Last year after living in my apartment for about a year, I decided to go through all the bins I had laying around and see if I could empty out one or two of them. I managed to empty out 4 bins and was able to get rid of a great deal of clutter that I had accumulated over the last 5 years or so. In the process I found all kinds of junk from manuals for equipment I no longer had; clothes I had not worn since high school; empty boxes; and several broken items. But buried under all that clutter I found things like old photo albums; mementos from memorable trips; books that I enjoy reading; and other items that I didn’t know I had that would be useful to me. But because they were covered in clutter, I couldn’t use them.

I realized this year as I was doing my annual closet cleanup that creating my life goals list served a similar purpose that cleaning does. It helps me to focus on what’s really important to me. For example, when I’m cleaning out my closet, I only kept thing that either served some kind of ulitarian purpose, such as nice clothes that still fit, or items that had some kind of very strong memory attached to them. I then either trashed or donated everything else. By creating my list, I’m now starting to do things like replacing mindless TV shows with sessions of running or practing on Guitar Hero. I’m also doing things like not spending money on eating out but saving instead for plane tickets to places on my list. Closet cleaning is also helping me literally with the list. I’ve found most of the picture frames I’ll need for Goal #93, which is hanging pictures of friends and family around the apt, just lying around in a bin. Once I pick out the pictures to put in them, I’ll be very close to finishing that goal.

Odds are, most everyone has some area in their living/work space that could use some cleaning. I suspect even neat freaks probably have some abandoned boxes in some musty corner of the attic somewhere. Here are some tips on how cleaning can help you achieve your life goals.

1. Find stuff to sell. Whether it’s items out of a large CD/DVD/book collection; electronics; antiques; or that old fur coat Aunt Betty gave you; odds are you have something that is worth selling. By using eBay, Craigslist, or a garage sale, you can get rid of your stuff and raise some cash to fund your goals.

2. Clean out your car. If you have a vehicle, getting rid of junk will reduce the weight the car has to move and subsequently improve your gas mileage. Better gas mileage=more money for your dreams.

3. Give stuff away to friends. While I was cleaning, I found a colorful scarf that was in very good condition but I never wore it. I put the scarf into a gift exchange and the friend who received it was very appreciative of it. Giving stuff to friends who can use them is a great way to build up relationships and can be useful if you need a favor from them later.

4. Donate stuff to charity. By doing this, you’re not only helping out other folks in need, but you may also get a tax deduction as well. This is what I end up doing with most of my stuff, since I don’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to sell stuff.

5. Recycle your stuff into art. If you have lots of old CDs, soda cans, wine bottles or really lots of anything, you can use your creative muscle and create something new and functional out of old items. You can then either reuse the new item in your place or sell it.

Go forth and get clean!