Clean Sweep

I'm a sucker for home improvement TV shows, especially the ones that focus on organization and de-cluttering. That's where I learned this important tip on organization: don't try to organize your clutter. Instead, move everything out to create a clean, clear, open space. Then go through everything you removed, sorting and evaluating what you want to keep. Next, bring things back into the room in an orderly manner.

In your mind's eye, picture your financial life as a big room that is filled with every aspect of your current financial situation: bills, debts, income, taxes, mortgage, savings, student loans, unemployment, retirement concerns — everything that you identify as part of your money life.

Using the “clean sweep” approach, empty that room. Haul everything out onto the lawn or somewhere far from your mind's view. Don't stop to ponder over stuff, just round it up and move it out.

Mentally, give that space a good “cleaning” or whatever it takes for you to be able to take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy the absence of financial noise.

It is against the backdrop of this fresh, clean slate that I want to offer you the 7 simple money rules in theory so you can grasp how they work and fit together, without interference from what may be going on with your finances at the moment.

We are going to do this one chapter, one rule at a time. I will explain the rule then tell you why the rule is integral to your life. I will include clear instructions, suggestions, and frequently asked questions for how to apply the rules to your life starting with your current financial situation. Think of this as an orderly way to move items back into the “cleaned room” of your personal finances. I can't promise an overnight transformation. But by facing the truth and applying the rules, change can begin right away.

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