Straight Dope Message Board > Main What does this mean: "It costs an average of \$10 per square foot to store items in your house"
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#1
06-26-2012, 07:24 PM
 thelurkinghorror Guest Join Date: Jun 2006
What does this mean: "It costs an average of \$10 per square foot to store items in your house"

I saw the above phrase in an article about reducing clutter/hoarding (no link but it doesn't matter). I can't wrap my head around what it is supposed to mean. Cost if you had instead rented out the room to a boarder? It pings my skepticism, but to fight ignorance, I googled the phrase and I see this canard repeated on multiple sites. No answers or attribution is given as far as I can tell.

So, does anyone have an answer or a WAG about what this is supposed to mean, and then how someone might come to calculate the figure? I am assuming that there is some Ur-source or study they are borrowing form.
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#2
06-26-2012, 07:32 PM
 RealityChuck Charter Member Join Date: Apr 1999 Location: Schenectady, NY, USA Posts: 32,944
It's one of those accounting concepts that's useful in some respects, but is not a real number.

It counts the costs of rent/mortgage. utilities, taxes, and the other expenses required to pay for the space. So you count up all the costs of ownership of your house and divide by square footage.

The problem with the number is that it double counts -- if you own the space, you're paying that \$10 a square foot whether it's filled with junk or completely empty. It could be argued that hoarding is a more efficient use of that space than leaving it empty.

It's only becomes an actual expense that you're not paying anyway when you have to rent additional space for your things.
#3
06-26-2012, 08:33 PM
 missred Guest Join Date: Jul 2007
Having to own/rent a larger living space for a stash than you would need if you didn't have it costs money. For an example that isn't hoarding, think of someone with the hobby of painting. They'd need space to set up, appropriate lighting and storage for both supplies and the finished works. For myself, as someone who sketches and does papercraft both for fun and sale, I require an apartment a minimum of 100 square feet larger than if I didn't do this. Someone who bass fishes needs a place big enough to store the boat and other fishing gear.

Although hoarding is a disorder, the extra space required to do it is akin to that of a hobbyist.
#4
06-26-2012, 08:45 PM
 Crazyhorse Guest Join Date: Sep 2008
It seems to be thrown around often in a context of "You should downsize. Get a smaller house and have less stuff." more so than as a response to too much clutter or hoarding pe se. For example by having a furnished dining room, breakfast area and a kitchen table, instead of everyone just eating from TV trays in one room all the time, you are paying a lot for 'eating space' in your house. And if you have a garage, attic, 5 big closets, etc. you are paying x per sq. foot to store whatever junk you are keeping in there but also to have that much space, much of which might not be used or cluttered.

In other words they aren't saying if you just clear out the clutter you will save money, they are saying if you clear out the clutter, then get rid of the house and replace it with a smaller one, you will save money. Probably true for many, but some just prefer larger spaces and more rooms than they technically need to live comfortably. In those cases as RealityChuck noted, the space is already paid for whether it is cluttered or empty.
#5
06-26-2012, 11:02 PM
 Fubaya Guest Join Date: Apr 2008
The argument could backfire. All that junk would add to the thermal mass of the home, saving money on heating and cooling. And imagine what good insulation you'd get when the walls are 5 feet thick. Just ignore the fact that the "walls" are 5% wall and 95% stacks of old newspapers and dead cats. If for a one time payment of \$10 per square foot, you could save \$50-75 per month on utilities for the rest of your life, sooner or later it might start paying off.
#6
06-27-2012, 12:09 AM
 thelurkinghorror Guest Join Date: Jun 2006
Fubaya, posts like yours make me happy to me a SDMB member. I am starting my pizza box fort now.
#7
06-27-2012, 01:02 AM
 astro Member Join Date: Jul 1999 Location: Taint of creation Posts: 28,348
Not sure of the origin of the quote, but in commercial leasing we often quote lease rates in terms of annual sq ft dollars (ie 1000 sq ft office costs \$10,000 a year or \$10.00 a sq ft or \$ 833 a month). This may or may not include utilities based on the individual deal.

To lease an apartment or house of similar square footage could easily be within this annual price range so if you are taking up 200 sq ft of your 1,000 sq ft house or apartment with hoarding junk you are effectively paying around \$ 10 a sq ft or \$2000 a year for that space. \$ 10 a sq ft annually is also within the range of what you might pay for a typical mini-storage unit. If you own your house you would simply look at it as an income property rental to extract that number.

Last edited by astro; 06-27-2012 at 01:04 AM.
#8
06-27-2012, 02:07 AM
 Chronos Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: The Land of Cleves Posts: 47,916
It also assumes that the cost of a house is directly proportional to the interior area. But the cost is also going to depend on the location, the area of the lot, and the amenities: A house with half the area won't necessarily cost half as much.
#9
06-27-2012, 07:41 AM
 Fuzzy Dunlop Guest Join Date: Apr 2007
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Chronos It also assumes that the cost of a house is directly proportional to the interior area. But the cost is also going to depend on the location, the area of the lot, and the amenities: A house with half the area won't necessarily cost half as much.
People are usually shocked at how expensive it is to build homes fitting into that "tiny home" movement, like Tumbleweed homes. They're quite pricey in absolute terms as well as in a price/square foot basis, at least relative to unstudied expectations.

