We’ll return to that later on, but for now, here are a couple typical places to store stuff, but I’m sure you’ll have your own list to fill in the gaps:
It sounds like the ideal space to store things, and to some degree it is. It’s a dry and clean space, out of the way, and offers what appears to be unlimited space! A perfect spot for all those large pieces of furniture you inherited from your family, or that are currently not being used and you suspect they will come in handy again sometime down the line, provided you can lift it up there and you have enough space to shift things around without being trapped behind something large and bulky.
But there comes a time when all those cupboards, chests and boxes are filled with stuff that you didn’t originally intend to put there: it’s just too tempting to use the storage options within that space to save smaller items, and that is where things usually get out of hand completely.
Once something small is packed in a box, within a larger box, inside a cupboard at the back of the loft… what use is that small thing to you, really? Either you won’t find it when you look for it, or you may completely have forgotten it’s there in the first place. And let’s be honest, the latter is much more likely! If I had a penny for every time that someone said “I had forgotten about this, but I HAVE to keep it”, I’d be reach beyond measure.
Garages tend to turn into storage spaces for all manner of outdoorsy stuff more and more these days. That has two reasons: most older garages are proving too small for the large cars we insist on driving these days, and it’s a perfect spot that combines the ‘indoors’ with a certain leniency when it comes to things being dirty, dusty or wet.
I have seen a lot of garages being used as a place for the washing machine and the dryer, the freezer chest, or hang the clothes to dry, simply because there is no place for these items elsewhere in the house. Where the loft is seen as a place of long-term storage, things like half-used paint pots and carpet samples, old boots, bicycle parts and the like are not good enough to be put there and end up in the slightly more grungy spot that is the garage.
And then one day it’s too late: the car REALLY won’t fit in there any mor and the floodgates are opened. At first you’ll try your best to keep a space for the car, but then it becomes cumbersome to get in or out and the car is left outside all the time…
Those are the worst place to store things! Just imagine that one spare room that is supposed to serve as a guest room as well: if you have one of those I invite you to ask yourself how often you have been embarrassed to have guests in a room that looks and feels like an unloved part of your house, a glorified storage unit.
Not only will you accumulate things in that room that will forever stay out of sight, but you’ll ultimately clog up a room that cannot be used for anything but storage in the shortest of times. Once you get started, the space will quickly be classified as ‘the space where everything goes that we don’t need right now’. And then it will soon turn into ‘the room we cannot show to anyone any more’.
Let’s face it: those are really useful for all manner of things we use regularly, but don’t necessarily want to see all the time, like winter boots, cleaning materials, outdoors toys, food storage, etc. And while those spaces are much smaller than a spare room, they tend to be difficult to access and weird stuff will usually accumulate quickly on the high shelves and at the back of the shelves, especially if those cover the whole surface from the door to the back wall.
It will take you no time at all to find out that a huge lot of small items being stuffed in there is no better than those bulky things in the loft: as soon as you can’t see things clearly from the outside of the closet they get forgotten until a huge clear-out becomes unavoidable.
Wardrobes and shelves
Wardrobes can be used to store a multitude of things, but are most commonly used for clothing items, anything bulky but used more or less regularly like a vacuum cleaner, brooms, bedding, valuables, etc. It’s important to keep those organised, and that smaller items be stored in separate and clearly labelled containers to avoid the big disappearing act I have written about in the above section relating to closets.
Shelves have a huge advantage: their open nature makes it much more necessary to keep them organised, unless you like the look of things falling on top of each other, that is. The thing here is that everything on a shelf is clearly visible and you are more likely to find what you are looking for because shelves tend to be narrow and often don’t allow for things to cover each other front to back. Let’s write that up as an advantage in terms of clutter awareness!
Of course, there are other spaces to store things, crawlspaces, cellars, sheds, to name just a few. However, you can probably see that similar concerns play a role here: size, accessibility, dirt level and humidity being the most important ones.
And that brings us back to the original idea that more space to store things equals a smaller likelihood that you’ll run out of space for the things you own. Unfortunately, the equation is not quite as simple: you may well find that you run out of space much later, or maybe not at all, but if you do you have a much bigger mess on your hands than you would have in a smaller space!
The gift of space can be a seriously poisoned gift indeed. The more space you have, the more you can accumulate before you realise just how much you actually own. If you ever had the opportunity or obligation to clear half a garage, or even just a couple of hallway cupboards, you can imagine what a pain in the back it is to go through all the stuff you have stored in less accessible spaces like the loft or a storage unit.
There is a simple solution to this, of course. Don’t let things accumulate to a level that becomes difficult to handle. Here’s your takeaway from this story: check well, and often, and make sure to keep your belongings at a sustainable level.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.