Archives for June 2017

Do I Have More Debt Because I Have Clutter?

I have been counseling people on money matters for nineteen years and over those years, I have noticed a common thread that flows through them all. It is not hidden, or even a secret. In fact, it is clearly obvious, especially to those who stop a moment and look around.

It hides itself in our struggles with money. It keeps us awake at night and causes us to do self-defeating behaviors. It gets our attention when we have unfulfilled wants or needs, an inability to save, an unexpected expense with no money to pay for it, or the biggie — too much credit card debt.

Those who reach out for help, no longer wish to live with that struggle. The discomfort has gotten to a level that now affects all that they do — stops them from fully enjoying and engaging in life.

Most believe they have tried everything to make matters better, yet, discouragingly, have not found that one thing that would surely bring ease and peacefulness to their money lives.

This was true for a realtor who was referred to me by her financial planner. Her investment accounts were being drained at an alarming rate, with no end in sight, no cure or solution to stop the financial bleeding. The planner had done all that she could to guide her, yet nothing seemed to work.

It all appeared to boil down to one key issue — she wasn’t making enough income to support her lifestyle. She was unable to meet her obligations and was relying more and more heavily on credit cards and her investments to meet her needs.

She, like many others who come to me for help, are often surprised by where we begin to solve their money concerns. Most focus entirely on their lack of money and put their energy and time on ways to bring in more. Whereas, what I have found, the key is to begin with your environment.

Yes, your environment is your clue! It is the common thread that binds all the issues together — your out of control spending and over extended lifestyle shows up in the rooms in which you live, sleep, eat, and work.

Seldom do most of us consider this fairly simple and obvious approach — to stop and look around and let you environment guide you. The connection between the two (money and your surroundings) is seldom understood, so why would you do this? If only you could realize the significance of this connection and the helpful story it tells — one that could very well solve your most troublesome money matters.

How did I figure this out? Nearly every single person who I have counseled in money matters has eventually admitted, often sheepishly, to having out of control clutter — out of control environments. And, fascinatingly enough, what shows up in money, does  in fact show up in how you handle your stuff.

Who knew that if you just cleared out the stuck energy of clutter, that the stuck energy in your money would let go as well. Clear out one, and the other often follows. Studies have shown this correlation between finances and your clutter — they are deeply connected in ways we often do not comprehend. Along with those two, is also weight and time management. Those four issues all connect on a core level.

The truth about clutter is that it makes you feel exhausted, hopeless, leads you to feel out of control and makes you feel poor! And, it encourages a lack of restraint in spending. After all —  How you do anything is how you do everything! (HuffPost 2011)

But, let’s get back to the realtor. Did she have clutter filled environments? Indeed, she did, especially her office. It was filled with many things, but mostly piles and mounds of paper. She didn’t even have room on her desk to work, often working elsewhere in her home instead.

What did I suggest she do, where did I guide her to start?

You guessed it — with her environment and specifically her office.debt

Together we came up with a clear vision of what she wanted it to look like and from there, developed a plan with specific, purposeful steps to achieve that vision — the ones which would open the pathway for her money to flow.

Was she, like many of my clients, able to see the connection between their financial debt, overspending, and clutter? Did clearing out one really make a difference in the other? Only the actual act of doing of it would help them make that connection.

I am a firm believer it does make a dramatic difference, often instantaneously. Take for example an office mate from way back — her phone was not ringing; no new clients or appointments were being booked on her calendar. I suggested she purge a few of her overly stuffed file cabinets to release the old, stuck energy imprisoned within those drawers. She no sooner started doing so, barely clearing one drawer, and the phone began to ring!

Yes, physical clutter does create emotional clutter. It does not really matter whether the debt was caused by the clutter or the other way around. It is simply old, stuck, stagnated energy. It’s unmade decisions, regrets, guilt, shame, or old childhood wounds. There’s nothing positive about it.

So, why not give it a try —  look around your environment and clear out that old stuck energy. You may find it to be well worth the effort. Most times the result is a deep sense of calm, an overall feeling of being healthier and in control, and, along with that, your bank account grows!

Name your shame

Many couples have come into my office with hidden money secrets. Their emotions so heavy, they are almost palatable in the air. The room suddenly feels closed in and stuffy.

They have come to get help — to reveal their secrets in a safe place. My presence and guidance bolster them to finally, maybe for the first time, share their shame, guilt, or anger.

This was true for Cindy and Peter (names changed for privacy). She had a big money secret and was scared to disclose it to Peter. He was monetarily conservative — in her words, “the ultimate penny pincher.” Whereas she, a business owner, spent freely and easily. Often, incurring debt to get what she wanted or needed.

They were night and day different. He an introvert, saver, and a minimalist. She an extrovert, spender, and a maximalist. As you might expect, their money approach was vastly opposite.

And, it was time for her to come clean. She had been hiding a nasty little secret. Unbeknownst to her husband, she had wracked up quite a bit of debt on their credit cards.

She took a deep breath and named her shame — and spoke it out loud.

To give him credit, he handled it quite well. He didn’t rant or rave, nor did he even scold. Instead, his approach was to ask, “How do we solve this?

He wanted to know — What did they need to do to pay it off? And, what financial rules and boundaries did they need to put into place to insure this didn’t happen again?

Let’s face it, just the thought of talking about money brings up all sorts of internal dialogue that usually begins with — shoulda, coulda, or woulda. It’s all anyone hears, after all, when you simply utter the word.

Your emotions swirl around and around, the chatter in your head increases, your gut clenches tight, and your bowels churn. Your body and mind reacts, even if you don’t respond out loud.

What might be helpful to you is a little known secret — No one handles money flawlessly, without a few hiccups. No one does it perfectly. Even the most savvy have moments of discomfort, if not fear they’ll lose it all. In fact, the majority of us fumble along hoping it’ll all work out for the best.

Even if you’ve followed all the rules and done everything right, yes, even then, there is always something more to be done, handled, or managed. With money, you are never done.

And, here’s the real biggie — the emotional discomfort grows when we think we can hide or stuff our fears, shame, or guilt. Even more damaging, is when we do this with our partners or spouses.

An unseen wall goes up between you. An uncomfortable lump grows in the pit of your stomach.

Maybe, just maybe it is time to own your discomfort — to fess up. To “name the shame!” To speak it out loud.

It isn’t easy to name your shame — whether to yourself or another. There are so many things in life, money only being one, which causes uncomfortable emotions and behaviors.

Yet, ultimately, it is you who suffers when a secret is kept, a false front or mask is put on, or you carry a hidden burden. Others do feel it, yes, but you feel it the most.

You will find that when you name it, claim it, and own it, that is when true transformation happens. I have seen it again and again with clients — not to mention for myself.

How did Cindy and Peter fair? They did manage to successfully pay off their debt — in a fairly timely manner, too. They used the tools, methods and approach we developed and personalized in sessions together. They also put some “personal” rules in place for money saving and spending, to help guide them both.

The biggest win, however, was for Cindy. She came away with the knowledge that when she named her shame, the result was beyond her imaginings. Not only did she get support, but with a “whoosh” her shame was gone.