You Don’t Need to Buy More Things to Get More Organized

I know the clearance aisles of Target home organization are beckoning…but you’ll have to ignore those siren songs if you’re going to get your organizational systems up and running.

This photo courtesy of Odyssey…but really, you don’t need baskets to store your extra throw pillows. You need fewer throw pillows!

Buying more things to get more organized is like spending money to save money—that is, it doesn’t work. Okay, that might be too much of a sweeping statement. There are some storage and organizational products that really will help you organize better, and there are resources that you can buy in the short term which will teach you how to save money in the long term. But the basic concept is true: getting more things to organize your things is just unnecessary.

I recently stood in front of my bookshelf, full to bursting, and wondered if Target still sells the same style so I could buy a second one to store the book overflow. I had to smack myself in the head—there were more than a dozen books on the shelves that I either haven’t read and don’t intend to, or have read and know that I won’t ever read again. Into the garage sale/“Sell on eBay” pile they went, and like magic, the bookshelf I had was enough room to store the books I want to keep.

Look! Plenty of storage space after getting rid of books I don’t want.

I almost fell victim to the very thing I’m preaching against. But, like most good lessons, I learned this one the hard way so I’m here to spread the gospel of “Get Rid of it Instead of Getting More Space/Stuff to Accommodate It.” My frugal hero, Mr. Money Mustache, would still scoff at the number of books I’m keeping (and intending to buy in the future), preferring libraries as one of the best ways to get your hands on books. Maybe you already get all your books from the library and can’t relate to me thinking “I could maybe use a second bookshelf…” but that doesn’t mean you’re not buying more stuff under the guise of getting organized.

Another example is rotating through clothing seasonally. I know this isn’t an original concept and maybe you’re already doing it—but if not, it can be a great space saver. Here’s how it works: put the summer clothes you won’t wear in the winter into some kind of storage container until it warms up enough to wear them again. Do the same thing with the winter clothes during the summer.

Not only does this create more space in the closet year round, it also forces you to take an inventory of your wardrobe on a regular basis. The nice wool dress pants that were too short/too big/too small to wear all winter won’t magically fit after summer is over. Sell, donate, or toss items that you go six months without wearing. