A spring clean for your house and finances

Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 00:00

I'm embracing minimalism - so chuck out items that are no longer useful and organise your life a little to save a lot

‘You’re not a bit of a hoarder are you?” remarked a colleague who baulked at the idea that, with more than 10,000 megabytes of storage (whatever that means), I’m paying for extra capacity in my email account.

I’m not one of those people with 18 cats and newspapers all over the house, but it got me thinking, just how costly is my lack of organisation? This year, then, I’m embracing minimalism. I’m chucking items that are no longer useful. I’ve given bags of baby clothes to friends and donated out-of-date items to charity. I’ve edited my papers and organised my kitchen. I’m bringing my library books back and paying my bills on time. I’m streamlining my larder to minimise duplication and waste.

Yes, it’s out with the old habits and in with the new. Just don’t ask me to bin my vintage dresses or the jumper my mother knitted when she was 16. I’m a sentimental minimalist, don’t you know?


Organising your kitchen cupboards will enable you to see what you have in your larder and prevent you buying more of the same. Keep your pasta, lentils, rice, flour and other dry goods in transparent jars or containers so you can see what you already have. While such products tend to have a long shelf life, it’s still a waste of both money and space to buy more than you need. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a large kitchen or utility room and, crucially, if you know you will use the product, buy in bulk. Large bags of rice and pulses cost a lot less in your local Asian store than smaller amounts in the supermarket. Organise your larder and save on waste and money.


The cry of “I’ve nothing to wear” is familiar to many and one that can result in a last-minute dash to the shops before a night out or an important meeting. By knowing what is in your wardrobe, knowing what suits you and what is in fashion, you can save money by making wiser and less frequent shopping decisions.

Assess what you already have. Look at the items you are discarding and ask yourself, why? Is the shape, style or colour unflattering? If so, avoid making similar, costly mistakes when you are next out shopping.

The old adage of you get what you pay for may mean a more costly initial outlay, but investing a little bit more in classic styles and good quality items means you are less likely to buy items that end up in the charity bag. Think about shopping for high fashion items in less-expensive shops while spending a bit more on versatile, classic pieces such as jeans, boots and coats.

Look after the clothes you have to prevent their deterioration. If it says hand wash on the label, hand wash it or, at the very least, use the hand-wash function on your washing machine. Check clothing labels before you buy – the cost of dry cleaning can add up. Try to avoid dry cleaning too often as it can be tough on your clothes – spot clean items when you can.


When shopping, get organised and use a list. Avoid making those short dashes to the shops – a trip for a loaf of bread invariably ends in more purchases. Stick to your list and leave the pesky kids at home – you’ll be more likely cajoled into extra unnecessary purchases such as Scooby-Doo DVDs and child-size gardening implements.

Shopping online can make things easier – you can search for the best deals and avoid impulse-buying through the use of favourites lists. Special offers, sale items, buy-one-get-one-free items are also listed distinctly.

When shopping for non-food items, organise your mindset – know what unnecessary items tempt you and avoid them. It might be cute things for the kids, yet another T-shirt, household knick-knacks or bargain books. Think of how many of these things you already own before buying more. Impulse-buying can be costly and wasteful. If you don’t have time to try it on, if you already have one (or several), if you don’t really need it, can borrow it or have no place to put it, chances are you should step away now. Bringing a limited supply of cash with you can also work.


Your mantra should be “I must pay my bills on time” or you may end up incurring late-payment charges or fines for non-payment. If you are having difficulty making your repayments you need to contact your utility provider as soon as possible.

Electric Ireland is keen to inform readers that the best course of action if you cannot meet your payments is to contact them at the first opportunity on 1850-372372. Last year saw a reduction in the number of people having their electricity supply disconnected and there are various strategies that can be put in place if there is difficulty meeting repayments, such as structured-payment plans and the installation of pay-as-you-go meters – Electric Ireland installed more than 11,000 in 2012.

The Irish television licence costs €160 per year, although those in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance or Benefit may be exempt. Those over the age of 70 are exempt and those over 66 and in receipt of a State pension with no one earning in the household may also be exempt.

Paying your bills in increments may seem old-fashioned but think of bills such as electricity – it is costly in winter, less so in summer. Paying the same amount off each week can mean less of a shock when winter rolls around and is less likely to leave you strapped at an expensive time of year.

Finally, delete your emails as you go along. If you come anywhere close to 12,000, start deleting immediately or it’ll cost you. You have been warned.

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