Smart Spending: How to Take Control

Smart Spending: How to Take Control

and Understand the True Cost of Clutter

The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.  ~Mad Magazine


lutter, whether it is emotional or physical, is the number one robber of simplicity. Clutter takes up free thought and free space. Try this simple experiment to see just how much we are affected by clutter.  Walk into the most cluttered area of your home. Start a timer and stand there for 10 minutes. Don’t pick anything up or rearrange anything–just stand there. Look at everything. After 10 minutes go outside into an area that is absent of clutter.  Stand there for 10 minutes. Once again don’t “do anything” – just “be.”  What difference did you feel? (To read this exercise on paper will not offer the same benefit as doing it and really feeling the difference between space and clutter.)  Write down how you felt during this exercise:

When women do this exercise with me, here are some of the common responses:

  • “I literally felt like in one area I was choking and in the other area I could breathe.”

  • “I felt hopeless and lost amongst the piles. There was clarity when I was outside.”

  • “I felt a lot happier outside in open space … instead of mixed amongst all the things I thought I needed to be happy!”

Truth be told, it doesn’t take much to make a person happy. Most of the things that we need to be happy won’t be found in store aisles or catalog pages.  The marketing world needs us to believe that happiness is complicated and requires a lot of “stuff.” Actually, they only need us to believe that until we hand over our hard-earned money.  In the end, what we bought is often used for a very short time, if at all, and perpetuates the myth that there is “something wrong with us,” or that “we just need some other tool” to be happy and then we are sitting ducks for the next marketing ploy that comes our way.

Today, I want you to go back to that cluttered area of your home. Using the worksheet on the following page (it is very important to DO this exercise) I would like you to calculate the cost of clutter in one area of your home. Start with any item and ask: “If I could right now trade this item back for either the money I spent, the time I spent choosing it, or both, would I?”

If the answer is yes, place it on the worksheet; if the answer is “no” move onto the next item. (This will also help you clarify what is important to you in terms of “stuff,” and to see where you are especially prone to impulse buying.) If the item is added to your worksheet, list how much it cost in the second column. In the last column, list how much time you spent thinking about purchasing it or traveling to purchase it or figuring out how to use it.

When you complete an area or room, add up all the columns. This is the true cost of clutter.  This exercise alone can truly change the way you buy and think about material goods for the rest of your life. Take the Cost of Clutter worksheet to other areas of your home. Tally it all up. Let it be motivation to opt-out of buying-in to the marketing culture.

Reflect: What did you learn by completing this exercise? How does it affect your thoughts about spending?

You will find a printable copy of the clutter worksheet at:

True Cost of Clutter Worksheet click here


Smart Spending: How to Take Control — 1 Comment

  1. As a Professional Organizer and speaker on the topic I often have my audience look at a “busy” wall of where ever the presentation is happening, then look at a blank wall. I get the same responses – some say they feel their neck and shoulders drop down and relax. I like your Cost of Clutter test a lot – it would surprise most people I’m sure.

    Becca Clark

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