Simple Savings Newsletter - February 2020

How are you going this month?

In February we are focusing on de-cluttering. It is my husbands favourite month. I like to collect and hoard, he likes to throw things out. This month, we will be working together to make our home a nicer place. (Don't ask what happens other months!)

We have good news about our Leg Up program. It is now officially up and running. Here are some of the stories from people we have been able to help by giving them a Vault Membership so far:-

"I had unplanned twins in 2019 and now need all the $ help I can. (They are cute though)"

"I'd love a leg up subscription please!! I was a vault member a few years ago and loved all the info and the community. Had to stop working and become full time carer to my youngest son (special needs) while he is undergoing chemo. Just had to cut out the extras I'm afraid."

"I'm in need of financial assistance as I'm going through a very difficult time currently (messy divorce) that is financially crippling myself and my children."

In case this is the first time you have heard about our Leg Up Program, from now on for every full price Vault Membership purchased we are giving one away to someone who could do with a helping hand. If you would like to apply to the Leg Up program, click here.

And, if you are interested in decluttering, keep reading.

All the best


Challenges: De-cluttering month

This month we want you to read through the newsletter, take a look around your house and set yourself some challenges. You can choose from the calendar challenges below or set your own.

The calendar challenges for this month are:

  • Easy: Find new homes for 50 items
  • Medium: Find new homes for 200 items
  • Difficult: Find new homes for 1000 items

Read through this newsletter, have a look around your house and decide, what will your decluttering challenge be?

Guide on how to de-clutter from someone who hates de-cluttering

This is an "If I can do it, so can you" kind of guide.

Some people love cleaning, they really enjoy it. That person is not me. It will never be me. I doubt there is anything anyone can do to get me to enjoy cleaning or decluttering. But I enjoy the results. I like it when the kitchen is clean, I like it when I can find things in the garage and I like how it makes life easier.

If you like collecting things and hate throwing them out, if cleaning is something you usually have on the bottom of your to do list, then this is the decluttering guide for you.

The first step will be examining your house

The next, working out how decluttering could help you

Then making a plan

And, choose your challenges

Let's begin..

What parts of your home annoy you?

If everything is absolutely fantastic about your house and your life. If you have all the free time you need to do all the things you want, stop reading now. But, if there are days that you can't find the lid for a container, you can't remember what you own, your time is being wasted and the space in your home is being hogged by things you never use. Then it is time to turn those annoyances into a plan.

Grab a few sheets of paper and at the top of each page write down the name of each room, such as kitchen, kids bedroom, parents bedroom, hallway etc.

Then take a stroll through each room and make a list of things that bug you. They don't have to be enormous things. It could be a paint chip, a mess on the floor, a cupboard too full to be useful or kids always leave their shoes in that spot..

Another way to look at it. Write down all the things you would change about your house if you had $5,000 to spend and unlimited labour.

It could be things such as messy bookshelf, sad furniture, paint is tired, walls are dirty, screens need a wipe, unorganised, larger verandah, don't know what is in the garage, laundry pile is a midden, anything that is holding you back from enjoying your home.

The reason I want you to write those things down is because later that list is going to form the backbone of your plan. But, before we go there. Ask yourself the question...

What is your stuff costing you?

This is a really important question, because everything has a cost. The sooner you work out that cost, the sooner you can decide whether or you would like to keep paying the price. To work out the costs some questions to ask yourself are:-

  • Is your stuff holding you back?
  • What is it your clutter is stopping you from enjoying?
  • Is it costing you a tidy house?
  • Is it causing you to buy things you don't need?
  • Is it wasting your time?
  • Is it causing you to lose time?
  • Is it stopping you from enjoying your home?
  • Are you having to pay cash for storage?
  • Could you rent out a room if you cleared away?
  • When was the last time you used things you have stored?
  • Is it costing you brain space?

NOTE: If you have any suggestions for other ways clutter creates costs. Come share them in this month's challenge Vault thread.

Have a think about the costs and and write down what you will be losing if you allow your life and house to remain the way it is.

After you have written it down, think about the next question.

What is in it for me?

This is a really important question. Why should you stop doing something else you probably love and make time to declutter. I want you to think about the list of annoyances you have made of your house and how changing the things on that list will improve your life.

  • Will it make you feel happier?
  • Will it free up your time?
  • Will it make you more content?
  • Will it give you more space?
  • Will it help your budget?
  • Will it give you more control of your life?
  • Will it save you money?

