By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
If you’ve read our series on small space living with a family, you know that the six of us (including our two dogs) life in a two-room apartment, less than 650 square feet.
Limited Storage Space
We have two closets – a clothes closet, and a small utility closet – and a storage locker in the building’s basement. (You might not believe how New Yorkers covet a few feet of storage space – we were on the wait list for 6 years for that locker!)
No attic, no basement, no garage, no shed, no linen closet, no pantry….
Honestly, this is a plus: It stops us from buying a lot of things, and we don’t have to spend entire weekends cleaning out the garage or basement. That means more money and more time for living life – one reason I love living small!
#1 Decluttering Tip for a Tiny House
We still have stuff, though, so it does take some creativity to live here and still have breathing room.
Let’s say you’re already minimizing belongings by not accumulating things you don’t need. But you still need to pare down what you already have.
Our #1 tip for decluttering is to keep your life current.
Keep Your Life Current
Be honest about where your life is now and what you need and use now. Anything from a past life (save a few precious mementos) and even things you’re saving for a future life (except a baby or other event in the near future) need to move along.
Do You Need it NOW?
While striving to declutter and minimize your belongings, always ask yourself if your family needs the item now. Try not to stuff your storage with unneeded items from the past, or contingency items you think you just might need in the future.
I too struggle with this – since having kids, I feel just about anything could be used for a costume or art project or tinker tray someday! But the reality is there will always be odds and ends to press into service – there’s no way we can turn our home into a one-way door for things, everything and anything.
Living small gives us lots of practice in the discipline of letting go and being content and secure that we have all we need, now and for the future.
Letting go of just in case items
We renovated our kitchen and bathroom several years ago. In the process, especially since we did much of the work ourselves, we accumulated a lot of extra stuff: fixtures and fasteners and hardware….
Why hang on to that stuff? Well, we reasoned, for the getaway cabin in the woods we plan to build one day! We might need that stuff!
Eventually we got real: While that sounds economical, storage space is money too and affects our quality of life now. We donated that stuff to someone who can put it to use right now. And now we have what we really need, which is some extra space.
When we get our cabin, we’ll stock up on exactly what we need when we need it – maybe even from other people clearing out their own storehouses!
Try to let what goes around come around, when it’s needed.
Letting Go of the Past
If we hang on to everything from a past life, it sucks up not only storage space but mental and emotional energy. Last time I decluttered our basement storage locker, I found a big box of items from my wedding and life with my first husband.
I’d already pared down that whole decade of my life to just one box, but…considering I have a whole new family now, and want to devote my energy to the present, that storage space really needs to be dedicated to them.
I saved our wedding video and some photos, but let the rest go. I don’t see this as expelling the past as much as honoring the present. Sometimes even mementos are important for a time – but not forever.
Which Mementos to Keep?
Mementos are the toughest category not to hang on to indefinitely. A simple test I’ve learned to use is, “Will my children want to see or have this some day?”
It was hard to let go of my notebooks from college – all those classes, all those hours, all those notes! But frankly, I probably wouldn’t have time or abundant interest in going through my dad’s notebooks from the 50s, and I doubt my sons are going to want to go through mine from the 90s.
Consider deeply what you or your children will really want to pore over one day, then let the rest go and enjoy your life right now.
Not Worrying about the Future
In addition to liberating your life and storage space from the past, it’s a good idea not to hoard for the future. Especially when the future need is unknown.
It’s hard for me not to hang on to every book I’ve ever liked. Especially once I had kids. I keep thinking they might one day be interested in reading about, well, anything!
Sure, I don’t use this cookbook, but look at the nice photos! Maybe my son will want to page through it one day and choose something to make!
The library is chock full of beautiful cookbooks, and every other kind of book. So I’ve donated hundreds of books to make room for what we need on the shelf now, which is children’s books.
Another storage consideration is how much you need to stock up in advance on things you do need and use.
I think it’s worth it to let the stores be your storage unit. Even if you spend a little more for a smaller size or occasionally pick up an item at a local store rather than a big box store where it’s cheaper. It pays, in a small home, to get what you need when you need it.
We probably all have our weak spot with this one. Mine is toothpaste and toilet paper. I grew up in a household that was forever running out of toothpaste and toilet paper.
This had a traumatizing effect, so…as an adult I became like Scarlett in the potato field, “I will never run out of toothpaste or toilet paper again!”
Consequently, I stockpile. Even though there are multiple 24-hour drugstores a 2-minute walk from our apartment, I devote quite a bit of our precious storage space to triple rolls of toilet paper. I need to see rolls and rolls and rolls of it at all times.
And I refuse to break my fingers getting every last smear from the toothpaste tube. When it’s done, there’s another tube. And another after that. There’s plenty – it’s a very comforting feeling. (And gives me some empathy for those with a true hoarding issue.)
Like I said, we all have our issues. Whenever my grandmother saw the car’s fuel gauge at ¾ full, she swerved into the nearest gas station, as if we could have run out of gas at any moment.
(Whereas my dad always considered the gas tank to be a bomb so would only put in $3 of gas at a time, meaning we really were always about to run out.)
The point being, try not to stockpile beyond the one or two things you need for your personal security blanket. We live in a land of plenty: We can buy as needed, when needed, and keep stocks circulating.
Small Home Storage Costs
The lifestyle cost of storing anything in a small home is pretty high. Everything should have its clear purpose and earn its keep. (Even if that purpose is just that it makes you happy!)
If you spend a little more from not stocking up on sale or buying in bulk, remember the big money you’re saving by living in a smaller home!
You can do this!