Resist the urge to get more storage.
During my high school years, our old house started to feel cramped. Our possessions began to compete with us for living space, so my parents decided to get more storage by upgrading to a bigger house. I now realize that getting more storage was more of a knee-jerk reaction than a true solution to our problem. Junk is like a gas: it expands to fill the volume of its container (our house). The bigger our house, the more stuff we fill it with. Unless we change our shopping habits, no amount of space can possibly contain all the clutter we can collect.
Expanding storage space is expensive. If you’re spending $100 a month renting storage, you’re wasting $1200 a year for the privilege of storing useless clutter (useful items would not be in storage in the first place). Buying a bigger house costs even more money. You could save a fortune by living in a smaller house if you could cut down on your possessions.
Instead of paying for storage, here are four simple steps to rid your life of clutter without paying for storage.
Four Steps to Clutter-Free Living:
- Stop shopping. If you absolutely need something, borrow instead of own so that you can return an item when you’re done using it.
- Sell your valuables. Find rarely used valuables and sell them over classifieds sites like Craigslist. Sell everything: old cars, kitchen appliances, furniture, computers, monitors, and television sets.
- Donate what’s left. Inspect your remaining possessions: if you rarely use something, put it in a cardboard box to donate to charity.
- Recycle the rest. Whatever the charities won’t take, recycle.
The first step is the most important. If you don’t stop shopping, your cleaning efforts will be in vain: whatever you get rid of today will be replaced by something new tomorrow. Make an effort to avoid purchasing anything from a store again. If you need something, borrow it instead. This allows you to avoid the hassle of storage and disposal.
Next, determine what you will keep among the items you already own. My personal goal is to fit everything I own in the trunk of a compact car. This gives me freedom to move apartments and travel with ease. Your personal goal could be to keep only items you use at least once a week. Sell your valuables, then donate the rest. What you choose to sell depends on how much you value your time. For me, if something is worth $25 or more, I sell it on Craigslist, and anything less I give away.
You are far better off giving your stuff away than hoarding it in storage. Possessions you give away cost nothing to store and can benefit someone else. Charities will take non-perishable food, clothes, appliances, bicycles, cars, tools, furniture, and electronics. Items that charities won’t accept can be given away for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. If the item cannot be used anymore (e.g., broken electronics), recycle it or send it to a waste disposal center.
Many people would cringe at the idea of giving away something valuable for free. If you paid $50 for an old mp3 player, it might seem crazy to give it away to a total stranger. However, if you can’t sell it, and you never use it, you’re only wasting more money by storing it. The money can’t be recovered, so the best you can do is to cut your losses by donating it to someone else who might benefit from it. I’ve given away valuable possessions like tables, lamps, chairs, and kitchen appliances in order to save space and money. This painful experience taught me to never waste my money on unnecessary stuff again.
In a way, storage is like a drug addiction. Increasing storage temporarily solves your problem by putting your clutter out of sight and out of mind. But the more you rely on storage, the more you allow yourself to shop, and the more storage you will eventually need. The only way to permanently clean your house is to fight the shopping addiction and curbing the impulse to buy more storage.
What could you stop buying to avoid clutter? What could you sell or give away?