How We Accumulate and Organize Items in our Homes

June 20, 2021

I think it is safe to say, we will never SHOP the same after the 2020 Pandemic.

Many stores that have struggled to survive the past couple of years (Pier 1, JCPenny’s, Neiman Marcus, JCrew) are going to permanently close.  Some have already started clearance sales and store closings.

Items that we previously purchased at a store are now part of a “subscription-based” program and arrive at our front door as scheduled.  Subscriptions include everything from dog food, toothpaste, clothing, shaving cream, and razors.

Grocery stores that had expanded to over 50K items are now reducing products and reallocating space as the supply chain adjusts to the ever-changing consumer.  More families are using home delivery from restaurants, meal kits, and grocery delivery services instead of shopping themselves in a brick and mortar location. (Recent survey said only 65% of food purchases were made at a grocery store.)

The traditional Saturday afternoon trip to the mall to window shop, enjoy a fresh baked cookie from Great American Cookie company, and catch a movie at the cinema  is a thing of the past. 

If we have learned anything over the last 14 months, it is that we can quickly adjust where and how we shop.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER WHAT COMES IN :

Into your house

Into your mind.

And Into your mouth

And your will power is strongest and most effective at the point of purchase.  If you never buy it, you never have to deal with it in your home!

In terms of purchases for our homes, there are 4 common approaches:

Minimalism, Consumerism, Essentialism, and Reductionism

First, some definitions

Minimalism:  Owning Fewer Possessions—people often think of stark white walls, one chair, one plant.  And yet, it is also the perspective of purchasing less stuff that allows for more freedom to travel or create experiences.  There are several good resources to learn more:  Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist, Ryan Nicodemus, and Joshua Fields Millburn The Minimalist

Consumerism: Acquisition of goods in increasing amounts—Black Friday Sales with hundreds of people pushing each other to grab the last TV; shopping at Costco for multiples of everything; Walmart, Target, Amazon.  Consumerism has been a powerful economic force for the past 50 years.  Unfortunately, easy credit has caused people to overextend with credit card debt and the home mortgage crisis of 2007.  This article provides a summary of that crisis:

Essentialism:  Determining what is essential to you in terms of items, people, commitments, and maintaining those regardless of age, available space, or resources.  Marie Kondo style of decluttering where you identify the items that you need and everything else is purged. Essentialism can look like a minimalist house or a home can be filled with lots of beautiful accessories and items.  It is completely up to the individual to determine what is essential.

Reductionism:  Working toward a place of balance of what you have and what you need for your current situation and the future.  A place that many people find themselves in now, where what they needed 6 months ago is different from what they need today.  And if their income has changed, then reducing their expenses to meet the new income.  Families are digging in and getting creative with food items already in their pantry instead of going to the store.  Parents are sharing the school supplies with their students as they all work and learn from home.  And as our commutes to work change so does our automobile or public transportation needs. 

I personally believe we all favor a specific approach at specific times in our lives.  In our youth, consumerism is common as we tend to want to buy the next new game, the next Lego set, the popular clothing brand.  Even when we are out on our own, the desire to purchase items for our family increases.  Then at some point, you may find you want to “downsize” or as it is sometimes called “right-size” and you may find yourself in essentialism or even as far as minimalism. 

During the national shelter in place we experienced this spring, we found ourselves stuck inside and looking at our stuff All Day Every Day.  Many people began asking questions about their possessions.  For some, the decluttering and purging started immediately and was only halted by the fact that resale shops were closed so there was no place to take the donations.  Others were able to purchase storage bins and labels and now have organized garages and closets and know what they own and where it is.  It is a natural response that when things outside of our control are increasing, we look for ways to feel in control. 

If you did not spend time decluttering or organizing or doing what I am calling “ The Great American Clean Out”  you may need to take a few minutes to just look at your stuff and get an objective perspective.  And if at any point you feel overwhelmed or confused, you may need to seek assistance from a professional organizer or at least a highly organized friend.  

Ask yourself some questions like: 

How do you feel about the amount of stuff you own? 

How do you feel about how you are caring for the stuff? 

How much time are you spending dealing with it and is that what you want to be doing?

Let’s say you own a BOAT.  

You enjoy taking the boat out every weekend.  You know that you must clean and care for the boat, but you enjoy that as well.  I’d say, KEEP THE BOAT!  It is providing entertainment value, giving you a place of relaxation and good fresh air and sunlight.  All positives.

Let’s say you own 2 bicycles

You haven’t moved the bikes in at least a year; both bikes have flat tires and cobwebs in the wheels.  I’d say, SELL or DONATE THE BIKES!  They are not providing an exercise option and the longer they sit unused, the more the tires age and will be useless for someone else. 

See the difference? 

The Rule of Sunk Cost:  What you paid for an item has no bearing on its value to you now.  Keeping it in a closet, storage shed, or garage does not make it more valuable or return money spent.  It is SUNK.

Areas to clean out: 

Attic or Basement (depending on where you live you may have one and not the other or may have both)

Garage (primary use is to protect your car from the elements, but less than 30% of homeowners can park their car in the garage)

Storage Shed or Unit (9.4% of population rent a storage unit.  More stats about storage units)

Closets (see other blog posts)

Cabinets (Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry Room, office file cabinets)

Pantry and Freezer (One of my favorite areas to organize!  This is your micro grocery store; it should be arranged like one!)

Quick & Easy Steps to Clear Out some of these spaces:

  1. Use up what you have.  Be sure you have gathered everything into one place —you don’t want to find a stash of cleaning supplies under the guest room bath.  Do not buy any more food, paper goods, beauty supplies until you have used what you have.  Make it a game.  Everyone writes down when they think you will have to shop to replace it.  This will also help you budget in the future.  If you see that you can go 6 months on 36 rolls of toilet paper, then you will not rush to buy more when a forecast calls for heavy rains, or ice because you know you have 18 rolls in the hall closet and that’s a 3 month supply. 
  2. Set deadlines.  If you are wanting to empty the storage unit you pay $110/ month, then set a deadline for when you want to be out of it.  Double-check when they will bill your account for the next month so that you can be sure to be out before that date. 
  3. Get uncomfortable for a while.  Instead of “out of sight, out of mind”, put the boxes right on the table or in front of the TV.  If you can’t sit down to eat dinner or you can’t recline back in your chair, you will be motivated to work through the boxes and finally make a decision about the items—continue to store, or remove? 
  4. Stay focused on the desired outcome.  Remind yourself why you are cleaning out the garage or the freezer—monthly savings, reduce food waste, repurpose the space for home gym or home office. 

Owning stuff should not fuel our happiness!  The only way to reduce our desire to own more is to start being grateful for what we already have.  This is also true in our relationships.  When we are grateful for the friends, family, neighbors we have, we can enjoy them more and they will enjoy us more too! 

Once you’ve cleaned out these spaces, the best way to maintain them is to STOP SHOPPING. 

  • Cut up credit cards from stores (usually have higher interest rates anyway). 
  • Follow the 1 in 2 out rule—for every item you bring in, you must donate two. 
  • Unsubscribe from emails. You know your favorite stores; you don’t need to be reminded to go to their website when it’s time to purchase again.  And getting emails everyday encourages more and more spending and unplanned purchases. 
  • Adjust your subscription plans.  Are you using what you are getting in before the next shipment arrives or are you starting to have a surplus?

I mentioned that you may need to get help with some of these projects.  As a professional organizer, I can help you evaluate your current situation, put together a plan, and estimate time needed to complete the project.  My consultation is FREE.  You can also purchase a gift certificate from me to give to a family member or as a client appreciation gift.

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