What is Your Clutter Costing You?

dreamstime_xs_30424420You know you have clutter. We all do, in one form or another, and to varying degrees. But have you ever thought about what it is costing you? Sometimes the cost is obvious, such as late fees incurred for an overdue bill that was lost in a mystery pile of paper, or that you couldn’t find the time to pay. Other times the cost is mental or emotional, such as the embarrassment of having others see your cluttered space. Or, missed opportunities. Or, time you could have spent doing something else.

The cost of clutter can be financial, mental, or emotional. Can you afford NOT to get organized? Click To Tweet

Why do I care so much about clutter? And about helping people to declutter? Well, here’s what I believe:

  • Clutter is anything that stands in the way of the life you want to live.
  • Clutter takes many forms. Little things like paper; big things like furniture; negative thoughts; unfulfilling activities.
  • Clutter weighs us down. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
  • Everyone deserves to feel lighter. My egret-taking-flight logo represents the freedom of rising above clutter!
  • Organizing skills can be taught. But not every organizing system works for everybody.
  • Less clutter in your home, office, schedule and mind means more room for the life you really want. Less clutter. More life.

If this is what you believe, too, then we’re on the same page! Keep reading for some examples of the cost of clutter…and what to do about it.

Money

PROBLEM: Bills not paid on time or in full; taxes not filed. COST: Late fees, penalties, finance charges, missed deductions, stress, family conflict. SOLUTION: Clear cash flow clutter; set up a bill paying system; schedule time to deal with money. (I deal with mine on Money Mondays).

PROBLEM: Actual money lost in piles of clutter. COST: The $$ value of loose change, un-cashed checks, unused gift cards, and hidden/forgotten cash. (I love when it’s more than enough to pay for our organizing session together!) SOLUTION: Get organized; use Coinstar at the grocery store or similar machine at your bank. (There’s no fee if you choose the gift card option!)

Stuff

PROBLEM: Can’t find your stuff. (My favorite part of any session is when the client exclaims, “Oh, I’ve been looking for that!”) COST: Lost time looking for lost items; not being able to use them meanwhile; forgetting what you have; having to buy duplicates; lost valuables & heirlooms; expired food; unread magazines; stress and embarrassment. SOLUTION: Establish homes for everything; create S.P.A.C.E. and systems for keeping clutter at a minimum and knowing where your stuff is.

Paper

PROBLEM: Can’t find important papers lost in a mystery pile; can’t find bills & receipts for returns and taxes. COST: Missed business opportunities and social occasions; missed claim filing deadlines; wasted discounts and rebates; late homework and projects. SOLUTION: Think about the flow of paper through your home or business; sort mail daily into an action file; create and use a simple filing system; remember the 80/20 Rule.

PROBLEM: Too many To Do lists & calendars (or none at all). COST: Forgetting to do stuff; missing meetings and appointments (plus some doctors and services charge a fee). SOLUTION: Keep a Master To-Do List from which you choose only 5 daily tasks; schedule your To-Dos; leave some slack in your day.

People

PROBLEM: Living in C.H.A.O.S. (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). COST: Embarrassment, anxiety, isolation, depression, family conflict, relationships, mental health care costs. SOLUTION: Get organized; create systems; routines & checklists; ask for help if you need it. 

PROBLEM: Wasting time on the job (due to clutter). COST: $5K/yr lost productivity (assuming $20/hr and 1 hr/day lost looking for things); not promoted, maybe fired. SOLUTION: For employee, get organized. For employer, help employee get organized.

PROBLEM: Doing everything yourself. COST: Time & energy; whatever else you could have accomplished during that time; financial implications. SOLUTION: Delegating or hiring out tasks frees you up for doing things you enjoy more, or are better suited for. (Examples: bookkeeping, admin, housework, yard work)

Space

PROBLEM: Can’t use space as intended (due to clutter). COST: Storage space square footage = % of home or office monthly rent or mortgage, damaged items, repairs to home, safety & health hazards, eating out, offsite storage unit costs, difficulty cleaning, expensive car left out in the elements. SOLUTION: Create more S.P.A.C.E.; maintain your property; protect your valuables.

Time

PROBLEM: Saying Yes to others when you should say No. COST: No time for your own goals and priorities. What is that worth to you? (Remember, every time you say Yes to something you are saying No to something else.) SOLUTION: Schedule time for projects (work & personal), family, friends, and hobbies.

