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A Professional Organizer Explains "Low-Key Costly Clutter"

Buyer beware of Low-key Costly Clutter.


This type of clutter typically finds its way into our homes via the sales rack or somehow with the word free attached to it (think: free shipping with minimum purchase, free gift with purchase, free returns, and even free newsletter subscriptions). You typically love the deal more than you love or need the actual thing. And you find it hard to come up with much of a response to the little clutter-bug devil sitting on your shoulder asking, "Why not?" I'll tell you why not, dear reader! The smallest and cheapest of things can accumulate and end up taking up lots of physical and emotional space. It's not worth it!


Common justifications and the sh*t you have to deal with later:

  • “It’s so cheap. I’ll just resell/donate/throw it away if I don’t like it.” often leads to:

  • “I feel guilty throwing away something I spent money on.” Guilt over money we've spent will often drive us to try and recover our investments, only to cost us more in time.

  • “I need to find time to take a picture and post it online.” Now multiply the amount of time it takes to post one item by the number of tchotchkes you have around your home.

  • “I responded to all of this Craigslister’s questions and in the end, he still didn’t buy it!” In my 20s, I lost so many weekend afternoons by making my time and energy available to people responding to my Craigslist ads. I'm sure I'm not alone.


  • “There’s a great return policy, so I’ll just buy a bunch and return what I don’t want to keep” turns into:

  • “I better save all the packaging in case.” Does your home looks like a storage facility with all the boxes that you're saving in case?

  • “Now I need to find time to go to the post office.” Sorry, but what was sold to you as convenience can become the ultimate time suck.

  • “Doh! It’s past the return by date.” Let's not forget that managing returns also requires managing dates!


  • “It’s free to subscribe” can easily spin out of control and become:

  • "My inbox is stressing me out."

  • “OMG. Is my SPAM breeding?!” Yes, yes, it is.


  • It hardly takes up any space. There’s no harm in keeping it.” devolves into:

  • “How is my phone out of memory again?” Cue deleting apps and photos...again.


To reduce Low-Key Costly Clutter from taking over your life, invest in what you love, in what’s worth your time and energy. Don’t create more work for yourself. The next time you are on the fence about buying something--no matter how small or inexpensive--ask yourself if you are really willing to pay the true costs of dealing with it down the road.


Let all of the above sink in a little bit. If any of the thought patterns and frustrations I described sound familiar and you want help breaking the cycle, I’m committed to combating your clutter with you! You know where to find me. Right here.

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