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In Order Blog

The Cost of Disorganization

Recently, several people have commented to me that they weren’t sure they could afford to hire a Professional Organizer.  Granted, almost everyone has a budget – or at least a given amount of income — and a variety of fixed expenses that must be funded from it each month — which leaves a limited amount of funds for discretionary expenses. However, the comments got me thinking….how much does it really cost to be disorganized The answer, quite a lot!

Let me share some examples.

A while back, I was hired by a woman who had three laundry baskets filled with unopened mail.  She wanted help going through the backlog of mail, opening each envelope, determining what needed to be saved, and setting up a filing system.  About 15 minutes into the job, she grew weary and asked me whether we “really have to open every single envelope?”  I replied that we did because “you never know.”  Not ten minutes later, I opened an envelope and found a check for $10,000.  The check, written to my client by the person with POA for her grandmother’s funds, had 16 days left before it would have become null and void.  The cost of not opening her mail could easily have exceeded $10,000.

When your home is disorganized, there’s a good chance your possessions are not in their proper place. This can have several associated costs. If you can’t find something you need, and must go to the store to buy a replacement item, there is a triple cost – the frustration of wasting time looking for the item, the time it takes you to run that errand, as well as the financial cost of purchasing something you already own but can’t unearth.

When you are not on top of your financial life, you are more likely to incur late fees and/or penalties than someone who has a system in place for dealing with her bills and mail.  When you’re on top of your bills, you are more likely to notice mistakes on bank statements and credit card bills.  (Believe me, I help enough clients organize their finances, that I know first-hand just how often this happens!)

Recently, working with a client, we found more than $400 worth of dividend checks from various investments, dating back over a ten year period. The checks had long since expired.

Another example in the financial arena — your taxes.  I have had many clients who were back-logged on filing their annual tax returns and incurred interest and penalty charges from the IRS.   Keeping your receipts in a disorganized manner may also mean losing out on potential tax deductions when filing your return.

Not storing your vital documents in a safe place also carries a high cost.  I have a client who had a wonderful, very expensive vacation planned. She had to cancel her trip at the last minute, losing thousands of dollars in deposits, because she had misplaced her passport and couldn’t get a new one in time. (Of course, she discovered it was missing less than 24 hours before her departure.)

Having too much clutter and stuff, to the point where you can’t store it in your basement or garage, may necessitate the need to rent a storage unit. In fact, one in ten US households currently rent a self-storage unit.  (This is the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate market!) According to the Self-Storage Industry, the average cost of a medium storage unit (10 ft. x 20 ft.) ranges from $95-$155 per month, which translates to between $1,140-$1,860 per year. Think about what that totals over five or ten years….that’s a lot of money to store stuff that you may never use again.

There are also many intangible costs associated with being disorganized – everything from stress, depression, anxiety, and frustration to being unprepared for an emergency situation, to negatively impacting relationships with those you live with. Embarrassment and self-doubt also stem from disorganization; I frequently have clients ask me, “Am I the worst you’ve ever seen?” and I’m never really sure what answer they want!

So, when you’re deciding whether you can afford to pay a Professional Organizer to help you get organized, also think about whether you can afford the costs associated with remaining disorganized.

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