Choose less storage

Hopefully, you’ve chosen less and decided to get rid of a lot of stuff.

With what you’ve decided to keep, I have to give you one important warning.

Avoid having too much storage to store what you have.

I learned this the hard way.

A bookshelf I found on the curb used to proudly display books and knickknacks. 

A storage container that lived under my bed used to hold random papers and drumming items.

Boxes I moved out of my parents’ house held all those electronics I mentioned in an earlier email. They stayed unpacked for three years and another move until I finally got rid of everything in them.

I felt these “containers” were organized. They all held a certain types of things. And, often, something I didn’t have a place for in the house could get put into one of those extra containers so I could find a place for it later.

But those things almost never got taken out. The bookshelf became dusty. The boxes were full of stuff I never used and didn’t care about. Over time, I forgot what each held and they became more of a burden.

Giving myself extra storage let me defer decisions about what to keep and what to discard, allowing my possessions to hide and multiply into heavy, useless clutter.

Since choosing less, I’ve gotten rid of everything that used to be in those boxes and on that bookshelf, and my house and mind are cleaner and happier places for it.

So, what to do with what you have left after choosing less but without buying new storage?

Start by putting what you already have in what your house already offers you.

Work with the cupboards, drawers, and shelves built in your home -- most homes these days already have lots of places to put things.

Once you've exhausted the spaces already available to you, then look at what you have and see what may need some kind of storage container. Clothes may need to go in a dresser, and that's fine. You might need a few boxes here and there to store things like tools and bulky out of season things.

But if a thing doesn't have a spot that comes easily to mind, use that opportunity to determine if it's something you really need, and if so, if you need to take up space storing it. 

I strongly recommend against using offsite rental storage. That is where things really go to die.

And, it's expensive. According to SpareFoot.com, the average monthly cost for a self-storage unit is $91.14. That means that the average YEARLY cost of self-storage is $1093.68. Wow! That's a lot of money to pay for stuff you aren't using.

There are very special circumstances to use a storage unit, of course, but try to avoid one if you can.

I get it — storage makes a lot of things easier. But, it can be a trap. Putting a lot in storage, whether it's containers in your house or a rental facility down the road, is almost like taking out a loan on space. It will give you a place to put extra things up in the near-term, but you're going to have to do make a choice about those things in that space in the future. 

I’ve found that keeping only the stuff that you need in the places you already have helps reduce that "debt" and focus on what's most important for you and your home.

This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.