PROBLEM: Procrastination (wasting time, or spending all your time putting out fires, real and imagined). COST: The important stuff doesn’t get done, leading to various financial and emotional costs; students may not graduate; business growth suffers. SOLUTION: Plan your projects; schedule regular blocks of time for things that are important to you; set S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

PROBLEM: Multitasking & Interruptions. COST: Do several things at once, but none of them well. Lose 2+ hours a day refocusing. SOLUTION: Focus on one thing at a time; check email and voice mail at scheduled intervals. (That’s why God created Caller ID and Voice Mail!)

So…the next time you think about the cost of getting organized, think first: What is your clutter costing you? How much does it cost you financially, and how much does it cost you mentally or emotionally? What are you NOT having, doing, or being because of your clutter? Finally, ask yourself: Can I really afford NOT to get organized?

What other costs of clutter can you think of? Please share in the comments below!

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Copyright 2014-2015 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.

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14 Comments

  1. Sabrina Quairoli on September 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I totally agree. There is a big cost to being disorganized. You hit all the main costs. Sometimes the cost of clutter isn’t easy to see. There are underlining cost that we may not even know about until we clear the clutter. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hazel Thornton on September 5, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      What a great point! (That we don’t always know the full cost of the clutter until we clear it.)

  2. Nicole Ramer on September 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Hazel, I love how you share the PROBLEM, COST, AND SOLUTION in each of your examples! Also, thank you for introducing me to the acronym CHAOS… I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before! 😉

    • Hazel Thornton on September 5, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Thanks, Nicole. This was originally a presentation that I turned into a blog afterward. Ha ha, CHAOS is an oldie but a goodie!

  3. Diane Quintana on September 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Hazel, this is a wonderful post. I also like the way you identified first the problem and then the solution in a variety of organizing categories. The cost of clutter can be so very high – much higher than the cost involved in getting organized!

    • Hazel Thornton on September 5, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks, Diane! The value of organizing always outweighs the cost.

  4. Joni Buck on September 7, 2015 at 5:45 am

    This post is perfectly on point. Clutter of all kinds adds so much unnecessary stress but sometimes it’s hard to identify forms of clutter when they take a less visual form.

    • Hazel Thornton on September 7, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I think the more costs can be identified (tangible and intangible), the more incentive there is to clear clutter!

  5. Sarah Soboleski on September 8, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Money problems are a big one! I worked with a client once who had found her long lost EZ Pass and was ecstatic – no more having to dig out $ for the tolls. And the number of gift cards I’ve found has been unbelievable! Thanks for such an informative post.

    • Hazel Thornton on November 9, 2015 at 8:12 am

      One of my favorite parts of an organizing session is when the client exclaims, “I’ve been looking for that!”

  6. lucy kelly on September 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I tell clients we always find money, and we always do! But this is a great explanation of the big picture money they find when they clear the clutter and get organized.

    • Hazel Thornton on November 9, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Thanks, Lucy! Big picture money, and intangible costs of clutter.

  7. Sarah Anderson on November 9, 2015 at 7:59 am

    I learned a VERY expensive lesson about the cost of clutter two weeks ago. While I have been faithfully decluttering for months after inheriting the estates of my late parents, late fiance and also retiring and bringing home over 40 years worth of teaching supplies, I learned I have termites. I would have seen the first signs of them a few years ago if I hadn’t had hundreds of plastic bins with stuff that needed to be sorted. Was too busy caring for dying loved ones and trying to teach at the same time to go through the clutter at the time. Wish I had just tossed it. So now, not only is it costing me thousands of dollars to do repairs I have to replace all hardwood floors and carpeting. The real menace is having to pack and lift heavy boxes non stop for two weeks (oh, my aching back) and rent storage units to store it. Then I will have to bring what I want to keep back into my home when repairs are done and lug the rest to charity. I don’t have time to take it to charity right now, time is of the essence to get the stuff out of the house so repairs can begin. It’s so overwhelming I was ready to put the keys at the curb with a sign “Free House”. I didn’t live in squalor, just too much stuff and pushed the bins against the walls to save walking space. Hope others can learn from my mistakes.

    • Hazel Thornton on November 9, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Well, that’s just no fair! Insult to injury. You’ve had a rough few years. I agree that this is a good use of a storage unit, though. And I’m glad you already have decided not to bring everything back into the house. Hang in there, and thank you for sharing your story!

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