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But it’s Free – Hoarding and Clutter Habits

But it’s free. This is how hoarding and clutter habits start.  “But it’s Free” are words that trigger compulsive behavior and a disease we call Freeitis. 

But it's free, Excited Man on ComputerAngela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru says the words “but it’s free” should make you pause and think “junk.”

Free stuff can lead to a messy house, weird habits, and hoarders. You don’t have to be a clean freak. But if your family is living in a home of filth, it’s time to end the freebies. 

Today’s Ask a House Cleaner sponsors are Savvy Cleaner (Training and certification for house cleaner and maids.) HouseCleaning360 (where you can find a professional organizer and junk removal.) Savvy Perks (benefits for cleaning business owners who believe in minimalism.) And My Cleaning Connection (a resource hub to find minimalist tips.)

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: But it’s Free – Hoarding and Clutter Habits

Today’s question is from a homeowner, and she’s decluttering her life. And she says, “But what about the free stuff?” 

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But it’s Free! “Free” is a Four-Letter Word

But it's free, Perfume SampleAll right, there are rules and regulations that go along with accepting free stuff. Now, the word “free”, it’s a four-letter word. I want you to think of it as a curse word. Okay? Free. 

Free is usually not a blessing, it’s usually a curse. When you start taking free stuff from anybody, there are usually strings attached on the other end. 

Somebody’s marketing turns into your clutter. Here’s how it works: 

Let’s say a company gives you a free trial of their product otherwise known as “free stuff.” It’s not free. The hidden strings are that at the end of the trial you will buy their goods. 

The Puppy Dog Close

Extra Charge for Extra People, Child and PuppyIn sales circles it’s called the puppy dog close. The pet store wants to sell you a tiny dog. But you’re not sure if you can handle the care and upkeep. So, you hesitate. 

The salesperson suggests you take the dog home for the weekend and see how much work it is. The store is open again on Monday if you need to bring the puppy back. 

Of course, by Monday you’ve bought a crate, a pillow bed, a 25lb bag of dog food, a shelf of wet food, bath toys and you’ve named the dog Sparkie.

Your “Oh isn’t she cute?” Turned into you financing and adopting a new member of the family.

There’s No Such Thing as “Free”

But it's free, Nothing in Life is FreeThe strings attached to free stuff means you will come back and buy. 

And so, when that happens, you have to ask yourself this question. Do I need the freebie? 

And then is this a company I would ever buy from? 

Is this a product I need, want, or would use? 

And if the answers to those are no, don’t even take the freebie because then it just becomes clutter and junk in your house. 

Free Stuff is Not Just Tangible Stuff – But it’s Free!

But it's free, Frustrated Woman at ComputerDon’t forget about clutter and junk on your computer. A lot of people give you a free eBook. 

And it’s on a topic you’re not interested in. But yet, when you download it, that takes up hardware space on your computer. 

And you don’t often consider that your computers are as cluttered as your life. 

But a lot of people have gobs of extra emails. 

They’re storing freebies that they’ve downloaded that they’ve never read and on topics of no interest to them. So that’s junk. Freebies, for the most part, can be junk.

But it’s Free – And it’s Mostly Junk

But it's free, Frustrated Woman at ComputerBuy and swap sites are magnets for junk. Look at NextDoor.

Somebody puts an ad in the neighborhood swap page, like maybe a Facebook page or something like that. And they say, “Hey, I have this free mattress that I’m giving away.” 

And you’re like, “Oh, it’s free. I think I’ll go get it.” Do you need a mattress? 

Because if you don’t need a mattress and you go pick up the free mattress just because it’s free, then that’s a disease, okay? That’s a disease you have called Freeitis. This means you just collect stuff that’s free. And then you’re not going to use it.

But it’s Free! 30 Cases of Light Bulbs – Really?

But it's free, Woman With LightbulbI know a lady that collected, I’m not kidding, 30 cases of light bulbs. A company switched from incandescent lights to fluorescent lights and they gave away all the free light bulbs. 

And this woman who just had a house with 20 light bulbs went and collected 30 cases of incandescent light bulbs. Where do you put 30 cases of light bulbs so they don’t break? And they were all loose in big boxes, not even in the proper protective packaging that you buy light bulbs in.

And she was storing them just in case her light bulbs ever burn out. Classic symptoms of Freeitis.

But it’s Free! – Yeah, and then What?

But it's free, Conference Gift BagsA buddy of mine taught a seminar at a conference. And she gave away all these ad specialties. Free stuff. Now, to me, they were useless things. 

