Too Much Of A Good Thing: Supply Smackdown Edition

May 23, 2012
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Listen up friends. We have to talk about something very serious today.

If there is one thing that every single house I’ve been into has in common, it is a stockpile of bags, boxes, baskets, packing material, tissue paper. Literally, every house, every apartment, every trendy retirement community condo. A giant-ass stockpile of these kinds of supplies.

Here is what my clients say as they come across an old cardboard shoe box. “Oh, that’s a good box.” “These are always good to keep because you never know when you might need a good box.”

Too Much of A Good Thing: Supply Smackdown Edition // Live Simply by Annie

I, unlike you or anyone else, have given this issue a great deal of thought, and it’s led me to wonder: where, on earth, did we as Homo sapiens inherit this supply-specific hoarding-complex?? A fear of being caught without a “good box” is seemingly encoded into our DNA, a collective phobia of box scarcity, as if some day there will be a quiz and you, owner of too little “good bags and boxes” will flunk. I can just see the cave men now, growling at each other and gnawing on bones, their precious and prized collection of brown paper Trader Joe’s bags hoarded neatly into a nook in their cave.

I think it may be because no one has ever told you that you are allowed to get rid of a bag, box, basket that’s “perfectly good.” You have probably seen just the opposite modeled for you your entire life– your mother humming as she saved every cardboard box, scrap of tissue paper, and packing peanut to pass through your house while you watched on, suckling your polka-dotted pacifier.

Somewhere along the line, you were taught to feel guilty for getting rid of “good” supplies. You inherited an anxiety about some day needing a box, and lo, because you haven’t been slowly erecting a cardboard shrine in your basement, you will just surely die! Need a box and don’t have one! Whatever will you do?! Survive? Not likely.

Note: anytime you refer to something as a “good____ ” it is a danger call. Alert! Alert! Clutter Alert!

People use this phrase to describe things for which there is a totally ambiguous and unidentified potential for use (read: not a strong reason to hold onto something).

Here are two ways to harness your supply hoarding-tendencies:

1. Use the “at any given time” rule

When my clients ask me how many of any sort of supply they need to keep, I ask them how many they would need at any given time. 17? Incorrect. 5-7? Closer. Let’s use baskets as an example:

– Identify the what and when of the baskets; Do you use them when you’re entertaining to serve food? Or do you use them to take muffins over to a sick/grieving friend? Etc.

– Ask yourself, according to those identified purposes, how many you would need at one time; How many baskets would you need for one catered affair at your home? How many friends would you need to go muffin-delivering to at any one given time?

Be realistic with your answers. Keep the number of supplies you would need at any one given time, and get rid of the rest.

2. Use space as your guide

– Designate a specific space/amount of space to store supplies (read: it cannot be an entire room). You may fill up that allotment of space to your heart’s content, but the second you’ve filled it up, you’re done. No more. You clearly don’t need to continue collecting when you still have such a large amount of whatever it is.

It’s time to re-train your brain, bumble bees. So the next time a box, basket, bag, or anything of the like comes into your possession, fight against the impulse to immediately classify it as “good,” and therefore “potentially useful.” Can you identify a specific time in the very near future that you will need it? Is it worth sacrificing the space it will take up in your home? How much is it worth it to you to keep it?

I hereby empower you with this declaration: You are allowed to get rid of any box, basket, bag, packing material, or gift wrap that is in perfectly fine condition but for which you don’t foresee an immediate need. Just because it is functional does not mean you are obligated to keep it.

That is all. I hope those words sink in.

Image credits: This Time TomorrowBelise on Paper, Martha StewartCrate & Barrel 

13 Comments

  1. Dawn {The Alternative Wife} on May 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

    First of all you made me laugh because I totally used to be a box hoarder. Even at work, me and a co-worker used to save them until it got out of control and I put a stop to it. Now I don’t save any which might not be the best idea but I feel lighter and better about things. I don’t ever save any at home anymore. Now plastic and paper bags is another story alltogether. I need to purge pronto! 🙂 xoxo

    • Annie on May 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

      You are so not alone Dawn! As I said, seriously every home I go into has its share. Don’t worry about the boxes, if you need one, you will find a way to get one. As for the bags… get after that!

