Can’t throw things away? Do you know what it’s costing you?

Sarah Coles
The cost of clutter
The cost of clutter

The vast majority of us have some sort of hoarding tendency -whether it's an inability to part with music that we last listened to in the 1990s, or the need to keep the expensive outfits we've never had a chance to wear. However, if we're not careful, our inability to part with unwanted items could be costing us hundreds, or even thousands of pounds.

See also: How to sell a house: get people in through the front door

See also: Queen of the car boot sales reveals how to bag the best bargains

How much is hoarding unwanted items costing you?

There are three vital ways we're wasting cash by keeping things hanging around

1. A study by focused on the cash we could make by flogging these unwanted items. It found that 64% of people have unwanted DVDs, 51% have old video games, and 46% of people have at least one old mobile phone kicking around at home. Some 78% of people have unworn clothes cluttering the wardrobe, while 82% have a pair of shoes they have never worn.

Clearly the money you can make from selling these things depends on the kind of hoarder you are - and the quality and condition of the items you have hanging around. The study put the average value at £460, but with a careful combination of sites like money magpie for unwanted music and DVDs, eBay for more collectable items, and car boot sales for everything else, you could make far more.

2. As we fill up our homes, we end up doing one of two things: we either decide we have run out of space and need to move somewhere bigger - or we decide to put things into storage. Both of these are incredibly expensive endeavours.

Take storage: assuming you get a good deal - and you're not based near London, you can easily pay £20 a week for a storage unit. Hold onto that for a year and you'll work your way through more than £1,000. You have to ask yourself whether your need to cling onto items that you hardly ever use is worth £1,000 a year to you.

3. If you choose to move, meanwhile, you'll spend even more money. The average cost of a move is over £8,000 - and if you are moving further up the ladder you'll spend more than this on stamp duty alone. To make matters worse, if you put your home on the market when it's cluttered with junk, you'll easily wipe £10,000 or more off your selling price. However hard buyers try to ignore the property contents, they won't be able to shake the feeling that the property is too small.

Clear the clutter

If you're struggling to clear the junk, it's worth trying the seven step process.

1. Allocate an hour for each room for the initial sort - and don't try to do it all in one day.

2. Go through the room considering whether you use each item regularly and get real value from it. Think of everything as having to earn its place in your home, rather than having to be useless enough to throw out. Keep the things you really need, and put the rest into either a box to sell, or another box to make a decision about later.

3. Once you have gone through each room, ask a valued friend to come over to go through the 'don't know' box with you. Discuss each item, and redistribute into the 'sell' box or the 'still don't know box'.

4. Sell the items in the 'sell' box. Make sure you think about the best way to get good value from it, whether that's eBay or a car boot sale. Don't be in such a rush to ditch the junk that you sell yourself short.

5. Wait at least a month.

6. Make a note of the money you made from the 'sell' box, and put it next to you, while you go through the 'still don't know' box. Think 'do I value this more than I value the money I'd make from it?' and allocate it either to the 'sell' box, or the 'sorry I still don't know' box.

7. Get a quote for storing the stuff in the 'sorry I still don't know box' and put it next to you while you go through the box one last time. Think 'do I value this enough to spend £xx storing it?' Then allocate items to sell or to store.

Once you have finished this process, you need to decide whether you have enough in the 'storage' box to make renting space worthwhile - or whether you can put it back into your home without cluttering it up too much.

Anyone you ask who has put things into storage will tell you that when they got everything out, there were things they looked at and thought 'why did I store this?' Don't fall victim to this. Follow the seven steps, make hundreds of pounds from your junk, and ensure your home looks thousands of pounds more valuable when you finish too.