Storage is Not a Solution

Look at any organizational website or catalog, and you’ll find a plethora of boxes, bags, and containers billed as “storage solutions.” No matter what the item, there’s a vessel to hold it—big, small, tall, flat, thin, wide, clear, colored, fabric, plastic, leather, wood.

Put them on shelves, pile them in closets, stack them in your attic, basement, and garage. If you run out of room, gather them up and stick them in a storage unit across town.

And presto—your clutter problems are over!

Uh, not really. Storage is not a solution.

Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it’s out of mind. Your clutter is still there, hanging over your head, piled beneath your feet, lurking in the dark corners of your home. Just the thought of being surrounded by junk can be psychologically suffocating.

(And forget about dressing it up in designer boxes—making it pretty doesn’t make it go away.)

I re-learned this lesson myself, just recently. When my husband and I returned from England, we had our own little storage unit to deal with. Stuff we’d lived swimmingly without for 2+ years had come back to haunt us. It wasn’t all unwelcome, of course—we’re happy to be reunited with our bikes, and Plumblossom loves to cruise along our newly-reinstated futon/sofa.

But I’m also dealing with a box of books, a box of paperwork, and a box of clothing that I’d all but forgotten about. How tempting it was to toss them without opening them—after all, I hadn’t used (or really missed) their contents in years. Unfortunately, I had to peek inside and rediscover the “nice” office clothes that would be $$$ to replace (will I work outside the home again?), the dress shoes made in Italy, the out-of-print art books that will never be available in a library or on a Kindle.

Sigh. While three boxes is far from a clutter problem, it’s more than this minimalist wants to own. And in all fairness, the paperwork is mostly tax, housing, or medical-related, and necessary to keep. But my goal is to slowly detach myself from the rest (I’ve already started).

So take it from me: storage is not a solution—it’s just a way to hide your stuff until you (or worse yet, someone else!) must deal with it later. Instead: declutter, declutter, and declutter some more!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

75 comments to Storage is Not a Solution

  • Tina

    My husband is talking about getting rid of some of his hobby equipment– big telescopes he can no longer lift and carry around easily. Many years ago, I said this might happen. He gives a lot of his things to local junior colleges or junior high schools. When we are older, we don’t need as many things we can’t lift and carry without help. I never bought dining room chairs because we have 2 folding chairs and if I need more I borrow my son’s. We also have 2 desk chairs in our tiny den and we can move them by the table if we need them.

  • Tina

    I get magazines free at the library. When I’m done, I pass them to my daughter, who reads them and takes them to work. Travel magazines are for my husband, who returns them when he’s done. My mother always had stacks and stacks and boxes and boxes of magazines all over her homes, and I can’t live like that.

  • Tina

    I got a big stack of craft magazines at the library. They give them away. I kept 2 for the craft patterns and returned the rest plus 3 out of my collection I ended up not using. I don’t keep beading or quilting magazines at all any more because I just lost interest.

  • Diz

    Had to laugh at this. I’m on a fresh dejunking mission. The new man in my life is happy to help and started suggesting storage solutions, including using my attic. I’ve never been one to put things in the attic unless it was only used occasionally, like camping gear or seasonal decorations, so I had to tell him you’re missing the point. I have stuff I don’t need and don’t want, far too many clothes that no longer appeal to me, some that no longer fit. I need to be shot of it, not shuffle it. He has been great at helping me go through my clothes, and it’s a bonus that I’ll always be wearing something he thinks I look good in :-)

  • […] Minimalist and Miss Minimalist both address this […]

  • […] Just because you can’t see it in your minimalist home interior doesn’t mean it’s not there. Keep a list of items you stored in your storage container, so you can keep track of what you have. […]

  • Tina

    I help people declutter and they make a donation to charity. My friend asked me how many bath towels I have. I said four, one for me, one for my husband, one for a guest, and an old one in case there’s an emergency like heavy bleeding. She was amazed. I have a small box of rags and when they are all dirty, I wash them all in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. I said I never buy more than one or two of anything. I will never be an extreme minimalist but I get rid of stuff all the time. My friend said my kids will have it easy when I die.

  • Tina

    I have noticed that some people regard piles of junk as security. My friend had a huge black garbage bag full of empty toilet paper tubes. I told her to keep 2 boxes full and recycle the rest because if she needed more she could ask her friends. She also had hundreds of empty egg cartons, potato chip tubes, etc. I gave a stack of ratty old towels to my veterinarian. I kept one for an emergency. My other friend can’t part with old sheets and towels.

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