I have interviewed many professional organizers in my years writing about the home, and there’s one store that gets on the Naughty List again and again. Sure, this nationwide retail chain has many virtues, including rock-bottom prices on things you need and the ability to cross off all the items on your shopping list in one spot, but it is — in their expert opinions — a direct contributor to the kind of clutter that makes them pull their hair out. Can you guess what store it is?
That store is, wait for it … Costco.
“Warehouse clubs are the bane of my existence,” says Darla Demorrow of HeartWork Organizing. Why? Because those savings at the cash register (and we’ll admit, they can be tempting and impressive!) turn into storage costs at home.
“Why would I buy a 100-pack of burgers — do I really need that many? — when the freezer is the highest energy-consuming appliance in my home?” she asks. “Those burgers were being stored just fine at Costco.”
Whether it’s meat patties, bottled drinks, paper towels, or sponges, make sure you’re weighing the cost of storing the item (items?) at home when you’re looking at it at the warehouse store. Those costs might not always be as overt as a bill from running a freezer or food going to waste because you didn’t get to eat it soon enough, but can include the frustration of, say, paper towels falling onto your head from their perch in the pantry (as mine do, frequently) or your under-the-sink area being so packed full of extra cleaning products that you can’t tell what you really have.
“If you buy something you don’t have space for, you’re paying for it twice,” warns Demorrow.
To be clear, we’re not anti-Costco: Warehouse stores have their time and place, and can be a real cost-saver. But they can be a road to a cluttered kitchen if you don’t shop smart. So when you go, shop with a list, buy only what’s on said list, and choose quantities you can consume within a reasonable amount of time. If you can get into the habit of buying just-the-right-size amounts of food and cleaning supplies, resist stocking up “just in case,” and pass up on deals on things you don’t actually need, then when you head to Costco to shop for your next family reunion, you’ll be getting the real savings.