Ask the Experts

Saving Space

I’ve always been a person with a lot of stuff. I don’t know why that is, exactly–maybe I just buy too much stuff, or maybe I have too much trouble throwing things away. I don’t know. All I know is that I never feel like I have enough space! Sometimes I’ll buy a book on organizing or downsizing, but all that ever seems to do is just add a book to the piles of stuff that I have. It drives my parents nuts, and it bothers my roommates, too. And, of course, it bothers me! How can I get more space and organize my stuff better? What advice to the experts have for people looking to cut down on their clutter?

You’re not alone! Many of us have too much stuff–and, for a lot of us, that can be a source of stress.

By the numbers, Americans own an incredible amount of stuff. The average American home is cluttered with a stunning 300,000 separate things. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is: even though the typical American home has tripled in size over the past 50 years, we still found ourselves without enough space. Perhaps that’s why 1 in 10 Americans rents a storage unit.

And, actually, renting an off-site storage unit isn’t a bad idea for those of us looking to declutter, says management at Clifton, New Jersey’s Route 46 Storage. There are some things that we just don’t need in our homes full-time, and for people in smaller spaces–such as college students like yourself–a storage unit can be a huge help.

Not all of your clutter is storage-unit worthy, of course; while it makes sense to store holiday decorations and important possessions that you don’t often use, a storage unit is obviously not the best place to stash wall hangings and knick-knacks. If you don’t want to look at something that’s only purpose is to be looked at, then maybe it’s time to get rid of it!

Downsizing is tough, and there is no one best way to do it. But you’ll find plenty of expert advice on decluttering, organizing, and minimalism on the internet and in popular books (which you may want to get for an e-reader, since you already have too many physical books filling up your space!). Simple techniques like the one in, one out rule (which states that you should get rid of one item for every one you add) can make a big difference in your lifestyle.

When you do downsize, be careful of how you dispose of your possessions. Recycling is important, say the pros at ASM Recycling of Mobile, Alabama, who specialize in commercial recycling. Try to donate, recycle, and repurpose items where possible–without letting this weaken your resolve to get rid of excess stuff!

If you can limit the amount of physical things in your room, space will begin to emerge. Organization techniques work better when you have room to work and limited things to organize. If you make decluttering an ongoing effort, you should see great results over time.

“The first first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.” — Joshua Becker

Dennis Cook is a Software Engineer and Data Science Instructor at General Assembly.