Whether we’re dedicated neat freaks, total slobs, or — like most of us — fall somewhere in the middle, we all feel the effects of a cluttered and disorganized home. Research published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience found it limits our brain’s ability to process information. Additionally, a 2010 study published in the Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin found it takes a significant toll on our mental health. And 2010 research from Indiana University found it even affects our physical health.
Disorganization also costs us money. A 2017 survey conducted by Pixie, makers of augmented reality trackers, found that Americans collectively spend $2.7 billion annually replacing lost items. Moreover, losing important financial papers like bills can lead to late fees and damage to your credit score — resulting in higher interest rates on loans. And these are just a few of the ways disorganization can drain your wallet.
Being better organized can help you keep track of your stuff, shop better, increase your productivity, and even contribute to your health and happiness. But best of all, there are several ways organizing can save you money or make you some extra cash.
Money-Saving Benefits of Organizing Your Home
1. It Shows You What You Have
How many of us have run to the store to buy something we need, only to tidy up later and discover that very thing hidden away at the bottom of a drawer?
Having a system for keeping everything in its designated place means you won’t have to waste money on duplicates of things you can’t find or didn’t realize you already had.
2. It Teaches You What You Can Live Without
Decluttering your home can be eye-opening when it comes to knowing what you can live without. People report feeling happier after organizing their homes, partly because of a sense of lightness that comes from letting go of extra stuff.
Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, tells The New York Times that the accumulation of excess can make you feel weighed down. The best way to avoid that stress, he says, is to buy less. Organizing helps you become a more conscious shopper because when you see everything you can live without, you’re motivated to buy less.
3. It Helps You Waste Less
One prominent source of waste, especially in America, is food waste. According to a 2018 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), on average, Americans waste 30% of their food supply. That equates to a pound of food per person per day, an unquestionable waste of financial resources.
When you organize your kitchen, including the refrigerator and pantry, it can help prevent some of this waste. You know what you have when everything is visible and accessible, and you’re much less likely to allow food to spoil.
According to a 2017 study by the USDA, American households spend anywhere from 8% to 33% of their monthly income on food, making it the third-largest budget category after housing and transportation. If you’re in the higher bracket, anywhere you can save money on groceries helps you stretch your monthly dollars.
4. It Helps You Cut Expenses
According to the 2017 Ikea Life at Home survey, 1 in 10 U.S. households rents a storage unit. There are some legitimate reasons for doing so, such as temporarily housing your stuff while you’re preparing your home for sale. But spending extra money just to store things you’re not using is often an indication it’s time to declutter.
If you rent a storage unit just for stuff you aren’t using, go through it and ask yourself some hard questions about whether you really need these things and, if not, whether you can score some extra cash by reselling them (see the next section to learn how). Doing so eliminates the cost of the storage unit and can potentially help you earn some money for stuff you aren’t using anyway.
Organizing can also cut expenses in other ways. For example, spring cleaning your finances annually helps you keep better track of things like bills that are coming due. Organizing your financial paperwork can reduce late fees and the higher interest rates that come from having bad credit. Even better, if you establish a routine of paying your bills on time, you’re in a position to negotiate things you didn’t know you could, like lower interest rates on any debt you already have, including credit card debt.
Additionally, a look through your bank and credit card statements can help you spot any erroneous charges or subscriptions you no longer wish to pay for but have forgotten about. You can even sign up with Truebill or Trim for free. Their app can automatically find subscription payments you no longer need. They can also help you negotiate lower rates on things like cable and Internet.
5. It Can Make You Money
When you go through all your stuff, you’ll likely discover things you can sell for a profit. Though you won’t make back anything near what you paid for most things — which means you’re better off learning what you can live without and not purchasing it in the first place — you can recoup at least a small portion of the expense by selling your stuff on a resale site like Amazon or eBay. You can also join Facebook groups to resell household items.
You can resell just about anything, from clothing to children’s toys to furniture and electronics, if it’s in good condition.
Local consignment shops and pop-ups are also options for reselling clothes that are still in good condition. These vary by region, so do some research on what’s available in your area. For example, my hometown features consignment stores like Clothes Mentor, Plato’s Closet, and Once Upon a Child.
When it comes to children’s clothes, also look for local pop-up consignment sales where you can sell your old stuff and shop for new-to-you used items. It’s a great way to save on children’s clothes when your kids have outgrown their old stuff. To find one near you, search Consignment Mommies.
Kids’ toys are always in popular demand, and you can also sell them on Facebook groups and at pop-up sales. Search to find resale Facebook groups near you.
If you don’t mind mailing the toys, eBay is another option. It’s also probably one of the best choices if you want to resell anything that’s still boxed or a collector’s item. I recently scored $90 on eBay for an unopened collectible model train I found buried in the back of a closet.
Keep furniture sales local, as the shipping costs on bulky furnishings makes online resale less feasible. Two of the best places for reselling furniture are Facebook groups and Letgo, an app that allows you to take a picture of what you’re selling with your phone and immediately list it for sale in your local area.
Another option I’ve had some success with is Craigslist. But be careful on this site, as it has its fair share of scammers. Never accept an offer from someone who isn’t local. Offering to pay to have an item shipped is a common Craigslist scam.
You can resell everything from computers to cellphones to gaming systems and controllers. One option is to use a site like Decluttr. With Decluttr, it’s fast and easy to unload your extra stuff while making a few extra dollars. You tell Decluttr what you’d like to sell and the condition it’s in, and they send you a quote for how much they’re willing to pay you for it. You then ship it and get paid.
