Posted in: Homeowner tips, Selling a home

The cost of clutter: How it’s ruining your savings, your sanity and your ability to sell

the problem with clutter

Key Insights

  • By downsizing your things, you can actually save money. Watch your shopping bills and storage expenses decrease as you clean up your home.
  • After your home sells, you’ll have to pay to get your possessions moved, stored, or taken to a landfill. Save money by proactively decreasing your clutter.
  • Decluttering can unburden your life. Try the KonMari method and other organizing trends to get your belongings in order.

Whether it’s renters downsizing their belongings by following the KonMari Method or buyers searching for mid-century modern design, a clear trend is emerging across the country. Minimalism and thoughtful consumerism are in and clutter and overspending are out.

Read on for insights you can use when downsizing your belongings, and how doing so can affect everything from your expenses to your well-being.

Problem One: Clutter is expensive

The urge to declutter often stems from a vague annoyance, like stepping on a Lego or running into furniture that’s too big for the space. But in order to really commit to a more minimalist lifestyle, you’ll want to reconsider the deeper ramifications of having too many possessions.

First, clutter is expensive. For many of us, a successful shopping trip is attributed to a cart filled to the brim with good deals — not one where we successfully avoided the Target dollar section and only bought what we needed. Once the habit of getting a good deal is established, it can seem impossible to say no to another knick-knack or a second set of novelty wine glasses, or to see that these items will be a waste of money in the long run.

Of course, it isn’t just the buying of clutter that makes it expensive. Storing an excess of items can get pricey. Across the country, Americans are paying billions of dollars every year to store items they’ll never use or see again, costing the average person about $90 a month.

Problem Two: Things don’t make you happier

If your cluttered home stresses you out, you’re not overthinking it and you’re not alone. A study conducted by UCLA shows that women with a high density of household objects feel more stressed than those with less stuff.

It’s not hard to see why: Well-maintained homes are the ideal portrayed in every magazine and movie, but the expectation to buy more stuff also weighs heavily on most Americans. The end result? Families purchase things they don’t need and don’t have space for, then feel stressed that their cluttered, inefficient houses don’t resemble the ones portrayed on HGTV.

Furthermore, most people prefer to be doing the things they love during their free time. Yet, many of us waste time every day that could be spent on our passions. Instead, we’re stuck looking for items that are missing in the depths of our closets, or we spend time cleaning up belongings that have lost their place throughout the week. By having less, you will free up time and space to do what you truly enjoy (and enjoy what you already have).

Problem Three: Too much stuff makes it harder to move

Of course, you’re not the only person who wants your house to look like a model home. Today’s homebuyers love to visit well-staged homes with clean walls, modern decor and extra storage.

To list a home that will appeal to the masses, most sellers choose to stage their homes, which includes reducing the number of personal items and photographs inside the property. Sellers who have embraced a minimalist style will be able to pull this off a bit more easily. But sellers with cluttered homes may require a storage unit and professional stagers to get their homes in peak selling condition.

Once moving day rolls around, it costs homeowners one dollar per pound to relocate their things. If you have to visit that storage unit to unload it, moving can get a lot more expensive.

By getting rid of your excess possessions before selling, you’ll have way fewer boxes to transfer from one house to the next. And, you can move into a space that isn’t packed full of items you’ll never use or look at again.

Problem Four: You’re avoiding your clutter

Oftentimes, excess clutter is a result of us ignoring our overload of possessions. By avoiding the decision to downsize our things, we are only adding to our cluttered homes. Be sure to get rid of duplicate or aging items, and you don’t have to feel bad for ditching your old belongings.

Nowadays, things simply aren’t built to last as long as they used to. For example, in the past, tube televisions lasted forever. It wasn’t uncommon to store a tube TV for years then twist the dial to see it turn right on again. Today, both the short shelf-life of TVs and our desire for ever-increasing clarity mean that you’re not likely to find a use for an old TV screen. Avoid storing used items that will eventually just go to landfill and instead deal with your clutter head-on by getting rid of things as soon as you replace them.

How to embrace a clutter-free lifestyle

Whether your clutter stems from buying too much, saving too many items or both, it can be daunting to hit the “reset” button once you’ve established a pattern. Here are a few quick tips we love to start the decluttering process:

  • For every new item you buy, toss or donate an old item. Throw away or donate any duplicate items you have.
  • Go through your kitchen and get rid of anything you haven’t used in one year. (We’re looking at you, waffle maker.)
  • Recycle magazines and catalogs after two months.
  • Stand over the recycling bin as you open your mail so you never accumulate a junk mail pile.
  • Try the Oprah Hanger Challenge: Place all your hangers in the opposite direction and turn the hanger the correct direction after wearing an item. After six months, consider donating anything you haven’t worn. If you restock your closet by season, donate anything you don’t wear for an entire fall/winter or spring/summer.
  • Spend 10 minutes doing the 12-12-12 Challenge. Locate 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate and 12 to be put away in their proper area. (Kids love this one!).
  • For long-term decluttering, try the Four Box Method. Go through each room and segment every item into four boxes: Keep, donate, throw away or re-organize. Tackle one room per weekend until your house is complete. Then, start over any time you feel overwhelmed by things.

Ready to sell?

Decluttering is the first step to staging and selling your home, and we can help with the rest of the process. Reach out to Edina Realty or one of our agents if you’d like to take the next step on your home sale journey.

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