Sorry, savers: You're actually losing money on all that clutter. Here's why, plus how to address the problem.
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Do you find yourself keeping things you don’t need because you tell yourself you might use them one day? It’s a common misconception that holding on to those unused items will somehow save you money down the road, but the truth is your clutter is actually costing you money, right now and a lot of it. Statistics show that Americans spend $38 billion every year on self-storage units. Just think of all that cash that is being spent for items to simply sit in storage.

Woman organizing her clothes into baskets
Credit: Damian Lugowski/Getty Images

Even if you don’t rent a storage unit, your clutter is expensive. Storing unused items in your home costs roughly $10 per square foot. Of course, that cost depends on how much you pay for your residence; you can calculate your "clutter cost" by dividing your monthly rent or mortgage by the square footage of your home. That's how much you're paying for your space per square foot. Then, add up how much you're paying to house just your stuff.

Not only does clutter cost money, but it also costs you valuable time. The average American spends multiple days per year searching for missing items. This leads to spending money on replacing items simply because we can’t find them. Plus, one survey revealed that U.S. households collectively spend a whopping 2.7 billion dollars annually replacing lost items. By decluttering your home, you can save thousands of dollars each year, stop wasting time, and even reduce anxiety.

How to Start Decluttering

Now that you’re motivated to purge your home's clutter (and start saving money), where do you start? Clutter can be very overwhelming to tackle, but with the right techniques, you can quickly create a decluttered living space you love.

One of the most popular decluttering methods is the KonMari method by tidying expert Marie Kondo. Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Netflix series teaches you how to break down your tidying into categories instead of rooms. Rather than working room to room with various items scattered everywhere, gather up all of the same types of items and put them into a single pile. Why is this so effective? It gives you a visual of exactly how much of an item you really have. You’d be surprised just how many clothes, books, and kitchen appliances are hiding around you. Seeing that heaping pile of clothes that you never wear makes you realize what you truly need and don’t need.

Buy Organization Items After Decluttering

While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of decluttering and spend a bunch of money on organization items halfway through the process—don't. You need to know how much stuff you’re actually keeping before you buy storage. Another thing to keep in mind is the amount of money you plan to spend on organizing the items you do choose to keep. Search for the best bargain on storage products, even if that means hunting through dollar stores, to ensure your decluttering extravaganza doesn't result in an unnecessary spending spree.

Bags with Garage Sale and To Donate items
Credit: Marty Baldwin

Turn Clutter into Cash

One of the best things you can do to cut down on both mess and expenses is to turn your clutter into cash. Once you figure out which items can be donated or discarded, decide which of them are worth your time to sell. You can always try to sell everything, but you likely won't have much luck with low-value items. Donate or recycle these instead. The key is to get rid of unwanted items as quickly as possible—and stop wasting money storing it. So whether you choose to donate or sell, do it within a reasonable amount of time.

Luckily, it's never been easier to sell your unwanted items. Thanks to sites such as ThredUp, Poshmark, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and even Craigslist, you can quickly list your items and turn surplus items into funds. You’d be surprised at what some items turn out to be worth. A simple Google search for the brand name and product can steer you in the right direction for pricing.

The fastest way to make money and declutter your home? Have a yard sale. This allows you to sell all your items in one day. Whatever you don’t sell, pack it up and donate it. This way, you aren’t tempted to put it back in your house.

Save Money in Stealth Ways

By decluttering, you'll prevent spending money on wasted space and save money on the replacement of lost or missing items. Let’s say clutter costs you $100 every month to store; that’s $1,200 per year you can save. Getting organized also prevents you from misplacing paper bills and other important to-dos. Paying bills late can rack up hundreds of dollars in late fees every year, so carve out a dedicated space for your bills so you know exactly where they are and when they are due.

Remember: It takes time to sift through your clutter and transition into a tidier lifestyle. Stay on track with your decluttering goals by researching organizing ideas. Consider making a Pinterest board for inspiration or even a printed vision board to make decluttering fun. It might sound cheesy, but a little visual motivation can work wonders to help you envision your dream home and kick-start the decluttering needed to get there.

Comments (3)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
June 28, 2021
Although one must agree that paying for a storage unit to keep "stuff" is a significant expense and maybe a waste of money if it is ongoing, I cannot believe that you think you save money in an existing home by decluttering. You are paying for the space whether there is stuff sitting in it or it is empty. So it is particularly misleading to tell people that they save money by decluttering as is done in the section about saving $100'month adding up to saving $1200,year. The only way for decluttering to save money is if I sell the stuff or move to a smaller home because I no longer need the space (and the cost of moving would also need to be factored in to the savings). Better if you had stuck to the more likely benefits of l\ease of locating what you have, avoiding purchasing duplicates, and peace and calm engendered by organized spaces. Common sense need to be applied.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
May 25, 2021
good article I loved It so much
Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 24, 2021
I just saved by using some "clutter" I had stored away till a time that I was not working. Which has been this almost a year ago. I had some wallpaper purchased after moving into my house 30 years ago. Finally, since I am no longer working I have been able to use the wallpaper. Another example of clutter saved and used later were some of the gently used toys my son outgrew and my grandson was able to play with! I like to think intuitively if I would be using these items down the road. I stay away from Craigs List - heard too many bad experiences by others. I've done yard sales, but would not at this time because of the pandemic. I do have some things I plan to sell on Ebay.