How much of your mortgage is going toward clutter storage?

If there is a room in your home that is off limits because of clutter in that space, you are not only wasting space but also wasting money. An article from 2008 explores the findings of a study by IKEA on the costs associated with cluttered rooms. From the article:

In a survey of UK homes, Ikea found 77% of us have a big problem with clutter, which contributes to wasting a whole room.

Squandering that space but paying for it over the years on our mortgages costs us on average an eye-watering £38,246 [about $50,000 USD] in Middlesbrough.

Research by another company, junk clearance business Any Junk?, confirmed the “wasted room” evidence and put it at only a slightly lower cost. It estimated on average householders waste around £32,000 [about $42,000 USD] worth of space – in Middlesbrough the figure is about £14,870 [$19,500 USD].

In the past 10 years, these costs have only increased. It can be important to take stock of what you own. If your possessions are filling up a room in your home, then it is probably a good time to clear it out and purge the items that are wasting an entire room. Downsizing or finding a more utilitarian way to use the space may help you out financially over the long term.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

31 Comments for “How much of your mortgage is going toward clutter storage?”

  1. posted by adora on

    Like knowing the actual hourly salary to value our time, one should know the actual space cost in the home to live efficiently. It is just not worth saving $30 to have a closet full of toilet paper.

  2. posted by M on

    On the other hand, having more things in a room helps to maintain the temperature, doesn’t it? Like having a full freezer to save energy?

  3. posted by martha in mobile on

    Not only do we have a room devoted to storage, but we “had” to buy a bigger house to accomodate the furniture my husband inherited and could not part with. My home is a bizarre mix of early 1900’s and 1960’s furniture and “collections” of fine dustables. Talk about your stuff owning you!

  4. posted by John on

    It’s interesting that this comes out of the UK where houses are smaller and more expensive than in the US. Since the British have more incentive to declutter, the cost of clutter would probably be higher in America.

  5. posted by on

    What an interesting way to look at things. I’ve never thought of it that way before. It also applies to storage units you may be paying for each month.

  6. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    very interesting. In our 1700 sq. foot house (we live in DC) it’s not much of an issue, but we could definitely use this concept when cleaning out our garage – the extra space just may save space somewhere else in the house.

  7. posted by Rue on

    I think about it this way: Would I rather have a room that I can’t use and would be embarrassed to show almost anyone, or would I rather clean it out (or not clutter it in the first place) and have a “new,” gorgeous room to show off?

    If you’ve got a clutter room, clean it out and sell what you can. Take whatever money you make from that, buy some paint and some nice things and make it a new-to-you room!

  8. posted by Sarah H. on

    I couldn’t agree more! Fascinating and very thought-provoking point of view…thanks for sharing!

  9. posted by momofthree on

    Interesting, very interesting…We are a family of 5: mom, dad, 3 teens, all living in 920 square feet of space.
    Bought the house in the early 1990’s when the oldest was newborn. Two more kids later, and we are still here. Never feel crowded until the kids come home and spread out to do all the homework.
    This house is our biggest asset, not the stuff we have inside it!

  10. posted by jellybeans on

    Do the British also pay to use outside storage space like Americans do?

  11. posted by Sean on

    I don’t doubt the math, but I’m skeptical about the logic. You’re paying for the room cluttered or not. It’s not until you start paying for storage lockers or similar solutions that your “wasted room” starts costing extra money. And while buying storage boxes to manage your clutter might recover some wasted space, that too is squandered money.

  12. posted by Khürt Louis Francis Elliot Williams on

    I am the unclutterer and my wife is the pack rat.

  13. posted by Daniel on

    @Sean, agreed. Lifestyles are different of course, some people need bigger houses the way some people need a fullsize SUV instead of a subcompact car.
    I think the point is still valid that people buy more house than they need. Most people buy space to store things they don’t really need or want. Or worse, buy lots of space, which makes them want to fill it up with stuff.

  14. posted by Craig on


    I think the logic holds up. The point of the study was that if you have a room that is ‘off limits’ and unused due to junk, then you could be living in a smaller place, and thus potentially saving money by having a smaller mortgage.

  15. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    Not only are you wasting mortgage but you’re also wasting the money you spend on utilities.

    In this way a room you don’t use because of clutter that never gets looked at is like having an external storage locker.

    Say you have 10 rooms in your house and one of them is not usable on a daily basis. If your utilities come to a total of $500 a month then you are spending $50 a month on storage, or $600 a year.

    If you took everything out of the room and put it in a storage locker, would you be willing to pay for the storage? If no, why pay for it in the house?


  16. posted by Ann on

    Same for a guest room. If you have one that is rarely used, how much more did it cost to buy this house? If you had bought a house with one less bedroom, that savings could put your occasional guests up at a really nice hotel.

  17. posted by Mikey on

    @craig, @alex @nearly everyone,

    I’m with Sean! Most people don’t buy a house and immediately clutter it. They bought the house, and over the years the clutter happened. Uncluttering won’t change the size of the house.

    Unless you are recommending uncluttering, selling, and downsizing….but I hope not since the best you can do when you sell is lose 5% of the equity. Not frugal!

