Clutter costs money

Talking to people with large amounts of clutter, they see the value of an object not what it is costing them to keep it.

People use “a spare room” for storage: To find out what your spare room is worth look at estate agent ads. Compare the cost of your flat/house with a property that has one less bedroom. One of our clients told us that in her street a bedroom is worth about £30,000.

Commercial property is priced by the square foot. A cost of £30/square foot is not unusual. Commercial Storage Facilities are not in expensive residential areas.

There are storage facilities: These cost around £200 for a small room every 4 weeks. This works out as 13 payments a year or £2,600.

Most people are not able to pay cash for their homes. That means a mortgage and the interest on the mortgage.

A property has other costs: taxes, utilities and insurance.

Insurance can present complications when there is a great deal of stuff. In cases of fire, the insurance can be nullified if the owner has created a fire hazard. The cost here could be the total value of the home.

A garage, a shed, a loft, a cellar: All of those spaces have a value.

Space is valuable.

Before deciding to keep something long term, ask whether its value is greater than the cost of keeping it.

What is the value of the thing itself?

This is a very difficult question when talking about things with sentimental value, so let us just look at objective values:

How much would it cost to replace?

How much can you sell it for right now? Check with the manufacturer, check resale values.

How much of your time are you prepared to spend to sell it? Your time has value. If you have a regular job you will know what your hourly rate is. If you enjoy the challenge of selling, then you are spending your time on a leisure activity. If you don’t, then make sure that the amount of money you get covers the cost of your time.

It will have value in the future as a collectable.

Maybe. Again, factor in how much money you will pay to store it for the years that you wait for the price to go up.

A museum, a library, some public collection will want it.

It costs the museums and libraries money to keep and catalog things. It costs a lot of money.  17 archive boxes of paper (not tightly packed or even completely full) are going to cost a major collection between £25,000 and £40,000 to catalog.  Museums and libraries only accept things that they really want because once they accept them they are responsible for making sure that the items are properly stored. Many major collections in the US will not accept anything that doesn’t come with a dowry to cover cataloging costs.

Paper is particularly difficult. When paper still had a big rag content it survived pretty well. Much of 20th Century paper is very cheaply made and has a high acid content. Archivists and restorers can de-acidify items. It is impossible to cost this without knowing what the item is but as with all things that are labour intensive it is expensive.

My children will want it.

Have you asked them? Again, large items like furniture require large spaces to keep. The space costs money.

There are other clutter costs:

Losing cheques, passports, tax discs, birth certificates cost both money and time to replace. Non-payment of bills and taxes result in interest charges. All this can lead to eviction and more cost.

How much does it cost to get rid of clutter?

The short answer is: a lot.

House Clearance: These are firms that go in and clear properties. For a full three bedroom house, it will cost approximately ££££££££. Items of any value can be sold to offset some of the cost. However, these firms are working to finish as quickly as possible. While they may keep an eye out for something, they do not sort paper.

The Council: This is regarded as the last resort for a bad hoarding situation where vermin and fire hazard issues have been raised. £20,000. Many people think that councils simply absorb this cost. If the hoarder owns the property then a lien will be put on it so that the council can recover the cost when the property is sold.

A council clearance is a brutal experience. The hoarder will need to be housed elsewhere and will probably need medical support. These are further costs.

It is often difficult for people to understand how much hard physical labour there is to clearing clutter. It took two people working for 5 hours (10 man hours) to clear the small space in the middle of this room (Vesey picture). In this particular case efforts were being made to salvage pictures and treasures. Jobs can be dirty and demanding.

Clearing with a clutter consultant: In this case control is maintained and the process is more gentle but to clear a hoarder’s house will take 12-18 months of fortnightly visits 3-4 hours long, approximately £6,000. The more the client does, the faster it will go and the cheaper it will be. This may seem like a great deal of money, but in many cases there is money saved or recovered. One client had more than £10,000 of uncashed cheques. Arrangements were made to have them re-issued and the money was recovered.

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