Did you know that it’s possible to make money from the contents of your rubbish bin? Yes, really.
Toilet roll innards, old tights, printer cartridges, wine corks and more can all be sold for cold, hard cash. So can used knickers actually, but I’ll save that story for another day.
Admittedly, we’re not talking big money from your pedal-bin cast-offs, no. For big money, you need to rummage round the somewhat less tea-bag-stained dumping areas around your home. The back of the cupboard, the mysterious boxes in the garage and loft, the top of the wardrobe and, most definitely, that messy drawer.
This is where you’ll find your pension.
Yes. Literally, your pension.
I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been talking a lot on TV and radio about the state pension age moving inexorably back as longevity increases and we selfishly refuse to shuffle off, become less of a burden on the taxpayer and enable millennials to afford more avocado on toast.
I’ve also mentioned the howls of disapproval that greeted my assertion that we have to take control and invest for our own futures if we’re ever to afford that fuel-injected Stannah Stairlift with alloy spoilers that we all secretly covet.
“We don’t have any money left over to invest,” is the usual wail. “Are you sure about that?” I reply, pointing to that drawer full of dead mobiles, defunct cameras and dust-collecting Ladybird books.
Because according to online classified ads website Gumtree.com, the average household has £2,500 worth of unused, unwanted stuff just hanging around, tripping us up, pointing and laughing at us for keeping it around, when it could be making us rich on a ‘for sale’ page.
I run a national ‘Clear Your Clutter Day’ every spring because I can see that just by dejunking our lives we can make ourselves richer and happier. In fact, a lot richer and a lot happier later on if we’re willing to put the proceeds into a retirement fund and let it grow.
I’ve worked out that if we all had a good old clear-out and put that £2,500 into a half-decent pension fund for 40 years, even at a conservative annual 6% growth it would add around £27,000 to our pension pot, giving us an extra £1,350 a year: enough for a rocket-powered Tesla stairlift with platinum spoilers.
Seriously, that £2,500 really would make a marked difference to our retirement fund. The size of the average pension pot right now is £50,000, according to pension provider Aegon, which means that that relatively small lump of cash from selling stuff you don’t even use could add another 50% to it if it’s left there for long enough.
The other advantage of decluttering with your golden years in mind is that it can be a way of saving money for retirement.
Think of it: if you do some really hardcore decluttering over a few years, it could mean you shift so much you’re able to downsize your home. Smaller properties mean smaller bills (usually) and fewer things around the place should mean less to mend, insure and generally spend on. Less is more when it comes to cool and stylish retirement living.
That’s probably the thinking behind a recent Northern European phenomenon called ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’. It sounds like a cross between ‘Extreme Ironing’ (Yes, that really is a thing. Google it.) and the latest Scandinavian TV murder mystery series. But Swedish Death Cleaning is actually a decluttering exercise. It’s done over time to reduce the sorting and organising needed once someone has kicked the bucket.
What a cheery thought and how unsurprising that the concept should come from a country with 18 hours of darkness a day in winter. To be fair to them, though, much of it is about chucking out items with negative connotations (your dreary teenage diary, the awful Cabbage Patch doll collection and the diet books that made you fat), while keeping the bits and pieces that make you happy.
After all, that’s what it’s all about. Even if we do manage to get that retirement fortune together, it won’t do so much good if we’re still hanging on to bundles of junk that are getting us down. Make money for fun, not frippery, and you’ll have a fighting chance of staying fit and feisty.
Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.