are no longer adding value to your life. Those unused memberships and subscriptions are lowing hanging fruits and are as easy to cancel as an email or a phone call. If you’re like us, you enjoy spending time with your loved ones and this might include meals out, but does this need to be your go to? Would you enjoy the company or your friends and family with a walk on the beach as much as you would with a dinner out? It’s all about rethinking what the value of spending that money brings. Ditching comparisons (after all it is the thief of joy) and living with intention, is a fabulous starting point to decluttering your financial life. There might even be opportunity to increase your financial position by deciding that certain items that you own no longer serve you and the act of decluttering means you’ve now got items to sell! Cha-ching!

We do love goal setting and once you’ve reviewed your finances, it’s a great time to set some new financial goals based on your newly identified values. (Read our blog about Goal Setting here An Om Moment – (femmefinance.co.nz)) Once you’ve established these, setting up some financial budgets and strategies to meet the goals is a key step to mindfully implementing them. This may involve setting up automatic payments, direct debits and automating your finances as much as possible to free up some head space and worry. There is something rewarding in a ‘Set and Forget (but still check)’ system.  Your goals might include debt reduction, savings, investing or even just simply spending less on items that don’t actually contribute to your happiness. We’d also encourage you to think about not only short or medium term goals, but also long term goals. If you genuinely want to be financially independent and retire early, how are you physically going to achieve it? Are your goals lofty or is there actually a path that you can take to achieve them? Being honest with yourself (and your significant other if you have one) about what’s important and what you value most, will help pave the pathway to the actions that need to be created to achieve the big values based financial goals. If being mortgage free as quickly as possible is a dream, then would you consider tiny house living? Or if you want to live in the dream home by the beach, are you prepared to work for the extra years that it will take to pay off the much higher home loan? These are the big questions to consider when setting values, decluttering and taking control of your finances. Being in control of your finances reduces stress, anxiety and helps you sleep better at night. We promise you that this time and consideration is worth the effort! (Have a browse of our FREE Finance downloadable’s here… Shop/Resources – (femmefinance.co.nz))

Friends

Decluttering doesn’t just apply to our physical space and our finances. What about the people that we surround ourselves with? Do you think there is the option to more purposefully choose how we spend our time and with whom we spend it? Do you have friends or family members who lift you up, inspire you, make you laugh and are a pleasure to hang out with? We hope so! Contrary to that, do have other people in life who are an absolute downer? They leave your tank empty and are a drag to be around? Have you ever considered decluttering when it comes to people? 

It’s a hard concept to work with, especially with people that you’ve know for a long time. However, if the quality of your life is going to improve by “decluttering” all areas of your life, would you consider moving your boundaries when it comes to your relationships? This doesn’t need to mean cutting people out of your life completely (although it’s an option), but it may mean reducing the frequency of seeing some people or having the hard conversation with them about what you are prepared to discuss in order to keep the experience positive, when you do spend time together. It is your right to set boundaries and if these boundaries are not acceptable to these folk in your lives, they have the right to walk away too!

Zaroom!

Now whilst this one is more in the physical realm, what would the decluttering challenge be without some mention of tidying up our acts around what is often our second most expensive asset? Our cars of course. 

We may know those people who love their cars so much that they keep it immaculate 24/7, but for many of us this is not the reality. It seemed a bit judgey but we recently read a book that alluded to the idea that you can’t be a “wealthy woman” (you can try and guess which American financial author this is) if your car looks like a garbage can. Whilst we understand that the sentiment that cleanliness is about respecting the importance of order and organisation, and we don’t disagree, we know that in reality we all lead busy lives and sometimes having an immaculate car doesn’t rank at the top of our list of priorities. We also know though, that it feels so good for the days following a good clear out, vacuum, and clean of our car. In fact, who is not inclined to declare that they’ll never let it get messy again? 

We like a plan, so here’s what we are going to do:

  1. Have rubbish bag at the ready
  2. Start from the front
  3. End in the back
  4. Vacuum

Keeping it simple!

We will leave you to mull over which of the areas needs your most immediate attention over Weekend 5 of The Decluttering Challenge by Femme Finance, and we would love to hear what your experiences are.  

This is the last challenge, and we encourage you to consider the elements of minimalism and keeping on top of the clutter be it physical, mental, or spiritual. 