Think about it and write down three ways improving your home will improve your life.

Getting the most bang for your buck

Going through your whole house has probably given you a long and very daunting list of annoyances that would take years to change. I doubt anyone can get through that list in one month and keep their sanity.

The good news is you don't have to do everything on your list, you only need to do a few things. But which things? Which things are going to get you the largest rewards for the least effort?

To find this out, I want you to sort through your list and rate each item on the list from 1 to 10. 1 being the easiest to do and biggest reward and 10 is the hardest to achieve and least impact.

For example, helping my boys sort their clothes is easy to do and it will reduce the time it takes them to get ready in the morning. So, it is high on my list. Let's say one.

Cleaning the entire garage will take some time, but it is affordable and being able to place my hand on the thing I need in ten seconds, would be heavenly. So this gets a 2.

Getting rid of the awful furnishings in our laundry that we don't really use and probably should have been thrown years ago. Isn't that hard to do and will make me feel good. But, I may need replacement furniture. It is a three.

Stripping and painting cornices in the lounge room. Is too difficult to do this month, but I'll feel so much better after they are done. So, it is getting a five.

Stripping and painting the cornices in the bathroom is easier. It got a 3.

New lino throughout the house is a dream of mine, but costly, difficult and it won't change the way our home functions. So, it gets a nine.

This ranked list is the start of your plan.

On a separate piece of paper write down everything you gave a 1 or a 2.

This is now your 'Improve your home, Improve your life' to do list.

Manageable chunks

The next step is to break any of the big items on that list to digestible two hour chunks.

For example, cleaning the garage is a big job and the idea of doing it all at once does my head in. So instead I have broken it into two-hour chunks such as:

  • Sort camping gear
  • Sort tools
  • Sort wood stash
  • Sort junk in corner

You get the idea.

Choose your challenge

Once you have read the newsletter it is time to choose your challenge. Will you gently dip your toe in and do an easy challenge or try something harder? I've chosen to challenge myself with 8 two hour decluttering/house improvement sessions.

What will your challenge be?

Help, Support and Guidance

If you would like more ideas and people to talk with about decluttering. Join in Claires' Monthly Challenge thread. This is where Vault members support each other on their challenge. If you can't afford a Vault membership at this time, apply to our Leg Up program.

Extra inspiration from the forum

Members have been helping each other declutter for years. Here are some information-crammed threads to help you declutter:

2008 July: Decluttering Month

2009 - War on Debt: Nov - Decluttering Month

War on Debt 2010 - September: 100 Item Challenge

2014 - Calendar Challenge - September - Declutter

2018 October - CHUCK OR FLOG - SS Calendar Challenge

2019 July - CHUNK OR FLOG - SS Calendar Challenge

Kon Mari method of decluttering #1

Competition: Cook's Challenge

Often decluttering our pantry or fridge involves throwing out a big pile of food. This is pretty wasteful. Instead, I'm giving you a challenge to grab some ingredients out of your pantry, fridge, freezer or yard which you would not normally cook with or eat, and turn them into something special.

This month we are giving away 2 x $50 prizes to the best creations.

To enter the competition send the story of your food with before and after photos to by 23rd February.

Decluttering tips from the Vault

The Vault is filled with 20,000+ money saving tips. Here are some to help you declutter your home. If you would like to read more tips from the Vault, buy a membership for $21 or apply to our Leg Up program.

Get decluttering help from a 'friend'

I have found the cheapest and easiest way to declutter is to enlist the help of a friend - an imaginary one, that is! Sometimes when cleaning out your wardrobe, it's easier to let a friend help - particularly if that friend is very honest and harsh at culling old clothes. While clothes aren't a problem for me, I have a huge collection of CD's, books and DVD's and was finding it really hard to part with them! Books especially were a problem - I couldn't bring myself to let them go, even though I knew I would probably never read them again.

So I decided to pretend I was someone other than myself! Sounds silly? Maybe - but it allowed me to detach myself enough from the emotional side of me that wanted to keep all the books. In doing that, I was very fast (not giving myself time to think) and went a lot on intuition. I threw out over 200 books! I then closed the door, rang my friends, told them there were a heap of books on the floor in my office and they would be there till 5pm if anyone wanted any. Any that remained I then took up to the Salvation Army at 5pm, so I was not tempted to go through the pile later in the evening. It's definitely been the most successful decluttering method I have ever had!