    What home you initially buy is another topic. But, I hope that before you made that offer, you wrote a list of your needs, examined your budget, and decided what you need to have in the house in order to quickly resell should you have to. And obviously, bought what you could easily afford…but from market conditions today I guess that last point was missed by some!

    While it is certainly cool to live in a 500 sf home, and I know I could, I bought a 3 bd/2 ba home as a long term investment. I keep it up (and uncluttered!), knowing that I would need to resell it fast should financial disaster strike. I have rooms that I don’t use. I have kitchen drawers that are empty. So what.

  18. posted by JenK on

    I have suggested the “We could get rid of stuff we’re not using and buy a smaller place” only to be greeted with

    * “But moving sucks!”
    * “We already have one of the smaller places in the neighborhood.”
    * “Sell? You’ve noticed the neighbors for sale signs that haven’t changed in months, right?”

    Our guest room does get a lot of use, and so does our bedroom, kitchen, TV room, and library/living room. It’s the 3rd bedroom that’s setup as a home office but never used…

  19. posted by FrugalNYC on

    If you live in a large city, you can even generate income by renting the wasted room out.

  20. posted by Matt on

    Hmmm…. we just moved into a ~2500 sq ft house, just my fiance’ and me. But we’re planning for the future, with 2 kids and a bonus room for activities. So are we losing money? I don’t think so. Then you have to allot for owners who enjoy the space. It’s a cost/utility tradeoff. If you’re struggling to pay the bills because you’re house-poor, I guess this article could make sense. Otherwise……

  21. posted by Carl on

    I think what is being overlooked in some of the comments is his last line talking about finding a more utilitarian use for the space. The key is trading the junk and clutter for something valuable to you. Whether it’s space for kids to play, space to rent out, or space to run a small business, it depends on the homeowner to decide. I think his point is that we all have things in our house that we could get rid of and have more space to enrich our lives financially or emotionally.

  22. posted by [email protected] on

    This is enlightening. We have a junk room, though it is the smallest in the house. The garage too has a lot of clutter. I’m going to show this post to my husband in hopes that it will help convince him to pitch stuff that we’re holding on to for no good reason.

    It’s especially interesting to think about that “extra” space in terms of getting a boarder or a roommate. That space could be turned to good use generating money, instead of sitting there uselessly.

    Thanks for discussing this.

  23. posted by KC on

    Don’t forget you can sell some of that excess for cash, too. I’ve been doing a lot of that cause we’re preparing to move and have probably pocketed $1000.

    We live in a 1400 sq ft townhouse in the best location in the city and we’ve had to live de-cluttered for years due to a lack of space (not a bad thing). But now we’re moving to a smaller city where we’ll be living on the edge of town in a 3500sq ft house that actually doesn’t cost much more than our small townhouse. I can’t wait to get in that big house. I’ll probably immediately shut off 2 of the 5 bedrooms cause they literally will be storage. I doubt I’ll accumulate much simply because I like living a clutter free home. But it will be nice to know that I won’t have to move again when I have kids.

  24. posted by STL Mom on

    My clutter cost me $35 today, because I can’t put both cars in my garage, and forgot to move one off the street for leaf pick-up day.
    Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?

  25. posted by Heather on

    This is also true – even truer maybe – for people who rent! We pay a really reasonable rent for the area, and have lots of space, but if we could get rid of some of our junk we could move to a one-bedroom with very little hardship. We are trying to do just that, and hoping to save $100-150 per month once we can find a new place.

  26. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on


    My suggestion isn’t selling the house – everyone has the right to whatever size they like, but if you’re just using a room for storage of things you’ll never use then yes, to me, you’re throwing away your money.

    Why not clear it out and put it to good use?

  27. posted by princess_peas on


    It’s not common, but it is available. Most people tend to only use it for if they temporarily (even a few years) have to live in a smaller house and need somewhere to put furniture etc in the meantime, but they intend to move back to somewhere bigger in the forseeable future. Some people also utilise it for 6mo or so when moving house, they take the house down to the bare bones before the move and put the rest in storage, and then get their stuff out of storage and into the new place in bits, so that they don’t have huge numbers of unpacked boxes cluttering up the place. So they bring it back a room at a time or whatever and unpack that before getting the other stuff. It is very much seen as a waste to hire storage for stuff there just isn’t room for. (On the other hand, in a lot of british houses, there is a lot of “stuff” in almost every room. Every bit of wall space is usually utillised with something, and wall space is sort of more important than room size. People like rooms that aren’t tiny, but having a big space in the middle of a room is seen as a waste too..)

  28. posted by Deb on

    Very smart. I can’t get over the three-story storage units in our neighborhood. It’s insane to spend money to store “junk” you are afraid you might never come across again. Same with your house. We spend 90% of our time in our main lr/dr/kit. Do we really need that second level?

  29. posted by Patrick on

    I think a big part of surviving this bear market we are in is cutting back on costs. This means downsizing in all aspects of our lives that make sense and have unneeded waste. This includes decluttering. Who would have thought that a key to financial freedom is getting rid of extra stuff?!

  30. posted by DiscoStu on

    I’m just glad mortgage rates are dropping here in Australia, after the constant rises under the previous conservative government, it’s nice to be paying a little less at last!

  31. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I keep telling my wife that we could free up a lot of useful space if we moved the car out of the garage.

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