Weekend Four: The Tale of the little dust bunnies

This weekend’s declutter challenge is a bit of a free for all. We do have a main focus and that is the dust collectors that cover our tabletops, counter tops and other innocent surfaces about our homes.

In addition to the dust collectors and having already decluttered (or in the process of decluttering) the main areas of the home, we will leave it up to you as to what room you want to pursue next. The kids toy room? The laundry? The office? Is the dining room a particular dumping ground in your house?

When I look about my own home, I am aware of how many piles of things I have laying around in want of a home. There are the stacks of papers that need to be filed, books that need to go back into to bookshelves, miscellaneous items that need to be sorted, stored or disposed of. I can even see where I have tried to declutter but have been interrupted or run out of time. I personally like to only have one or two things on any surface around the home as I feel it’s more visually appealing and stresses me less. But other people love to have their surfaces teeming with items that scream their personality or décor ideals, each to their fabulous self I say!

Were you aware of exactly how stressful visual clutter, and clutter in general can be? It has been scientifically proven! The direct link between excess home clutter and higher stress levels has been made in numerous studies in recent years. Our home is supposed to be our private refuge, but its value as a comforting space declines if it’s not kept in an orderly fashion.

The science behind how clutter causes you stress

study conducted by Princeton University Neuroscience researchers found that a cluttered home environment impedes your ability to focus.

When we have a hard time focusing, our mental faculties get worn down and frustration ensues, causing stress. Struggling to focus properly also inhibits our ability to be creative and to problem solve.

The Yale School of Medicine published a study that revealed some surprising results. When the study’s participants who were less inclined to throw away things were forced to part with belongings, researchers found increased activity in the areas of their brains that are associated with conflict and pain. It literally hurts some of us to part with things we own.

Findings from UCLA researchers showed that women who had an increased level of clutter in their homes also had higher levels of a stress hormone known as high cortisol. Their study also found that the tidier a home was, the happier its occupants seemed to be.

Further evidence of clutter’s negative impact on our lives

On a less scientific level, but still worth a mention, is a recent Huffington Post survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. In it, 81% of men and 87% of women expressed some level of anxiety over how organized their home was. “Worrying my home isn’t clean or organized enough” came fifth on their list of the most common stress triggers in their lives.

When you live in a cluttered home, there’s a constant feeling of guilt (even if you’re not fully aware of it) over the disorganized state of your space.

Our brains are always telling us there’s still plenty of work to be done, which makes it harder to relax.

Let’s give our brains a break and get stuck into this week’s challenge and as always – let’s make a plan.

As I’ve done previously, I will share what I am doing so you can use that as a springboard. I have decided to tackle a space that is physically in the middle of my home. It is a thoroughfare, sitting area, office and playroom all in one. Originally it was used as a Dining room but being at the south end of the house and with no view we use it as a multipurpose space. There are three bookshelves, a toy table, a wine cabinet, a rocking chair, and my desk with desk chair – a fair bit of furniture for this medium sized room.

Hers what I my plan looks like:

  1. Remove all items from surface areas
  2. Sort through these – do they have a home? Are they paper clutter and need filing or chucking? Is it an item that can be sold or donated?
  3. Rearrange bookshelves so all books are stacked in a less cluttered state (I did a cull a few months ago otherwise I would cull a few books at this point)
  4. Sort through toys. Do they all need to be out? Should I do a rotate of toys? Do I need storage solutions for the toys that are out in this room?
  5. Wipes down all surfaces including the bookshelves
  6. Vacuum carpet
  7. Observe how the furniture is arranged in this room. Is there another way to arrange things that would suit the room better and utilise the space available?
  8. Prune! Put things back, taking care to keep the look unfussy and uncluttered. Each item must have a role. Like with the plants in the garden cutting back to the essential gives us space to grow and breathe!

Below are some inspiring infographics from @arielarts found on Pinterest. Just because we are minimising what we have out on our surfaces doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and make it an inviting space:

When you are in the throes of chaos in the middle of the spare room or office or whatever space you are tackling – keep in mind the important advantages to have a decluttered space apart from the scientific ones we have mentioned above.

If you have read our blog post on Goal Setting (if you haven’t here’s the link An Om Moment – (femmefinance.co.nz)) remember what we said about visualising the outcome if you fail to complete the goals you have set yourself within this challenge.

