Do you need more storage space or fewer things?

Raise your hand if you think you need more storage space in your home. Anyone think that if they just had more storage areas, their home would be easier to maintain? Sometimes I wish my home had more closets, especially a dedicated linen closet. But, I’ve found a way around that and, honestly, I don’t need a separate space to keep towels and sheets, which means it’s probably more of a want and not a need.

Of course, if you live in a small home, your storage options may be limited. You’ll likely have to use tried-and-true techniques (maximize vertical space, use under bed storage, hooks, armoires, etc.) and take advantage of creative solutions, like using multi-purpose furniture or hiding things in plain sight. You might even come up with some unconvential ways to keep your stuff, like using a car or minivan (that isn’t needed for transportation) as storage space.

In a recent blog post over at Extraordinary Observations, Storing Private Stuff in Public Space, the author started giving this some thought. He reasoned that it would be very convenient (the vehicle would be parked close to his home) and when he crunched the numbers, he found that it would be a cost effective option, too. 

… street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting notion and it seems to make sense from a monetary standpoint. For anyone seriously considering this as a solution, another question comes to mind. Why not reduce your stash so that the car isn’t needed for storage? You wouldn’t have to worry about the types of things you could store in your vehicle (since it’s not temperature controlled) nor would you have to be concerned about someone stealing it. With one less spot to maintain, you’d also have less work to do, fewer decisions to make, and more time to focus on other things. And, you’d have the option of selling or donating your car, both of which come with financial benefits.

Though the benefits of living with less are clear, going through the process is not always straightforward or easy, especially when you have to let go of things that you’re emotionally attached to. When faced with the task of uncluttering and downsizing, it’s important to remain focused on the positive outcomes of reducing the number of things you own (particularly if you don’t use or want them). Keep in mind that you can also handpick who receives certain items which can help put your mind at ease. Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything. You’re simply prioritizing and carefully selecting which items you will bring the most value to your life.

Ultimately, anyone going through this process will need to answer this question: Will a storage unit (of any type) be a regular and permanent part of your life, or would you prefer to find a way to live well with less?

22 Comments for “Do you need more storage space or fewer things?”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    Live well with less — without a doubt.

    It makes me nuts to hear about stuff stored under beds, in garages, etc. I cringe at “How to fit more junk into the space you have” articles.

    No! No! No! If your stuff can be stored under a bed, do you REALLY need it? REALLY? If it’s in an attic, or in off-site storage, are you treating it as valuable, or just as “stuff”?

    I have a closet in each bedroom and that’s it. Other than the kitchen cabinets and a small vanity in each of two bathrooms, I have no cupboards or closets in my house. My philosophy is that when my house starts to feel anywhere NEAR full, it’s time to declutter.

  2. posted by Denise Johnson on

    Totally going to reblog this soon!! Loved this post

  3. posted by Carol on

    For years I thought I just needed more space for my “stuff”. Now I believe it’s a combination of the two. I do need more space than I currently have, but I also need to live with less “stuff”.

    I live in a small one bedroom apartment that doesn’t even have a closet in the bedroom. The “stuff” stored under my bed is my winter clothes (I’m not getting rid of those). I do draw the line at storage units and the idea of using a vehicle as storage. If you’ve hit that point you really need to reassess what you’re hanging on to. Although I’ll admit I’d love to have an attic or another closet to store Christmas decorations.

  4. posted by pru on

    I have a couple things with a permanent residence in my car, but they are there for a reason. Like, my gym bag and all clean gym clothes. If it lives in the house, I regularly forget to put it back in the car and then I’m late to the gym. So instead I take out the dirty clothes and leave the bag in the car. There’s also a few other small things that seem to live more conveniently close to where they are used.

    But I would not use my car for permanent storage of, say, off season clothes, or shoes, or papers. Too much hassle, and extra gas being burnt when I drive the car.

  5. posted by Christina on

    I firmly believe that I don’t need more space for my stuff. I moved into a larger house a couple of years ago, and I got to see what would happen if I had more space. You know what? We filled it up, we don’t know what it is, and we can’t find anything, so now we are tossing most of the stuff.

    I think having the space gives us an excuse to keep the stuff.

  6. posted by Leslie on

    Family members recently emptied out their public storage units. My brother in law did the math and figured that they spent >$10k on storing everything. Then he did a quick inventory and figured out that their stuff, wasn’t worth that much.

