The High Cost of Clutter: 7 surprising ways it’s affecting your life

high cost of clutter

There is a hidden cost to our clutter and you might be surprised to learn that it is not just about money. In fact, clutter is affecting all parts of your life!

What exactly is the high cost of clutter and owning so much stuff?

7 ways clutter is costing you

1. Money

The high cost of clutter on our money…

  • Having to repurchase an item you already own because you can’t find where you put it is a huge expense. Every year, over $2.7 billion is spent replacing misplaced possessions. That’s an awful lot of money!
  • Cost of purchasing storage systems to deal with the clutter. Our possessions need to be kept somewhere and usually this means purchasing boxes or tubs, shelving units and cabinets in which to store them. All of this adds to the cost of our clutter.
  • Cost of external storage units to keep the overflow in. Once our possessions have outgrown the space in our homes, many of us are renting external storage units in which to keep these items.
  • High removal costs to relocate. When it comes time to move, the cost of this is based upon the number of boxes needing to be relocated. Having less items will mean less removal expense.
  • Late fees for bills. Being disorganized and forgetting to pay a bill because we have lost the paperwork for it, can add costs with late fees and dishonour payments being added to the amount due. A Redbook Magazine survey found that: Being disorganized has caused 45% of respondents to be late paying a bill.
  • Cost of the actual items themselves. If you didn’t really need something, had a similar one at home and did not have anywhere to keep it, it was money spent needlessly.

2. Time

The high cost of clutter on our time…

  • Looking for lost items. When you know that you have the exact thing you need somewhere, but have absolutely no idea where that somewhere might be, looking for it costs you time. A study has found that this adds up to more than 2 full days per year. TV remotes, phones, car keys, glasses and wallets top the list of misplaced belongings.
  • Looking after it. Belongings need to be sorted and stored appropriately in order to avoid the cost of time spent looking for them. Doing this creates another time cost. Unfortunately this is not a one-off event either, our possessions must be continually managed so that they don’t get out of control.
  • Too many decisions. An overstuffed closet for example, makes choosing an outfit for the day a very difficult task. Too many choices can make it much harder to get ready in the morning than having fewer choices will. The sheer amount of clothes can also make it very difficult to find the item you really want.

All of these things slow down our productivity and make our lives more difficult than they need to be.

3. Energy

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The high cost of clutter on our energy…

  • Tidying up before cleaning. Clutter costs us energy in cleaning because in order to clean the floor or any surface, we must first move the items from those areas, clean that surface and then move the items back. Wiping down the countertops and vacuuming the floor all require a tidy surface before the task can begin. Clutter makes this more difficult than it needs to be.
  • Dusting items. Having many items on surfaces means that not only is it harder to dust the surface, all of those items will need dusting as well.

4. Loss of living space

The high cost of clutter on our space…

  • Unable to park the car in the garage. One fascinating University of California Los Angeles study of middle-class American families found that three in four garages are so packed with stuff that there is no room for a vehicle.
  • Unable to use certain rooms in the home. One in seven Americans have a room in their home they cannot use because it is filled with things they rarely use, a ClearVoice survey has found.

5. Mental health and wellbeing

Clutter problems led to a significant decrease in satisfaction with life among older adults.

The high cost of clutter on our mental health…

  • Anxiety. Clutter can result in feelings of unmet expectations. The books you haven’t read or the crafts you haven’t finished, just sitting there waiting for you to one day find the time to get around to them, can feel like a weight on your shoulders.
  • Embarrassment. Having people over to visit can be very difficult when you have a lot of clutter. You feel ashamed of your home and the mess within it.
  • Stress. Misplacing an important item such as car keys or wallet causes unnecessary stress. These items are usually lost when we are already late.
  • Overwhelm. People with large amounts of clutter report being so overwhelmed by it that they are unable to function normally in any aspect of their lives.

6. Physical health and wellbeing

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The high cost of clutter on our physical health…

  • Unhealthy food choices. 44% of Americans say they make unhealthier food choices when their home is messy, The SpareFoot Holiday and New Years Survey found.
  • Trips and falls. This can be more true for the elderly, but a cluttered home makes it much easier to stumble and injure yourself in the simple act of moving about your home.

7. Relationships

  • Arguments. When one partner likes to keep everything and the other partner does not, it can cause significant friction within the relationship.

What is causing our clutter problems?

1. We have so much stuff we lose items in the clutter
2. We don’t have a logical place to keep our belongings
3. We don’t put things back where they belong

How can we reduce the high cost of clutter?

The first step has to be reducing the amount of stuff that we own.

For more information on how to do this, check out this post here.

The second step is to determine a suitable place to store each item we do own.

When you have a decluttered home, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

This means that if you have to grab something at the last minute before you head out the door, you can simply nip over, pick it up and head off.

A pair of reading glasses sitting on the kitchen counter will be easy to find if they are the only thing sitting there. On the other hand, if they are just another thing amongst the jumble of papers, dishes, pens, pencils and other assorted clutter, they might easily be overlooked.

It will take time to remove the clutter that is helping to hide the important things you need, but it will be time well spent. Think about all of the time you will save in not having to hunt for your car keys to go to work in the morning, not to forget the stress and frustration you will save as well.

Identify a logical place for all items in the home.

When we don’t have a logical place to store our belongings such as car keys, wallet or phone we can easily put them down on the first available surface and then have no idea where that was.

Similarly, not having a designated home for all items from spare toothbrushes to craft supplies, will mean that it is hard to find something when it is needed.

What do we do after we have identified homes for our items?

Of course, once these logical places have been identified, it is important that the item is always put back there once it has been used.

There is no point in saying that we keep the TV remote on the coffee table if that is not where we put it. It doesn’t help to look in our bag for the keys if we left them lying around on the bench in the kitchen.

Make a commitment to always put things back where they belong immediately. It will take a while to develop this into a habit but once you do, you will find that life becomes a lot less stressful at those important, busy moments.

Of course, there will always be times when things just haven’t gone to plan and you have put something down somewhere, walked off and then completely forgotten where that somewhere was.

These things happen, but if we take some time to declutter, find homes for our belongings and ensure we put items where they belong, we can stop this becoming too much of an issue.

Given that there are at least 7 ways clutter costs us and we only use approximately 20% of all of our possessions anyway, there isn’t a better time to do something about it.