3 Ways to Tell When You Have Too Much Stuff

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Do you have too much stuff? Here are 3 simple ways to tell if you have too much stuff and what to do to help cut down on the financial stress it can cause.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her clean out her house. She is far from a hoarder, but with a house full of three kids, she felt like she was drowning in unused toys, half-empty medicine bottles, and outdated clothes. I gladly accepted her invitation because I get a thrill from cleaning out junk, and I wanted my friend to feel the freedom that comes with paring down your belongings. It was a long, tiring weekend that we spent dealing with her stuff, but I had fun and she was relieved when it was over.

We spend a lot of time dealing with our stuff. We lust after something, research it, compare prices on it, finally buy it, and then insure it, maintain it, dust it and fix it when it breaks until we finally throw it out. While we are off work on the weekends and want to do whatever the heck it is that we want to do, we are instead stuck cleaning, storing, and reorganizing all of our stuff. It doesn’t make sense.

We are so busy maintaining our things that we can’t simply do what we really want to do in our spare time. Do you ever want to dust all your knickknacks and unused objects every weekend? Do you want to spend an entire weekend cleaning out the basement? Or would you rather sit outside in the sun with a good book and take your kid to the park?

While I do realize there are exceptions to every rule, here are three ways to tell when you have too much stuff.

You can’t park a single car in your two-car garage


So many people today think of a two-car garage as a “must have” on their list of wants for a new home, but how often do you see a two-car garage with two cars actually in it? It’s more common to see stuff piled in it as a storage area instead of a place to actually house cars. In my cul-de-sac alone, there are six houses with 2-car garages, only two of which actually hold two cars.

If you have so much stuff that you park two of your big investments outside just so you can store your yearbooks/outgrown baby clothes/grandma’s china in your garage, you probably have too much stuff.

You pay a monthly fee for a storage building…and you’re not moving


There are some very valid reasons to pay a monthly fee for a temporary storage unit, but the key word here is “temporary.” Maybe you are in the middle of a move and in between houses, maybe a dear loved one passed away recently and you aren’t emotionally ready to deal with their stuff yet, or maybe you have a side business that requires you to keep some big equipment. I understand that there are sometimes reasons for paying for storage units, but let’s face it, most of them are not used for temporary purposes.

There’s a reason storage buildings are such big business. People are attached to their stuff, so much so that they are willing to shell out $50, $100, or $200 per month for a storage unit (which turns into $600, $1200, and $2400 per year) just to store it all. Yikes!

If you’ve been paying for a unit for over a year, are you actually in a temporary life transition or is it time to start paring down? Do you even remember what’s in there? If you haven’t looked at your stuff in months, is it really that important to you? I think you know the answer.

You are constantly reorganizing and buying organization tools


Maybe you have a junk drawer that you can’t actually close or your clothes can’t even hang in your closet because they’re so jammed in there. So you spend a weekend going to the store to purchase some new, pretty boxes to store your other things in.

I do love organizing from time to time, but buying more things to organize your other things doesn’t fix the problem, it only adds to your clutter and costs you money in the process. Moving stuff around from place to place doesn’t work either.

Do you have too much stuff? Here are 3 simple ways to tell if you have too much stuff and what to do to help cut down on the financial stress it can cause.

Your Home Should Be a Sanctuary


Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, your solace against the outside world with all of its pressures, responsibilities, and work. If you don’t feel at ease when you walk into your home, then it’s creating unnecessary stress. Treat your home like your sanctuary, keep the things that give you pleasure, and discard the rest. You won’t miss any of it.


What’s in your garage or storage unit? What can you get rid of? What can you not imagine ever getting rid of? How do you like to spend your weekends? 

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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Kristi @ Femme Frugality says:

    It’s crazy how quickly stuff accumulates. We don’t have a garage or a storage unit at all, but our upstairs closet is really calling my name to be sorted and emptied. Our basement too could really use a good clean out. Out of sight out of mind, right? I actually got so sick of how cluttered our bedroom was yesterday that I got rid of enough stuff to fill a huge, 16 cubic feet box. It feels so much better to only have the things you know you’ll actually use.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      16 cubic feet is a lot to get rid of. Maybe that feeling will motivate you to start on that closet and basement. It’s addictive!

  • Hannah says:

    We try so hard to keep our stuff under control, but it is tough. Our absolute worst area is house related stuff, cans of paint, tools, charcoal and lighter fluid, building materials and more. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had a place for it, but we really don’t. It drives me nuts!

  • Money Beagle says:

    There’s a self storage place near my house, and on their electronic board it reads something like “Got Too Much Stuff? We Can Help”, and every time I read it, I get annoyed. As you pointed out, the solution is to get rid of stuff, not store it AND incur a monthly expense for doing so.

