Clutter is more than just an eyesore. If left to accumulate, it can pose serious harm to your health and safety – and lead to costly property repairs. As the risks associated with clutter accumulate in your home, it could also affect your ability to insure your property, raise your homeowners insurance premium, and make it difficult to get as much as you deserve after a claim (if adjusters are unable to properly assess damage in the home).
In addition to discussing why clutter happens, we offer some valuable clutter tips to help you plan your cleanup.
Clutter: A Common Problem
It's easy to see how clutter can quickly get out of control. There are many reasons belongings may accumulate, affecting both the look and usability of your space. Most often, the stuff simply hasn't been organized, stored appropriately, or tossed.
Many things can affect our ability to keep a clutter-free home, including:
- Overabundance of possessions. You may have suddenly inherited, or collected over time, more things than you know what to do with. This commonly happens with dishware, linens, clothing, books, and furniture.
- Emotional attachment. It can be difficult to part with sentimental belongings, such as family heirlooms, a child’s drawings, old greeting cards and letters – even favorite outfits you haven’t been able to fit into for years.
- A good value gone bad. It can also be hard to get rid of excess items if you have a strong "waste not" ethic. This can lead to a stockpile of Tupperware and other containers, scraps of fabric, magazines, and expired pantry items.
- Roadblocks. Your momentum to clean and organize may be stalled as soon as you reach items you just don't know what to do with. This includes not knowing how to properly dispose of old electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, cleaning products or other hazardous materials (e.g., gas/propane, paint). Sometimes not having the right storage solutions can halt your efforts.
- Disorganization. Failing to put items back where they belong can quickly lead to stress-inducing piles where there shouldn't be piles. Shoes, umbrellas, car keys, mail, glasses, reading materials – all are commonly left somewhere convenient instead of being properly put away.
Want an even closer look at why clutter happens? This video describes 5 reasons for clutter (homeless clutter, fantasy clutter, guilty clutter, identity clutter and lazy clutter), to help you identify which one might be holding you back.
Risks Associated With Clutter
There are numerous problems resulting from the haphazard accumulation of clutter in the home. Too much clutter may block a path to safety in the event of fire or other reason you’d need to leave the home immediately. Too much clutter can also make it difficult to see problems – and if you can’t see them, you won’t be able to fix them, making issues such as leaking pipes, water damage, and mold growth worse over time. Some of the biggest health and safety risks associated with clutter include:
- Blocked exits
- Water damage
- Mold & mildew growth
- Trips and falls
- Animal/plant waste
- Fire hazards
- Stress, anxiety, depression
- Pest infestation
How to Tackle Household Clutter
You can help prevent the above dangers by doing some decluttering. It's always easiest to do a little every day or week, but the beginning of a new year is also a great time to do a deep dive and start making order out of the chaos. Below are some helpful clutter tips to keep in mind as you go.
- One room at a time. Start in one section of one room at a time – and keep at it until you're satisfied with what you've done.
- One drawer at a time. When you reach a chest or cabinet, take everything out of the drawer or cabinet to survey what’s inside.
- Survey items. Ask yourself if the items you find are regularly used, potentially useful, or junk. Toss the junk, organize what you regularly use, and identify whether to keep and store the useful items or perhaps sell or give them to someone who could use the items now. For example:
- USE REGULARLY = clothes, kitchenware, skincare items, linens, office supplies, cleaning products, tools, children’s toys/school supplies – whichever of these you are currently using.
- USEFUL (STORE) = including seasonal items (holiday decorations, sports equipment, camping gear) and rarely used items (china, crystal).
- USEFUL (GIVE AWAY/SELL) = clothes and shoes in good condition but you no longer wear; duplicate items (excess cookware, vases, bags, tools, décor, small appliances like blenders or coffee makers); gifts you don’t like or use.
- TOSS = broken items (phone chargers, small appliances, nonfunctioning gadgets); old items no longer used (toiletries, pet/child toys, magazines, paperwork, outdated technology); worn-out items (clothing, towels, bedding); projects you’ve lost interest in; expired pantry items.
- Consider your storage solutions. Especially for shared spaces in the home, consider how you might easily gather and store items typically left scattered around (e.g., toys, games, sport/exercise equipment). It may be worth investing in effective and aesthetically pleasing storage solutions, such as a bike rack, toy box, additional shelving, over-the-door organizers, storage bench, mounted peg boards, hanging nets, and under-the-bed options.
- Dispose of items correctly. It’s important to correctly dispose of electronic waste (e-waste), including cellphones, laptops, TVs and batteries – especially lithium-ion batteries – because these items may contain hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury and cadmium. The same goes for toxic chemicals, including paint, old gas/propane, and cleaning products. Locate the household hazardous waste (HHW) and electronics drop-off location nearest you.
Decluttering Tips to Keep Your Home in Tip-Top Shape
As 2023 and all the various holiday celebrations wind to a close, we here at Edison Insurance Company wish you and yours a happy and prosperous 2024! And, when you have a moment, consider implementing some of the above clutter tips to ensure your home continues to be the safe haven it was when you first moved in.