Clutter Debt: What You Need to Know About Your Space Budget
I recently looked over at a bulky tub of a hair product I had bought, tried once, and decided I didn’t like. I bought it last year sometime. I think. It could have been longer ago than that (I’ve lost track). But the point isn’t how long I’ve had it. The point is how big it was and how it added to my clutter debt.
I realized, in an odd moment of reflection upon an inanimate object in my bathroom, that it was taking up SPACE. I wondered what its cubic measurement was. (Oh, the weird things we think about in the bathroom!) And how many cubic square feet there are in my home. I’m sure there’s a formula to determine it out there somewhere, but I don’t need to delve deep into tenth-grade geometry to tell you that the tub of hair product was wasting whatever cubic footage it occupied.
And you know what? I only have so many cubic feet to work with. So why was I letting it sit there, just wasting space when I could free that space up for something else? Maybe even just for air … literally “room to breathe.”
Think about it: our homes have a finite amount of room. So how much clutter do we let waste valuable space?
In my case, I’d originally hoped to pass it on to someone else who might be able to use it. After all, I’d only used it once. There was plenty left, and it had cost around $12, so I’d be helping somebody out who might need it. Then, as it stuck around longer than I had intended, I felt bad throwing out something that expensive. Then it just became a part of the landscape and I didn’t notice it.
Until a few weeks ago.
I ended up tossing the product (even though I felt guilty about the waste) because I am trying to be less wasteful of our space first and foremost.
What do you have lying around, wasting space? Anything?
Then you need to think about your home’s space budget, and unless you remodel, build-out, or somehow have an accordion home that unfolds as needed, that “budget” is fixed. It doesn’t budge just because you want to “spend” more space, any more than your income will budge just because you want to buy something out of your price range.
Do the math to discover your home’s space budget
Dig up that high school formula for volume to calculate the cubic footage of each room in your home (or use this easy online calculator), then add them together and look at the current value of your home on the real estate market. Figure out the cubic square foot rate. And the ratio of it that unused items take up. That is a dollar amount you can assign if you need to feel the pain. A real, concrete number.
How do you think your space budget is allocated? What categories do you have? Crafts? Small appliances? Kids’ stuff? Old junk mail? If you want it to, all of that can have a value attached to it.
Is your stuff worth it to you?
If the value of the items that occupy the space is less than the value of the space itself … think hard about if it is worth keeping.
Is it useful? If so do you actually use it, if not daily, then regularly? Is it beautiful? Does it enrich your life? Is its sentimental worth priceless to you? Do you treasure it? And yes, perhaps even as Marie Kondo would say in her sometimes controversial methods, does it spark joy?
Is your stuff useful to you?
Something ugly can be useful. Take, for instance, cords to anything electronic.
My husband knows that one of my love languages is hidden cords. Cords drive me nuts. They feel so visually cluttered! Any time he hides them or finds a way to reduce them, it makes me happy. But sometimes you just need a dang cord, you know? And ugly though it might be, it’s not going anywhere. Because you have to plug in your television or video game console if you want to be able to use it.
Is your stuff enjoyable for you?
Something beautiful can be useless. If you have a painting you love but don’t know where to put at the moment, storing it can be an option. It will take up space for the time being, but if it is treasured and will beautify your home once you find its permanent place, it might be worth it to store it for a while.
Is your stuff sentimental to you?
Something sentimental can be ugly and useless, but you might still keep it anyway. Maybe there is something you remember from your grandmother’s house that would never fit your décor theme because it is too garish, and it has no real function other than to be a knickknack, but the memories it holds for you are priceless.
In all of those cases, if you want to keep something. Keep it!
If it isn’t useful, enjoyable, or particularly sentimental to you … let it go.
Maybe that ugly object isn’t useful and you’re only holding onto it because you feel guilty about how much it cost (for example, older technology). Or because you don’t want to offend someone who gave it to you. Or because you don’t know where to dispose of it (televisions, paint, compact fluorescent lightbulbs). Or because you don’t want to throw it out, but you haven’t made it to Goodwill yet (maybe a sweater you got at a company gift swap).
