Consider the cost ~ By Deb J

I have a friend who wants to be a stay-at-home mom.  She and her husband have been working to figure out how they can make it possible.  My mother has always said she wishes we had another bedroom for the guests that never visit.  These are just two examples of how you need to consider the cost.

What do I mean by “consider the cost?”  It means considering the cost of having what you have and how to afford what you want.  In the case of Mom’s wish for another bedroom you have to consider the cost of heating/cooling that room, the cost of additional time to clean it, the cost of a larger payment for the home, the cost of the increased taxes, and numerous other costs.  Is having that extra room worth the cost?

Consider my friend’s dilemma.  What can they do to make it possible for her to stay home with their children?  We all know that owning a home (even paying a mortgage) is cheaper than renting.  At least that is the case here in the US right now.  Like in the case above there are many costs to maintaining a home.  We know that the bigger it is the more costly it is to own and run. Along with the cost we have mentioned in the first example there are also the costs to owning and maintaining items like cars, lawn mowers, and other items.  They all have maintenance and replacement costs.  If you add up these costs and divide the total by your hourly pay (including taxes) you will come up with the number of hours you have to work to pay for these items. 

What does this have to do with decluttering you ask?  Consider the cost–the cost of maintaining the room, the maintenance and the necessity of everything you have.  I’m sure that Colleen can tell you that the home they have now costs much less than their previous home.  Society has lulled us into thinking we need much more that we really do in order to “get a life.”  Does your family really need the size of your present home?  Do you need that extra bedroom, that office, that bonus room, that third garage bay, etc?   Do you need those 4 TV’s, that extra car, that room full of craft supplies, that garage full of “toys” (or junk), those skis when you only get used twice a year, etc?  Life is always in flux and needs change. 

Let’s go back to my friend’s dilemma.  How did they resolve it?  They downsized.  Here in this area of Arizona the eco-friendly landscape is one that has rock, cactus and a few other low-moisture plants/trees.  It means minimal maintenance.  So they downsized to a home just the size for their family with an eco-friendly landscape.  They traded his truck for an economy model.  The huge kitchen was traded for one that contained just what they needed and used.  For everything they had they considered the cost and over half of what they owned made the cut. 

Are you considering the cost of everything you own?  How can that help you make decisions that will make things easier and less costly for you?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something cold to the touch.

Eco Tip for the Day

Deb post today is a good example of thinking about the cost of things. The more you save on things you don’t need is of benefit to the environment as well. Everything we consume has some sort of effect on the environment. So don’t think about what you are giving up for the sake of the environment, instead think what both you and the environment have to gain.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. We have tons of visitors during the day, but overnight visitors only about 3/year. So we use spare bedroom as our office (365days/year). When we have overnight visitor, we pay $125 hotel bill for guest, still cheaper than buying a bigger house with a guest room, furnishing it, moving expense,etc.
    real life example of Deb J’s philosophy.

    • Gail, what a great example. You are smart to have this king of plan. Mom and I were talking about when we move to the apartments we are waiting on. She said she would love to have a 2 bedroom one as then she could have a work room. I wanted to ask her, “What work?” She doesn’t use her sewing machine or any of the other things that would be for crafts now. What makes her think she would when we move. Thankfully, this place only has three 2 bedroom apartments. I doubt she will get one.

    • Gail,
      What a generous hostess. I can’t even imagine “springing” for the cost of a hotel room for a guest(s) that came to town for a visit. In my book, lodging would be their responsibility unless I specifically invited them for an event where I was willing to pay for said hotel room so they would attend.

      • Kimberley, I think for me it boils down to whether they can afford to pay for their own lodging. If I have someone visit because we want to see each other but they can’t afford to pay for lodging I will work something out. If I am being used as lodging while someone is on vacation and I sense they are only using me to have a free place to stay then I usually won’t put them up. Since everyone knows we don’t have a spare room we don’t have to deal with this either way.

    • That makes perfect sense to me Gail. And we have a hotel right across the street. Isn’t it funny how most people would think this strange while they are the ones who have paid thousands of dollars for a larger home that, like yours, rarely houses guests. It truly is a lot of money wasted. Boy even I had trouble writing that because I know what my mother and mother-in-law would think if they saw it. We do have a spare room but it is used by us the rest of the time.

  2. Hi Colleen! (my sister’s name, so I have a smile on my face.) New to your blog. We have 3 bedrooms…one is for our computers and bookshelves, the third one is for his actual home work office and the TV he plays video games on. He’s a big time collector though, and both of those bedroom closets are filled with his stuff/junk/collections. If it were me…two bedrooms would more than suffice. Sadly, he has a different mind. He’s 16 years younger. Maybe as he gets to his 50’s, I can get him to reconsider. LOL Very thought-provoking post. Thanks!

