I love to declutter. It thrills me to no end to get rid of the stuff in my home that’s taking up unwanted space. But the truth of the matter is that my constant decluttering has cost me thousands of dollars over the years. And what I’m figuring out is that this has a lot more to do with my personal psychology than my personal finance beliefs.
Decluttering Makes Me Feel Mentally Clear
Yes, I get rid of the excess things in my space because I want to clear up physical space. But the truth of the matter is that this isn’t why I declutter. I go into “get rid of things mode” when my mind itself feels cluttered. When I have too many thoughts or am unclear about what’s next in work or life or just have a lot on my plate, my instinct is to get rid of stuff. When my mind is messy, my house gets messy. And vice versa.
Outer Order, Inner Calm
I’m not the only person who feels this. There is anecdotal evidence and perhaps some science to back this feeling up. Author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin wrote about the concept in several of her books. Then she went on to write a book entirely about decluttering called Outer Order, Inner Calm. In the book’s introduction, she writes:
“In my study of happiness, I’ve realized that for most of us outer order contributes to inner calm.
More than it should.
In the context of a happy life, a messy desk or a crowded coat closet is a tribal problem – yet getting control of the stuff of life often makes it easier to feel more in control of our lives generally.
When I’m surrounded by a mess, I feel restless and unsettled. When I clean up that mess, I’m always surprised by the disproportionate energy and cheer I gain.”
When Things Are Good, Decluttering Doesn’t Cost Me Money
Getting rid of things doesn’t always cost me money. When my life is going about at it’s normal pace, decluttering is just a quiet part of it in the background.
Ways of Getting Rid of Clutter / Junk for Free
There are a bunch of ways that I get rid of clutter in my life for free:
- Regular drop-offs at the Goodwill closest to my home
- Calls to Salvation Army to come pick up large items such as furniture
- Donating books to the many wonderful Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood
- Using the free shipping labels available online to get rid of old electronics like cell phones
- Re-gifting never-used or gently-used items to people I know will love them
- Asking friends and family if they want any of the things I’m getting rid of
- Taking advantage of the once-yearly free “bulky collection” pickup option my city offers for junk removal
Getting Rid of Clutter Can Even Make You Money
Sometimes you can make money by selling the things that you want to get rid of in your home. Years ago, I used to have a lot of books in my home. Then I decided that I didn’t need such a huge book collection. Therefore, I began to sell my old books on Amazon. For a little while there, it was a steady source of extra income for me.
We have a whole article here on the site about How to Make Money While Decluttering.
When Life Is Hard, Decluttering Costs Me Thousands
It’s when life gets hard that getting rid of things ends up costing me a lot of money. And there are a whole lot of different reasons why this is so.
First of all, it becomes physically and or emotionally harder to get rid of things easily for free. Here are some examples from my own life:
- When I’ve been physically injured, I can’t easily go donate items outside the home. I can’t even take them down to the curb.
- I live car-free so getting rid of large items is hard even in the best of times. In hard times, it feels overwhelming.
- During periods of deep depression, trying to navigate the small tasks of taking books here and clothes there, etc. is frankly just too much. Paying someone to come do it all for me at once is easier.
- Things accumulate more during hard times. Sometimes it’s that I get necessary stuff that I no longer need when the hard time is over – crutches for examples. Other times, if I’m honest, I engage in “retail therapy” that I regret and later need to get rid of the stuff.
And of course it goes back to that psychology thing. When things are hard in my hand, I want to get rid of more.
COVID-19 Makes Clutter Removal Harder
Now, this might not be true everywhere, but here in San Francisco, things have been pretty much shut down for almost a full year now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I used to make a regular drop-off at Goodwill of a bag of stuff every month or two. They aren’t accepting donations anywhere near me during the pandemic. Services that used to come into the home to remove things for donation aren’t offering that service right now.
Frankly, even getting friends or acquaintances to help with junk removal is harder during COVID-19. Here in San Francisco, we’re following the rules of wearing masks, not going into homes with people we don’t live with, etc. So it’s not like I can call up a couple of strong friends and say, “hey, if I rent a truck, can you come haul a couch downstairs and load it up for me?”
What Does Junk Removal Cost?
I’ve had 1-800-Got-Junk come out and remove items and trash from my home several times over the years. In fact, I had them come twice this year alone. And each time it costs me somewhere between $300 and $500. They charge by the amount of their truck that you fill. And sometimes there is an added fee. For example, this time, I had to have them haul away these nasty heavy soiled grass patches my dogs use for going to the bathroom. They’re super heavy. So they don’t just charge by size but also weight for those.
Now, I want to add a note here that I really appreciate the 1-800-Got-Junk service. They have always provided an efficient way to get rid of pretty much anything I needed out of my space. They’re friendly, professional, easy to work with, and I do think that their prices are fair for what they do.
Oh, and as a side note, I just realized this last time around that it’s good etiquette to tip these folks. It’s not required, but it’s a nice thing to do. I did tip them this last time – not just for good etiquette but they’re doing a hard job during a pandemic.
So in the past year I’ve spent almost $1000 on clutter removal. It’s a lot.
Changes to Reduce My Junk Removal Costs
I know all of the things that I need to do in order to reduce the amount I spent on junk removal.
Number one: stop buying so much stuff. I try to be frugal and consume less for both ethical and financial reasons. But I do sometimes buy emotionally. And I tend to buy things I only need for a little while (crutches, a puppy crate) when I could probably borrow those things instead.
But really, this is a psychology problem. I think it’s something I need to work through in therapy or self-reflection. Because the habits that are causing me to spend this kind of money on junk removal aren’t deterred by all that I know about financial savviness.
So I’m going to work on that. And in the meantime, I’m going to adjust my personal budget so that I move some of my annual “entertainment” money into a new category for “junk removal.” At least that way the big cost won’t catch me off guard if I do end up paying to declutter again.
- 5 Ways Decluttering Saves You Money
- 10 Financial Reasons You Should Declutter Your House
- How to Declutter If You Hate Marie Kondo
If you enjoy reading our blog posts and would like to try your hand at blogging, we have good news for you; you can do exactly that on Saving Advice. Just click here to get started. If you want to be able to customize your blog on your own domain and need hosting service, we recommend trying BlueHost. They offer powerful hosting services for $3.95/month!