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The Financial Impacts of Hoarding

First a full confession, our household comes from a long line of hoarders. My in-laws are hoarders.  My father is a hoarder. All too common you walk into areas of their houses and you can barely turn around from all the items. Broken Lamp? They’ll fix it at some point so it should be saved. Popcorn maker not used since 1960? Someone might end up with a sudden urge to make popcorn the old fashion way.

Benefits of Hoarding?

I concede though, the generation before me are products of a different time, one where post war time shortages and pre-uptick in disposable culture meant making everything you had do. In a time when sugar and oil were rationed you might just need that lamp and popcorn maker. Who knows, you might have used your MacGyver skills to create a laptop computer out of these items and a 20 year old stick of gum.  But I digress, by now your asking how this relates to Financial Independence?

Well all these items have multiple costs to the holder that may not be readily apparent.

Opportunity Cost

Many but not all unused items can be donated to a source like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. This would be especially true of my baby clothes from 30 some years ago. The deduction would be money in the pocket from a reduced tax bill. For items that might have appreciated in value they might be able to sell these items on Craig’s list for money to buy experiences.

Health Impacts

Having large piles of junk in storage around your house is a breeding ground for dirt and germs. Especially if you have allergies the last thing you need is to hang around a hoarder’s house. At some point once you have too much stuff it no longer makes sense to move items when cleaning, so that spot under the pile of books contains enough dust to send an asthmatic to the hospital.

Quality of Life

If your constantly tripping over your stuff, having to move items outside because there is no room for certain activities, and afraid to invite guests due to the mess then you are lowering your quality of life. This has a value. Who knows, if you clear out the hoard you might be able to downgrade to an easier manageable house, or do more things at home rather then going out.


In case of an emergency situation like a fire or a health related issue extreme hoarding can be an impediment to first responders.  Thankfully my extended family do not hoard to this extreme, but there are individuals with this level of hoarding.  I hope none of my readers engage in this level of extreme hoarding.

Ultimately you should remember these things the next time you make a decision to save something you never use. This does not mean you should upgrade items you use regularly to the latest and greatest as that would not be a financially sound decision.  It does however mean if you haven’t used it in 2 years, it’s probably time to let it go. Ultimately these hidden costs are likely significantly greater then the value to you if you have not touched the item in that time period. I personally setup a once a quarter trip to Goodwill with the workable items we no longer use. Especially with young kids this ends up being an exceptionally large amount of items as they grow out of clothes in what seems like days.  Through these efforts we have managed to hold off our natural hoarding tendencies.

What is your approach for keeping the number of items in your household from getting out of control?


  1. Dividends Down Under
    Dividends Down Under November 9, 2016

    Nice topic FTF and I completely agree with all the points you raised. My wife is really good at keeping our home tidy, and at getting rid of stuff, and not buying stuff we don’t need.

    It keeps our minds clearer because there’s no so much stuff. PLUS if you’re storing loads of stuff, you’re paying occupancy costs to store stuff that isn’t helpful. What a waste 🙁


    • November 9, 2016

      Definitely a waste and yet very common.

  2. Physician on FIRE
    Physician on FIRE November 10, 2016

    Reformed (or reforming) pack rat here. Financial Independence has given me the mindset that I can easily afford to give away things even if they have monetary value. It used to feel wrong to part wiith something that is “worth something” or that I might use someday. I’d rather use the one I’ve got in storage (if I can find it) than go out and buy a new one.

    Now, we have a full time donation box in the corner of our bedroom, and it fills up often. I should have a sizable tax deduction from the 20+ boxes of clothing and household goods we’ve donated over the last several months.


    • November 10, 2016

      We keep one in a closet for those quarterly trips. Sometimes it’s even less then quarterly.

  3. Mustard Seed Money
    Mustard Seed Money November 10, 2016

    My wife has a strict one in one out policy. I can’t put anything in my closet without getting rid of something. This definitely helps cut down on an excessive wardrobe and ensures that we don’t keep too much junk in the house.

    • November 10, 2016

      Not a bad way to manage it. I’m not sure it would work to well for kids clothes though, I’d end up on a first name basis with the good folks at the thrift shop.

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