Here are a few attractive advantages to decluttering your spaces to keep your minimalising mindset focused:

  • Your home environment should be your greatest support system

Being clutter free means that you have a house that is under control the majority of the time. If sickness hits (there’s this pesky thing called Covid doing the rounds), if you are having a low energy period of time or you are just rushed off your feet with being a social butterfly or work activities are at a high, you have a home where the things you have in it have a role and a place and you are able to take the time for yourself without everything falling apart.

  • Freedom from chores and a Fixed Mindset

Stagnant energy goes hand in hand with a cluttered environment. Do you ever have the feeling that when you tidy your brain feels tidy? That’s the psychological effects of decluttering. In fact, clutter can be so distracting that it causes our brain to shift into multitasking mode which happens to be completely at odds with focus. The stress from this can make you feel overwhelmed leading you to procrastinate what needs to be done, making you feel helpless and creating a fixed mindset. Getting rid of all the unnecessary in your home can give you freedom. With less you can focus more. With less you have more energy. With less you have more time! If you have managed to create a workable capsule wardrobe or downsized considerable, there is less laundry to do. If you have a select few items on your surfaces, there’s is less to clean, and you can do it quicker and therefore have more time to enjoy your cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. If you have decluttered the stuff in your cupboards, be it the kitchen, bedrooms, or playroom to what really serves you, you have more space, can find things easier and less to trip up on or step over.

  • Growth of all the things

Having fewer things to be responsible for can be freeing allowing you time for yourself to focus on you and what you are wanting to get out of life. Be it more time to get in a workout, to sit and dream up a side hustle, spend time with family or friends, freedom for growth! And this can look different for different people. Then there’s the growth aspect of your finances. With spending less you have more financially. You can start making investments, pay for a course or study to get where you want to be in your career, travel, renovations, house deposit the list can go on all because you decluttered!

And with that last advantage to decluttering, we will sign off! Next week is the last challenge in The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance and it is a bit more of a deep dive then having a cluttered countertop. We will be talking about friendships, finances and cleaning out the automobile.

Good luck with this weekend’s challenge and don’t forget to let us know how you go – we would love to hear what your experience has been!

Weekend Three: Tales from the Man Cave & Adventures from the Powder Room

Weekend Three and we are halfway through The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance. If you have just joined us – welcome! If you have been with us form the beginning – excellent! Glad you are still here.

We thought we would throw decluttering the garage into this weekend along with the bathroom just in case there are a bunch of boxes with recently decluttered items sitting in the garage, which, let’s face it is one big dumping ground the majority of the time. For those who do not have a garage, focus on the bathroom or choose another area of your home to declutter – this is your journey of sorting and minimalising after all.

Decluttering, along with giving you clarity of mind, can prevent pests and reduce dust, mold and mildew which can trigger asthma and allergies. As well as these helpful benefits, keeping these two areas of our homes organised simply, can help with time management especially in the morning when you hit snooze a few too many times and you are then running late for work, it gives us easier access to what we own and therefore prompt us to use these things more. For this reason in the Garage we are going to use Zones – a designated area of the garage for the storage of certain items. It’s not an original concept but one that seems to work. In the bathroom look at the flow of your day, where are you when you do your make up, your hair? Where is the mirror situated? Are you left handed or right handed?

As usual let’s start with a plan!

Bathroom

  1. Pull everything out of cupboards and shelves, showers and baths
  2. Remove everything from all surfaces
  3. Take used towels, facecloths, hand towels, bathmats and put them in the wash
  4. Give the bathroom a clean – be as thorough as you like or leave the deep clean for another time and just give everything a once over
  5. Sort through all the items you have removed. Throw out anything expired, empty, broken etc
  6. Group items together e.g., plasters and first aid, everyday essentials, make up, skin care
  • Are any storage solutions needed?
  • Can you decant any items into a more user/environmentally friendly container?

Garage

  1. Pull everything out and group into like items e.g., Gardening, Tools, full Storage boxes, Sports gear
  2. Give everything a once over sweep out the cobwebs in the corners and the debris off the floor
  3. Sort through each item and put them into categories of donate, repair, sell and chuck
  4. Figure out what zones you want to create in your Garage
  • Are any storage solutions needed?

Storage

As we have already mentioned previously, Pinterest is our friend. We could write out all the ideas we find but you’d be reading for miles. So instead, we thought we would pop below the ideas we have used in our own spaces. Hopefully this will give you motivation and we will leave you very clever smart people, to find what best suits you and the space and budget you are working with.

