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

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.

10 easy ways to stop waste
See Gallery
10 easy ways to stop waste
Look through your direct debits and ask yourself whether you are really getting value from all of them. Are you reading your magazine subscriptions? Are you attending clubs? Are you going to the gym? In many cases we have let these roll over in a vague hope that at some point they'll be useful to us again. But unless they're useful to you today, you need to ditch them.
Likewise, look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and really think about what you buy versus what you eat. Ask yourself whether there are certain things you buy every time you shop that you appear to be stockpiling, or fresh foods that you buy out of habit that end up going mouldy more often than not.
This is particularly vital for car and home insurance. If you automatically renew instead of shopping around, you could be wasting £300 a year or more, so make a note in your diary when your renewal is due, and a week beforehand set aside some time to find the best deal.
The same goes for any service you sign up to. Many will automatically tick the auto-renewal box when you first sign up - so it's worth checking your accounts to see if you have accidentally pledged to buy the same products again next year.
We waste a small fortune by doing things at the last minute, in a hurry, or missing the deadline. Take travel, for example, if you know you are travelling in a few weeks' time you can buy your ticket far more cheaply today. Likewise, if you are ordering a present or something you need for an event, make the time to shop in advance and opt for standard delivery rather than paying for a rush job. And make a point of dealing within anything with a penalty for lateness at least a few days before the deadline expires.
Most of us shop in a state of semi-consciousness, rushing down the aisles and taking things off the shelf out of habit, without really noticing what we're buying. It's no wonder we come home with armfuls of things we don't need.
Shopping needs to be done consciously and purposely. You need to start with a list, and view each item carefully. If you tend to buy a certain brand, have you at least tried the supermarket's own brand to see if you like it as much? If you tend to buy the own-brand, have you tried the 'value' brand?  Switching your brain on can save you as much as 30% on your shopping bill
You might be skeptical if someone tried to tell you that your heart starts pounding at the sight of discounted toilet rolls or a BOGOF deal on tins of beans, but actually it does. Your heart rate will increase fractionally and your blood pressure will rise slightly, as your instincts tell you this is a good thing which will help you do your hunting and gathering more effectively and feed your family for less.
In order to avoid making mistakes, we need to think carefully about every deal instead of acting on our instincts. Is this something you were going to buy anyway? Is the discounted version cheaper than the one you normally buy? Is it a multibuy that's going to last long enough for you to use it? It's always worth bearing in mind that it's only a good deal if you were actually going to buy the product at full price anyway.

Even the most organised people tend to think about supermarket shopping once a week - just before they go. They might think about their likely meals, look at what they have in the fridge, and make a list of the additional things they need. This is all very well, but assuming you do this on Saturdays, you also need to make a date to check the fridge on Wednesday too.

On Wednesday there's still a chance to prioritise those things which are going out of date, or freeze the things you're not going to get to. By Saturday they will have turned to mush in the vegetable drawer.

This is something we've all heard from organisations trying to persuade us to go green, and somewhere in the back of our minds we know we're being wasteful. It can be easy to get into the habit of turning things off by remote control and leaving the red light flashing. However, when you hear that this little habit costs the average household £80 a year, it begs the question as to whether it's really so hard to turn it off properly.

We sometimes forget we live in a free market economy, and instead we stick with the companies and services we have always used. In some cases this is a very sensible idea - because we know we are going to a trusted hairdresser who always does a good job, or a dentist who is very reliable.

However, sometimes we find ourselves sticking with a company just because we have been a customer for so long - even if they have let us down in the past.

There's no logical reason for this loyalty, and it's often costing us money. So divorce the things we stick with for good reasons from the things we think we're stuck with, and vote with your feet.

There are some things we do because they are convenient, which we get a lot out of. If there's one night a week when you don't get home until 8pm and you're too tired to cook, it would be daft not to have something easy in the house to throw in a pan or the oven. No-one is suggesting you should sacrifice the conveniences you rely on to make your life work.

However, there are all sorts of 'conveniences' you may have fallen into because you think they make a far bigger difference to your life than they do. Try an experiment. If you usually buy cheese slices or grated cheese, bags of salad, carrot in sticks or sliced 'stir fry' ingredients in a bag, try buying them in a more traditional format for one week. If chopping, slicing or grating sends you over the edge, by all means go back to what you were buying before. If not, you could end up saving £100 a year.

All of us have an area in life where we know we could be less wasteful if only we understood a bit more about it. If you want to make cheaper overseas calls, stream movies for less, make calls for free, or track down a cheaper holiday, there are clever ways of doing it all. In an ideal world we could all become experts at it all. In the real world your circle of friends and acquaintances is going to be home to someone who's an expert in each field. What's even better is these experts will enjoy sharing the benefit of their knowledge, so make them a cup of tea and let them solve your problems

Read Full Story