Or you can sell your stuff directly to a buyer using an online auction site like eBay. Because you’re doing the selling yourself, you usually get a higher payout using this method.
6. It Saves You Time
We’ve all heard the adage “time is money,” and there’s a lot of truth in that old saying. According to the Pixie survey, Americans spend an average of two and a half days every year looking for misplaced items. That equates to 10 minutes every single day.
Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, but the survey found it’s enough to make more than half of us regularly late to work. That can lead to lost wages and potentially even a lost job if you’re frequently late.
Further, saving those 10 minutes can result in less stress and better life balance. When you free up extra time, you have more to spend doing the things you really want to do.
7. It Increases Productivity
Proper organization helps you get more done by saving time and avoiding productivity killers. A 2017 study published in Current Psychology found a link between procrastination and clutter. And in 2011, researchers at Princeton discovered that clutter makes it more challenging to focus on tasks. Specifically, they found that the visual part of your brain can become overwhelmed by an excess of stuff that’s not relevant to the task at hand, causing your attention to wander.
If you clear the clutter from your home and work environment, you’ll be less irritable and distracted, more productive, and better able to process information.
Depending on how you earn your money, greater productivity can also impact your income. If you get paid according to the end product, getting more done in less time translates directly into more dollars per hour. Even when that’s not the case, employers certainly value productive employees. So, greater productivity can translate into more opportunities for raises and promotions.
8. It Gives You a Better Sense of Control
According to a 2014 Stanford University study, the feeling of having more power and control over your life is directly linked to making better financial decisions. Having an organized home can help give you that sense of power and control.
Psychologist Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter writes in Psychology Today that messy, disorganized homes can leave you feeling powerless. We’re easily overwhelmed by clutter, which makes us feel anxious, helpless, and stressed. When you take control of the mess by decluttering and organizing, you feel more confident and powerful. This feeling of power over your stuff easily translates into more confidence in your life, including your financial decisions.
9. It Positively Impacts Your Health
Several studies have found that a clean and well-organized home promotes better physical health, and better physical health translates into lower medical costs. That could be a huge help to the average American family’s budget. According to an analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Report from 1984 to 2017 by the data company Clever, Americans spend an average of $5,000 per person per year on medical expenses.
Better organization can lead to better health-related choices. For example, the Indiana University study found that the cleanliness of a person’s home is a better predictor of their physical activity levels than their neighborhood’s walkability.
Likewise, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Obesity found that maintaining an organized schedule can help you stay in shape. The study showed that those who carefully plan their exercise routine, set goals, and record their progress are more likely to stick to their goals than those who have no plan.
Maintaining an organized environment can also promote healthy eating choices. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychological Science observed the choices made by study participants kept in a messy room versus those kept in a neat and tidy room. Those in the tidy room were more likely to choose an apple over a candy bar when researchers offered them the choice as a “parting gift” for their participation after the study.
Organizational and cleanliness habits are even linked to better sleep. A 2010 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who make their beds every morning are 19% more likely to get a good night’s sleep, and 75% percent of respondents reported they get a better night’s rest on freshly cleaned sheets. That’s because they feel more comfortable and are better able to relax as a result.
10. It Can Make You Happier
The 2017 Ikea survey found that having too much stuff is the single biggest cause of stress in the home. Almost half (44%) of the respondents reported that clearing out excess stuff gave them a great sense of relief.
According to the previous year’s survey, having too much stuff also makes people more irritable. During the 2016 Ikea Life at Home survey, 39% of respondents said the state of their homes upset them once a week or more. And 27% argued about tidying up at least once a week. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the results were even more significant: 47% of the younger generation got irritated about the state of their homes at least once a week, and 36% had weekly arguments about it.
The Ikea surveys aren’t the only ones to have found a relationship between clutter and disorganization and negative emotional states. In 2010, researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families found that clutter has a profound impact on our self-esteem and moods. Women in the study who described their homes as cluttered were more likely to feel depressed and fatigued. They also had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley’s mission is to study happiness and ways to impact it positively. The center advises that bringing a little bit of order to our spaces can bring us a great deal of joy.
And the popular KonMari method of decluttering and organizing, created by Marie Kondo, is all about surrounding yourself only with things that “spark joy.”
Greater happiness is a worthwhile pursuit in and of itself. But additionally, happiness has meaningful financial benefits. Our emotional state has a direct impact on our monetary choices. Chad Rixse, co-founder of financial planning firm Millennial Wealth, told U.S. News that we’re able to make more objective and beneficial financial decisions when we’re happier. Conversely, anxiety and depression can lead to poor financial choices and impulse spending. So anything you can do to boost happiness and curb financial anxiety positively affects your personal finances.
Organization isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. At the end of a long day, most people don’t want to put away the dishes or sort through the mail. And decluttering can also be emotionally difficult. Many of us have deep emotional ties to our things even though we simultaneously feel weighed down and stressed by having too much stuff.
But as the research collectively shows, the benefits of maintaining an organized home are worth it. Not only can it significantly impact our mental and physical health, but it can also affect our financial health. Even better, you don’t have to spend a lot to get it done. It’s entirely possible to organize your home on a budget.
Remember, any space or task can feel overwhelming when you look at it broadly. But if you can pick one small area to tackle first, such as your kitchen junk drawer, that little bit of success can help inspire you to tackle larger goals, moving you ever forward to a feeling of control and even happiness with your space. And that can lead to significant financial benefits.
Has a disorganized home ever cost you money? Do you have any money-saving organization tips?