We pay the hidden cost of clutter in time, money, and opportunities. Read along to identify ways your clutter is costing you.
Today we’re going to be looking at the hidden cost of clutter. I’ve long been an aspiring minimalist. When I met my husband everything he owned fit in a backpack and two shopping bags. After marriage and the quick addition of three children, our mutual belongings ballooned to fill a two bedroom apartment. In that first apartment the entire second room was just our extra stuff.
Looking back on that time we often ask ourselves why we chose a two-bedroom place instead of a one-bedroom or studio. We simply did not know better at the time. Each month we paid for an extra 300 square feet of space to just hold the things we accumulated but did not use regularly. The average yearly price per square foot at the the time was $13.74/ft2. This means over the year we rented there we paid over $4,000 to store our mess. That’s embarrassing.
The Cost of Clutter: Square Footage and Money
Our clutter literally cost us thousands of dollars to store that first year. This is a pretty obvious cost of clutter. We can transfer this same calculation to all sorts of cluttered over to all sorts of cluttered spaces:
Reach-in closets are usually 24″ deep and 3′-8′ long. Averaging this out makes them 12 square feet. Just one of these average closets costs $231 per year.
Walk-in closets are significantly bigger. Their average 100ft2 cost per year starts around $1,900 and goes up from there
The rule of thumb is that the storage space in a house should be at least 10 percent of the total square footage. Dedicating a tenth of your home’s space to storage means that this is no longer living space. It is not multi-functional and provides no daily value other than keeping other spaces cleaner. The cost of clutter in these spaces can easily be calculated based off the total square footage of an individual house.
Rented Storage Units
One in ten Americans pays monthly for a rented storage unit. These facilities were first conceptualized in the 1960s, but business boomed during the 2008 Great Recession and has only increased since then. Now for an extra $1,500 per year you can own and pay monthly for things you never have to see.
The Cost of Clutter: Time and Money
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath or three. Now open them and look around you. What do you see? For me it is a tea cup, a lamp, my planner, pens, a houseplant, a half-knitted pair of socks. All of these things used to be money. Either myself or someone else exchanged money to purchase them. Where did that money come from? Usually from a paycheck. What is a paycheck? Money given to someone in return for time spent at work.
All of my things used to be money. All of that money used to be time. The hidden cost of clutter is our lives. We are paying for clutter with the finite time we are given in this world.
The Cost of Clutter: Lost Opportunities
The last area we’re going to explore is opportunities lost because of our clutter. In my life, I can easily confess that at certain points clutter has kept me from opening my house up to friends. I am not a naturally organized person. If I am not on top of myself, clutter quickly overtakes the house.
Another lost opportunity is the possibility of what could be done with your spaces. Decluttering our house gave us two additional spaces: a sewing and craft room for me, and a reading room for the kids. When I got serious about decluttering I cleaned out an entire storage room in the basement. The addition of a carpet scrap, a few lamps, and some shelving turned a space that used to be devoted to bins into a private, functional sewing room.
My kids’ reading room is actually a walk-in closet. Each of the bedrooms in our 1920s house has a giant walk-in closet. When we first moved in I used the closets for normal clothing and bin storage. After creating my sewing room I wanted to find more usable room in the house. In an afternoon I cleaned out one of the walk-in closets, added a bookshelf, chair and side table. Now when someone wants a quiet space to read it is readily available.
Both of these rooms, my sewing room and our reading room, could still be full of clutter. Instead I’ve had the ability and opportunity to take up quilting and sewing clothes for the family and myself. My kids have a private space to read away from our loud toddler. Opportunities will be lost to clutter if it is allowed to stay in our homes.
Why will you declutter?
Learning about the hidden cost of clutter can sometimes be overwhelming. After going over how clutter costs is in various ways I want to take a moment to encourage you! Decluttering is a huge task. I will be going over some how-to tips in a later post. At the end of this post I simply home to have inspired you to start dreaming about why you should declutter.
Decluttering will save you time, money, and give you more opportunities to fully live in your space. I would love to hear some of your reasons why it is good to declutter down in the comments.