Do I Have More Debt Because I Have Clutter?

“While research has yet to prove the mechanics, or sort out which is the cause and which is effect, data from several studies show a correlation 

between finances, clutter and weight”

Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Freelance Writer


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

“Tell the truth, or someone will tell it for you.”

Stephanie Klein, Author

Straight Up and Dirty

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.

Living by our heartfelt intentions

“I met a real looker. He picked me up at the two dollar slot machines, so you know he’s no cheapskate.”

Grandma Mazur

Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovick


One of my husband’s and my most favorite call-in radio shows is Car Talk with The Tappet Brothers. The weekly show hosts two brothers who are wizards at automobile maintenance and repair. Each week they attempt to identify the malfunctions of the callers car and give advice on how to fix it.

The best part, for me, is how the brothers pepper their callers, and themselves, with jokes and humor as they give advice on how to fix the car. And if stumped, and not sure of the fix, they use their most famous line, “unencumbered by the thought process,” as they attempt to give an answer anyway.

On this particular day, as we listened to the show, the caller, a woman, wanted the brother’s advice on her husband’s hair brained scheme on how to fix her car. And, of course, as is their style, the humor and joking began — as one brother said, “Oh, you married a cheapskate, huh?!” They all laughed heartily as they agreed with the caller about her husbands repair idea — And, yes, on the cheap!

I, too, laughed at his witty comment —  their humor and playfulness with their guests, along with their ‘say it like it is’ frankness, is endlessly entertaining.

“But wait a minute,” I said out loud. “Don’t be giving cheapskates such a bad rap!” 

In fact, there are dozens of good solid reasons to be a cheapskate. Many people’s money lives would drastically improve if they, too, would just adopt the approach!

Yet, Cheapskate is a term that most of us find distasteful, and brings visions of a stingy, mean, and dishonest person. A tightwad to the extreme who pinches pennies until they squeak! Someone who holds their money so tightly that only death releases their grip.

Not a pretty vision and certainly not one that I would embrace nor suggest. It is definitely the opposite of an abundant, thriving way of life.

So, let’s look at what it really means to be a cheapskate and reveal its hidden benefits. 

To help motivate you to continue reading (and help shift your belief around being a cheapskate) … Here’s the major benefit — RELIEF!

So, here we go …

A good cheapskate would …

  • Cut costs
  • Decrease expenses
  • Live on less
  • Spend less
  • Embrace frugality
  • Do stuff cheaper
  • Ask for discounts
  • Find the best deals
  • Stop wasting money
  • Pass by the sales tables
  • Stop unnecessary shopping
  • Buy only what they need

In other words, what I call PURPOSEFUL SPENDING.

Now, before you squawk or complain, no one is suggesting you give up all your possessions, move into a 200sf tiny house and ride a bike to work. Although, for many, this would be an ideal answer.

Instead, let’s look at what “Purposeful Spending” really means?

It means, you get crystal clear on what you want and need in life and every time you spend, it is in full alignment with what you said you wanted and needed.

You live and spend by your clear, heartfelt intentions.

You cut away the fat, the excess, and the wasted spending and apply your money to only those things you really want — only that which supports the way of life you envisioned.

No deal or discount is worth it unless it agrees with the heartfelt intentions you set. Step away from that sale table if the thing you truly want is not on it!

That flashy car — is it on your heartfelt intention list? If not, let it speed by and land in someone else’s driveway!

A big trip to Figi — was that on your heartfelt list? If so, then enjoy.

You get where I’m going with this, don’t you? It’s all about what you said you wanted and needed.

Nothing else takes its place. Otherwise, you’ll find you are never satisfied and the wasteful spending continues as you try to fill that emptiness.

Did you notice — Every single thing on the list above means MORE MONEY in YOUR POCKET?! Not someone else’s. Plus, you are all that much closer to your own clear, heartfelt intentions.

