The True Cost of Clutter


Getting rid of stuff is difficult for many of us. It takes time to sort through our accumulated stuff.  It can be very overwhelming to the point of not even knowing where to start, so we close the door, let our pulse return to normal and postpone it for yet another day.

Most Americans suffer from ‘stuffitis’ in various degrees.  The people who show up on that show Hoarders take it to absolute extremes.  I don’t want to find myself there, the overstuffed closet is enough for me.  But wait, I have stuff overflowing out of my basement, and in my garage, and it’s taking over my house as well!  EEK!

Shame keeps us from calling in reinforcements to tackle the growing pile of stuff, while anxiety keeps us from tacking it.  It’s a conundrum: we own stuff, when did it shift that the stuff owns us?

There are many reasons why people hold onto their stuff.  It takes courage to let go, but if we don’t let go you limit what new things can come in. What are your reasons?  Here are a few:

  • Emotional attachment: parting with an item doesn’t mean parting with the memories.
  • Status and security: Feng Shui principle here – your thoughts create your future.  If you get rid of an item thinking that as soon as you do you will need it, inevitably you will.
  • The advertisement said I needed it – whether you were suckered into buying, pressured by the salesman, victim of the propaganda or it seemed like a logical solution at the time – if it didn’t work or doesn’t serve any purpose now get rid of it.
  • It’s how I was raised – Trust me I got the handle on this one.  My parents were children during the depression.  The great depression of the twenties not the recent one.  When my mother passed away and I had to clean out her house; the house they lived in over 50 years; There was a metal cabinet filled with plastic containers. Every butter tub, every cottage cheese container, every piece of Tupperware ever purchased – it was all stuffed in that cabinet.  That was only one 6 ft  by 2 ft by 4 ft cabinet, can you imagine the rest of the 2500 square foot home? They kept everything.  She reused aluminum foil.  I”m not one for wasting things and creating more trash but there’s a point.  How many butter dishes does one woman need?
  • It’s a distraction – well of course it is but some people use it as a distraction to not deal with other aspects of their lives. Stuff is never going to fix emotional issues but a good counselor, a  box of tissues, and getting them out in the open will.
  • You want your money’s worth – owning an object is not the same as getting a good return on an investment.  You have to actually use it in order to get value out of it, and if it’s got a 1/2 inch layer of dust covering it in your basement I’d be willing to lay odds you aren’t using it.

Getting rid of clutter is freeing.  If we lose the emotional attachment to stuff, and the other reasons why we have let it accumulate, it’s liberating to let it go and pass it on.  There are consignment shops, eBay, Craig’s List, flea markets, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and a variety of other places that  you can either sell or donate your stuff.  It doesn’t have to go in the trash to leave your house.  Repurposed items can find a good home with someone else that will actually use them.

After you’ve tackled the closet, or basement or even full house and parted with the dusty items, employ the greener way.

  • Reduce – don’t impulse shop, don’t buy those items that you really don’t need and even though they may be a clever invention you know you will never actually use it.
  • Reuse – instead of buying the latest  organizing containers in the cool fashionable colors, use what you already have.  Instead of buying specially made magazine holders use that basket that you have more stuff stuck in. ( I know, it forces you to tackle the stuff in the basket as well.)
  • Recycle – donate, use consignment shops, charitable donations, . . . That table-cloth that has a big rip right down the middle can be made into place mats, or if you’re not so handy they can be torn into cleaning rags that you can reuse  replacing about twelve rolls of paper towels.
  • Remove – remove the amount of stuff that comes into your house.  All that paper from junk mail – remove yourself from mailing lists that you can.
  • Rethink – rethink you r spending, your lifestyle, and your consumerism. don’t be a marketers dream that buys because of the shiny packaging.  Think – do you really need it?  It will help your budget as well.  Then you can afford that dream vacation in a tropical setting with Javier bringing you fruity drinks .  Oh wait, that’s my dream vacation – get your own.

So the true cost of clutter is not only the emotional drain that it wears on you day in and day out. It also costs your finances.  Just one example – a torn table-cloth provided me four place mats strategically cut and resewn; and ten cleaning cloths that are washed and reused saving me the expense of  – so far – twenty rolls of paper towels.  Every little bit saved is a step closer to having a dream vacation, or whatever savings or investment you are considering.

My biggest problem with clutter is paper accumulations.  I have reams of notebooks with notes, sketches, and ideas.  If they were all confined to one or two notebooks that would be good, but they are not.  this is a really bad part of my making notes in margins or at the bottom of a page or what not as it occurs to me.

I’m looking at a cleaner, leaner, clutter free existence in 2013. What changes do yu need to make?  What sorts of clutter are you dealing with?

Write on my friends, write on!

7 comments on “The True Cost of Clutter

  1. Good one!This post is about a topic that is near and dear to my heart (brain). I can’t stand clutter. It makes me feel frustrated and claustrophobic. But I live with a pack rat. AGH. Freecycle has been a great help in reducing our clutter. I’m planning a weekend of reduction myself.


    • I do tend to accumulate the stacks of paper and a ridiculous amount of books; but the hubs is a complete packrat! Have a big pot of chili made so the family can serve themselves when they are hungry; and my atrtention shall be focused on decluttering. MOnday will be a trip to Goodwill, and perhaps the recycling center to turn in aluminum cans.


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