The electrical, plumbing and mechanicals aren't dramatically reduced by a smaller footprint. Even the framing and whatnot aren't as sensitive to area as one might think at first. Building longer walls increases materials costs of the wall linearly. Of course your floor and roof increase proportionally with area.

Last edited by Fuzzy Dunlop; 06-27-2012 at 07:42 AM.
#10
06-28-2012, 01:18 AM
 grude Guest Join Date: Dec 2011
And what about cases where the property is useful to live in or hoard in, but worthless otherwise? I certainly could not sell the house I live in(in a notorious ghetto) for anything but peanuts.
#11
06-28-2012, 09:18 AM
 hogarth Guest Join Date: Apr 2009
Quote:
 Originally Posted by grude And what about cases where the property is useful to live in or hoard in, but worthless otherwise? I certainly could not sell the house I live in(in a notorious ghetto) for anything but peanuts.
Presumably you could swap it for another, smaller worthless house in the same neighbourhood and pay less in property tax, utilities, etc. But certainly the \$10 figure wouldn't apply equally to every house all over the world!
#12
06-29-2012, 01:34 PM
 thelabdude Guest Join Date: Feb 2011
I prefer the term pack rat to disorder. So my wife and I could use a smaller empty nest than our 2,000 sqft 4 bedroom one. Yes, it does give us plenty of thermal mass. Just watch blocking air circulation in the attic. But what about Memorial Day weekend when we had 7 adults, 2 kids, and 5 dogs? A motel bill would eat up some of the savings plus require a sober driver at bedtime.

Smaller houses suffer from the surface to volume ratio going up. The difference between a 25' pipe and a 30' foot one is small compared to the labor of installing one.

The biggest problem is finding anything you actually want. I know it was there 20 years ago.
#13
06-29-2012, 01:49 PM
 arseNal Guest Join Date: Apr 2005
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Fubaya The argument could backfire. All that junk would add to the thermal mass of the home, saving money on heating and cooling. And imagine what good insulation you'd get when the walls are 5 feet thick. Just ignore the fact that the "walls" are 5% wall and 95% stacks of old newspapers and dead cats. If for a one time payment of \$10 per square foot, you could save \$50-75 per month on utilities for the rest of your life, sooner or later it might start paying off.
oh hai, cite for the thurmal retenshun properties of dead cats plz
#14
06-29-2012, 02:11 PM
 Crafter_Man Guest Join Date: Apr 1999
#15
06-29-2012, 03:50 PM
 robert_columbia Guest Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
 Originally Posted by RealityChuck It's one of those accounting concepts that's useful in some respects, but is not a real number. It counts the costs of rent/mortgage. utilities, taxes, and the other expenses required to pay for the space. So you count up all the costs of ownership of your house and divide by square footage. The problem with the number is that it double counts -- if you own the space, you're paying that \$10 a square foot whether it's filled with junk or completely empty. It could be argued that hoarding is a more efficient use of that space than leaving it empty. It's only becomes an actual expense that you're not paying anyway when you have to rent additional space for your things.
Yes. For an industrial example, consider a company with an idle factory in Detroit. The factory costs \$200,000 (security guard wages, janitor wages, cleaning supplies, heating/AC bill, electric bill, water bill, oil for machinery, o-rings, local cop bribe money, etc) to maintain at a reasonable level of repair such that production could restart the week after management calls and tells them to start making stuff again. Now, if Manager Bigshot Bill sends an order down for 10 ball bearings that have immediate costs of \$2 each (that is, the variable cost of making a ball bearing), then, assuming that the factory doesn't make anything else during the fiscal year, the Accounting cost of the 10 ball bearings could be calculated at \$200,000 fixed costs + (10 count * \$2) = \$200,020, meaning that on paper, each ball bearing cost \$20,002. Clearly you can see that if the factory actually gears up and makes thousands or millions of bearings, the "cost per bearing" goes way down. The flaw in looking at the "cost per bearing" is that the fixed costs have nothing to do with whether or not you make the bearing or not - you can't say, "OK it seems that if we ask the factory to make 10 bearings then it's going to cost \$20,002 each, and that's too high. Let's call BearingCo instead and contract it out." You end up paying the \$200,000 regardless.
#16
06-29-2012, 05:57 PM
 Fubaya Guest Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
 Originally Posted by arseNal oh hai, cite for the thurmal retenshun properties of dead cats plz
Dr John Wamsley nevr complanes about hiz hed being kold.
#17
06-29-2012, 06:27 PM
 drachillix Member Join Date: Jun 2000 Location: 192.168.0.1 Posts: 8,312
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Crafter_Man Opportunity cost
I did a nifty breakdown on this in a thread a while back

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=389739
#18
06-30-2012, 09:34 AM
 What the .... ?!?! Guest Join Date: Oct 2005
One thing it means is that the author (absent further explanation of the concepts mentioned above) probably has an agenda.

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