There’s gold in them there piles

Taking the time to declutter may deliver you incredible rewards-- in terms of freedom, space, and even money.I don’t typically talk about work during my “off-hours”, but on Saturday night over a late meal with some old and new friends, we got into an interesting discussion about clutter–piles, stacks, folders, closets and shelves filled with old stuff you haven’t looked at (or used) in years. What prevents us from diving in and sorting through that stuff?

Everyone felt that it’s easy to put off dealing with that “junk” because there always seems to be much more valuable uses of our time. One fellow remarked that it’s easier to get rid of something you’ve only owned a week than something you’ve owned a year. Another observed that it’s harder to make decisions the deeper you go into the stacks–the first third of stuff is easy to toss, the next third you begin to waver, and by the last third you slow to a crawl, deliberating the merits of the tiniest receipt or paper clip.

My dinner partners agreed that digging through piles is unpleasant because it reminds you of things you didn’t do, promises you didn’t keep, goals abandoned. As long as you keep the piles (you unconsciously tell yourself), there’s still a chance of fulfilling those goals.

So–how do you motivate yourself to get the job done? Certainly, there are huge emotional benefits to releasing the clogged past. But I’d like to fortify your resolve by making a case for the financial rewards. As a professional organizer, who’s witnessed big payoffs with thousands of clients, I can assure you, there’s gold in them thar hills.

Here’s what you stand to gain:

Square footage. Sorting through old piles will help you reclaim space – whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or an entire room that’s become the household’s depository for “junk.” Real estate is worth big money – hundreds of dollars per square foot. And that’s not even considering what you might do with the extra space. A new home office? Workout room? Guest bedroom? Just imagine the possibilities.

Actual Money. Believe it or not, money (or a money equivalent) emerges during every organizing project I’ve worked on in the past twenty years. Digging through handbags, briefcases, jacket pockets, and drawers could undoubtedly surprise you with some unexpected bonuses: unused gift certificates, forgotten bank or investment accounts, undeposited checks (one recent client found $2,000) and actual cash you tucked away. Not to mention the dollars you could get for that Vintage Prada bag you were about to discard… Why not go on Ebay or over to the consignment shop with the best finds?

LOST Treasures. You’ll undoubtedly unearth practical and sentimental items you forgot you owned -From the expensive (jewelry you assumed you’d lost forever) to business cards (each one an opportunity) collected and summarily banished to the bottom of the free conference tote bag. One recent client had been through a painful divorce. When she finally worked up the nerve to sort through two final boxes of paperwork from her marriage, she found financial information she’d been trying to locate for months.

As we head into summer, take advantage of the longer days and more relaxed pace to finally get to some of those old neglected piles. Pick a room, a corner, or a closet that you’ve been neglecting for years, and devote a portion of a weekend to decluttering it. The time you invest may deliver you incredible rewards– in terms of freedom, space, and money. Talk about a return on investment!

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4 Responses to There’s gold in them there piles

  1. Vera Shury says:

    Every time I have procrastinated, it was easier to finish the project than it had grown in my mind and I questioned why I didn’t do it sooner to get the good feeling of completion success.

    • Julie Morgenstern says:

      Hi Vera- I agree….it’s always a shock at how LITTLE time it ends up taking on things we’ve put off for years!


  2. Joan says:

    Hi Julie,

    I am involved in a large library where people dropped books for the used book sale at the back door. What they don’t know is that more often than you can believe people think hiding cash in books on their book shelves at home makes them impervious to robbers. They are right – but then they begin to loose their marbles themselves and there may be 30 years of stored big bucks in those books. Relatives come and bring the books to the library, overwhelmed by volume and not knowing they are safe deposit boxes for a lifetime of money.

    We try to find the owners but often cannot — but families should be alerted that many many times, the family fortune is between the pages of those books, now forgotten.

    A word to the wise —

    Joan L.

  3. Julie Morgenstern says:

    Hi JOan!

    So nice to have you come visit! I think anyone reading your comments will be spending some time in the bookshelves this weekend–thumbing through the pages for cash. Great words to the wise–thank you for posting!



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