The High Cost of Clutter

Okay, I’ll confess right up front. I’m a clutterbug. However, unlike others in my category, I don’t hang onto junk. No way. My stuff is all highly desirable and very useful. And I plan to use all of it. Someday. Soon.


I was born with a propensity to be a pack rat. I don’t know where that came from and, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. I have the problem, and I’m learning to deal with it. And I’m happy to say I’ve made excellent progress. But this did not happen until I was willing to admit to the high cost of clutter in my life.

Disorder creates distractions and confusion. Clutter costs us time, money, and, for some, jobs.

COST: MONEY. Let’s get this one out of the way first. Case in point: Three bottles of seasoned rice vinegar sitting in my pantry, two of them hopelessly past their “best if used by” date. Why? Because one was in the big pantry, the other in a smaller cupboard and the third in the refrigerator—a discovery I made when I determined to get organized.

I can only assume that I kept buying because I didn’t recall having this product already. Apply such a careless attitude to everything from batteries and light bulbs to tape, glue, tools, clothes, shoes, food, produce and every other kind of household item, and it’s easy to see that disorganization is the breeding ground for clutter. Disorganization creates a horrible financial drain.

COST: EFFICIENCY. Clutter makes every job much harder, longer and far more frustrating.

Don Aslett, author of Clutter’s Last Stand and cleaning expert, says that 80 percent of the space in our homes is occupied by stuff we never use, indicating, of course, that these are items we do not need.

COST: TIME. Clutter makes every job more difficult. Chores take longer because the average person spends more time getting ready—finding a clear spot, hunting for the tools—than actually doing the job.

Clutter makes cleaning take longer because you are constantly moving piles around. That’s time you could have been using to do something you really enjoy.

COST: STRESS. There is no doubt that a cluttered space creates chaos. A highly cluttered home is the playground for fighting and bickering.

I am fully aware that clutter makes my heart race and my head swim. Clutter messes with my ability to concentrate, which, if you talk with my staff and family members, is already at risk. Clutter seizes my brain, resulting in procrastination and a strong desire to escape. It is amazing to me how the condition of our environments affects our physical and emotional well-being.

COST: HEALTH. Everything stored away or hidden discreetly or indiscreetly is also stored in your mind and is subconsciously draining your mental energy.

Peter Walsh, the author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, presents a credible argument that the secret to successfully losing weight is to forget about calorie counting and weekly weigh-ins. Instead he says we need to focus on how, why and where we eat. Clutter negatively affects our ability to lead a full and healthy life.

COST: PEACE AND QUIET. It has been said that clutter is mental noise. What a perfect description. For me that’s a near audible noise, too. The greater the mess the louder the noise. And it’s not harmonious. I would characterize the noise of clutter to be a cacophony, a dissonance more annoying than fingernails on a chalkboard.

COST: WASTEFULNESS. Clutter, disorganization, domestic chaos—these are conditions that foster wastefulness. I’m talking about food that spoiled because the refrigerator was in such turmoil no one knew the pricey fruits and vegetables were stuck way in the back. And that’s just the tip of the waste iceberg.

Organization takes time. Disorder did not happen overnight, and neither will organization.

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2 replies
  1. davistrain says:

    There’s a slogan for clearing clutter that goes something like “If it’s not bringing joy to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.” But for many of us, even something that is not bringing joy will bring pain if we try to get rid of it. Then there’s the old line: “Junk is something you throw out three weeks before you need it badly and can’t find a replacement.” And we have the old, old story about the son who goes off to college or military service and his mom tosses all of his baseball cards into the trash (which is why some sports memorabilia items fetch such high prices–too many mothers figured, “He’s grown up now. Time to put away “childish things.”). We realize that logically, we’ll never get all those books read, listen to all those records and CDs, or look at all those photos, but these items have become part of out “being” and we see ourselves being diminished by unloading them.

    You know you’re a hard-core “saver” when you still have mementos of an ex-spouse in your “stuff”.

  2. eveh says:

    We had some boys over one day to help us clean out our our shed. I hadn’t been in it in years. I told my husband to just give everything to them but don’t tell me what it was. I went out there later and seeing a clean shed was such a great feeling. We kept the things we needed of course but we now had room to move stuff from the house that really should be there. I’ve never missed any of it so apparently I didn’t need it. Clutter robs of us of space inside and out. Thanks for this reminder. I could use a little bit more decluttering in the house.


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