  2. Tidy-Up Gal (@TidyUpGal) on May 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    oh dear. I keep the trader joes bags because I like them *ashamed*. Same with shopping bags from cool stores. *ashamed* Best tip EVER – Just because it is functional does not mean you are obligated to keep it.

    • Annie on May 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      haha you and every other person. I suggest going through and weeding out, and really thinking about how MANY of them you need! So happy you liked that tip!

  3. Jessica Lewis on May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I tell my clients the same things you’re talking about here! With the shoe boxes, I have them keep all these little things they may need until we’re done organizing. When they see they have an organized space and haven’t used any of the empty boxes they’re more than ready to let them go.

    • Annie on May 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Jessica– YES!!! This is so true. It is really wild to see client’s expectations overturned by the organizing process. I find that in the beginning, they can’t imagine that they have much of anything they’d be willing to get rid of. By the end– they’ve filled a dozen heaping black garbage bags!
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Rachel {little bits of lovely} on May 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Oh I’m all for clearing the excess clutter! Its so easy for these things to build up, but you’re right – when do you need 17 spares? Great post Annie! xx

  5. pillowsalamode on June 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Wonderful post! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Annie on June 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you so much! Glad you liked it.

  6. Shelagh Halstead on May 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    It’s all about actually Using these things – bags, boxes, wrapping paper etc – not simply saving more and more of them in case you will need one. So next time you give a gift, take a bag/box/wrapping paper and present the gift prettily. If that doesn’t grab you, then clearly you don’t need them. Happily toss them.

  7. […] you feel you need more counsel on this matter, head on over to this post. […]

  8. […] pretends it is obligated to hold onto perfectly good supplies, even if one doesn’t need all or any of those […]

  9. […] Every cardboard box that’s ever come into your […]

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Annie Traurig was born with the ability to see order through clutter. As a child, she spent playdates organizing friends’ closets and packing their duffle bags for summer camp.

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13 Comments

  1. Dawn {The Alternative Wife} on May 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

    First of all you made me laugh because I totally used to be a box hoarder. Even at work, me and a co-worker used to save them until it got out of control and I put a stop to it. Now I don’t save any which might not be the best idea but I feel lighter and better about things. I don’t ever save any at home anymore. Now plastic and paper bags is another story alltogether. I need to purge pronto! 🙂 xoxo

    • Annie on May 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

      You are so not alone Dawn! As I said, seriously every home I go into has its share. Don’t worry about the boxes, if you need one, you will find a way to get one. As for the bags… get after that!

  2. Tidy-Up Gal (@TidyUpGal) on May 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    oh dear. I keep the trader joes bags because I like them *ashamed*. Same with shopping bags from cool stores. *ashamed* Best tip EVER – Just because it is functional does not mean you are obligated to keep it.

    • Annie on May 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      haha you and every other person. I suggest going through and weeding out, and really thinking about how MANY of them you need! So happy you liked that tip!

  3. Jessica Lewis on May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I tell my clients the same things you’re talking about here! With the shoe boxes, I have them keep all these little things they may need until we’re done organizing. When they see they have an organized space and haven’t used any of the empty boxes they’re more than ready to let them go.

    • Annie on May 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Jessica– YES!!! This is so true. It is really wild to see client’s expectations overturned by the organizing process. I find that in the beginning, they can’t imagine that they have much of anything they’d be willing to get rid of. By the end– they’ve filled a dozen heaping black garbage bags!
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Rachel {little bits of lovely} on May 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Oh I’m all for clearing the excess clutter! Its so easy for these things to build up, but you’re right – when do you need 17 spares? Great post Annie! xx

  5. pillowsalamode on June 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Wonderful post! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Annie on June 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you so much! Glad you liked it.

  6. Shelagh Halstead on May 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    It’s all about actually Using these things – bags, boxes, wrapping paper etc – not simply saving more and more of them in case you will need one. So next time you give a gift, take a bag/box/wrapping paper and present the gift prettily. If that doesn’t grab you, then clearly you don’t need them. Happily toss them.

  7. […] you feel you need more counsel on this matter, head on over to this post. […]

  8. […] pretends it is obligated to hold onto perfectly good supplies, even if one doesn’t need all or any of those […]

  9. […] Every cardboard box that’s ever come into your […]

Leave a Comment





Other Posts You May Love