Updated on 04.25.12

Don’t Upgrade Your Living Space Just to House More Stuff (116/365)

Trent Hamm

When we were first married, Sarah and I lived in an extremely small apartment. It was (very) cozy for just the two of us, but it worked.

When we had our first child, we converted a small area into a spot for the bed and the crib for our baby. We literally did not have room for even a small desk in our apartment at this point.

When our second child was on the way, we finally realized that we had to move. Our older child was simply not old enough for being on top of a bunk bed and we couldn’t come up with another way to give everyone adequate space to sleep.

So we moved into a larger home, one that works great for us now. We have plenty of space for our family of five and more than enough space for every possession we have.

Now, let’s say we kept accumulating stuff. It fills every excess space in our home. Everywhere you look, you see clutter.

Eventually, our home would start to feel a bit cramped. We might eventually find ourselves considering a new, larger home simply for the stuff we had accumulated, at a tremendous cost.

Don't Upgrade Your Living Space Just to House More Stuff (116/365)

The problem with that scenario is if we have so much stuff that it fills up our home, we can’t possibly have time to use or enjoy all that stuff. That’s why we employ the “one in, one out” rule most of the time. Too much stuff means not enough time to enjoy it.

Let’s say, for example, that you collect movie props. For a while, you’ll have plenty of space for them, but at some point, they’ll begin to crowd your living quarters. At that point, you will have a lot of movie props, but if you have a lot of movie props, you have less and less time available to enjoy and care for each one of them. If one movie prop takes five minutes a month to dust and clean, a hundred movie props take eight hours a month to dust and clean. If you can spend fifteen minutes a month enjoying and showing off one movie prop, you’re suddenly dumping 25 hours per month into enjoying and showing off the props you have.

Now, if movie props are your primary hobby, that might still be okay, but you wouldn’t want your collection to grow too much larger than that or else you will have little time or space for anything else.

In other words, if you don’t have time to enjoy an item, why do you have it at all?

If you find yourself in a situation where you have so much stuff that you can’t even recall the last time you looked at most of it, it’s not time to move or get a bigger house. It’s time to go through a lot of clutter and have a giant selloff.

There are situations where moving makes sense, like when you are having difficulty finding adequate sleeping space for your family. When you’re moving just to house your stuff, you might want to rethink your choice.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Johanna says:

    If you stare at the sun for long enough, your clutter will virtually disappear!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love collecting movie props…kind of big, but totally worth it!!!

  3. Tracy says:

    M-movie props …-

  4. Vanessa says:

    What does a haunted house have to do with this post?

  5. jim says:

    “Trent Hamm”


  6. Lysander says:

    All these clutter related suggestions make me long for the Yellow Neon.

  7. J Marie says:

    I totally agree! If you love it keep it, if you don’t toss it. The more you have the more it costs to maintain it.

  8. K says:

    I really enjoyed the photos with “real” people in them. I enjoyed seing a real yellow Neon. It lent a air of normalness to the blog that it didn’t have.

  9. Evita says:

    #4 Vanessa, this haunted house is full of movie props !!

  10. Tracy says:

    I don’t think most people buy a larger house because they ran out of room to buy more stuff.

  11. Tracy says:

    Unless you’re counting your children as stuff.

  12. Johanna says:

    Frugal tip: Rent out your children as movie props.

  13. Johanna says:

    Then you only have to spend five minutes a month cleaning them.

  14. Karen says:

    Funny Johanna. I love the house!

  15. Felicia says:

    To those saying no one buys a house bc they have more stuff has never known a hoarder or a millionaire with 52 cars. Some people really do buy larger houses to “house” their stuff.

  16. Hubby tells me all the time that he hates how I “junk” up the house with my furniture buys and that he wants to keep things empty. Really?? Who wants an empty house! I want a home to feel lived in (NOT cluttered, though). There’s a difference! But I do agree with the “one in, one out” rule.

  17. Michelle says:

    #4 Surely there are ways to compromise. You can probably do a lot of basics for 1/2 that price. When you overblow the kitchen, the bathrooms and floors will possibly look like they need updating too. Knocking out a chunk of the mortgage is a great feeling.

  18. kc says:

    I wonder what percentage of home buyers buy a larger home because they have too much crap. This sounds like made up nonsense. Citation?

  19. BD says:

    @kc – You obviously have never seen A&E’s “Hoarders”. There have been several people just on that show alone who have bought multiple houses to house their stuff. It probably isn’t a huge percentage of the population, but more than you’d think!

  20. kc says:

    I haven’t seen Hoarders, but I am guessing the folks on the show represent the lunatic fringe of collectors.

    In any event, I would think that most people buy larger homes as their families – and perhaps incomes – expand.

  21. Angie says:

    lots of trolllololols on this site

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