The Cost of Clutter and Clever Organizing Tips That Save Money

Sorry, savers: You're actually losing money on all that clutter. Here's why, plus how to address the problem.

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. The truth is your clutter is actually costing you money, and a lot of it. Statistics show that Americans spend $38 billion every year on self-storage units. Just think of all that cash spent for items simply sitting in storage.

Woman organizing her clothes into baskets
Damian Lugowski/Getty Images

Your clutter is expensive even if you don't rent a storage unit. 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. 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, ( $8, Amazon), and the Netflix series, teach 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 things and put them into a single pile. Why is this so effective? It shows you exactly how much of an item you have. You'd be surprised just how many clothes, books, and kitchen appliances are hiding around you. Seeing that heaping pile of clothes 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 keeping before buying storage. Another thing to remember is the amount of money you plan to spend on organizing the items you choose to keep. Search for the best bargains on storage products. That may mean hunting through dollar stores to ensure your decluttering extravaganza doesn't result in an unnecessary spending spree and raise your clutter cost.

Turn Clutter into Cash

Bags with Garage Sale and To Donate items
Marty Baldwin

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 is worth your time to sell. Of course, you can always try to sell everything, but you likely won't have much luck with low-value items. So donate or recycle these instead. The key is to get rid of unwanted items as quickly as possible—and stop wasting money storing them. So whether you donate or sell, do it within a reasonable time.

Luckily, it's never been easier to sell your unwanted items. Thanks to sites such as ThredUpPoshmark, 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 things 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. Then, whatever you don't sell, pack it up and donate. This way, you aren't tempted to put it back in your house.

Save Money in Stealth Ways

By decluttering, you'll save on clutter cost by not spending money on wasted space, and you'll save money on the replacement of lost or missing items. Let's say clutter costs $100 monthly 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 late bills can rack up hundreds of dollars in late fees yearly. 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 a printed vision board to make decluttering fun. It might sound cheesy, but a little visual motivation can work wonders for helping you picture your dream home and kick-start the decluttering needed to get there.

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