How Living an Uncluttered Life Can Cost You

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Mmm.. Organizational shows: watch and drool. Suddenly you find yourself grasped by the impulse to tidy your tiny world. Most of us realize that a a cluttered life can cost us money, but how can an uncluttered home put a hole in your purse?

Organization is a window into a world, a world where everything a person owns can be seen clearly. How many of us use something just because we have it, and replace that thing just because we’re used to having it? An uncluttered person can become a creature of habit, and this habit can sometimes lead into price ruts. How many of our routine shopping and spending habits are actually bad shopping and spending habits?

Something an extremely organized home has that others don’t (necessarily) is organizational solutions. I have noticed that in the tidy, picked-up offices I’ve been in have a remarkable abundance of decorative baskets, buckets, bins, and shelves. I’ve noticed most relatively cluttered people also have a pack-rat streak, and instead of beautiful, striking-white cookie-cutter baskets across their shelves, they have coffee cans, cigar boxes, oatmeal canisters, popcorn tins, and other impromptu storage stacked on the windowsill.

How much does organizational storage cost? Well, compared to the recycled options, too much. People who are remarkably uncluttered may also purge their closets twice a year, tossing out unworn clothes as the seasons change. Unfortunately, this makes space that can be filled by shopping. If you haven’t got the room to put a new shirt, you’re less likely to buy one. Similarly, a tidy home may have empty nooks to fill with collectibles or knick knacks. Will the desire to fill up a space for visual ascetic ever plateau? For many, it does not.

A clean home can be hazardous to your health, and is easy to get to from a tidy home. See dust? Take it down! The speed at which cleaners are gone through add up in dollars. Unfortunately, sometimes cleaners aren’t protecting you like you think they are: “over 75 different studies link chemicals ubiquitous in cleaning products to health problems” (reported 7/24/07 from NPR). Another negative consequence of a perpetually sanitized home is lowered immunity and allergy development. This is old news for some, as the NYT in 2000 reported “Common household germs and dust, it seems, play a vital role in the development of immune systems.” The medical costs of managing allergies, combating and preventing illness due to low immunity, and treatment for problems arising from chemical exposure is more than anyone is brave enough to tally.

Beyond costs for your mind or your body, living an uncluttered life can affect your psyche. Organization is a pressure. On TV, it is preferred, but in real life, organization can lead to obsession. Not all tidy people have obsessive tendencies, but if you are comfortable cluttered, you probably don’t. I’m not saying that people who tend to be tidy are obsessive-compulsive; no, that is a more serious illness. But if you grew up with adamantly tidy parents, you can understand where the quest to remain uncluttered is a power struggle.

Just as many function surrounded by clutter, others are at their optimum performance under routine that includes tidiness. If you’re paying someone else to ensure the harmony of your tidy home, or if you take full responsibility for it yourself, it is having an effect on your financial situation. It really pays off to research what it is you are subjecting yourself to for the sake of your health and finances. If nothing else fails, moderation is the key. Learn what you can live with for comfort, what you can deal with for health and safety, and what you really value for your budget. Being organized and uncluttered (words used in this article with synonymy) may seem like the most responsible thing, but remember to remain in a realistic sphere of who you are and what you need.

Image courtesy of Melilotus

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16 Responses to How Living an Uncluttered Life Can Cost You

  1. Darlene says:

    Well, I do and don’t agree with this article.

    Have you ever purchased something (that you really needed – like a tool) only to discover that you already had one!? But you didn’t remember you had it? Or you knew you had one *somewhere* and spent a lot of time looking for it but still couldn’t find it? That is the ‘other side of the coin’ – if one is so cluttered that it results in duplicative purchases!

    And I propose that one can be organized using an assortment of containers (coffee cans or what have you) and still make it look attractive.

    On the other hand, I do understand the point the author is trying to make. If “being organized” (or cleanliness) is done in such a way that it costs a great deal (or even a little deal) of money or threatens one’s health then, yes, absolutely – it is a problem. And yes, the TV shows are just terrible about showing people how they can be sooo organized if only they will buy x, y, z, and have it professionally installed, etc. (My answer to that one is quit watching shows that are just glorified commercials to try to make you purchase products you might not need!)

