You’ve probably noticed that some of us frugal folks are just naturally more clutter-y than others. In the range of frugal we have minimalists who are frugal by needing (and having) little, all the way to hoarders who show their frugality in the way the save (and hold onto) anything that might be useful.
Chance are you are somewhere in the middle, like me.
I’m not a minimalist. Nope, not me. I love stocking up and being prepared, which means…. stuff. But not too much stuff.
I like to hold onto things that I think will be useful so that I don’t have to spend money on them later (think baby clothes), but I also see the value in cleaning up and letting go and being free of unnecessary stuff.
Sometimes stuff is great. But too much stuff can be a problem. A take-over-your-life problem in some cases.
The implications can even be financial. Have you ever stopped to think about what clutter is costing you?
Yep, that stuff that you’re storing to save money might actually cost you money.
How does clutter cost you?
Let’s go through some of the scenarios where cutter means losing money. You might just be able to relate.
You can’t find what you need so you’re forced to buy multiples.
When you can’t find that really important thing that you need right now what do you end up doing? Chances are you’ll go out and buy another one. Re-buying items you already have wastes money and time (and “time is money”). You might think the cost is nominal, but when you have multiples of everything in your house, the cost really adds up. Plus, bringing more stuff into your house will perpetuate the clutter problem and clutter costs.
You’re paying late fees because your bills (or other time-sensitive things) get lost in the clutter.
Have you had to pay late fees for library books that you just couldn’t locate amidst all of your own junk? What about the car registration renewal that hid quietly under the pile of clutter on your desk? I’m not pointing fingers here, friends! Those last two examples are personal ones!
You’ve run out of space for stuff in your house, so you’re renting a storage unit.
The actual cost on this one is pretty easy to calculate. Whatever you are paying each month for your storage unit isn’t helping you pay off your debt or save for retirement. Sure, there are times and circumstances when you might need to have a storage unit temporarily, but if a storage unit is part of your long-term plan, you might want to closely evaluate the value of the stuff that you are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to keep each year.
You have valuable stuff that you don’t want or need.
Not all clutter is created equal. Some clutter is valuable, but not as clutter. If you have things that you’re not loving or using that could actually bring in money, then it’s time to cash them in. For example, I bought my husband a pair of new shoes (these, if you’re curious) for Christmas. They didn’t fit. We exchanged them for the next size, but they still didn’t fit right. For the past 7 months that box of new shoes has been cluttering our bedroom! I could return them to the online store where I bought them and just pay for shipping (I’d get about $80) or I could try selling them on Ebay where I could possibly make a little more. Until then, they are only cluttering our already limited space!
You are depressed or discouraged because you’re living in clutter.
That might sound like an emotional effect of clutter, but it is most definitely a financial cost as well. When you’re feeling down, you’re less likely to make good spending choices, less likely to set and achieve goals, and less likely to be motivated to improve your situation. (No authoritative study, just life experience and observation.) You clutter may lead to problems in other ares of your life that are directly or indirectly related to finances. The clutter around you might be keeping you from starting a profitable side business.
You avoid being home where you could be saving money.
In more extreme cases of clutter, you might avoid being at home. Even if you’re comfortable in your own space, you might eat at home less because your kitchen is overwhelming. Instead of inviting friends over, you go out. You can save lots of money by being a conscientious homemaker, but if you’re avoiding your home you miss out on those money-saving opportunities.
You buy stuff that immediately becomes clutter because it doesn’t have a place or a purpose.
The clutter itself is a cost of clutter that you might be overlooking. You paid money for all of the junk that is in your way and taking up space. If something is not being used or is still sitting in the shopping bag gathering dust, the cost of that item is a real cost of clutter. Even if the item was a great deal, if it becomes clutter, the money you spent turns out to be money wasted. It’s easy to think ahead and say “When I need XYZ I will be so glad I picked up this great deal. It’s going to save so much money!” when in reality you never end up using it and have to chalk it up as a loss.
If you saw yourself in some of those scenarios, don’t beat yourself up. There is hope! Instead of dwelling on the money that you’re wasting because of your clutter, start thinking of all the money that you’re going to save by decluttering! Better yet, set a goal for where to funnel your decluttering funds.
Last year, I listened to the audio version of the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While I did gain some insights and motivation, I wasn’t really sold on the whole philosophy. And I’m not just talking about doing origami clothes-folding or not having a seasonal wardrobe.
The number one reason I didn’t catch the Konmari magic– KIDS! When Marie Kondo wrote her book, I’m pretty certain she had not entered the messy world of motherhood yet. That is fine and still applies to many people, but not focusing on that aspect specifically made her book very unrelatable (even bordering on ridiculous in some cases) for me. My kids are professional clutter-ers. It’s literally their art. My older son sees usefulness in discarded items like it’s his job. He creates multiple projects daily. (Here’s a recent one!)
Also, I can’t really buy the idea of not every having to tidy up again. Maybe it depends on your personality or your past experience, but believing that you’ll never have to tidy again is a little far-fetched to me. Even if I had it all together, there are these little people (cute and lovable as they may be) that make certain the decluttering is a life-long, day-in and day-out journey.
I tried another approach recently that is a much better fit for people like me. Step-by-Step Decluttering by Sarah Mueller tackles both of the topics that I was struggling with after reading Konmari. Sarah realizes that cleaning up and getting rid of clutter isn’t a one-time event for most people. She presents a manageable strategy for normal people. As a mother of 4 boys, she also has great insights for decluttering with (and without) your kids’ help and input.
In fact, Step-by-Step Decluttering is included in the Conquer Your Clutter Bundle, a treasure trove of organizational resources. The Conquer Your Clutter Bundle is a bundle of 5 e-courses, 15 planners, and 18 e-books put together by the Ultimate Bundles Team. It’s packed with high quality resources, just like all of the Ultimate Bundles.
The bundle covers lots of areas that will help you get organized, including :
- Printable planners
- Meal planning
- Cleaning & chores
- Organizing papers and files
- Family organization
- Time management
Go check out all of the great resources that are included in the bundle to see if it’s a good fit for you! I think you’ll like what you see!
I’m on my way!
Right now we are living in my in-laws’ unfinished basement that has exactly zero closets. We are living among their storage and ours. Sadly, everything doesn’t have its place. It’s easy to just let clutter accumulate right now, even though our living quarters are small. Much of our stuff (books, pictures, decor, etc) is still stored in boxes since there isn’t room for it.
Part of me just wants to push through and endure the clutter and mess until we get our own place. The other part of me wants to get in the habit of regular decluttering so when we are in our own place, we won’t have to train ourselves (and our kids).
After listening to Step-by-Step Decluttering several months ago, I’ve been on a decluttering kick.
It feels so good! The more I do it, the more I want to do it. My penny-pinching self loves thinking about the ways that decluttering is saving money.
Oh, and time and sanity are pretty valuable too!
How about you?
- How has clutter cost you?
- How does decluttering save you money?
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