The late comedian George Carlin said, “Your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get… more stuff!”
Carlin’s satiric comedy routine was a comment on many things, namely the American consumer’s need to accumulate possessions and shop. Let’s be honest, even those of us who are not shopaholics probably have lots of stuff; stuff that sits in little piles or overflows closets, cabinets and garages. This is what we call clutter.
Tackling clutter in your living space
These days, an Internet search for “tips for reducing clutter in the home” will produce more than two million results. Lots of people are talking about clutter and offering helpful suggestions!
One expert, Cynthia Ewer, editor at OrganizedHome.com, offers advice in her article, “Strategies to Cut Clutter,” that includes the Four-Box Method. Here’s an excerpt from her article:
The Four-Box method forces a decision, item by item. To apply it, gather three boxes and a large trash can. Label the boxes, “Put Away,” “Give Away/Sell,” and “Storage.” Items to be thrown away belong in the trash can.
Take the four boxes to the declutter area. One at a time, pick up each piece of clutter. Ask yourself, “Do I want to put this away in another place, donate it (or sell it at a yard sale), store it, or throw it away?” You may not release your grip on the item until you have made a decision.
At the end of the decluttering session, reserve 10 to 15 minutes to empty the boxes. Put your “Put away” items in more appropriate places. “Give Away/Sell” items should be stored outside the house, in a garage, or in the trunk of the car for drop-off at a charity donation center. As each storage box fills, make a brief inventory of the contents and put the box into the storage area. Finally, empty the trash can quickly to prevent second thoughts!”
The Four-Box Method can work well for a lot of people committed to reducing clutter. But some folks have difficulty making decisions about certain items in their homes.
Using your imagination
In his Science of the Imagination blog for PsychologyToday.com, Jim Davies, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of the Science Imagination Laboratory at Carleton University, talks about using imagination to reduce clutter.
Dr. Davies points out that parting with items can be hard, in part because of “the endowment effect: when we own something, we value it more than we would have been willing to pay for it when we didn’t have it.”
To overcome the endowment effect, Dr. Davies suggests that if you imagine that you do not own the item in question, you get a better sense of the actual value you place on the item. Here’s his example of how to apply this technique:
Let’s say you have a digital camera that you are thinking of getting rid of. You can go onto eBay and find out the price for similar cameras sold. This gives you a good idea of what you could get for yours if you sold it. Now, ask yourself: “If I didn’t already own this camera, would I pay that much for it?” If the answer is no, then sell it immediately. Indeed, if you have remorse you can always buy another one, probably for a cheaper price.
If you take part in this exercise, you’ll realize how little you actually value some of your things you think you need.
Sell or give away stuff. Throw some stuff away. Now, you’re left with items that will be stored – either in places like closet, cabinets, drawers, or storage boxes and containers.
Are home organization products the answer for your stuff?
The online magazine, ClosetDaily.com, offers insights into a home organization products study by the market research firm the Freedonia Group. This study estimates that $8.6 billion will be spent on home organization products by 2015. Storage bins, baskets and totes make up nearly $3 billion of the estimated amount, while shelving accounts for another $2.2 billion.
That’s a lot of coin. However, prices for individual items can be quite modest. Big box retail stores offer a variety storage bins and boxes of different shapes and sizes. On average, the larger-sized plastic bins cost about $10 each – prices may be less when they are purchased in sets of 4 to 6 bins.
Is it time to seek out more space for your stuff?
Once your home and garage are organized into storage boxes and other containers, you may find your storage needs exceed the space you need for other things – things like actually parking your car in the garage.
In George Carlin’s routine, A Place for My Stuff, he mentions another solution for your stuff – self storage. Here’s what George had to say, “Maybe put some of your stuff in storage… Imagine? … There’s a whole industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff.”