Contributed by: CC

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Save the important things in life

I live in an area that was recently hit by floods. While we rushed to try to save everything from the water, I was amazed as to how much 'stuff' we had that we just didn't need. Being surrounded by all these items actually made saving the 'important' stuff so much harder. I thought I had already decluttered my home, but I was wrong. The flood has made my whole family more aware of how we accumulate 'things' through our lives - some of which are important and others which are not. As people we tend to hold onto things that we 'might use one day'. I found, however, that it was these items that just got in the way in an emergency. When disaster strikes you need to be able to save your family, then if you have time, the important 'things' in your life. In the coming weeks, we will be having a massive garage sale to clean out our home and sheds and we won't be keeping anything that has not been used in the past two years. Not only will we be able to clear out the unused, non-essential things, we'll also be able to make some money to replace some of the important items that we lost in the flood. Decluttering for me came in the form of a flood - don't wait for Mother Nature to help, she'll only make it harder. Be proactive and start sorting the things that really matter from the things that don't.

Contributed by: Ros Plunkett

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Tears turn to triumph for happy declutterer

My new love of decluttering has finally got me on the road to a house deposit! For years I have had a budget and was very money conscious but still couldn't control my spending habits. I felt as though I had tried a million different things to stop impulsive purchases but hated not getting what I wanted. This led me into frustration and a hate towards everything involving money.

I finally found the answer when my partner expressed his concern with our lack of wardrobe space in comparison to the rate of growth of my wardrobe items. He made a rule that if one thing was to come in, I also had to take out one thing to donate. I had a rocky start and there were many tears but once I decided on a couple of items I seemed more inclined to get rid of more and more and I continued on to declutter ALL my possessions. Going through each item in my house I got rid of a lot of things but before I tossed them out, I first laid them out on my bed and just thought about how much money I had thrown away. How many hours had I had to work to pay for all these things that I didn't even love?

It hit me hard that I had blown all this money on impulse purchases and trends that I got over very quickly. Hundreds of hours of hard work, for me to essentially throw my money in the bin. I printed all my banking transactions for the 12 months prior to my breakthrough and highlighted all my purchases that I probably could have gone without. It all added up to over $8000, over 300 hours of hard work, the cost of my first two cars!

Now when I see something I want to buy, I stop and think back to how much money I've wasted already. And I can feel content in my decision not to purchase. I love fashion, I love shoes and I love bags. But I LOVE my new found freedom and the control over my finances that decluttering has given me even more!

Contributed by: Jaymee Hams

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Toolshed a goldmine for scrap metal

While recently decluttering my husband's tool shed, we were amazed to find he was harbouring a small goldmine! The shed was overflowing with stuff that he didn't use but said he could not do without. After a quick tidy up he discovered he had two or three boxes of wire and cable from a previous job. He took all the unwanted cable off to the scrap metal yard and was handed $101.30 for his trouble. We got paid $1.30 a kilo for stuff that was doing nothing but taking up much needed space! Apparently, they strip the copper out of the wire and then sell it to other companies. So, take a good look at what unwanted items are cluttering up your tool shed - you too could be harbouring a nice little earner!

Contributed by: Mrs J

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Audit your medicine cupboard

Auditing my medicine cabinet stops me from buying unnecessary products. I decided to check the expiry date of all the medications in my medicine cabinet and do some decluttering while I was at it.

To my horror, some prescription medicines had been in there for so long I didn't remember what they had been prescribed for in the first place. As I removed these products, I thought about how much money had been wasted on these expired medicines. Some had cost over $40, so there was literally hundreds of dollars worth of useless medicines clogging up my cupboard.

To avoid further wastage, I wrote up a list of all the still-valid medications along with their expiry dates. I now carry this list around with me and when the doctor recommends certain medications, I can check the list before I head to the chemist and see if we already have that medication at home. This list will also ensure that I can keep track of staple non-prescription medications, such as Nurofen or Infant Panadol. There is nothing worse than having a sick child in need of Panadol late on a Sunday night when the pharmacy is closed!

As you can see, taking 10 minutes to check the medicine cupboard at home will not only benefit your health, but also your bank balance!

Editor's note: All medicines should be safely disposed of by taking them to your local chemist.