    So as the author mentioned briefly, balance is, indeed, the key.

    In my humble (and semi-organized) opinion…

  2. d.a. says:

    Wow… I absolutely cannot relate to what you’ve written in this article. I guess you’re taking tidiness to the extreme in order to make a point on how it can be unhealthy, but again, wow. One would have to be almost pathological for tidiness to become a problem like you’ve written here.

    But I guess it’s fair play for all the articles that try to paint untidiness as a pathology as well.

  3. Stephen Waits says:

    Wow is right. What a bunch of conjecture and crap!

    Go back to writing what you know about. Please!

  4. KRS says:

    A good follow-up article! I think many get into ‘ruts’ with spending habits, and many try to fill visual voids with unneeded purchases.
    Viva Clutter!

  5. mbhunter says:

    Not sure about this stance. It’s easy to go overboard on just about anything, and tidiness is no exception. The psychological drain from the constant input from clutter is just as much a hazard as anything else. Storage units with doors that close are a gift from God.

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  7. Maxine says:

    This article was a little “vague” to me….I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing….

  8. Emily says:

    I LOVE this article. I always thought I was a slob, but now I think that I may have a healthy relationship with cleaning (I do it in spurts but most of the time live with clutter). Thanks for making me feel better about myself!

  9. says:

    I loved your article, primarily because you really made all the neat freaks squirm!

  10. Jade says:

    Let’s use some common sense. What makes people spend money is not their clutter or lack thereof. It’s a lack of willpower and responsibility or an emotional connection between spending money and happiness or the search for it.

    Ask any creditable financial help source, and they will tell you that the first step to getting out of debt is to organize your finances. You won’t remember to pay your credit card bill if it’s lost on a cluttered desk. Think about it. Do you think the credit card companies or banks subscribe to the idea that a cluttered office building and messy desks will make their business more efficient? No. Run you home as you would a business: keep things orderly not stringent, be punctual, and make smart decisions about what you buy for your home.

    As for cleaning products damaging your health – get on to an eco-advice website and you will find homemade recipes to replace chemically cleaning products with more natural, less harsh alternatives. They are not only healthier – they are also a lot cheaper.

  11. Mike says:

    This article sounds like it was written by a pack rat-slob on the defensive?!?!

  12. April says:

    I totally agree with number 8. However, I think it might just be justification for my sloppy living.

  13. Fooz says:

    Wow. This article makes use of some really tortured logic, oddball assumptions and off-the-wall assertions. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or what but it certainly didn’t succeed on that level.

  14. Carter Kirkwood says:

    Ultimately everything has a price, even if it is just the opportunity cost (time spent filing away financial documents is time not spent with the kids or on your favorite hobby). Like Jade I try to keep my financial records preety organized, but my gardening tools are much less organized. What I really want is a service that automatically organizes my financial e-documents for me (I get the benefit of being organized and no clutter without the cost of having to get organized). Has anyone tried to organize their digital financial records on their computer?

  15. Shannon says:

    I’m amazed how this topic — which seems like it should be fairly neutral — can really strike a chord with some of us (like me) and really hit a nerve with others. What is it about clutter that is so divisive?

  16. Fooz says:

    “What is it about clutter that is so divisive?”

    I don’t think it’s about clutter. I think the reason this post generated such strong responses is because the author made some really ridiculous, unsubstatiated claims and leaps in logic. For example:

    ” A clean home can be hazardous to your health, and is easy to get to from a tidy home. See dust? Take it down! The speed at which cleaners are gone through add up in dollars.”

    *How* is a clean home hazadous to your health? What are you defining as “clean” Why the assumption that anyone who has a ‘clean’ home used commercially available cleaners or used them in excess? And the statement (if I’m reading it correctly – it’s very poorly worded) that it’s easy to get from a ‘tidy’ home to a ‘clean’ home? Most people I know – including myself – find the opposite is true. It’s all too easy to get to a tidy home to a cluttered one. Obviously there are those out there who are neat-freaks and are maybe too obessesd about keeping their house sparkling. This post doesn’t make any sort of distinctions for those personalities though.

    I know what the author was trying to get at and again, maybe she was trying to be tongue-in-cheek. I have to say though this article could’ve been written in a much better way.

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