How Summer Clutter Hurts Your Finances

They’re not just eyesores—your laundry piles, overstuffed closets and messy backyards can have a direct impact on your wallet. Studies reveal that about 23 percent of adults pay their bills late and suffer the wrath of fees all because they misplaced them. We only tend to wear 20 percent of the clothes we own. And close to 10 percent of American families rent storage units to house their overflow of stuff at an average of $1,000 annually.

What’s more is that summer becomes a season where our clutter only grows. School is wrapping up and you have the kids (and their mess) full time. Fun distractions are everywhere, whether it’s poolside or beachside.

But if your spring cleaning came up short, ditching clutter in the summer can make room for extra dollars over the rest of the year. The American Cleaning Institute reports that getting rid of stuff you don’t need can cut back on as much as 40 percent of housework.

Dollars and Sense: Behind The Cluttered Logic

It’s not easy to let go of the things we own. Organizational experts say we tend to have an “I may use this someday” mentality. Old containers, clothes and small kitchen appliances are just a few notorious examples.

And if we don’t keep items for their function, sentimentality comes into play. Items like letters, books, children’s toys, souvenirs and photos often fall into this category. These things weigh down our closets and drawers because we attach our emotions to the item instead of the memory associated with it.

In these instances, value is relative. Your junk may be your treasure, but it could also be doing more harm than you realize. The National Association of Professional Organizers predicts that we spend about one year of our entire lives searching for lost items in disorganized homes. Lost time translates to lost money.

Signs That Clutter Is Costing You

You’ve sunk into the habit of late payments. Whether it’s a utility bill, credit card statement or tax documents, you can’t keep track of what’s due when if your bills get buried. The result is not only extra fees, but additional paperwork detailing those fees, which is piled onto your disorganized filing system.
You’re resorting to duplicate purchases. That specific hardware tool you bought three months ago is somewhere in your garage, but you just can’t find it. It may be missing, but you need it ASAP, so you have to go out and buy another. The financial consequence is you’ve doubled the amount you had to spend on one item.
Your unused items far exceed what you use on a daily basis. If you took one room in your home and added up the price of your unused clothes, toys, books, jewelry, electronics and other gadgets—what would it cost? Is the price of your clutter equal to some of the debt you may still be paying off?

Starting Your Summer De-Clutter Process

Summer provides a great opportunity to unload your clutter. No matter which method you choose to cut back on your stuff, you can reap emotional and financial reward.

Hold a garage or yard sale. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and it’s the season for serious bargain hunters. The great weather draws more people outdoors and to your sale.

Since the kids are out of school, they can pitch in with the lifting and sorting. You can even involve them in the transaction process to help them learn how buying and selling works.

These sales also give you the chance to make cash that you would have lost out on from pitching your items. The financial incentive can also make it easier to let your things go.

Check out consignment. Consignment stores are always on the hunt for seasonal items. If you’re finding summer stuff you don’t use anymore, these second-hand shops will sell your items for you. As your items are purchased by their customers, you’re paid for a percentage of the sale.

Donate to charity. When consignment stores and yard sale shoppers don’t bite at what you’re offering, the need for your unused items can still be fulfilled. Places like the Goodwill and Salvation Army provide drop-off locations with convenient summer hours.

Not only do your donations rack up good karma, but your charity donations are tax deductible, which means more money in your pocket at the end of the fiscal year.

A Stuff-Less Summer

The only way to truly get value out of an item is to use it. Odds are when you have a clean slate, all of the “stuff” you thought mattered falls to the wayside and leaves room to enjoy the summer. And the more you chip away at your stack of clutter, the more likely you are to find an even better stash—a growing bank account.