When I received notice last summer that I was being forced to relocate out of my apartment, initially I freaked out.
Living in Los Angeles, which is one of the most unaffordable rental markets in the U.S., I would be paying nearly twice for roughly the same amount of space. After a few months of frantic apartment hunting, I found an adorable, cozy cabin in a canyon area near Pasadena.
The kicker? I would be downsizing from a 500-square-foot apartment to a 325-square-foot place.
As a self-described pseudo-minimalist, I was no stranger to decluttering. But this was the accelerated version: I had about two weeks to get rid of as much stuff as I could. I spent most of my spare time clustering my belongings, deciding which items to keep, and putting the rest on the Buy Nothing group.
The process felt all-consuming.
“Commitments are easy to fall into, but hard to get out of,” my partner likes to say. “The same goes for your stuff.”
So very true.
Why Go Minimalist?
Joshua Becker, the co-founder of the popular site The Minimalists and an author of several books on the topic, describes minimalism as “the intentional promotion of things we value most and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
In an age of distraction, where every waking hour seems saturated in push notifications and sponsored ads that infiltrate our online searches, distance from the din has appeal to those who want to simplify.
The benefits of becoming a minimalist are multifold: By downsizing to a smaller place, I avoided paying double in rent.
Instead, I only had to pay $200 more a month. And in turn, my utility bills were reduced. While I pocketed only $60 in cash from selling my record collection, if I decided to sell more items, I could easily have raked in a few hundred dollars.
Plus, there are the psychological benefits. “Decluttering allows us to be free from the stuff that weighs us down in life,” says Melisa Celikel, business organization consultant and founder of Make SHT Happen, LLC.
While minimalism, along with other Buddhist practices such as mindfulness, has become a buzzworthy movement in recent years, it’s also important to note the investment of both time and money that goes into the transition.
Here’s how much going minimalist could cost.
Minimalism is a process.
Stuff has energy, and most of the decluttering process is mental, explains Celikel. “In order to become minimalists, people have to be able to cut the ties with their stuff. They typically get caught up on sentimental items from failed marriages, breakups, or other forms of loss.
They get stuck on items if they feel they didn’t get their “money’s worth,” explains Celikel.
“I often hear, ‘But I spent money on that!’ and I urge my clients to step back and assess the cost of keeping these items by asking, ‘What is the real estate value of this item taking up space in your home?’”
Aspiring minimalists need to be prepared for more of a psychological process than a physical one, says Celikel. “Decluttering is 80 percent mental and emotional, and only 20 percent the actual physical action of throwing things away, donating, and tidying up.”
I experienced the emotional and mental toll when undergoing my own purges. I ended up letting go of a fair amount of clothes, furniture, and my entire music collection.
Getting rid of my CDs and records felt like I was giving up a part of myself. At the same time, I no longer felt like I needed tangible items to be a part of my identity.
Know the costs—in time and money.
If you would like a professional to help you with the decluttering process, you’ll want to budget accordingly.
Professional organizing rates can vary based on a number of factors including an organizer’s experience, educational background, and geographic location.
”Most organizers charge by the hour and often give a discounted rate when a package of hours is purchased upfront,” says Amy Bloomer, a professional home organizer, and founder of Let Your Space BLOOM. According to Bloomer, hourly rates can vary quite a bit: In smaller, more rural areas, you’re looking at $40 per hour, ranging to over $200 per hour in large metropolitan cities.
As for how much time it can take, it depends on a handful of factors, explains Bloomer: How quickly one makes decisions, how big is the area, and how much stuff is within the space. As a professional organizer, Boomer has a three-hour minimum for her organizing sessions because she’s found that this amount of time is sufficient to yield, as she explains, “tangible and transformational results.”
Typical time frames are as follows:
- Pantries, linen closets, and laundry rooms: 3 to 5 hours
- Bedrooms and home offices: 6 to 10 hours
- Attics, basements and garages: 8 to 12 hours
So if you plan on hiring a professional organizer to help you declutter a pantry, and they charge $40 per hour, that’s anywhere from $120 to $200 per visit.
Want to declutter a garage? You’re looking at $320 to $480 at the $40 per hour rate.
Consider a digital consultation.
Before decluttering on your own, if you want to hire a professional to assist you in the elephantine task, consider virtual coaching sessions.
Whereas an in-home, four-hour session for a full-service organizing consultation can cost anywhere from $200 to $500, a one-hour video coaching session is usually anywhere from $65 to $75, says Celikel.
While there’s quite an investment in decluttering, downsizing, and matching minimalist tenants with action, I’ve found that the benefits outweigh the costs. The hardest purge is oftentimes the first.
After you stick to a simplified life, it’s clear how much freer you can live—materially, emotionally, and psychologically.
Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based money writer who is passionate about helping creatives with their finances and to cultivate community among entrepreneurs. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups, and her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD. She blogs at heyfreelancer.com.