Well, then maybe you just need to let go and make room in your space budget.
How to budget the space in your home
What do you need to know first when you sit down to make a budget? Well, how much money you make, how much you’ve saved and how much you owe.
So, just like you assess your income and debts, assess your storage space and how much stuff it contains. Figure out your clutter debt. Perhaps even measure! This includes cupboards, closets, bookcases, and other storage furniture, as well as containers such as totes, bins, baskets, and tubs with lids.
Remember: You should always have a little extra space in order to not become overwhelmed with clutter.
If things are always piles being shifted from one spot to another, then somewhere along the way you have overspent in a storage category.
In your space budget, clutter is debt. Your goal with decluttering is to get rid of that debt!
Next, in a real budget, you set your budget categories, whether savings or specific types of bills and utilities or food and car repair savings.
In a similar way, you can take the time to see how much space you have for your categories of stuff. This is where those cupboards, drawers, closets, bookshelves, and containers get assigned particular types of items based on their storage capacity and location.
Do you see it? Do you see how debt and clutter are related? (In fact, in some ways, it could be argued debt itself is just another form of clutter. MIND. BLOWN. I recently stumbled across a YouTube video talking about this very thing!)
Work towards becoming clutter debt-free
So how do you get rid of financial debt? You either hunker down and lower your living expenses to pay it off, get it forgiven, or increase your income so you can pay it off faster.
For your clutter debt, the way to get rid of that debt is to remove it from your home (which is usually free or can even MAKE you money) or increase your storage. (Which usually costs money, and doesn’t always address the root cause of the problem.)
Free your space, free your mind, release that guilt. Be like Elsa … Let it go.
And save the empty space it leaves behind for something more worthy of the true cost of your cubic footage. Just sayin’.
You got this.
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I love decluttering, the less stuff the better. Still trying to get my kids onboard though, lol. And it’s the same with budgeting — the less I have to spend money on and the fewer bills I have to pay, the easier it is to manage my finances.
Yes! Exactly. The less stuff, the fewer bills, the simpler it all becomes. And I’m all about simplifying life … especially MOM life!
I hate clutter and stuff (except my books, do not touch my books) but this is so hard when you have to get the whole family on board. Of course, it also feels SOOO good to get rid of stuff when we do a good purge 😀
It really is the best feeling. And yes, I still have to make sure my son forgets about his unused toys before I get rid of them. lol.
I technically adopted the minimalistic lifestyle. But few years on… I have started to create clutter everywhere. It is just insane how quickly things can get out of hand! your post is perfect timing and especially now that I am housebound with the cover-19. Def joining your clutter bingo. Sounds like fun! yaaay.
Oh my goodness. YES things pile up so quickly. It’s kinda like eating healthy or brushing your teeth … decluttering is just something you have to keep doing. And when you don’t … phew! Piles!
Love the idea of de-clutter bingo! Sometimes we have spaces that are unseen and therefore very forgotten (my attic) that could use our attention! I could use that space for so much more if I organized and de-cluttered it. Thanks for the motivation!
Thanks! And yes! All those forgotten spaces … I still need to tackle my attic and finish my garage. I started this journey 10 years ago and have moved three times since then, doing a full home declutter each time, but we STILL have things stuffed away and forgotten in boxes in the attic.
This is such an important point. We are literally paying to hold on to our crap. 😂 When you think of it like that – it’s so much easier to let go.
Exactly! And our homes should be more than overpriced storage units for crap.
This was such an interesting post. I’ve been cleaning out my bathroom as well, and found a crazy amount of Bath and Body Works lotions that I loved, used, then made it down to the end and bought another? It doesn’t make sense! I’m trying to go through all of my bath and shower products and use them up, but some are expired. As hard as it is, sometimes you just have to throw those things out and use the guilt you feel to keep from bringing more clutter into your house. Thank you so much for the insight!
Oh, bath products. Yes, they have such a way of hanging around, right?! I’m glad this was thought-provoking for you.