    I’m completely ok with living in smaller spaces so long as I do have a place to store my seasonal or not often used stuff. But if I had to pay to store it, I would find an in home solution first.

  7. posted by jessiejack on

    If you have a spare car that you can use just to store more stuff-maybe it’s time to declutter the unused car!

  8. posted by Beverly on

    More space = more stuff = less money. What the majority of us need is LESS space and LESS stuff. Less stuff = more $$$. This is not a difficult concept.

  9. posted by Thorin Messer on

    I am totally with you re your ruminations on doing with less. But I must point out that the article cited was actually making the point that we might rethink “subsidizing” car ownership. We use public rights-of-way (roads paid for with tax money) to store private goods (cars), and we think nothing of it. But when he proposes using the road to store other private stuff like clothes, people get weird.

  10. posted by Jodi on

    I think how you use the space is important. Like Pru, I have stuff that “lives” in my car – For example, I keep my “to be donated” bag and my reusable cloth grocery bags in my car.

    But, there is something to be said for using space under the bed etc. depending on your square footage. If you have a 2500 square foot house and are single, stuff under the bed is probably not the best idea. But, when I was in 1st grade, my best friend lived in a 16’x16′ house (it had a small/short loft, but as a 6-year-old I could not stand straight up). Their family lived there quite creatively and comfortably (including both parents and their 6 children) until they finally moved into their “big” house around 7th grade. They had storage spaces that were amazing, and their house ran very productively.

    I wonder if the unclutterer staff has any square footage guidelines to help assess space. I certainly wouldn’t expect most families of 8 to live in 500 square feet, but knowing it can be done, I wonder if there are averages of how much square footage is really “needed” per person.

  11. posted by Jules on

    I totally agree with not cramming every inch of your house full of storage and stuff… that being said though, we just redid our bathroom and with the new design we have a lot more storage. I don’t let stuff creep in to fill all this space (or other space in my condo) because to me, nothing looks more beautiful than a closet or drawers that are only part-way full. You can see everything you have without digging through stuff and everything has a bit more room to breath. I love it!

    I suppose this might be more of a challenge for some people though. I know friends who have a “if you build it they will come” mentality that works more like a “if you have it you will fill it you with crap”.

  12. posted by Klyla on

    Be careful about storing things in an unused car in Texas. The fire ants and mice will take over the space!

    Also, check with city ordinances about whether you can park an “unused” vehicle on the street. Our city has a 48 hour rule. We’re also not allowed to have extra vehicles just sitting around in the yard. They have to be on a concrete pad.

    It’s a nice idea but might not be practical or legal.

  13. posted by Rae on

    I’m a former borderline hoarder who now lives in a motorhome. I have both weight and storage space restrictions.

    I did a good decluttering before I moved in here five years ago, and I keep evaluating what I have. I have room for everything and even some cabinets and compartments that aren’t full to bursting. I make sure I have a sensible place to store an item before I bring it home.

    I’ve really succeeded in paring my life down to the essentials and making room only for the things that matter to me and which fit who I am today.

    The added bonus of a fairly decluttered (but absolutely not minimalist) lifestyle is that my home is so easy to clean. It takes at most 10 minutes to put everything away and have clean surfaces, then I can do a deep clean of the entire rig, ceilings to floors, in under an hour.

  14. posted by Michaela on

    Less is more is a much better way to go. Using a vehicle to store your items is just asking to get broken into (I don’t even live in a bad area, but that would probably happen). Plus in our city you could not leave a vehicle on the street for more than three days before getting tagged and towed. The idea of doing that semi-horrifies me. If you have reached the point of using a vehicle for storage, you truly need to part with some items – immediately. And you need to come to terms with the fact you probably need to rethink your life and how you are living it. I have seen people DRIVE around with vehicles stuffed to the brim with items, and its sad (to me). If you vehicle is chaos, your life probably is too.

  15. posted by Laurie Buchanan on

    In my post yesterday, I shared this data:

    “The National Association of Professional Organizers says that as a society we’ve acquired so much “stuff” over the last three decades that the self storage industry is the fastest growing new industry in the United States.”