Bathroom

There is a plethora of ideas for the bathroom space that range from wicker baskets, mesh baskets, bamboo containers to marble trays. Some of the storage ideas we have already mentioned in previous blogs for The Declutter Challenge would work here – paint a box to compliment your décor to hold your first aid kit, a bamboo lazy Susan to hold your skin care, tiered stands are a great way to introduce an aesthetic to a bathroom – never underestimate a china cake stand to make the bathroom feel more majestic! If you need more storage, consider a wood cabinet from a second hand shop or metal trolley? If you don’t have a lot of surface spaces how about using self-adhesive caddy’s and attach it to the wall to hold your everyday essentials? 3M Command does a caddy that could be suitable for this purpose.

Check back to our Instagram posts where we have a few examples of ideas that could be used as well as a few below.

Garage

With regards to garage storage, you could go the full mile and fit a full wall of cupboards, racks on the walls for bike and kayaks, integrated handy man set up with hooks and tubs with workman’s bench, pop in a mezzanine floor to store the rarely used – or perhaps that could be a long-term goal.  

Now that you have sorted all you have and know what you are putting back into your newly swept garage. Let’s talk about Zones again. Here’s what zones I will be using with a little diagram I prepared earlier:

  1. Outdoor – covers everything from tents to sporting equipment
  • Toys for Storage & Rotation – includes Nursery items we may be using again so they need to be stored and there are a few pieces of bigger equipment
  • Clothes – categorised seasonally in plastic stackable tubs
  • Tools – this includes items like lawn mower, hedge trimmer etc as well as tools of the hammer and saw type

These zones were designated in accordance to what we need access to regularly and rarely, with the ultimate goal of having the majority able to be reached, everything contained and visually looking clutter free.

It’s a pretty big job and may not be completed in one weekend but its good to have a plan of attack for when you do have the time.

If you’re feeling a bit daunted of the prospect of this weekend’s challenge, you are not alone! This garage of mine I may only get part way with so I think I will start with the easier of the two and begin with the bathroom.

Remember this is your challenge so if the garage is to be left to another day pop it on the calendar so you remember.

Weekend Two: The Land of the Lost Tupperware Lid

Welcome back to The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance. It’s Weekend Two and we are looking at one of the messier places in the house – the Kitchen and Pantry.

Again, this is your journey. If this area of your house is neater than a pin, choose a different space to focus on. Or, if you are like us here at Femme Finance, and have just realised that most of the stuff at the back of your fridge has expired (and is somewhat furry?!) then there is no time like right now to get this situation situated.

First let’s make a plan…if you don’t plan, you plan to fail right?!

To do that, we need to break down different areas to focus on. We have broken it up like this, as tackling a small bit of the larger goal is less overwhelming and feels more achievable. These areas could be:

Pantry

Fridge

Cupboards

As with the previous weekends challenge, we have outlined a plan below. The steps for each one of these areas are relatively the same so the plans below are similar. Either follow what we have below or write out your own.

Pantry

  1. Pull everything out
  2. Using an eco-friendly spray wipe down all the surfaces top to bottom
  3. Mop or vacuum the floor of the pantry
  4. Sort through all the food items you have removed and dispose of those that are expired / no longer wanted
  5. Place all the remaining food into categories so you can see what you have

Think about what you can decant and what you want to decant into?

Do you need any containers or additional shelving?

Fridge

  1. Pull everything out
  2. Using an eco-friendly spray wipe down all the surfaces top to bottom
  3. Pull out any shelves or tubs and give them a good clean and put them back
  4. Sort through all the food items you have removed and dispose of those that are expired / no longer wanted
  5. Place all the remaining food into categories so you can see what you have

  • Think about what you can decant and what you want to decant into?
  • Do you need any containers or additional shelving?

Cupboards

  1. Pull everything out
  2. Using an eco-friendly spray wipe down all the surfaces top to bottom
  3. Pull out any shelves or containers and give them a good clean and put them back

  • Is there anything that you’ve pulled out that needs to be washed? No point putting it back into a clean cupboard or shelf if its dirty.
  • Is there are any equipment that you just don’t use any longer and could sell or donate?
  • Is there any equipment that requires repairs or has lost pieces? Write a list of these things so that you can do some research into getting repairs done or finding a lost piece.
  • Do you need any containers or additional storage?

