The best time for teaching basic home economics is when children are young. Yet many of us reach adulthood lacking some of the essential skills for comfortable living. In a well-run household, people’s basic needs are taken care of, so that thoughts and conversations can dwell on higher things. When people experience a sense of calm and security in their homes, they can focus on their work better, and enjoy their leisure more completely. When a person embarks upon the adventure of living away from their parents, whether it’s because they got married, went off to college, found their dream job, or simply needed to “find themselves,” some challenges always arise. In order to wear that new-found freedom gracefully, one needs to attain competence in the realms of finances, cleanliness, and health.
People who become delinquent in paying their bills very often had the money to pay them, but they became disorganized. Keeping order in your financial life is essential to the smooth transition into adulthood. Some people become obsessed with increasing their income, not realizing that budgeting your money is far more essential to living within your means. Many millionaires fall into debt, while many poorer folk lead simple yet debt-free lives.
Managing finances effectively only requires a basic knowledge of addition and subtraction. But first things first: you need a place, such as a special drawer, where you keep unpaid bills and you need a place where you keep paid bills. Ideally you should keep a set of files separated by topic such as cable bills, utility bills, medical records, pay stubs, etc.
When money comes in, before you start withdrawing cash or buying the latest computer software, pay your bills in order of importance. Don’t delay. Always pay your bills first. Some people avoid the “pain” by refusing to know how much money they have compared with how much they spend. This bad habit needs to end immediately, to avoid lifetime enslavement to creditors. You may need good credit someday, if you ever plan to buy a home or car or have a serious emergency.
As soon as your paycheck clears, sit down and make your payments. Start with your rent or mortgage. Next, pay anything that charges a late fee such as credit card statements, and anything that is a legal requirement such as insurance. Utilities usually do not charge late fees but are essential to normal life so pay those next. After that, fill up your car’s gas tank. Now, check your balance: Do you have enough money left for food and supplies? If you cannot catch up in a month’s time, you need to find a cheaper place to live, get a roommate or find a second job, because you are not earning enough to survive.
Hopefully, you do have something left over, so whether it’s $15 or $150, that is your spending money. A single person can survive on amazingly little money, as long as they never leave home. Once they start going out, there is no limit to what they can spend on clothes, restaurants and entertainment. So, with the spending money you have left over after bills, stock up on groceries and whatever supplies you need to get by. If there is anything left after that, this is your money to do with what you like, whether it’s going to the mall or taking a weekend trip to the next Islamic conference. If you don’t have anything left after buying shampoo, stay home. It seems simple, but it’s not for many of us.
Many young people use their new freedom to stop picking up after themselves. However, living in disorder not only creates health hazards and invites mice, but the Prophet (s) advised us that even looking at filth is demoralizing. These are my basic priority guidelines for home cleanliness.
First, clean up anything that is considered filth in Islam: Feces and urine should be laundered with hot water, while blood or sexual excretions should be washed in cold water. Cleaning the toilet should be done as soon as it becomes necessary.
Second, clean up anything that smells bad: take out the garbage, launder rancid towels. Open all the windows at least once a day to let out the old cooking smells, smoke, and germs lingering in the air. If it’s winter, it’s best to air out the house when you leave, so you don’t freeze.
Third, clean up the clothes laying on the floor, hang up coats, fold blankets. Textile messes tend to take up a lot of space, and while not being hazardous, cleaning them up makes a big difference to the look of a room.
Fourth, pick up and put away or throw away whatever garbage or other objects remain on the floor, then vacuum and/or mop.
Fifth, clear off tabletops and dust them because the sight of clean surfaces calms the mind, and enables you to actually use the tables and counters. If you have a lot of time, it makes more sense to dust first and then clean the floors, but if time is an issue then clean floors are more important.
Many young adults express their new independence by ignoring their bodily needs. If you cannot be bothered to cook, at least eat a salad every day because living on bread and coffee alone will cause your health to deteriorate fast. Living within your means also means living within your energy level. You may have to place limits on yourself in order to stay strong enough to maintain your independence. Get enough sleep.
There are limits to freedom. Those who are able to limit themselves to what is halal – meaning, you can afford it and it is beneficial, will maximize their comfort in this life.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com