    • Gwen, hang in there and as you keep decluttering your things maybe the hubby will decide to do the same.

  3. My plan was to sell my 3 bedroom house for profit after 10 years and pay cash for a much smaller house since it’s just me. The economy took a dive after I bought this house at the height of the market. I would sell it for what I paid for it, but the house next to me has been for sell for a year with very few people even looking at it.

    When I bought this big house I never considered the cost if I wasn’t able to sell it like I had planned originally.

    • Calla, what a good example of why to consider the cost. So many times we look at a home as an investment and it is. But we also have to look at the costs of maintaining and how easy it would be to sell. It is so easy to do things without really thinking it all out. I know we did that with this place where we are. We never thought about all the maintainance of the fruit trees and other things up against our aging and maybe getting to where we couldn’t maintain it.

    • Hi Calla, I guess that is just the luck of the draw. Many investments work out this way but sometimes if you don’t take the gamble you will never get ahead. I would just hold on to it the the market improved. Which also has it pit falls because if you wait until them you will also then have to buy the replacement at the higher cost.

  4. When you have more space than you really need, our primal instincts kick in and we want to fill those spaces, unfortunately, usually with more clutter and/or furniture that is not necessary.

    When we bought our first home in 1978, I still remember what our wise sage of a real estate agent said. “Never buy more house than you need and never buy a house with extra rooms for guests that “may” visit once a year. Buy your home for your needs, not other’s needs”. Exactly! That is why there are motels/hotels.

    • Kimberley – I was pondering the history of ‘stuff’ the other day, given that animals dont acquire possessions, where did the instinct come from? My guess is that we are actually fragile creatures – no fur or feathers for example, and our survival depended on tools to compensate ie we dont have claws or teeth like predators so we had to make weapons, we couldnt fly to a warmer climate for Winter, so we had to tough it out. Im guessing stuff came to represent our survival chances.

      • Moni, going along with your thoughts here is something else to think about. I hope this all makes sense. In the Bible it tells us we are born with sin due to the fall of Adam and Eve. Sin causes greed, pride, etc. I think as time has gone by “civilization” has become more and more one of thinking we have to have things to “prove” ourselves. Over centuries cultures have become more and more full of this thinking. We grow up with the influences of a culture and it is only as blogs (like this one), books, and other ways of learning come along that we see that we may not agree with something we have absorbed from living in a particular culture. I have realized that over my school years I was taught many things that were not necessarily true or good for me. Just like we have all of these choices in the grocery store does not mean they are all good choices. The same goes for other choices. We have had conversations before on this blog about how magazines and other media are saturated with articles or programs about decorating, cooking, traveling and on and on that can cause us to feel we are missing something or there are things we need. It all comes down to considering the cost and making good choices. I think this is why many wise people over the years have said we should never stop learning.

        • Regarding media/advertising – there’s a section in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton about this (I forget which philosopher originally studied it). How car ads show people driving into the distance, through wild landscapes etc because they are targeting the consumer’s desire for freedom, not the car at all. Or cola ads show people having fun with friends, because then we will want the cola as part of our mind will think this will get us friends and fun times. Sadly we all realise sooner or later that a certain object didn’t actually suddenly increase our freedom or our happiness or our connections etc. Some of us realise the buying is never going to get us those things, others just keep falling for the advertisements.

          • Amelia, you are right. When I was a business major in college in my marketing classes we talked about how to do this. One of our classes was to watch a video with a bunch of commercials and see if we could figure out what each one was trying to sell.

          • Well Said Amelia.

      • Moni,
        Your guess is as good as mine as to where our instinct to collect came from.
        Animals are fabulous declutterers. They only keep what they need for as long as they need it.
        Think about birds nests. Once the nest has provided its function, it is abandoned. And, they are always constructed by the wise mommy birds with natural eco-friendly materials. I think about our beloved cat who for the 16 years he was living always got more pleasure out of playing with empty paper bags and boxes, catching the breeze on the window sill , rolling in and eating grass and catnip than the cat toys we had purchased for him.

      • Moni – this made me think of bower birds, collecting piles of brightly coloured berries, leaves, even clothes pegs and bottle caps etc, all to attract a mate. Maybe humans just took this too far, collecting piles of stuff not only to attract a mate, but more friends, a good job, happiness, success… It’s kind of cute when bower birds do it, but to the extent humans have taken it, no, not cute any more.

