Clutter is not evil, though many of the articles, books, television shows, and services that teach you how to organize suggest otherwise. Clutter can be good or bad, depending on how you use it and respond to it.
Some people think more clearly and produce better work when they are in clear, open spaces without many distractions, but others thrive on clutter. I am one of the latter; my surroundings look a wreck to other people, but I generally find things more quickly and work more effectively and creatively when the things I use are spread out around me. I was thrilled when a neat friend gave me a book review on A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, which argues that clutter can enhance creativity and productivity. I was glad to know I’m not the only person who works better in disorderly surroundings. And cluttered doesn’t mean disorganized: I consider myself more organized than many neat people I know. My house may look like a mess to visitors, but I can usually find exactly what I need; I lose things most often after I have attempted to straighten up.
But I digress. How can clutter affect your finances? First, it can save you money. A large part of the reason my house is full of clutter is my frugal nature. I absolutely hate to get rid of anything that might be useful later. I have been called a pack rat, but packing things away has a benefit – rather than having to go out to buy something new to suit every new need I have, I can find things in my storage that will do the job just as well (or better). The things I might have sent to the landfill become useful again, and I have saved the cost of a new purchase.
At the same time, clutter can cost money. I admit that I have occasionally stashed something away and have been unable to find it when I needed it because it was buried in a pile or drawer with too many other things. Once, when I needed a glue gun for a Christmas gift I was making, I ran out to buy a second one, even though I knew I had one somewhere. (I have since found the original glue gun, and both are now stored together.)
In addition to having to replace lost items, clutter can decrease productivity and earning potential for those who think better in neat surroundings. It can also, in some circumstances, cost you storage fees if you have so much clutter that you start to run out of living space.
When handled well, however, a house overflowing with clutter can produce some extra income. Rather than paying to put your excess stuff in storage, sell it at a yard sale or auction. This option requires more time, of course, because you have to sort through the piles and decide what you really need or want. As you sort, however, you may find some useful things you have forgotten you own in addition to many things that are of more value to someone else than to you.
Clutter can also fuel creativity. Some of the most cluttered places I’ve seen are the homes of some of the most creative people I know. Maybe the clutter is a reflection of their creative minds, but maybe seeing unrelated things placed together in their surroundings helps them make fresh mental connections. Either way, creativity can become a financial asset for entrepreneurs, artists, performers, and others, so why battle the clutter around you if it stimulates your creativity?
If you feel comfortable in clutter, you may benefit more from enjoying it than trying to fight it, despite what all the world’s neat people tell you. Before you spend any money on organizing tools to reduce (or rearrange) the clutter in your house, think about whether you really will be more productive or content (or better off financially) without the clutter. You may be surprised to find that you aren’t.
Image courtesy of glynnish