We’re all familiar with financial budgets: a way to understand our financial picture and cash flow. When it comes to organization and decluttering, you need to apply the same “budget” oriented thinking.
Right now you live somewhere—be it a tiny studio apartment or a sprawling suburban home—and that somewhere has a finite amount of storage. There is only so much room in your bedroom closet, kitchen cabinets, garage, attic, or other storage spaces.
That space is your storage budget, and just like your financial budget, it has constraints (and penalties for pushing past those constraints)—yet you probably have never thought about it quite like that.
Every bit of the storage space you use is like spending money in a budget. Some costs are immutable. You can’t stop paying your rent or mortgage and you can’t, say, throw out your work clothes to free up “spending money” in your closet’s storage budget. But beyond the things you absolutely need— essential cooking gear and dishes in the kitchen and enough clothing to go to work and wear after work—the vast majority of stuff is negotiable. Everything beyond the basics is the non-essential spending, if you will, in your storage budget.
Your financial budget says you can’t afford to buy a new car and keep your old one. Your storage budget—the constraints of your garage—says you can’t “afford” to store it.
With that in mind, you need to look at each thing you currently own and each thing you intend to purchase in terms of the storage budget. I, for example, love clothes. But buying a new article of clothing isn’t just a matter of whether or not I can afford the monetary cost, but the storage cost too. My financial budget may indicate it’s perfectly fine to buy a new blazer, but the storage budget of my home may not. Just because I can buy that blazer (or three) doesn’t mean I can store them without creating clutter, disorder, and inconvenience in my home. At some point, there’s simply no more room cram all those new clothes into the closet.
So the next time you’re thinking about a purchase big or small ask yourself if your storage budget can absorb it. Is there room on the bookshelf for the new books? Are you willing to get rid of clothing in your closet to make room for the new purchases?
Do the same when you’re cleaning and decluttering. Just like you might ask yourself “Is it worth paying for Hulu every month if I don’t really use it,” ask yourself if it’s worth the ding to your storage budget to keep those shelves filled with books you have no intention of reading again or clothing you haven’t worn in years. And don’t forget that the metaphorical storage budget has real-world budget implications.