Simple Advice for Hoarders: Clean up, Clear out, Stay Ahead of the Mess

An aunt of mine is a world-class collector. She keeps stacks of magazines from the 1960s, owns thousands of books and dozens of bookshelves, multiple copies of the same CDs and DVDs because she’s forgotten that she already owns a copy, and, no kidding, has enough VHS tapes to open her own video store. But is there anything wrong with holding on to a ton of stuff? To my aunt, the answer is simple: Of course not. To me it’s obvious that her living space is too small for her things and her home has turned into a multimedia sprawl. Recently, I helped with a major clean-up project at her apartment. The process was an adventure and a few pointers occurred to me that are worth sharing for those of us who are more likely to store rather than purge our extra items. Regularly schedule time to clean and purge It’s safe to say that this apartment has never really undergone any “spring-cleaning”, by which I mean a periodic cleanup in which a bunch of old stuff is thrown away. So after taking the umpteenth box of stuff out of her apartment an inescapable piece of advice occurs to me:  “Clean up, clear out, and stay ahead of the mess.” I think that for a lot of hoarders like my aunt it takes a life event to realize that it’s time to get rid of things. Otherwise that pile is neglected again and again until you just stop noticing it any more. Messes can grow on you. To keep things manageable, to reclaim the garage or closet, it’s important...

Buying a Home Today: Post Housing Crisis Considerations

A central pillar of the American Dream is to own your own home. But as we all know the nation-wide housing crisis has made a lasting, sometimes devastating, impact on the concept of home ownership. In response to the housing catastrophe, some have wondered if renting a home will become more acceptable over time and possibly even become the new American Dream. No doubt that house ownership has dropped in the last few years. But this trend doesn’t mean that a shift in the American psyche is taking place, or that we’re completely moving away from homeownership.  To the contrary, in fact.  According to a recent National Public Radio segment, “After the Housing Bust, Revisiting Homeownership,” journalist Chris Arnold reports that the ambition of owning a home is still alive and well. So what are the reasons for buying a home, so soon after the housing bubble burst? The short answer is that it still makes economic sense to do so. Home prices are down by 30% nationally. Here are some things to think about as you weigh the decision of going ahead with homeownership. Interest Rates are Extremely Low Besides lower housing prices, interest rates are extremely low. Historically low, in fact. It’s generally believed that these rates really have only one direction they could go from here—and that’s up. So for any potential homebuyers, now may be the time to move forward.  Businessweek columnist Marc Roth boldly stated in 2009, “If you have a steady job, good credit, and the down payment, then you really are being offered the gift of a lifetime.” But be sure to...

Useful Tips for Saving to Buy a New Home

I know a family, which I’ll call Todd and Jill Merrill.  During the economic downturn of 2008-2009, Todd lost his job, and the family decided they needed to move. When they prepared to sell their home, they discovered, like many others, that the value of their house was less than the money they owed on it. The Merrill’s have done their best to move on and rebuild their lives.  Although they lost money on their last home, their goal is to buy another in about a year. If you’re coming out of a similar situation, and looking to buy another home, realtor Richard Martinez addresses common questions you may find helpful. Talking with my friends and calling on my own observations, here are a few strategies that can help anyone like the Merrill’s reach their goals much faster. Set a Timeline By setting a timeline, you can identify a specific date in the future when you can reach your goal. Obviously, you’ll need to determine how much and how fast you’ll be able to reach that goal. If you set aside a specific amount from every paycheck—treating “saving” like any other expense—you can really make some headway. Take a look at these resources on saving money over time: Tips for Saving up for that Home and How to Set and Reach Saving Goals. Eliminating Unnecessary Expenses To save up for a down payment, look at where you can trim any excessive expenses and then become disciplined enough to eliminate them. In general, for things like groceries and clothing, it’s a good idea to buy what you need in one...

Tips for Saving Money While Moving

It nearly broke my heart to toss out a beloved computer chair at the time I was moving across country. The faux leather chair was comfy and practical for a home office, but it just wouldn’t fit in the car. Worse, it was the second of its kind that I’d owned, and because it was too big, it was the second time I had had to leave a chair like this behind. While it isn’t exactly economical to keep buying the same chair over and over, in the moves I’ve made crisscrossing the country, I have learned a number of tricks to save money. Let me share a few of them with you. TIP 1: LEARN TO DOWNSIZE Fortunately, I wasn’t as attached to all my furniture as I was to those two great office chairs. It’s an obvious statement, but one worth making: When you’re readying for a move, get rid of things you don’t need, and by “get rid of” what I mean is try to sell them. There’s Craigslist, of course, but many communities will have a list-serve service in which local people are selling things all the time. An Internet search for “community classifieds” might open a new market for you to advertise on. It’s my experience that when selling a mattress and other furniture, people are looking for the least expensive way to get them. And, like you, they’re motivated. If you’re smart about pricing the item, you’ll soon be rid of that coffee table and, for your troubles, you’ll have a few more Andy Jackson’s in your pocket. If selling items doesn’t work...