Please remember to declutter with thoughtful purpose and those things you no longer need could you donate, drop of at the charity shop? Is there somewhere you can donate the non-expired food to?

Storage Solutions

Now that you have covered your kitchen floor in food, kitchen equipment, pots and pans and crockery, let’s think of ways we can put it all back so that the cupboards remain decluttered, easily accessible and where you can actually see what you have in each.

We will continue with suggesting eco-friendly options and remember, hold off on buying anything storage wise until you have minimalised your space and decluttered. That way you can really see what it is you need. These are also just some ideas out of the plethora that is out there – there is also the budget to consider. If there is a storage idea you love but can’t afford quite yet, add it to the budget and make that purchase when you can afford it!

Pantry / Fridge

Glass jars!! They don’t all have to match, but glass is the way to go for Pantry storage to be friendly to our environment, see the levels of what we have in one glance, moths can’t eat through glass to get into our food, nor does it leach any toxins into what we have stored. It’s a no brainer! Top it off with a metal, bamboo or food grade silicone lid and your sorted.

For the fridge, large jars may not work if you have a small fridge or lots to put into your big one. The alternative here could be you can find glass containers with bamboo or silicone lids (they freeze well to) or use reusable silicone stretch lids (an excellent alterative to using glad wrap / cling film). They are also easy to wash/store and can be used with multiple sized containers.

To label your new collection of glass storage, you can use chalk marker or write up some labels. If you have some moolah set aside, you can buy or pay for custom labels – otherwise get creative…and the kids involved, that way they might just put things back in the right place if they have ownership over labelling the contents of the fridge and pantry.

Wire or woven baskets are a great alternative to plastic bins. They maintain air flow around fruit or vege and they also look a bit spiffy. Silicon zip lock bags are another resourceful way to contain any food that requires an airtight seal, especially for in the fridge and can be stacked side by side.

Don’t underestimate a good lazy Susan (or turntable as they are sometimes categorised) in the pantry for sauces and dressings that don’t need refrigerating. This storage solution also works well in the fridge where space is at a premium. With a quick spin you can grab the item you want with ease. Kmart have introduced a bamboo one as an alternative to the plastic ones that are already on the market.

Kitchen

Some of us are not blessed with newly renovated kitchens with wonderful pull-out shelving or turntables in corner cupboards, we have to make do with whatever we have. This means that we need to make sure we prioritise the space we have to the things that are used often.

Have you been able to cull anything that is no longer of service to you? Hopefully just seeing what you have when it’s out of the cupboards has given you some clarity on what you use often and what you use rarely.

When setting up your counter tops, think about the way you use your kitchen. What is the flow of daily life? Are having the kettle and toaster next to each the best way to arrange things?

Grouping things can create more space so have a look at what you own and see if there are any ways to group what you have. Lids and containers come to mind as do any attachments for mixers and food processors. These can be put together in a wire or woven basket or you can repurpose boxes as was suggested in our previous challenge Weekend One: Narnia and other bedtime stories – (femmefinance.co.nz). Give the box a coat of paint and a label and you have a cheap storage solution. Over the door organisers are useful racks to incorporate into your kitchen. Baking trays, cutting boards and cleaning equipment can be kept here giving up much needed counter or cupboard space.

I think we would all agree that the corner shelved cupboard is the hardest to reach into the depths of. We would suggest putting your larger pots and any equipment that you rarely use in this space. Keep these cupboards simple and clutter free so when you do have to delve in, things are easier to get to.

Hopefully our plans and ideas have helped as you venture into challenge two. Have you come across any ingenious storage ideas for the Kitchen spaces? We would love to know about these so that we can share them with our Femme Finance followers, so get in touch!

Good luck as you wade the depths of what for most may be a big job this weekend. We are there with you, stepping over the plates and bags of rice to get to the fridge, to throw out what was once a bag of spinach.

We will see you for the next Declutter Challenge next week which will be the Garage and Bathroom…

Weekend One: Narnia and other bedtime stories

It’s Weekend One for The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance and we are focusing on… Wardrobes and Bedrooms.

Remember, you decide how your decluttering challenge goes and you decide what you want to tackle first – the wardrobe or the bedroom.

