I have always thought of myself as a frugal person, both by nature and necessity. My husband and I married young, with several years of college still looming ahead of us. We struggled to pay tuition and bills while cobbling together part-time jobs with hours that were flexible to our class schedules. We were barely (and occasionally not even) making enough to pay the bills. This was hardly the ideal environment for collecting “stuff,” as every penny was (or needed to be) going towards bills. And yet…
We moved three times during our first three years of marriage, and each time, as I sorted through our belongings, I was shocked by how much “stuff” we had managed to amass. Each time there was a different reason for the accumulation, from a merging of two households to a collection of old, worn-out objects no longer in use.
Whatever the reason, excessive amounts of stuff weighs you down, stresses you out, and costs you, in both time and money. You may think your frugality is enough to protect you from getting weighed down by unnecessary belongings, but think again. Analyze your belongings, and be on the lookout for these common circumstances contributing to junk collecting in even the most frugal household.
Costly Clutter Culprit #1: Great Gifts
Many of us are lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who enjoy helping us out, encourage us on, and brighten our day with gifts. The opportunities for gift-getting are seemingly endless and include birthdays, weddings, baby showers, holidays, and “just because.” Unfortunately, gifts can also lead to unnecessary clutter or accumulation when you receive items that you don’t want, don’t need, or just aren’t right for your lifestyle. Parting with these gifts, given out of generosity and love, can make you feel guilty. Realize the giver was just trying to bless you, and shouldn’t be offended by you getting rid of a gift, if its presence is dragging your down, stressing you out, or cluttering your life. Choose the most effective means of disposal. Consider donating items in good condition, exchanging them for store credit or something better suited to your needs, or selling them and using the proceeds to purchase something that would enhance your life.
Costly Clutter Culprit #2: Great Deals
For some frugally-minded people, the most tempting form of clutter accumulation is found in bargain hunting for irresistible deals and freebies. After all, if you can get it for free, and you might be able to think of a way to use it, why pass up that free tote bag, energy bar, or planner? Well, if you don’t need it or wouldn’t pay money for it, that fab freebie or unnecessary sale purchase (think free formula when you don’t have any kids, or stocking up on a cereal you don’t even like) is just creating clutter in your life and home. Learn when to say no! (If you collect items like these specifically to donate, via a food bank or other charitable organization, designate an area in your home to corral these items and schedule regular trips to clear it out.)
Costly Clutter Culprit #3:Life Changes
Sometimes clutter accumulation is due to a simple change in circumstances. Perhaps you recently merged two households, and suddenly find yourself with doubles of everything. Or, you recently had a baby and your dress code has shifted from suits to denim. Maybe you moved from a cool climate to a warm one, rendering your space heaters and sweaters superfluous, or graduated college and transitioned to a more “grown up” wardrobe. Or, the changes may be less obvious. Perhaps a busy schedule means you no longer use your bread maker and stand mixer, or a desire to lighten up your home decor palette has left you with an excess of unwanted knick-knacks. Be realistic about your habits and circumstances, and act accordingly. Sell or donate items that are no longer relevant to your lifestyle.
Costly Clutter Culprit #4: Stubborn Habits
When I declutter my house, I am always surprised at how many items I own that I am keeping around because I’m just used to having them around, not because I use or even particularly like them. This can include everything from a picture hanging on the wall that you no longer care for to a pile of paper where you are used to just dropping junk mail and random paperwork, instead of filing them. Try to view your home as an outsider would view it. Take in each room with fresh eyes to effectively purge habitual clutter.