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Beware the slippery slope of storage
Here are the only 7 things I allow myself to store.
You just moved into a new home and you have a basement for the first time. Or, you’ve done a big edit of your belongings and are ready to put things back on the shelves. How to do you approach storage so you don’t end up with a big pile of random stuff you have to spend days and weeks untangling down the road?
If you’ve ever moved you know the agony of realizing you own waaaaay more stuff than you’d thought. The culprit is usually storage….storage will get you every time! It’s a dangerous business.
First, a definition: storage is a space where you put things you don’t use on a daily basis. The space can be in a basement, attic, the back of your closet, under your bed, lesser used kitchen cabinet, or a cabinet in your dining room. Storage space is defined by how it’s used, not by its location.
Storage areas quickly turn into black holes (my dreaded nemesis!) that come to haunt you on moving day: over time you forget what’s in there, the space gets dirty/dusty so you don’t want to venture in to find out what’s there, and you just keep cramming things in which exacerbates the problem.
Don’t let this be you! So what to do when storage shelves beckon?
First, be sure you’ve subscribed to Your House Machine so I can protect you from pitfalls like storage black holes
To save myself and to help you, kindly reader, I’ve developed a set of storage rules you can adopt and adapt.
Things I allow myself to store, with some caveats:
Dry goods I frequently use and have low likelihood of changing brands (i.e., toilet paper yes but face moisturizer no) — I’m a fan of buying these things in bulk
Seasonal items that get used at least once a year (holiday decorations, gift wrapping, hiking boots, snow sled, etc)
Waste that needs to accrue before it makes sense to process. So in my case, a garbage bag of styrofoam that I take to the recycling place once it’s full. Or items to donate to Goodwill once I have a full bag. But this is permitted ONLY if I have a built-in trigger for processing the waste, i.e., once the bag is full it goes.
Dormant toys waiting to be rotated into my kids’ play space. I’m big on toy rotation, but again, the rule is they stay only if they get used at least once a year — I cull this toy selection frequently.
Mementos are permitted, but only with strong space constraints. I have a chest where I keep old letters and childhood mementos, and another box where I add new things. Once that box gets full I go through the whole collection and prune. I digitize to the extent I can, save a corner of the blanket rather than the whole blanket, etc etc. It’s hard! I’ll write more about emotional blocks around mementos in a future newsletter—there’s a lot to say.
Paint cans & things that “belong” to my house. It’s nice to have an extra can of paint, so long as your house is still painted that color. But just 1 can, and if only if it’s relatively fresh. I’m due for a huge paint purge, as I currently have at least 40 cans of paint stored—that’s way overboard! Tip: paint stores often accept old cans of paint for safe disposal. I also am storing a shelf I removed from my refrigerator, a piece from my dishwasher, and things like that — I’m on the fence about saving them (the idea being they belong to my house, since theoretically we won’t be here forever) but as I’m writing this I’m realizing I should get rid of them.
Hand-me-down kid things. Once you have kids it feels like a funnel opens up and people come out of the woodwork to offer you clothes and baby gear. I try to always say no as a rule. “Stuff windfalls” seem fun at first but quickly turn into work and stress for me. I also struggle with wanting to save my older kid’s things for the younger one, but I’ve found this isn’t as efficient as I imagine it’ll be. I’ve started being more aggressive about taking outgrown clothes to the consignment store, knowing I’ll accrue credit I can use to buy clothes for the younger kid as we figure out her needs/tastes. Now it’s my turn to funnel things to other new parents ;)
And that’s pretty much it. I don’t let anything else slip into storage, though my belongings (and housemates) certainly try their best! I try to be vigilant, and keeping my storages areas bright and well-organized makes this easier.
One more consideration — it’s a good idea to physically limit how much of each category is allowed. For instance, our Christmas decorations need to fit into this bin (I’m Jewish so this is easy for me). If I find a new decoration, I need to get rid of something else to fit it.
When it comes to things like collections (CDs, Royal Dalton dolls, baseball cards, old ballet slippers), I don’t believe in storing them. If you don’t have space to display your collection or use it daily, then, well...I’m gonna suggest you get rid of it. It starts becoming a burden to service the collection, move it around, feel guilt about what you spent on it, and so on. Find someone who can revel in it every day. Your collection will thank you.
I’ve developed these rules for myself over the years by observing what leads to a feeling of lightness vs what leads to a feeling of burden. I know this can be a touchy subject, and I realize that what feels like a burden to me might not to others.
Are there are any storage categories you’ll defend to the end?