Paying for Postponed Decisions

It’s funny how my work with clients takes on certain patterns. I recently wrote about multiple clients with whom I worked on organizing their jewelry. Lately, I have been visiting storage units with my clients.

As I’ve mentioned before, my very wise organizing colleague, Barbara Hemphill, declared that “Clutter is postponed decisions.®” When you decide to put items into storage, you are not only postponing the decision of what to do with that stuff, you are also paying handily for the luxury of postponing that decision.

Many clients over the years have gotten tired of paying hundreds of dollars each month and have asked me for help in closing down their self-storage units. The one I worked on recently was very satisfying for both the client and me. We went through every box at her Manhattan Mini Storage unit. She decided what should be kept and what should be hauled away, and then I repacked the boxes and added colored tape to each box indicating its destination.

My client arranged for a small moving company and a junk company to come at our next session so that we could empty the unit and close it down. The stuff that the junk company hauled away will be donated or recycled where appropriate, or put in the trash as a last resort. The stuff that she is keeping was moved to her apartment, where we stacked it up in a corner for us to put away at a future date.

Another client asked me to help her organize the storage cage in her building’s basement. The building was planning to haul away anything that wasn’t located securely in the cages, so this was an opportunity for her to review what she had and dispose of what she no longer wanted at no cost. This review reinforced what I’ve always believe: anything kept in an opaque container becomes a mystery. If you can’t see it, you’ll forget what it is.

My favorite moment during that session occurred while looking at another resident’s storage cage. This cage was filled completely with boxes from floor to ceiling, and the only thing keeping the boxes from spilling out was the chain holding the door closed. One of the boxes was labeled “Clothes I Don’t Wear”. That’s telling it like it is! (I don’t suppose I need to tell you what I would advise someone to do about clothes they don’t wear.)

The third storage closet project also took place in the basement of the client’s building. This was a room filled with postponed decisions, much of it relating to the family’s now-adult child. This is a struggle that many of my clients deal with. What do you do with the childhood stuff that your kids leave behind? At what point do you tell them that they need to come review their stuff because you plan to get rid of it?

Here are a few pointers regarding storage units:

  • I believe in renting a storage unit if you know it will be temporary. If you need a few months or a year to park your stuff because of a life change, go for it. However, if you are simply postponing difficult decisions, you will ultimately regret sending the stuff to a costly storage space.
  • Pack your items in well-marked boxes, or put them in clear storage containers. You want to be able to tell at a glance what is in the storage unit so that you can find it when you need it, or decide when it’s time to trash it.
  • Keep a list of everything you’ve added to the unit. You think you will remember, but you won’t.