As you approach your adventure toward living more simply and minimally, you’ll start to realize how much all of that clutter is costing you.
You may think that if something is out of sight, it’s out of mind, but if you’re paying to store it, having to rent a bigger house, or it’s preventing you from having more space in your house for the things you love, there’s a cost. If you’re spending energy moving something out of the way to get to other things in your closet, that occupies precious time too. A great motivator for tackling your clutter once and for all can be to look at what it’s costing you.
If you’re out of space where you live, you may opt for a storage unit. If you’ve downsized your life, as we have, you might think about storing that sofa or vintage dresser for a later time when you’ll move back into a bigger space.
Since 1995, the use of rental storage units has increased from one in seventeen households to one in ten. More people are paying more money to store their unused items, just in case. At about $1.60 a square foot for storage, that IKEA dresser could end up costing you a couple of thousand dollars per year to store. Is it worth it? Can someone in your life get more use out of it now? Can you sell it and book a trip with that money? When you get back to the storage unit, will you need or want it anyway?
On our journey to downsize and move into a 24-foot travel trailer, we opted to sell what we could, and donate the rest. We didn’t want to store anything, even anything sentimental. We were all in! When looking at selling, versus giving away, assess what value you can get from the item and if it will cost you more time and energy to sell it than what the item is worth. If you know of someone who’s in need of an item you have, and it will bring you joy to pass it on, that may be more valuable than money.
Before you go out and raid the Container Store for their latest storage bins, looking to be so “organized,” declutter first. When you let go of what you don’t need, you might not have anything left to organize at all. Wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?
If you have a garage that’s filled with boxes, you could find yourself fumbling over piles or stacking and unstacking boxes to get to things when you need them. Those items may be things you no longer use, from a lifestyle you no longer have. Also, if you can’t find an item due to a chaotic and unorganized space, you can waste time trying to find it.
Minimalist author Joshua Becker started his minimalist journey off when he realized that instead of spending hours decluttering and sweeping out the garage, he could be spending that time playing in the yard with his children. Dealing with his clutter was having him miss out on what he valued most.
Do you have the time to keep organizing and re-organizing your stuff? Why not simplify and let some of it go if you’re not using it? Why waste your time looking for important papers, when you could simplify and have everything in one organized place? Take time periodically to sort through old files and shred if you need to. Better yet, scan things in so you can store them digitally, or don’t even print them out in the first place.
Be straight with yourself about this one. In my opinion, there’s no need for rules such as “if you haven’t used it in 6 months,” or if it doesn’t “spark joy,” or some other external parameters needed. If you don’t need it anymore, let it go. It’s wasting your time to keep it.
Especially if you’re single — do you have room for someone else in your life? You may say you do, but do you have boxes of photos and letters from old lovers, or literally, no space for a second person to get out of bed? I had one client years ago who had framed pictures of an ex-girlfriend shoved underneath his bed, one fell out, and he had an adverse reaction. Hiding it wasn’t dealing with it. Don’t cram things in closets or push things under furniture. They are still there, costing you your peace of mind.
You may want to look at how your clutter is preventing you from inviting someone into your life. If you’re already living with someone, is your over-crowded closet or storage furniture encroaching on their space? Also, if couples disagree on how much to keep or get rid of, that can cost you a relationship if you’re more attached to your belongings than to your relationship. If you’re choosing to live in a small space, as we did, you can see it’s key.
Is your car parked outside of your two-car garage, because you’ve filled your garage with bins and boxes? What if you could let go of some of what’s in your garage and make space to be able to park your car there, keeping it safe and protected from the elements?
Are you unable to entertain because your surfaces are cluttered, or there’s no room for your guests to sit down? Don’t let your couch become the place your clean laundry sits until you fold it, or your coffee table be where stacks of unopened mail collect.
So often that “extra bedroom” becomes a repository for unfinished projects, clothes that no longer fit, and incomplete tasks. Why not give yourself permission to put it on your “not-to-do list” and just let it go. Turn that room into livable space. If it’s a guest room, have that room ready for guests at all times, so you don’t have to add stress by needing to declutter when company’s coming to stay. The key is to be straight with yourself about what you need and use. If you’re experiencing nostalgia, we’ll dig into that deeper in another post as to how to part with sentimental items that are taking up your living space.
Clutter gets dusty! Having piles on the floor or lots of knick-knacks collect dust and make cleaning a chore. These dust particles can cost you clean air to breathe and can cause allergies. Keep items off the floor and off of your counters to make dusting and sweeping easier.
If you want to get a bit woo-woo about it all, in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui, clutter represents stuck “energy,” mainly because it attracts dust. Aim for as few items on your floors or countertops as possible. If it feels too stark to you to have empty tables or counters, opt for a plant you love to help keep the air clean, or a memento that you love. Don’t go raiding garage sales just to find items to fill empty spaces. Explore the magic of a clean surface, and don’t start piling papers or clothes on it.
Most of all, clutter costs you your freedom. Your stuff keeps you tethered to where you are. The storing of it, securing it and protecting it keep your time and energy focused more on your physical stuff than on your experiences. Years ago, I had an unintentional decluttering thrust upon me when burglars stole everything of “value” from my apartment. After the initial shock, the experience gave me perspective what mattered most; Both my roommate and I were unharmed.
If you’re wanting to travel more, or be location non-specific, as I am, by working wherever you are in the world, declutter, detach, and be free.