Recently I was trapped in a hotel on a rainy weekend and I got sucked into a marathon of Clean House. (This is why I don’t keep cable at home. If stuff is on, I just fall into it.) I was mesmerized by the amount of stuff that some of these people had. Stuff was piled to the ceilings, bursting out of the garages, and filling every closet. As a neat freak, it was disturbing to say the least.
But as I watched, what really got my attention was the amount of money that was invested in this clutter. In some of these houses, thousands of dollars had been spent on stuff that wasn’t being used (heck, some of the participants didn’t even know what they had). Hundreds of dollars of holiday decorations, perfumes, clothes, shoes, toys, bath products, hobby supplies, car parts, and electronics. All of it just piled to the rafters, unused (some still in the original packages, unopened). Not to mention the stuff that was broken and useless and needed a new home in the landfill or recycling bin. Even the woman who said she never bought anything at retail price had hundreds of dollars of “bargains” overflowing out of every closet in the house.
I found myself wondering if there was a relationship in these homes between the amount of clutter and the amount of debt. I bet there is. I have no scientific proof, but logic says that with that much stuff there is likely debt that goes with it, unless the person makes or has a lot of money to begin with. Clutter doesn’t come cheap, even if all you ever buy is stuff on sale. In order to fill a house to the rafters with stuff you’ve got to be spending some serious money. If these people have money troubles, the first place they should look is at their mountains of clutter. Where did the money go? It went to all those clothes that have never been worn, all those kitchen gadgets that have never been used, and all those knick knacks that are filling the shelves.
If you have money troubles, look at your clutter. Do you have a lot of stuff you bought that you never use? Is there stuff you bought with the intention of starting a new hobby or business but then never got around to doing it? Do you have a lot of clothes with the tags still on? Are there bags and bags of “bargains” in your home that you’ll never find a use for? Are your kids drowning in toys they never play with? Sure, maybe you spent too much on eating out or other areas of your life, but I bet if you look at your clutter you’ll get a pretty good idea of where your money has gone.
The good news is that your clutter can be turned into money again. You won’t be able to recoup all that you paid, of course, but you can get some money back. On Clean House they have the mother of all yard sales to get rid of the junk and they seem to rake in a decent sum. You can have your own yard sale. Or you can sell on eBay or Craigslist or to another resale shop. Or you can donate your stuff to a charity and get a tax deduction. If you’ve got a lot of recyclable material, you can get money for that, too, at the scrap yard.
Once you’ve got it cleaned out, try this visualization when you’re tempted to clutter up again. Look at the thing you’re about to buy. If it costs $50, picture a fifty dollar bill in its place. (Or a stack of fifty ones if you like larger piles of money.) Then mentally lower that $50 to about $5, because that’s what you might get for it someday if you sell it. Then ask yourself which is more valuable to you: The thing, or the $50? Because that’s really the trade off you’re making. Your clutter is your money. Every item in your house represents money spent. When you’ve got stuff overflowing your home, that’s a lot of money you could have saved or used elsewhere. If you’d rather keep your money, leave the clutter item in the store.