  • Miles says:

    Good post on the true way money is leaking out of our pockets in an everyday fashion. This rings so true and essentialism” is quickly becoming the new measure of frugality. Just don’t need 7 coats and 22 pairs of shoes for example. Some folks have $10,000 worth of shoes or tools, sports equipment etc…. Yep!

  • Ramona @ Personal Finance Today says:

    He he, we don’t have a garage (fortunately), since husband and his mom are really hoarders 😀

    OK, kidding aside, they like to own stuff.

    I, for instance, am more willing to let go of stuff and am more of a minimalist compared to them.

    Even so, I also have more stuff than I’d need.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      We all probably have more than we need. I’m the same– I’m faster to get rid of my stuff than my husband is, but I like that I don’t get attached to too many things.

  • John Schmoll says:

    “…we are instead stuck cleaning, storing, and reorganizing all of our stuff.” I loved this comment Robin! My wife and I came face to face with this a few years ago. We had just replaced the couches for our family room and they were a little bigger than our old ones, thus we had to make some room for them to fit.

    After about 20 minutes of reorganizing much of what we had to move we looked at each other and realized we hadn’t used 90%+ of the stuff we were moving around in the past 1-2 previous years. It all got tossed, donated or sold as a result. It was a real eye opener for us.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      When in doubt, chuck it out! That’s the best way to go. I bet you guys felt so good after you got rid of it all.
      Sometimes if you feel like you need more space or more storage in your house, it really just means it’s time to declutter.

  • Nicole says:

    The garage thing is so true! Our next door neighbors have a two car garage with zero cars in it because it’s packed with stuff. So their cars sit outside all the time incurring the wrath of the elements. Cars are depreciating assets to begin with and that certainly doesn’t help their lifespan. We have a lot of stuff in our garage but still manage to fit both cars inside thanks to shelving around the perimeter and on the ceiling.

    Even though my junk drawer is actually organized I still struggle with clutter. I’ve been getting better (and our local Savers loves our donations, I’m sure), but I could do better.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I’ve never understood why people have those huge garages that they don’t even use for their intended purpose.
      I also have an organized junk drawer, but I’m considering getting rid of the whole thing because it still drives me crazy!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    We have a big pile of things we need to drop off at Goodwill but it takes us a while to get around to getting rid of this stuff. The reason is because we like to take photos of each thing for tax purposes. Unfortunately having proper tax backup can make it really difficult to ACTUALLY get around to getting rid of stuff!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I just had to get over it and haul my stuff off regardless, unless it’s something really big (which it normally isn’t.)

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    Thank you so much for calling out the overstuffed garage owners of the world. We are by no means minimalists, but one thing we agreed on once we had a garage was that it was for cars. The day I have to park outside to keep my stuff or even worse, pay for storage, is the day I need an intervention.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Hehe, I completely agree! I guess what everyone else does with their stuff is their business, but a stuffed garage would make me so anxious!

  • fehmeen @ Debt Free Lifestyle says:

    It’s my personal belief too that if you’re buying things to simply re-organize or store other stuff, then you have too many possessions. I know this mantra doesn’t hold true in all situations – of course, you need cupboards and boxes to put away seasonal clothes or hand-me downs for the next kid, but beyond that, it really is pretty simple. If you don’t have the space to put it, give it away.

  • Laura Beth @ How To Get Rich Slowly says:

    Hi Robin,

    Enjoyed the article. I was also guilty of having the garage overloaded with stuff we used a couple times a year only to have to park the car outside. It doesnt take long for all that stuff to accumulate.

    Thanks for your informative post.

    Laura Beth

  • Kathy says:

    I observed as some people moved onto our street that they moved boxes into their garage and then never moved them into the house. I had to assume that they were probably in the garage where they lived before. Why on earth did they move them? Last time we moved we had a guy haul away trailers of stuff we’d never used in our 20 years at that house. Why pay a mover to move it if it is never used?

  • Laura Beth @ How To Get Rich Slowly says:

    I can totally relate! I just dropped up a few boxes at the thrift store. It feels so much better to have a clear clutter free environment!

    Thanks for the post, enjoyed it!

  • Tara says:

    Great article! I have taught my parents about decluttering and they are slowly getting rid of their storage unit stuff. It’s halfway there. A few things are even mine. Lol. One thing I would like to point out about the above article is that you called the two cars an investment. But cars are actually called liabilities because they lose money and immediatley after they are driven off the lot. Investment implies you will gain money from it. This is exactly why you should never take out a loan for a car.

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