Contributed by: Jackel

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Makeover your property without spending a fortune

It doesn't have to cost a fortune to give a property a real makeover. I can recommend the following:

  • Set aside $10,000 or so for renovating the bathroom/kitchen. Many houses are sold with dodgy old bathrooms or kitchens. Of course, if you find a house without this problem, you'll still have this money set aside to use on other things!
  • When we bought our property, the gas hot water system was 25 years old. Because of the money we had set aside as above, we could buy a solar hot water system for about $3,000 (no solar rebates at the time).
  • Paint is the cheapest facelift.
  • I have never met anyone who was satisfied with the job done by a professional painter. A careful amateur can do the job very well. Borrow a home handyman book from the library and all it will cost you is for the paint, sugar soap and equipment. Take it slowly and a room at a time.
  • Decluttering before you move makes it cheaper.
  • A few good possessions (instead of quantities of junky knick-knacks) will make the space look bigger, even if it's not!
  • Take the time to research the history/period of your house so that your decorating is well-informed.
  • Do up the front of your house last. An expensive 'look' encourages thieves.

Contributed by: Ellen Hrebeniuk

(Vault members are discussing this hint here.)

Sell your unwanted stuff and achieve your dreams!

Simple Savings and Gumtree have changed my life! Whilst at uni as a mature age student, my then partner (now husband) and I bought our first home together. Although excited, I was also slightly terrified. I was a full time student commuting to a university two hours from home using public transport and now we had a mortgage!

This is when I found Simple Savings and started to use as many hints as I could. I also implemented everything my grandmother had either taught me or I had seen growing up. We started a vegetable garden, we collected rain water, we sold plants on Gumtree and everything we did helped us to live a comfortable life. The best thing I did was follow the advice from a uni friend and join Gumtree. It's been almost four years since I graduated and we have decluttered our home, been to Bali FIVE times on what we have earned in sales and are heading off to Bali again in November whilst I'm currently selling items to fund that trip too! It's the best thing we've done; some people find it time consuming but I've made it a part of our life. I love seeing someone getting an item that is of use to them rather than it ending up in landfill and we have a spacious, clean clutter-free home as a result!

Contributed by: Loz

There are plenty more decluttering tips in the Vault.

Kon Marie Method

In this newsletter we have talked about my methods of decluttering. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the god of decluttering: Kon Marie. Many of our members have been following Kon Marie's methods for some time and Beth is the best person to explain Kon Marie's genius to you.

Keep only what brings you joy

I am saving more than ever before thanks to a brilliant book which has helped me declutter and totally review my spending and shopping habits. I am using the KonMari method of tidying. The author gets us to review what we own, picking up every item and thinking about whether it 'sparks joy'. If it does, we can keep it, but it must have a place, a home where it lives. If it doesn't, then get rid of it.

She recommends that you learn how to do this by starting with your clothes. Find every top (excluding hanging blouses at this stage) that you own in the whole house and work out which ones 'spark joy', get rid of the others, then stack the kept ones nicely in one or two shelves or drawers (one for summer tops, one for winter tops).

Then do the same for all your 'bottoms' (trousers, jeans and so on). Try them on. If they don't fit nicely, donate them or chuck them.

Next is all your hanging space including every coat you've stored somewhere around the house, then socks, then underwear, then handbags, then extras (scarves, belts, hats), then special items like swimwear or ski gear (I think I did my pyjamas at this point because I had them stored with my swimmers), and lastly shoes.

Take your time, but be thorough as you process each category. By the time you have finished your clothing, you'll have a new sense about just how much money you waste on impulse buying. It becomes embarrassing to think about how much money you didn't need to spend, how much we get fooled into thinking something is right for us, but then we never wear it.

After that, she recommends searching the house for all the books you have. Some of us have way too many, but I have found that I can have sections of my house for the different types of books, and as I go through them, there are quite a few that get discarded along the way. Most have just gone straight into the recycling bin, as unless a book is less than three years old, or an absolute classic, even op shops can't sell them.

While you are hunting through the house, you'll find other stashes of things which embarrass the heck out of you. For me, I had to get a great big plastic storage bin and as I stumble across face creams, deodorants, shampoos and makeup, it all goes in the bin. I'm not trying to sort them yet, but it is obvious that when I finally get to that category, it is going to be much easier to sort through them and think honestly about which ones still 'spark joy' and which ones are so old that I'd never want them on my skin.

I will stop writing this novel at this point but if you have read this far and are still interested, please find 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying' by Marie Kondo, a young Japanese lady. There's also a second book applying the philosophy, entitled "Spark Joy".

