An overabundance of stuff can cost you plenty, in lost opportunities and in fees to store things you don’t need.
Few of us realize just how much money clutter costs us, not only in our homes, but also in our finances. If you want to save money, increase productivity and have more leisure hours, consider eliminating the clutter in your life. Here are four areas where getting a handle on the disarray could improve your bottom line:
Lifehacker.com has a shocking and eye-opening equation that can show you the cost of clutter. The site offers a simple formula for calculating the cost of lost space in your home.
Divide the current monthly cost of your living space by the square footage to get the value of your home per square foot. Next, do a quick inventory of your rooms, closets, basement, garage and other areas that are unusable because they are filled with clutter. Take the value of your square footage and multiply it by the amount of cluttered space to discover the cash value of that space.
You can take this a step further by dividing your monthly rent or mortgage payment by the square footage of your living space to see just how much income is devoted to clutter. Perhaps you have a bedroom filled with boxes that could be used as a home office?
How your clutter has spread can also lighten your wallet. Do you have a car sitting idle in the driveway exposed to the elements and the risk of theft or vandalism? Has your clutter migrated to its own off-site storage unit? How much are you paying for that storage unit? On average, small storage units nationwide cost around $60 a month, which adds up to more than $700 a year.
The money you spend on storing clutter can be saved, put into a retirement plan or used for a family vacation. Consider whether your stuff is valuable enough to outweigh the financial cost of storing it.
Damage caused by piling items on top of each other or cramming them into tight spaces can cost you further via repair or repurchase. This can lead to hundreds of dollars in unnecessary extra expenses.
One overlooked problem is the effect of clutter on your personal health. Clutter can create hazards in your home and obscure household maintenance problems, such as leaky pipes, from view. This could lead to flooding, mold and other woes.
Your boss asks you for a file. Can you find it immediately? If not, you may be costing yourself a future promotion. If your desk, work area or personal space is cluttered with boxes, files, food, extra shoes, sweaters and other items, your supervisor might assume you can't handle the responsibilities of your present job or additional work. When the opportunity for a promotion comes up, your clutter could eliminate you from even being considered.
In a recent survey by Forbes, 35% of workers said they would "be ashamed if anyone caught a glimpse of their cluttered workspace," and 40% criticized co-workers for their clutter. If you aren't pointing fingers at the office "hoarder," then it could be you.
The average worker spends 30 minutes a day -- more than 125 hours a year -- just looking for items used in his or her job.
While workers and managers typically say they don't have enough space for their work-related items, often the problem is that they have too much clutter. Laura Stack, an expert on organization for The Productivity Pro, suggests that most of us need only three folders: "to read, to do and to file."
Nearly 80% of items that are stored in a filing cabinet or stacked on your desk will never be read, seen or dealt with. And files that are misplaced can cost you valuable sales.
Have you or your staff missed an important meeting, a sales lunch or a conference with a prospective customer because the invitation or reminder got lost? How much revenue did that missed meeting cost you?
According to a study by Brother International, U.S. corporations lose $177 billion annually because of clutter. By organizing and consolidating your work area, you can increase your dollars as well as your productivity.
While paper clutter is the top problem for businesses, digital clutter is a close second.
How much is it costing you to store all that digital clutter? There are obviously many business and financial reasons to store documents. However, much of what is stored is soon forgotten and rarely used. How much do you spend on disk drives for storing data? How many flash drives does your business order annually for storage? Also consider how much all of that digital clutter is slowing down your desktop computer and your company's network.
Do you pay for off-site digital storage? How often do you increase that storage capacity? Extra storage means extra dollars. All individuals and businesses need to back up their data, and many financial records and other digital files must be kept for certain periods of time. Yet, if you took a few hours to peruse those files, how many could you eliminate? Save and store what you need for taxes, warranties or items that your business requires, but delete unnecessary files that sit idle for years.
The extra space will save you money on backup disks, hard drives, flash drives and online or off-site digital storage. If you use a smartphone, how many of the apps on your phone do you actually use? The average smartphone user has 85 apps but uses only 15. By eliminating those seldom-used tools, you could increase the battery life of your phone and free up memory.
Setting aside a specific time per week or month to delete emails, unused icons or programs on your computer, network and other electronic devices will save you money in the long run.
Have you paid late fees or penalties because a bill or invoice was buried in a pile of other papers? Such fees can quickly add up to significant amounts of money.
If you're late on utility bills, the power in your home could be shut off. This will cost you on many levels. You must pay late fees, and the utility company may charge you a fee to turn the power back on. If it has been off for any length of time, the food in your fridge and freezer could spoil, and a house left without heat can suffer serious damage.
Being late on your payments can also damage your credit scores, forcing you to pay higher interest rates.
Clutter can also have a direct impact on identity theft. If you are not diligent about shredding bank statements and other paperwork, both personal and business, you open the door to an ID thief. And if you don't review your expenses consistently, you may not even be aware that someone is using your credit card or name to rack up charges.
De-cluttering your desk and organizing your paperwork can potentially save you thousands of dollars a year.
The bottom line
Nearly all of us have some clutter. By taking a few hours now and then to organize your space, it's likely that you'll save money, find items when you need them -- and even eliminate some in your life.