      • Moni, this is sooooo true!!
        There are indeed “basic needs” in every human that need to be met. like food, shelter, physical health and social interaction. Humans without society are not viable. Yes. we need tools, but more important, knowledge how to use them. so we educate our offspring. We train them things like basic hygiene (simple as a toothbrush), but also the ability to think and use information for your own goal.
        What comes then is our psyche. there are two basic emotions: love and fear. both vital for our survival. and every other emotions stems from that. soooo, when we surround ourselves with tools (very important on survival, like you said) we feel safe. and since we know “more is more”, we strive for as much safety as we can get. that however can get estranged. everyone knows a person who is suffering from OCD in one way or another. We should know that we are fragile little creatures and that we need to take care of each other…
        we have a economical system that is build on advertising. sometimes it amazes me: how on earth can it be legal that we get manipulated everywhere?!?

    • Kimberley, you had a very wise real estate agent.

    • That sounds like a really honest estate agent Kimberly, usually they just try to sell you the home they stand to get the highest commission on.

  5. Interesting post Deb J, you make lots of important points. I am very aware that with my sons now at college for a large part of the year the whole upstairs of our house is unused, but still has to be heated and cooled, dusted and vacuumed. It will probably be a few more years before we move to a smaller home, but much of my decluttering now is with that eventual move in mind as I don’t plan to haul much of this stuff with us. At that point I shall definitely remember Kimberley’s quote above about buying a home for one’s own needs.

    • Christine, having your kids move on I life sure can make a difference in our lives in more ways than one. It’s great that you are aware of all that space you no longer need.

  6. The compromise we had–and I dearly desperately miss–was a bed in my office. We are looking at building a house, and one of our offices will almost certainly have a murphey bed in it so we can welcome guests but not commit the space to a bed all the time. Since that room became the kid’s room we have fewer overnight guests and it’s a lot more awkward when they stay (grandparents put up with the awkward). My office is now in the corner of one of our public rooms. It’s just overall not very pleasant or welcoming and I look forward to going back to office/spare room rather than office/public gathering area with no spare room.

    • Kayote, I can understand where you are coming from. Each of us has to look at our situation and consider what is best for us but based on counting the cost (or making good choices). When you have the NEED for an office then you have one and why not one with a Murphy bed? If we had been able to afford one I would have put one on one wall of the office/craft area here. this area was here when we moved in and while a public area it is offset from the other area. Having a bed we could use would have been nice rather than Mom giving up her bed and sleeping on the sofa.

      • This is exactly what we have now. We rarely have guests who don’t bring their own accommodation (motorhome or van) but it is also handy as a ‘sick room’. Our new house won’t have one though. We’ve decided that we will get more use out of a good sofa-bed. A Murphy bed is single use, a sofa bed is dual-purpose and even if not the most comfortable bed in the world, it will suffice for the few times we will need to use it.

        • WendyB, sofa beds are good too. I had one for many years.

        • Here is a subject I can’t actually agree with, I hate sofa beds. I love the concept but I am jet the encounter one that is actually comfortable no matter how thick the mattress or how supportive the base. I love the idea of the, as you say, they are multifunctional but if someone as small as me doesn’t find them comfortable then bigger people won’t. Of course I am talking about sleep on one with my husband by my side, on your own they are quite alright.

        • Hi Wendy B, My best friend gave us her old Aerobed air mattress (twin size). Since my elder daughter moved home, she has been sleeping on it & loves it. I would definitely think about replacing it if it “died”. And it takes up way less room than a bed that’s always in its frame 🙂

  7. Thank you for the daily tips they are much appreciated. I have just cleaned the drawer in the fridge… I am ashamed to say it contained a pack of very squashy salad, a gone off aubergine I was going to cook… last week and an array of vegetables which should have been eaten. Note to self: next week eat the veg rather than let them rot under a pile of junk in the fridge! 🙂

  8. Totally unrelated I’m afraid but I wanted to update. Yesterday was my dear grandfather’s funeral (lots of tears were shed, but my cousins and I all laughed when the priest mentioned the awful jokes he’d tell us!) Granddad’s best friend died before I was born, but the friend’s wife and one daughter were there – and it turns out the other daughter emigrated to Auckland, NZ decades ago!!! They’re putting me in touch, looks like I might have a contact out there! 🙂

  9. When my husband and I were considering my working full time as a teacher, putting our youngest in kindergarten at the school where one of her brothers attended and paying the school tuition, we ‘did the math’ and counted the cost. It turned out to be cheaper to have me stay home full time and homeschool the younger two. The cost of my working would include more clothes for me, most likely more money spent on restaurants because I would be too tired to cook at night when I got home from teaching all day, to say nothing of all the prep work and correcting which would be done on my own time–at home. Just another example of ‘counting the cost’.

    • Willow, what a great example of counting the cost. Looking back I am finding there are many places where I wish I had counted the cost. Looking forward, I am doing everything I can to make sure I count the cost of every decision. So glad you found a good resolution for you.