Since I started on the process, my spending has dropped dramatically. I can suddenly see how many magazines I have bought and never read, how many items are in my pantry waiting for me to apply the $21 Challenge to make them into scrumptious healthy meals, how many art supplies I have bought and hidden in various cupboards around the house, how many jumpers I really didn't need...

I feel clearer, healthier, happier and richer in so many ways. I am so thankful that I stumbled on these books. Slowly the word spreads as my sister and friends become affected by my enthusiasm and start working through their cupboards as well. Life changing stuff!

Contributed by: Beth T

Competition Winners: What is your best water-saving tip?

Choosing the best water saving tips for this month's competition was a real challenge. I love reading everyone's stories and learning something new for each and everyone. This month's winners are Carmela B, Lorraine S, Margaret M, Susan T and Jane T. Each won $20.

If you missed out on this month's prizes, we are giving away two $50 prizes this month. The information is above.

The never ending water can

Keep a watering-can outside the backyard door.

  • If you empty the kettle every morning to refill it with fresh water. Empty the kettle into the watering-can.
  • If you boil eggs in a pot.When the water cools, empty the pot into the watering-can.
  • If someone leaves a glass of water from, say, the night before; empty the glass into the watering-can.

You'll be surprised how this so-called 'waste-water' piles up. You'll never have an empty watering-can. It beats throwing the water down the sink!

By having the watering-can just outside the backyard door, you won't get put off by having to go out far on a cold winter's morning.

You can power the planet on waste!

Contributed by: Carmela B

Catching the overflow from your hot water tank

Did you know that hot water systems automatically expel water from their overflow pipe. We questioned the plumber who installed the unit only to be told to read the unit information about our hot water system and we found that many, if not all tanks, pass out lots of water as a natural process. We have now removed our outlet pipe from the invisible system where the water just disappeared down the drain and we catch the water in an ice cream tub and put it on a rose tree which is close to the tank. We have been amazed at just how much water we are recycling.

Contributed by: Lorraine S

Living in a camper

We live in a slide-on camper travelling Australia so we use water frugally.

Just some of the many things we do:

  • I make my own sprouts and the rinsing water is used for cooking potatoes, rice, dried legumes, soup base, etc.
  • We don't shower every day and when we do we heat water in an old 10litre saucepan, that showers both of us easily.
  • Dirty dishes get wiped off with cut up old clothing rags, before washing, so less water is needed.
  • A spray bottle with a bit of detergent, sprayed onto non-greasy plates etc and then wiped with a rag works wonders.

Contributed by: Margaret M

Stretching every drop

We live on a property with no connection to town water and are completely dependent on tanks for our domestic water supply. I learned very quickly that there's nothing like watching the water level drop below half to make you aware of water usage! Because of this, we've always been careful with how much water we use, but after no rain for six weeks this summer I've started to get creative in how we reuse water.

My very handy hubby plumbed in a grey water system made of an old plastic drum for our washing machine (which only runs full loads on water saving cycle) and he's diverted the water from our bath/shower and basin through a pipe directly onto the lawn (check with council before you do this, in town grey water must be treated or bucketed out).

Inside, I leave the plug in the basin so my small daughters only use one sink of water to wash their hands all day and their very shallow bath water is used to clean the worst of the farm grime before we shower. Rinsing toothbrushes provides enough water to clean the basin at the end of the day.

My newest (and simplest) change is a 4L icecream container in the kitchen sink. It catches water from washing hands, rinsing cloths or cooking utensils, etc, and I then tip it into a 20L bucket to go on the garden. Some days I can fill the bucket 2 or 3 times! And all that water was running down the sink… Just seeing the wastage makes it so much easier to curtail.

Contributed by: Susan T

Sucking water from the air

With the recent bushfires near us, we have noticed a significant increase of wildlife, particularly birds, in our garden. It took a little while to realize they were increasing in numbers, and in need of water.

Our bird bath is filled by rain under normal weather patterns and takes around a whole good sized watering can of fresh water to fill it. I cannot justify filling it from the tap each time because of the cost and the drought.

However since dehumidifying our bedroom each day, we have a 10 litre bucket of water every 2 days, which we now use to fill the bird bath. We get a good sleep, and they get their thirst quenched. On the days when rain is available, we save the bucket water to pour into the watering can.

Contributed by: Jane T

Til next time...

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter and if you know someone you think could do with a Vault membership, encourage them to apply to our Leg Up program.

If you have anything you would like to say or ask us please write to

All the best,