The Problem with Storage

storagesource: Flickr Travis Wise

Americans have more stuff than ever. We have so much stuff that it doesn’t fit into our houses. 1 in 4 households can’t park their car in the garage because it is too cluttered, and 1 in 10 Americans rent storage units. This despite the fact that the average American home size has grown from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2480 square feet in 2011.

I’ve never used a storage unit, so it’s not 100% clear to me what people put in them. But if you need access to something so rarely that you can put it in a storage unit away from your house, then do you really need it?

I am guilty of putting things in storage around the house and then forgetting about them. Old photos, mementos from high school, my wedding dress. Usually, I put something in a closet with the intent to sort through it “someday.” Not surprisingly, someday never really comes.

Decluttering storage areas is on my list of goals to accomplish by October 1. I’m planning to organize storage closets, linen cupboards, and the basement this week. Here are some things I will keep in mind as I work to clean out and organize these areas.

Put everything where you can see it. Even if you are putting something in a cupboard, you should easily see everything that is stored in the cupboard when you open the door. Nothing should be pushed so far in the back that you can’t see it.

Everything should be within easy reach, never tucked behind several other items. My Christmas decorations are stored in a few boxes at the back of a walk-in closet. To get to them, I have to remove stored baby toys and miscellaneous boxes. Obviously, my walk-in closet isn’t functioning as a walk-in right now. My goal is to create a path along one wall for walking, with stored items along the opposite wall. Nothing should have to be moved in order to get something else out.

Display all mementos, nothing should be tucked away and forgotten. I’m expecting this to be the most difficult part of decluttering. I’ve already decided to sell my wedding dress at a consignment store. It would be better for someone else to enjoy the dress rather than having it sit in my basement closet forever. I’ve already started using this guideline with some souvenirs and keepsakes I’ve found in boxes around the house. A small rocking horse that belonged to my grandmother is now displayed on my dresser. Two small plaques that hung in my childhood room are now hanging in the nursery. These items bring me joy when I look at them, following the KonMari Method of deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Don’t organize, declutter! Have you ever noticed that when you organize a closet, pantry, or even a room, that the clutter creeps back in within a month or two? If organizing really worked, wouldn’t you be organized by now? (Full disclosure: I couldn’t find that quote online so I could attribute it to the right person, but I’m pretty sure it’s in KonMari’s book.) The ultimate goal with decluttering is to own less stuff. I’ve found the following question to be really helpful when clearing out a closet or drawer: “Other than myself, who else will put this item back exactly where I’m placing it now? Is this the natural spot for it (meaning, is this where someone will toss it when they put it away)?” If the answer is “no one” or “no,” then I find another spot for it or toss it out.



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