They were things I didn’t want, I would never use, I’m not going to promote her products because they don’t fit in with my business model. And her service doesn’t match my target audience.

I knew the trinkets were expensive and I didn’t want to be rude so I took them. But I knew when I took them I would never use them again.

So, I hung onto them longer than I should have. Shame on me. 

I should have left them under the table skirt in the supply box that went back to her office so she could give them to someone else.

But it’s Free! And it’s Clutter

But it's free, Sick ManHere’s the problem we have with clutter and Freeitis. Eventually, you have to start making choices. There are things in my life that are valuable, and there are things that were free. 

You can save and store and protect the things that are a value to you, but you have all this other free stuff that takes up space. And so, you decide that, “Oh well, I need another shed in the back of my yard.” 

And so, you pay to have this enormous shed built in your backyard to store your free stuff.

Now, you’re paying to store all the stuff that you didn’t want in the first place. You’ve got six mattresses that you collected on NextDoor. And every bed in your house already has a mattress. You’re never going to use them.

But it’s Free – And Now You Need a Storage Unit

But it's free, Storage UnitsThe storage unit industry is booming. There’s a new one popping up on every corner. The storage units are a curse as well. And they too trick you with the first month’s rent FREE. 

So, you load up your stuff, knowing you’re moving next month, and you’ll get in and out the first month and it will never cost you anything. Bam! It’s so much trouble to pack and unpack that you settle for paying just one more month when the first payment is due. 

One month turns into three, and three turns into twelve.

TIP: If you’re okay putting it in a storage unit, you probably don’t need it. Sell it or give it away.

But it’s Free – I’ll Keep it in My Vacation Home

But it's free, Boxes in HouseI was working with a woman who has five storage units. She has two sheds in the back of her house, and she has a home she lives in and another second home where she stores all her “good” stuff. 

Her second home is not a vacation home. It’s a storage unit. And it’s got electricity and bathrooms and internet access. The bills are super expensive for nothing more than a fancy air-conditioned storage unit.

But it’s Free! Yeah, But Do You Need it?

But it's free, Pots, PansWhy do you have all this stuff?

In the course of any given day, you can only use one set of dishes at a time. You can only use one mug or one drink cup at a time. One set of clothing is all you get to wear at a time.  And if you spread all your clothes out for the whole week, that’s like seven outfits. 

And if you’re like most people, you end up wearing the same clothes over and over again. 

I don’t know why … well, I do. I wear the same stuff every day but … Suppose you have a favorite go-to outfit or you have a favorite pair of shorts or favorite set of jeans or favorite T-shirts or whatever. 

Yeah, you may have a whole closet full of clothes, but for the majority of us, we have the same five or six outfits that we keep recycling through. 

Yet our closets are full of clothes – some we never wear.  And they take up space and collect dust. 

But it’s Free – And You Can Give it Away – for Free

But it's free, Toy BoxSo, it’s time to go through all your closets and all your toy boxes. 

If the kids have outgrown toys that they no longer play with, send them to Goodwill. Give them to friends. Doesn’t matter what you do with it. Just get rid of it. 

If you have dozens of mugs in your cabinet that you’re never going to use, get rid of them. Or if you have lots of sets of dishes or you have too many pots and pans, get rid of them. 

Lots of times when you get married, you will inherit pots and pans from your aunts and uncles and mom and grandma and stuff like that.

And then as the elder folks pass on, we inherit their stuff. It came to us free and we end up with all this extra stuff. 

If the “free stuff” doesn’t bring you joy and you’re tired of storing it – say goodbye and pass it along. 

Learn to say no to free stuff just because it’s free.

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About the Show

Learn how the show came to be, interesting facts about the show host, and other frequently asked questions about the show.

Resources For This Episode

Cluttered Mess to Organized Success – https://amzn.to/2B6dvdc

Easy Minimalist Living: 30 Days to Declutter, Simplify and Organize Your Home Without Driving Everyone Crazy – https://amzn.to/2OxJ29N

The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life – https://amzn.to/2KOl1t5

Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save and How You Can Stop – https://amzn.to/2BfIvb4

Minimalist Living: Declutter Your Home, Schedule & Digital Life for Simple Living (and Discover Why Less is More) – https://amzn.to/2Oy36ZD

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things – https://amzn.to/2MJhy0D

All You Need Is Less: Declutter Your Home Without Sacrificing Comfort and Coziness – The Making of a Minimalist Life – https://amzn.to/2BfJmbM

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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