Storage: A Minimalist’s Observations

My son Blake has 1 storage box in his room. Here's a "before" pic when sorted out his favorite toys recently.

“Many wealthy people are little more than the janitors of their possessions.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Are you paying monthly fees for storage space elsewhere to hold your extra belongings that don’t fit in your home?  Have your vehicles lost their home in your garage to stacks of storage boxes?  Our family certainly has been through seasons where we’ve had to shift things around and take up more space that we’d like to, but it’s a good idea to let go of boxed items not serving a good and timely purpose whenever possible.

I’ve chosen to hold on to my preserved wedding gown, some of the kids’ keepsakes, and a few photo albums, but we recently were able to free up additional space in our home and garage before moving by thinning out our holiday decorations and other stored items.

After you’ve released the obviously unnecessary items, turn your attention towards making these tweaks to improve your home environment:

  • In bathrooms, keep only the essentials (toothbrushes and soap) on counter tops, and the rest can go in the nearest drawer or cabinet.  Make it a family habit to put all toiletries away after getting ready in the morning.
  • Bedside tables can be a real problem.  I finally donated mine after I realized it’d become a place I’d tuck away anything in our bedroom I was too lazy to put away – like glasses, medication, or books I’d read and should re-shelf.  I keep a floor lamp on my side of the bed for reading now.  With no bedside table, I’m forced to put things away.

Consider selling your non-essential side tables, dressers, and other furniture or consoles.  After we did this, the money we made went into savings and I have less to vacuum around and dust off!  The kids were excited to see some of the pieces go, because it created more floor space for them in an area where we play board games.

Take a minute and walk through your home in your mind.  Are there any unnecessary furniture items?

  • Have you ever wanted to have people over but couldn’t because the house is a mess?  I’ve certainly been in that situation (especially when my kids were toddlers), but I was so buried in stuff that I didn’t realize I could change things if I really wanted to.  Even when I had designated places for my kids toys, the storage was rarely used. The American dream seems to be increasingly bigger homes, and yet bigger homes mean more work.

Ask yourself if you’re willing to live in smaller square footage for the sake of your value of sharing your home with others.  Otherwise you’ll continually be in the middle of a value conflict, torn between using all that energy and feeling grouchy to get the house back in order and sharing a meal or cup of coffee with friends in your living room.  I’d guess that seven out of ten times stuff wins out.

  • Face the facts: even if we buy a bunch of baskets or bins to hold all the kids’ toys and our craft materials, there’s likely still too much of it.  Can you bear sticking it up in the attic for a month to see how many times you have the need for it?  Schedule a reminder on your phone, and if you’ve not needed it in 30 days’ time, move it from the attic to the recycling bin or to your car’s trunk to donate.
  • My mantra over time has become more stuff = less peace in my home.  When I purchase something that won’t be used up in a relatively short amount of time (unlike food or toiletries), I try to get an item out of the home to maintain the peace. Needing more storage feels like I’m trapped by belongings.
  • Storage space in a home is similar to bags – the more space we have in them, the more we naturally fill them up.
  • My kids’ crafting items can get out of hand really quickly, especially after a birthday or holiday when they’re given new tools or kits.  We have room for 6 plastic storage shoe boxes in the book closet, so they’ve chosen the items they love to use most and distributed them among the 6 boxes.  The construction paper and larger supplies are stacked underneath the boxes, within the kids’ reach. The best part? When they run out of something, we can put it on a list of items to ask for when the next holiday comes up.
  • Just in case usually means just a waste.
  • Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, with no change of clothing.  So the way I see it is we either own too much at the moment, or He’s given us much of what we have to provide for others.  Having free will means we get to set the parameters for “enough”.  In western culture, we love to abide by the unwritten law of “more is better”.  To keep up, many of us build larger closets and rent storage units to hold our stuff.

Come clean: Are you storing non-essential items?


2 Responses to “Storage: A Minimalist’s Observations”

  1. Amy August 31, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    My bedroom is a mess. I started a home-based business and have every intention of using the built-in desk and shelves in the bedroom for work. But I have so much stuff to organize, and I keep putting it off because it seems like such a huge task. Do we really need all these books?! And I still haven’t gotten a handle on managing all the paper!

    It’s hard to talk to my husband about accumulating things. He comes home with random “useful” items because they were on sale or were inexpensive, and they sit around taking up space and never–never–get used. “Just in case is just a waste?” I definitely agree.

    I’m going to get off the computer and go to work on organizing the bedroom…

    • Dana Byers August 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Best wishes, Amy! If I might, I’d suggest just working on one room at a time; one project at a time. For example, choose how you want your office set up first. Then maybe get things filed (the more simple the filing system, the better). Then you could sort out which items to keep/sell/or donate.

      Something that’s helped me is setting my phone timer to work hard (no interruptions if possible) for 45 minutes to an hour, then taking a break to admire the progress. Maybe do that once a day for a week and you’ll be amazed at the changes you’re creating!

      I didn’t make changes overnight. It comes over time, especially if we have family members who might take awhile to make the adjustment. I think we have to tread lightly so we don’t overwhelm or frustrate ourselves and those with whom we live.

      Incremental change will get you there!

      All the best,

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