      • ” Looking back I am finding there are many places where I wish I had counted the cost. Looking forward, I am doing everything I can to make sure I count the cost of every decision. ” Those words are so true Deb J. We often lament past errors for so long that we continue to make more errors. I like to say , ‘don’t let the same dog bite you again’.
        The disposal of most of our possessions has never led to regret or despair as does the storage of those same items.
        If we don’t learn from our mistakes , we continue to make them ……(said by someone who I can’t recall)

        • WendyF, I like you statement about lamenting past errors. We do that and hold grudges for years, etc. We need to let the past go and move on.

        • this is such a good quote:

          “The disposal of most of our possessions has never led to regret or despair as does the storage of those same items.”

          so true!! The space and serenity I get from decluttering outweighs possible dangers of not having those items.

  10. I counted the cost of my new kitchen. Replacing the existing layout would have provided me with a newer , inefficient kitchen with lots of useless storage.
    I ditched the U shaped layout and went with 14feet of pure joy. I unpack the dishwasher strait into the drawers without moving a step. I had the bench height increased and deepened, this increased the storage capacity of the drawers and enabled storage drawers under the sink instead of that dead space. The reduced cost of this layout enable me to get premium appliances which save time and money every day. The oven grills meat to perfection in 15 minutes. The cooktop has a timer , so simmering for 20 mins is a piece of cake.
    It is easier to cook than go and get takeaway. Never underestimate the extra cost of a kitchen appliance that saves you money in the long run. I’m not talking about yoghurt makers or breadmakers , I’m talking about ovens that are multi function and dishwashers that take more than your standard dinner set.
    Another saying I love is ‘ Long after the price is forgotten the quality remains’
    Thanks for the post Deb J

    • We dyF, it sounds like you did a good job of creating a very efficient kitchen. Good for you. I like that saying too.

  11. There is another cost we can pay if we aren’t “paying” attention. When paying off loans, if possible, it’s best to pay ahead, even if it’s $40 more. This will save a ton of interest over time, because the overpayment will be applied directly to the principal. If someone pays only the minimum due, the interest accrues and is added into the principal due making the total debt paid much higher. I wish I had understood this when I was younger!

    • You are so right Peggy. I wish all teens would have to go through a personal finance class as a prerequisite for graduating from school.

    • I agree normally, but if you budget & plan to pay off early don’t get too far ahead on payments. My previous vehicle I was a year ahead on payments thinking I was doing good but didn’t save much on the final payoff. The vehicle prior to that one I was only a few months ahead on payments & put the rest to make intrest in the bank until I had enough to payoff. I saved hundreds that way & earned some interest too. I should have realized the difference in the two methods before.

  12. I am dealing with this dilemma right now regarding transportation:
    I own a bike. it is broken and needs a proper check up at a bike-garage… Either I keep the bike and get it fixed or I decide to pay a monthly ticket for the public transportation and maybe sell it for a bit
    costs for reparing + time for getting it there = cost of public transportation + time of selling – money from sale.
    (+ benefit for health – convenience of transp. ticket at any time of the day)
    Thats a no-brainer. I will bring it there tomorrow and get it properly fixed, so I have a good bike for the summer to come.

    sometimes writing things out makes them so obvious. Why oh why did I actually think about this in the first place?

  13. Such a good angle for your post, Deb J. Whatever we bring into our homes costs us not just the money spent on it but the time taken to care for it and maintain it, as well as the space it’ll take up in our home. Then there’s also the eventual decluttering or removal (for most items, over time, at least) from the home. That’s a great deal of responsibility, multiplied several times over, depending on what we allow to enter our homes.

    • Nicole V, you have said it well. I especially like, “That’s a great deal of responsibility, multiplied several times over, depending on what we allow to enter our homes.”

  14. I have to dissagree on house payments being cheaper than rent. I have an awesome landlord who hasn’t raised the rent in 18 years. I pay 1/3 for our place than for a comparable place in my area. He lets me do as I like with the property without needing approval first because he knows I take caare of the place & pay my rent. I have a garden, rain barrels, paint any room any color I like when I want. He lets me pick out my own appliances or maintenance needs & take from the rent. He even let me pick the color & type of siding & the new door when he had them installed, drove me to the store to pick out a knob even. He even matched the new dining room flooring to my furniture of his own accord.
    For all this when the house needs an expensive repair or replacement furnace, roof, plumbing etc, I still pay the same rent with no stress on my budget. And for taking good care of the place (he’s had very bad renters in the past), he gives me December’s rent free as a gift every year.
    I realize I have a unique situation and given this I’m hard to convince that owning is better than renting for me.
    The downside is with so much space & long term renting, my hubby & I have managed to stuff the house full of unused clutter, hence why I enjoy reading your blog so much.

    • Wow, callady, you do have a wonderful situation. Be thankful for that and keep that decluttering going.