Some of you may keep pretty tidy and decluttered wardrobes already, so if you are one of those amazing people, who I aspire to be, have a look about your bedroom space unless you feel like an overhaul of your wardrobe wouldn’t go amiss. Is there too much tabletop clutter? (Table top as in any surface area, bedside tables, tops of dressers, bedheads etc.) Are there piles on these surfaces, drawers where clothes are stuffed in rather than folded or put away in the Marie Kondo style? Paper in stacks (I don’t know why but there is so much paper in my bedroom)? Jewellry scattered along with makeup or perfume?

For those of us who need to battle the Wardrobes as well as their bedrooms, don’t feel overwhelmed as this is probably most of us!! It is definitely us here at Femme Finance!

Step 1 Make the bed!

This can be with clean sheets, fresh duvet cover and pillowcases (matching or not matching) or just a straightening of what is already there. This is an old trick of my nanas – with the bed made you are halfway there.

Step 2 Take a couple of photos

This is MANDATORY as nothing feels better or more motivating than when you look at the before and after photos, demonstrating your hard work.

Step 3 Get paper and pen

Sit on your bed or pick a spot you can observe your soon to be clutter free space. Write down what your plan of attack is.

Here’s my list as an example:

  1. Pull all clothes out of wardrobe and drawers
  2. Sort clothes into categories – donate, repair, sell, chuck, or limbo (I’ll come back to limbo in a moment)
  3. Decide what can be hung on hangers and what can be folded, with priority to what I wear most and put that selection in a place with easy access (front of the wardrobe or in dresser drawers, having a drawer dedicated to work clothes only)
  4. Remove all items from all surfaces – bedside tables, dresser tops, the bedhead (*glares at husband* why is this coffee cup here?)
  5. Wipe down with an ecofriendly spray or a damp cloth, depending on the needs of the surface
  6. Decide what really needs to be out on the tabletops. What purpose does it serve? Does it create a cluttered look?
  7. Wipe down all items that are staying with damp cloth
  8. Display
  9. Clean any cobwebs from the corners of the room and ceiling, wipe down windowsills and skirting
  10. Vacuum the floor
  11. Do I need containers for anything in my wardrobe or drawers? What would work in my space?

As you can see, I’m going the full hog and doing a clean as well – I have spotted a few Charlotte Webs that need addressing and bless my husband, but that coffee mug has left rings! You do not need to be this intense, unless you are in the mind set of ‘while I’m here, I may as well’.

Step 4 Send us your before and after’s and comment on our posts showing your own hard work – we want to know how you did!!

Lastly … get rid of the boxes and bags. Do it! Do it now before you procrastinate!!

So, there’s your plan – if you choose to use it that is.

What to Ditch

Now let’s talk about the in’s and out’s of these categories and what the heck a Limbo Box is.

Donate – clothes and other items that are in relatively good nick, that someone in need could use

Repair – you don’t wear or use it as it needs fixing / mending. Once you have separated this item from everything else, you can make a plan to get it sorted. Take it to an alterations place to repaired or gain a new skill in sewing. Most of my repair items are things that need rehemming, or a button sewed back on.

Sell – this is obvious. Stuff you don’t want or need any more and in a good enough state to sell. Trade Me and Facebook Market place are good places to begin here, but don’t forget about the local auction houses as well. Most towns and cities have auctions houses that can sell things on your behalf, but make sure you check into the % that the auction house will take off the sell price, to see if its worth it for you

Chuck – broken beyond repair, not good enough to donate or sell. Please ensure you check into the most ecofriendly way to dispose of this item. Look back at our introduction Blog Post around this THE DECLUTTER CHALLENGE – (femmefinance.co.nz)

Limbo – If you are like me and have gained a bit of weight over the lockdowns or just in general, and have beautiful clothes in good nick and you are aiming to fit them again so therefore you don’t want to get rid of them,  resulting in having two wardrobes taking up space. One you can fit right now and one you would like to fit in again. Let me introduce you to The Limbo Box! The Limbo Box is where you store the clothes you can’t fit right now but want to fit again. You must be really honest with yourself here. Make sure what you put in Limbo are things you will definitely wear again.

Storage solutions

So, you have decluttered, and you are looking about your new minimalized space with shiny pride. Congratulations!!! Things are hung up on hangers, shoes in neat little rows and drawers in such order you open them just to stare at how wonderful it looks. You feel mentally clear and as if you can put your mind to anything! You have however realized in your decluttering that you do actually need a few bins, or containers for things like scarves, belts etc.