That’s what purposeful spending is all about … that’s what being a true cheapskate means –> living and choosing on purpose NOT living by habitual, reactive impulses.

If someone calls you a cheapskate — wear that badge proudly! There’s nothing unseemly about being one!

Does more money make you happier?


“Richer countries do not necessarily have citizens

who are “happier,” but they do have citizens

who are more satisfied with their lives.”

-Psychology Today


Does money truly make you happy? Initial research does seem to support the idea that having more money does make us happier.

This study, although on a limited population, did conclude that “richer people were happier than poorer people.” Especially for those with incomes above the economic norm for their area.

I’m not sure I agree with the studies conclusion. I’ve never thought money makes people happy. Possibly it makes us feel more secure or even safe. And, most certainly, it does give us more options — but actually happy? Hmmmm….

Of course, if there isn’t enough to go around and it is a constant struggle to make ends meet, well then, that definitely makes me cranky and unhappy. It makes me feel downright hopeless and miserable.  I’m sure it invokes these feelings for you, as well, if you’ve experienced a lack of money.

In those circumstances, when more money flows in, the emotion that I usually feel is one of relief and the lessening of fear. My hopefulness quotient goes up, but not necessarily my happiness quotient.

Which raises the questions, does money, in and of itself, make you happy? Would having more of it raise your happiness quotient?

Fascinatingly enough, a subsequent study (done on a larger population) concluded almost the opposite of the previous one — that having more money does not necessarily mean you’ll be happier. In fact, it was satisfaction levels that improved.  Money itself, it stated, did not necessarily improve or provide happiness.

Now this I could agree with — It was about improving and raising satisfaction. Not necessarily happiness.

This difference reminds me of a couple I worked with a few years back. Their household income was sizable and supported them comfortably. In fact, their income was well above the norm for the area they lived. Their home was located in a city and community which fit them nicely. Their needs, desires, and wants appeared, from the outside, to be satisfied. Both they, and their children, were thriving and growing.

 So, why were they in my office talking of how unhappy and dissatisfied they were? What was it about their livelihood and lifestyle that did not make them happy?

From the outside, their lives looked abundant, wealthy, and rich. So, why weren’t they happy? Why weren’t they satisfied?

These two questions is where our work together began. It was important to their well-being to discover what was behind their deep sense of dissatisfaction. And, in turn, to determine what would truly make them feel otherwise.

So, we delved into how they defined happiness? And, how was it different from satisfaction?

I asked them how they would rate themselves on the variety of factors which make up happiness? Factors, which have little to do with money.

Factors such as, learning new things, having a strong social network, spending time with engaging friends and co-workers, bonding with their children, connecting with each other, and enjoying meaningful activities.

They agreed those things were, for the most part, present in their lives. It was not, with those, that they felt discontent.

That’s when we moved onto satisfaction and well being — the aspect which money touches more deeply. And, this is where their true differences and discontent showed up.

They each held differing beliefs, judgments, and opinions on how much money was enough, how many possessions and what kind were sufficient, where money should and should not be spent, and whether a large bank account was necessary or not.

And, neither of them had attained the level they felt was in agreement with what they had determined was satisfactory.

It was here that their work together was required. To reveal and weed out those things in their money life which truly did not bring more satisfaction. To also recognize where more money or possessions might make them more satisfied, but didn’t necessarily mean they’d be happier.

In fact, it might lower their happiness quotient as they pushed, struggled, and pressed to attain more and more. Especially if they were not on the same page on whether more was truly the answer for them.

They had to ask themselves, as do we, how much is enough? Do I require more to be happy and satisfied?

In truth, money and things seldom equates to happiness.

As I have found for myself, the feelings that flood in when I have more money, are not about happiness. Happiness, for me, is petting my dog, deepening my relationships with those I love, and doing activities that are enriching and in line with my values in life.

With those, I am truly happy. And, if money decides to make life easier or more satisfying — well, then, bring it on!