Monday, January 6, 2014

Buying Plastic Bins Won't Solve Your Clutter Issues

plastic bins being sold, with a sign that says: Clutter stops here.
Photo by organizer Deb Zechini, used with her permission.

As much as stores selling plastic bins might want us to believe it, clutter doesn’t stop when we buy the bins. Actually, the bins might become clutter themselves! Clutter gets stopped when we rid our homes and offices of the things that no longer serve us, and stop bringing more of this stuff into our spaces.

There’s certainly a place for the plastic bins and other containers, but until we’ve decided what we really want to keep, we don’t know what kind of storage we need: how many containers, what size, what style. Buying the perfect new containers can be a delight, but it’s best done after the de-cluttering. And sometimes we find we already have things we can re-use to provide the storage we need.

In his book Not for Packrats Only, Don Aslett writes about “junk bunkers” — the term he uses for “anything that creates space for more unnecessary stuff.” Here are some of his examples:
China closet: A piece of furniture that keeps dust off the stuff you never feed anyone out of.

Plastic crate: A petrochemical cage for questionable stuff.

Industrial shelving: A high-tech way to keep our boxes of useless stuff from being crushed by more of the same.
Now, of course, we sometimes have good reasons for having china cabinets, plastic crates and industrial shelving — but Don ’s point that we often find great ways to store not-so-great stuff rings true.

The temptation to buy more containers can be huge — especially when we’re in a store or on a website with really cool stuff, or when the containers are on sale. But none of us wants to wind up like David Lebovitz, who tweeted:
I don’t know why I bought 4 huge plastic containers today. Now I have to find something to fill them up with.

Related Post:
Organization is More than Storage


Claire Josefine said...

Jeri, your title made me laugh! Oh my, I can't tell you how often I've walked into a home and seen plastic storage bins bought in the desperate hope that purchasing them would somehow miraculously eradicate decades of detritus. Of course, as you point out, the bins only multiply the clutter. I suppose purchasing containers is like drinking "the hair of the dog" -- imbibing more of what ails you in an attempt to alleviate the pain. Has consumerism filled your home beyond comfortable capacity? Well, folks, buy our products and you'll feel better! Not...

Louise said...

Love the term "junk bunkers!"

Anonymous said...

Exactly! My husband loves the bins. They are hideous. We use them as toy boxes and its terrible. If I wasn't up to my eyeballs with 4 preschoolers I would be figuring out a more display-friendly, organized way of keeping toys tidy.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I remember watching one of those TV organizing shows years ago. One couple had a severe problem letting go of anything and the TV team finally gave up. They put all the stuff that the couple insisted on keeping in plastic storage bins -- easily a hundred of them! Even the couple was surprised. And they were thinking of starting a family! I wonder how that worker out.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Oops. "Worked" out. Thought I'd have a chance to preview before posting.

There is a law, you know, that all the best proofreading is done after hitting "send."