    Of Mice, Men, Packrats & Squirrels

  16. posted by Paula west on

    Before we moved to a different town our previous neighbors had two broken down mini vans they used to store Christmas decorations in. As a favor to your neighbors I would advise against this, when we put our house on the market several potential buyers stated that the unique storage next door was a major reason for them to look on. We went by the house recently and the vans are gone, they have been replaced by a semi/cargo container.

  17. posted by Emily on

    Not a bad idea if you want to get rid of things, really…it will be stolen and the stuff gone, all in one fell swoop. 😀
    Dorothy, if I couldn’t keep a basket for shoes under the bed in this tiny 87 year old home with a two-foot closet I’d have to go barefoot. Or trip over them. Lol.

  18. posted by Dan Erickson on

    I constantly debate less stuff or more space. I’m a minimalist at heart, but living in a 650 square-foot house with my daughter is pretty tight. I constantly let go of stuff, but I’m starting to think I need more space.

  19. posted by Gypsy Packer on

    Klyla, yes. Add wasps to the critters which infest cars and trucks. They’re not shy: moved in while I was out of work and living in the truck.
    Cube trucks and dead vans are popular storage out in the country, but look for big fines if they are parked on city streets or in back yards.

  20. posted by Gypsy Packer on

    Fewer things are not necessarily an option for home gardeners and artisan canners. We balance lower costs. Half my (standard size) closet space is thus allocated, so pruning and multitasking of other items is necessary.

  21. posted by Mackenzie on

    “More storage space” or “better storage space”? Last week I went for “better storage space” by adding shelves into the walk-in closet. Now my fabric is stored neatly, in mini bolts on shelves, instead of sloshed into a 4′-long box under the sewing machine table, and the yarn and wool have been arranged their too. Previously, there were some boxes piled on the floor of the closet along with bags tossed in around them, and that wasn’t neat.

    The next step for straightening out the craft stuff is that tonight I’m picking up some small wooden crates (they said about the size of a CD) so one can hold the spools of thread, another the spools of ribbon, another the socks that need darning, etc. since that sort of stuff currently just gets sort of SPLAT-ed out onto the sewing machine table or (if I’m handsewing on the couch) the coffee table.

  22. posted by melissa ward on

    This is a great article. As someone who has lived in a small one bedroom apartment for the last twenty-eight years, I find I must declutter frequently. The past few years have brought some rather huge challenges (illness, multiple surgeries, deaths) that have prevented me from doing so. Finally I have the time and energy to start clearing space again – yay! I started with one of the two tiny closets in my bedroom. I found a beloved scarf in a lower drawer of a dresser I keep in the closet because the room is too small to have it out there. Took out all the scarves I might want to wear this spring & summer and hung them on hangers at the front of the closet agreeing to wear one a day. Have found so many more outfits to put together with my scarves! And compliments galore. Now I realize I need not buy any more clothes because after clearing out the shoes and clothing I don’t ever wear, I’ve found the gems, and there are plenty of them. I keep my hiking boots on the back of my car because I hike a lot and sometimes you never know when you want to take a hike, plus, living in earthquake country I’ve been in earthquakes while sitting in my car, and want a good pair of shoes in case I am required to get out and hike through a disaster.

    I also started cleaning out my hall closet that must contain all my linens, towels, blankets plus many personal items, photos, appliances, etc. since I have no other closet, and gave two sets of sheets and several sets of towels to a young friend who recently relocated and had no such items. I also closed down a storage locker about 50 miles away that I opened to store items belonging to my dad when he had to move into an independent living situation. Didn’t feel good getting rid of his things while he was alive, so it’s taken me almost six years to get rid of stuff. And I moved to a smaller storage once I’d gotten rid of some big items. Some are sold through Craigslist and Ebay, some are given away or donated. It makes me feel good to find good homes for things I no longer need and that can be appreciated by people I know who would use them, such as my dad’s wood carving tools. I gave them to a friend who is a luthier, and he was thrilled. Little by little we can do it. Having a lot of things that belong to dead relatives is a challenge in itself, yet to keep moving forward it does get resolved. Recently my only surviving aunt across the country asked about a family bible, and photo album and mentioned she’d like it donated to a historical society. that request was a true gift, as it’s in my garage, having no space for it inside my apt. and I had no idea what to do with these very old and historic items. Now I’ll mail it to her to give to the historical society so someone may benefit from our family history. Thanks for everything Erin! Great job.

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