Before you spend any cash try a few DIY options using things you may already have or can purchase cheaply.

Enter Stage Left…Pinterest.

This app has a million and one ideas to create your own storage. Have a scroll and see if anything resonates with you and fits in with your skill level …and let’s face it, patience level.

One thing I do with any smaller boxes or old shoe boxes I have, is repurpose them by buying a paint test pot in a colour I like or which is complimentary to the interior décor scheme (…if you have one. I am thinking of those who are like me and have to live with scary swirly wallpaper). I paint the box that suits the situation, and voila, you have boxes that hold your items, is ecofriendly, and may I say, sustainable. This option saves you spending too much of your hard earned moolah and it goes with your interior design. (I’ll post some photos on Instagram of some examples) Win win!

If you have a bit of cash you can put to purchasing some storage items, there’s the likes of Kmart, The Warehouse and Briscoes, if you are living in New Zealand, that offer some cost-effective solutions. Jjust be mindful that plastic options do leak toxins into your environment, which you can then inhale (read more about this on Kathryn Nelson’s Instagram account @plasticfreemermaid or her website wwwiquitplastics.com) and the plastic options are not that ecofriendly in the long run. If you have a bit more to spend and want to reimage what you have seen on Pinterest or Instagram accounts, Hannah Stickland Co-founder of @simplifymyhome have some great storage options. Spend wisely!

If you are a keeper of shopping bags – you know the nice ones especially if they are of spendy brands. I’m talking Dior, Chanel, Prada. Why not turn that clutter into works of art? Buy a suitable sized frame from Briscoes or similar retailer, arrange the bag flat with the handles as you want them, and you can keep a reminder of that shopping trip for as long as you like along with creating a piece of artwork that has a story attached.

Wow that was a lot of reading for you! Thank you if you made it to the end without going cross eyed. We hope what we have suggested helps with your decluttering. Good luck with it all, remember it’s your process, own it and relish in getting back to the necessities.

The blog for Weekend Two will go up next week where we will be tackling the Pantry & Kitchen… see you then!

THE DECLUTTER CHALLENGE

Does it spark joy? A question put out to the world via Netflix’s 2019 series ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ and 2021 series ‘Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo’. It resulted in thousands of New Zealanders decluttering their homes, wardrobes, garages kitchens and bathrooms inundating charity shops, clothing bins and refuse sites with the castoff items that no longer sparked jubilance.

Decluttering one’s surroundings does have a profound effect on a person’s wellbeing. Psychologists have coined the term “clutter effect” where clutter- both physical and mental- can even cloud your ability to think. The decluttering mania has become a popular side hustle for many an Instagrammer, as has becoming a Minimalist.

Minimalism is about having only the essentials and not allowing possessions define you – capsule wardrobes come to mind (there are such pretty infographics on Pinterest!). Applying this to your finances and lifestyle can be pretty daunting, especially if you have moved from a large home into a smaller one or one without much storage as in my case. We have moved into a home built in 1938 and the wardrobes are single sized. Super single sized. Like can’t even fit in a normal sized suitcase sized. So, I am finding I am having to get creative with storage ideas.

But first I need to declutter and minimalise what I own otherwise I’m just storing stuff I don’t need, that’s broken, that could be sold (cha-ching) or that doesn’t fit. 

Like with all challenges, starting off with creating a plan creates purpose and focus. It turns the insurmountable situation ahead into bite sized steps that can be easily accomplished. Like with any goal (see our blog post titled An Om Moment – Femme Finance ) keep in mind the failure result, if you don’t achieve the level of decluttering you want, you will still be living up to your ear lobes in dust collectors, cluttered bench tops and mountains of clothes that don’t fit into wardrobes and drawers. It sounds tiring and stressful just thinking about to be honest.

So, I put to you dear Femme Finance followers join us in a challenge this March. Let’s practise Minimalism and declutter everything from our cars to our homes to our friendships to our finances.

Keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook page as each Friday we will post what space we are decluttering that weekend. You can take part as intensely as you like and we will do the hard work of putting a plan into place for you, so all you have to do, is show up with a ‘Can Do and Declutter’ attitude.

