I was just reading an old post from Mr. Money Mustache in which he describes ironing his five-dollar bills and putting them in a photo album. Immediately I was paralyzed by a fit of laughter. I have a relative, who shall remain nameless, who also used to iron his/her dollar bills! I wondered for just a blip whether this story was true, but it has to be, because who would make that up? American currency does contain fabric content. Money, you so... crispy... Oh dear. I am undone. Let me see if I can write this without guffawing again. Can you be here with me? Can you be in a space where thinking about money gives you feelings of amusement and delight?
The great thing about money is that it's a symbol, whereas our problems are so darn specific. Here I have some money. What can I do with it? Can I use it to solve a plumbing problem? Yes. Can I use it to get some dinner? Yes. Can I use it to send a present to my friend? Yes. Can I use it to get help when I am stranded at the side of the road? Yes. Can I give it to charity? Yes! Whereas, all of these problems are more complicated without money. If you don't have money, you'd better have skills, and if you don't have skills OR money, you'd better be a pretty darn top-notch friend or be really good at wheedling. If you have a problem, and you don't have money and you don't know how to solve it yourself, then you probably still have the problem. Contrariwise, if you have skills and friends and you can do things by yourself, then you can keep your money, and you'll probably wind up with both more skills and more friends.
It's much more fun to be the SOLVER of other people's problems than to be the CAUSE of other people's problems, always needing them to bail you out.
You know what's fun? Anonymously sending money to your hard-up friend is fun. You know what else is fun? Sneaking over to the till in a restaurant and picking up someone else's check. Another fun and sneaky trick is to see someone who looks broke, go up behind them, and pretend to pick up money that "fell out of their pocket." "Excuse me, sir, I think you dropped this?" There are few facial expressions more full of surprise than the one when someone receives a surprise $20 bill. I stuck a twenty in a bag once for a homeless kid who asked me to buy him some cheese and crackers. He looked in the bag and did a triple take when he saw the money. Tee hee hee!
These are some uses of cash that are harder to do with digital transactions. If you slip some currency into someone's house surreptitiously, you have plausible deniability and no paper trail. They can't prove it was you. It's like reverse stealing. This is the kind of fun you can have when you know you have plenty for yourself and that you can always get more.
What does all this have to do with ironing your money? It depends on how you feel about ironing. My brother and I used to bicker over it when we were kids. We both enjoyed ironing, and when one of us would get the ironing board out, we would try to get the other to hand over whatever it was they were planning to press. "I'll do it for you." "No, no, that's okay." No, I insist! There is just something so satisfying about a freshly pressed shirt. I draw the line there; I wasn't the one who ironed my jeans, just saying! Ironing says intention. I planned it this way. I found every little wrinkle and smoothed it out. I took care over this job. I'm proud of what I have, whether that's my pants or my pelf. My slacks or my greenbacks. My duds or my ducats.
My brother who loved ironing always looks sharp; sharper than me anyway. He's still in his thirties and has already met with a retirement planner. Our unnamed relative who ironed money retired early, having opened a brokerage account while working as a bagger at a grocery store. This is what happens to you when you like ironing. How you do one thing is how you do everything.
(Or it can be, once it occurs to you that you can transfer your skills and focus from one area to other areas).
(If you're not sure what a brokerage account is, keep following me. I'll get to that in a future post).
Most people treat money with at least a certain amount of vagueness. Thinking about it too closely can lead to panic. Retirement? But I'm still in debt! I can't even get to ZERO! This is what happens when we avoid and resist. We get a muddle. The harder we try to avoid and resist, the bigger the muddle. Mental clarity is a major part of solving any persistent problem. Getting a solid mental grasp on reality is the only way to improve that reality. I see this with my clients all the time. They've got coins scattered all around the house, on the bathroom counter, on their dressers and nightstands, on the kitchen counters, in shopping bags and in their boxes labeled MISC. There is cash mixed in with unpaid bills, uncashed checks are mixed in with collections notices, expired coupons are mixed in with expired gift cards. When part of your clutter is made of actual money, there's a problem.
The first step is to choose one spot to respect your money. A jar? A shoebox? A fireproof safe? A big envelope? Gather all the coins and currency and checks and gift cards into one space as you turn them up. Go through your wallet and stack up all your bills so they are facing the same direction. Smallest denominations on top. That's how we do it in the cash register. The reason is that it makes it easier to tell how much you have at a glance. Eventually, you'll have a rough idea of your financial standing at all times, without having to check or give it much thought.
Peace of mind doesn't happen by itself. A cloud of vagueness and a faint intention to maybe think about something a few decades from now is not the same thing as peace of mind! Financial problems are completely incompatible with peace of mind. It means there's something wrong, an imbalance of energy exchange with the world. Financial problems also generally stop being your problem and drag in other people, turning your problems into their problems. Clarity with money can quickly turn into an action plan, and action plans can quickly turn into cash. Currency has magical powers. It can buy peace of mind for yourself and it can also buy peace of mind for others. Ironing your money may seem like a silly thing to do, but anecdotally, it's better to have your money under pressure than to feel pressured by money!
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.