Listen up friends. We have to talk about something very serious today.
If there is one thing that every single house I’ve been into has in common, it is a stockpile of bags, boxes, baskets, packing material, tissue paper. Literally, every house, every apartment, every trendy retirement community condo. A giant-ass stockpile of these kinds of supplies.
Here is what my clients say as they come across an old cardboard shoe box. “Oh, that’s a good box.” “These are always good to keep because you never know when you might need a good box.”
I, unlike you or anyone else, have given this issue a great deal of thought, and it’s led me to wonder: where, on earth, did we as Homo sapiens inherit this supply-specific hoarding-complex?? A fear of being caught without a “good box” is seemingly encoded into our DNA, a collective phobia of box scarcity, as if some day there will be a quiz and you, owner of too little “good bags and boxes” will flunk. I can just see the cave men now, growling at each other and gnawing on bones, their precious and prized collection of brown paper Trader Joe’s bags hoarded neatly into a nook in their cave.
I think it may be because no one has ever told you that you are allowed to get rid of a bag, box, basket that’s “perfectly good.” You have probably seen just the opposite modeled for you your entire life– your mother humming as she saved every cardboard box, scrap of tissue paper, and packing peanut to pass through your house while you watched on, suckling your polka-dotted pacifier.
Somewhere along the line, you were taught to feel guilty for getting rid of “good” supplies. You inherited an anxiety about some day needing a box, and lo, because you haven’t been slowly erecting a cardboard shrine in your basement, you will just surely die! Need a box and don’t have one! Whatever will you do?! Survive? Not likely.
Note: anytime you refer to something as a “good____ ” it is a danger call. Alert! Alert! Clutter Alert!
People use this phrase to describe things for which there is a totally ambiguous and unidentified potential for use (read: not a strong reason to hold onto something).
Here are two ways to harness your supply hoarding-tendencies:
1. Use the “at any given time” rule
When my clients ask me how many of any sort of supply they need to keep, I ask them how many they would need at any given time. 17? Incorrect. 5-7? Closer. Let’s use baskets as an example:
– Identify the what and when of the baskets; Do you use them when you’re entertaining to serve food? Or do you use them to take muffins over to a sick/grieving friend? Etc.
– Ask yourself, according to those identified purposes, how many you would need at one time; How many baskets would you need for one catered affair at your home? How many friends would you need to go muffin-delivering to at any one given time?
Be realistic with your answers. Keep the number of supplies you would need at any one given time, and get rid of the rest.
2. Use space as your guide
– Designate a specific space/amount of space to store supplies (read: it cannot be an entire room). You may fill up that allotment of space to your heart’s content, but the second you’ve filled it up, you’re done. No more. You clearly don’t need to continue collecting when you still have such a large amount of whatever it is.
It’s time to re-train your brain, bumble bees. So the next time a box, basket, bag, or anything of the like comes into your possession, fight against the impulse to immediately classify it as “good,” and therefore “potentially useful.” Can you identify a specific time in the very near future that you will need it? Is it worth sacrificing the space it will take up in your home? How much is it worth it to you to keep it?
I hereby empower you with this declaration: You are allowed to get rid of any box, basket, bag, packing material, or gift wrap that is in perfectly fine condition but for which you don’t foresee an immediate need. Just because it is functional does not mean you are obligated to keep it.
That is all. I hope those words sink in.