The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance

Weekend One – Wardrobes & Bedrooms

Weekend Two – Pantry & Kitchen

Weekend Three – Garage & Bathroom

Weekend Four – Interiors

Weekend Five – Finances & Friendships …and let’s make you work extra hard and throw in your car too!

We will take you through ways to store what you still want to keep and ways of moving on that which you don’t want to keep. We will be keeping the environment and sustainability in mind as we would not be able to sleep well at night knowing we are adding to an increasing problem regarding our planet and its health. We will give you options to choose from for each weeks challenge so you can do both or just one of the areas we have chosen.

So … are you with us??? Yes?! Excellent!

Before the challenge begins, there’s a few things to think on, so let’s start here first.

Do Not Buy anything!

I know it is tempting to scroll through Kmart, the Warehouse, Briscoes and other home storage places and look at their storage solutions but you don’t know what you need yet. Plus, the aim of this exercise is too not break the bank with purchasing things we can perhaps get creative with.

Get Everyone on Board

You may be single with a flatmate. You may be a couple or a couple or someone with children.

Have a conversation with them now about what you are planning on doing get them on board if you can. Flatmates can be tricky as can teenagers so here’s something to try.

Have a meeting and let those awesome people in your life know that you need a change. You’re going to look at every item the family owns and you – as a family – will decide what to do with it. If you are living with Flatties different story. Obviously you aren’t going to go into their personal space and start biffing stuff so ask if they want to join in and declutter with you. A Flat Challenge if you will …oooo could we make that into a drinking game? Opps sorry off topic! Tell the flatmates / family how the build-up of possessions in your home makes you feel. Ask how they feel as well. You could be surprised!

The Three “layers” of Clutter in your home

As mentioned previously in this blog post we will give you an area to declutter each week but just be wary of these layers of clutter when you get stuck in.

  1. Top layer – Clear out the “top layer” first this is trash and other items that are easy to discard
  2. Middle layer – items you assess but don’t ponder over for too long before making a decision to declutter or not
  3. Bottom layer – generally sentimental items and other items that are hard to let go of

The top layer is the easiest to discard when you get started decluttering. You might fill many bags and boxes with trash and other items you know you no longer need. When you see the amount of items you have discarded, excitement may push you to the middle layer and then the bottom layer.

The Aftermath also known as The Pile Up

Bags and boxes of unwanted items are great, but what do you do with them?

First let’s talk about what we are putting all the decluttered clutter into. Preferably it will be a used box that can be recycled. So before you set into the challenge gather the boxes up that are floating about in the garage the neighbours garage friends place, supermarket etc. Be mindful of how many rubbish bags you are using that are not able to be recycled.

Take thyself to Google and research what charity chops are in your area. Make a list and give them a call to ensure they will take donations and what it is that they won’t take. Call Centres that help the homeless, those in poverty and places like Women’s Refuge. They are always screaming out for donations so give them a call and ask what they are willing to take.

Donations should be dropped off as soon as you can get to the places on your list charity shops, and other centres. This could be a weekly ritual that turns into a monthly trip and eventually an annual donation. The longer something sits in your home (bagged up) the more likely it is to stay that way.

If you plan to have a garage sale, set a firm date first. If you keep putting the sale off, just donate the items. There is no use in them just sitting there.

Items promised to friends and family should be dealt with the same way. If they cannot pick up the item or if you are unable to schedule a meet-up, then let them know the item is going to be donated.

Make sure you check into recycling centres in your area beforehand so that you are ready to go once you have that pile of clutter that cannot be fixed or mended.

Get straight on to posting stuff you are wanting to sell onto Facebook Market Place and Trade Me. The sooner its up the sooner its sold and the sooner you will have extra cash to add to your savings.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone

Comparing your life to someone else’s is a toxic habit. That is not the mindset we want to create here. There’s no competition as to who has decluttered the most or if you have not decluttered enough. So if you are reading any comments on the posts we will be sharing during this challenge that make you feel a bit meh, just remember they are doing them and you are doing you and that each person is at their own pace, on their own timeline….and that you are freaking fabulous!

Motivation

This can come from looking at pictures on Pinterest, Instagram or watching the Marie Kondo series on Netflix. But don’t think that your life can be just like their life. You and your situation / family are unique, as will your decluttering journey be.

Whatever your version of clutter-free is, embrace it. Embrace the feeling of a weight lifted off your shoulders. It feels good.