Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Organization May Not Be The Final Solution To Clutter"

Clutter - the accumulation of mostly unwanted and unnecessary stuff or the good stuff that we really want to keep but have no home for it yet - is a constant challenge for homeowners and renters. Witness the growth of the mini-warehousing industry. Largely unknown a decade or so ago, they have begun dotting the landscape with storage units for all those items that don't fit into an apartment or a garage, attic, or basement.

People deal with items that have the potential to accumulate and overwhelm in different ways. Some can immediately toss mail, catalogs, flyers, and other items they know they don't want or won't use. They don't need to put them on the table or desk, or pile them in the corner to review at a later date - and then discover they don't want them. They make that determination so they don't add them to what they already have in their homes. The same thing with expired foodstuffs or broken items.

Some people tend to hang onto most everything - at least temporarily. They know they likely won't want or need all of it, but it's easier to hang onto it in the short-term than make the decision to get rid of it. Sometimes that temporary status gets erased and those items become long-term members of the family. Meanwhile, even if many of those items eventually are discarded, they add to the amount of accumulating clutter in the home while they are present.

Then, there are people who seem to hang onto everything - just in case. There is the feeling that one never knows when they might need something that was left over from assembling a toy or piece of furniture. When a small appliance breaks or stops working - or it's replaced by a newer version - that item is kept for parts, power cords, or the possibility that it can be returned to running order at some future date. Typically that never happens, and the parts from older models never seem to fit the newer ones anyway.

Regardless of how much or how little a person hangs onto, many people recognize that they need some order in their lives and in their homes. A fairly common practice, therefore, is creating folders or envelopes to store papers and then placing them in file drawers or boxes. Larger items are often placed in cardboard boxes or plastic storage containers. 

So the stored items begin to occupy more and more containers and boxes - to the point that very little, if anything, gets discarded but only placed in some semblance of order inside storage containers or cardboard boxes. Formerly loose, random clutter is transformed into organized clutter. There are so many boxes inside the home, garage, attic, or basement that the clutter is still present but now there is some structure to it.

After people begin to eliminate surplus, excess, and unwanted items from their homes, then the storage containers they obtain - clear or in various colors - can be used to store what they want to retain.

Organization is more than just the acquisition of storage devices and then accumulating more and more of them to hold all of the stuff that people have. There has to be a way to know what is stored, which container it is in, and how to locate and access that particular container when the item is needed again. Otherwise, those containers only serve to add to the clutter issue.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.