Minimalism: The Hidden Cost of Stuff

You pick out your new purchase, and make your way to the register. The clerk rings you up and you pay for your new stuff. That ends the cost of your new purhcase, right? Wrong. There are a ton of hidden costs that are not only monitory, but physical and mental as well.

More than just money

I know what you are thinking, if it’s an electronic then of course you need to pay to power the device. Food, you may have to cook, and if you buy a car you need to fuel it and maintenance it. Yes, however there are even more costs.

Physical/Digital Space

Space is limited and everything you buy including digital items take up some form of space. Be it physical space or bits on your computer. After obtaining so much stuff, you will find that your space is full and you need more space to live or to get more stuff that you want. Here is where the costs start to come in. If you need more physical space, this means you need to find a larger apartment or go searching to buy a bigger house or build an addition. This space will cost more, either in rent or in the fixed cost of the addition.

The costs don’t end there though. You will need to up your home or renters insurance for all the new stuff and space as well as heat, cool and light the new space. These are further costs that aren’t immediately available but do stack up over time. So no, buying that new kindle won’t force you to change up your living situation, but that combined with your new exercise equipment, new game consoles, new TV’s and other gadgets slowly eat up more space. Suddenly you have  not just a junk drawer but a junk room which eventually means you will expand, or live amongst piles of things. This includes digital goods as well as you will fill up hard drives full of data and then need to buy more drives to store more. Although relatively small, suddenly you may find your desk inundated with disks of stuff.


One of the most important aspects of stuff is the amount of mental energy and space it consumes. This is something that is not easily measured or readily noticed until you start removing the amount of things you own. I have found that when I owned more things I worried more about catastrophic events and what would happen to all my stuff! I was protective of it and kept an inventory of my things mentally if I ever needed to recall where I last used or saw something I needed or if worst case scenario I needed to file an insurance claim to be able to replace my stuff.

After working through downsizing and removing stuff I have found myself at much more ease with less thought about the stuff I have in my life. I don’t worry about what will happen as I have learned to detach my emotions from things but leave it on the memory or event that is related. I no longer worry about where I will put something if I need to buy something because I have cleared out what I don’t need so I have space for the things I do.


Pests love stuff. From insects to arachnids to mice. They all love to have stuff to hide in. Although usually stuff is kept inside these unwanted creatures find their way into our homes. What if I told you that they only like to frequent where they can set up a secluded place to live? One where they can hide and not be disturbed? A place there they won’t be found and are hidden away from threats of larger animals like us? What if those places are in our stuff that is stacked and stored and rarely used? Think about it, how often do you see a bug in the middle of the floor or on a wall compared to hiding behind something? Maybe there is something to this.

All of this is true. It’s one of the last benefits that I realized once we hit a certain point in downsizing. When we lived in our first place, we had too much stuff which led to piles stashing things around the living space as well as storage bins lining our closets. We also had a bug problem. More than just the bugs trying to get into our place during the fall when it was cool outside but nice and warm inside. We had a fair number of bugs inside. Not anything alarming, I would say about what was considered average else we would have been very concerned.

So we downsized some and moved to a smaller place. Although the place was empty when we arrived, we soon found more critters living with us than we saw when we moved in. How does that happen? Where were they coming from? We brought in places for them to hide and thrive! We continued to downsize and soon found that there were fewer occurrences of pests. There was an influx of spiders when the weather turned cold in the fall, but after a single bug repellent treatment outside and putting foam around our main door to our apartments common hall we are now essentially bug free. I haven’t seen a bug since last fall. I would normally expect to see at least one bug or a few dead bugs over the course of winter, however we have literally seen zero bugs. We have moved every last item we own as part of our downsizing quest, so we know for a fact there are no bugs hiding.


Your stuff also costs you a lot of time. The more stuff you have the more time is generally spent cleaning, organizing and searching your things. If everything has a place and can’t easily be buried or lost within your own space you can save many minutes and hours looking for your keys, the TV remote, that one charging cord that only works with your tablet etc.

Cleaning is a large time sink. If you don’t take time to move things when you clean, you run the risk of getting more pests. The more stuff you have the more time it takes to move things, clean and return it to where it was. By leaving clean surfaces in your home you can cut cleaning down drastically. As we have downsized it used to take a day to clean our entire place. Now we can do it in under an hour. Depending on the cleaning need, we can vacuum and dust our place in minutes.

Organizing your stuff may be something you spend a lot or little time on, however either way it is a busy work chore that never ends. You spend time looking for things or organizing things to later have it so messy that you have to organize it all over again. Additionally you can find yourself spending more money (which is equivalent to time traded for money) on organizational things such as bins, dividers, trays etc.

We used to spend weekends cleaning and reorganizing our things regularly to keep up with our clutter and keep things somewhat manageable. We are now to a point where everything has a spot or a general location. As of this writing we still haven’t nailed down specifics for everything, but having less stuff has greatly reduced the amount of reorganizing attempts to get things to fit better as well as time spent cleaning it.

Less is more

So as you can see, there are many hidden costs and side effects of owning stuff and the effects are made greater with the more things you amass. It truly is a case where less stuff gives you more time and money for what you really want. So next time you are organizing, cleaning or searching for something, think about how much time your spending doing that task and consider living with less.

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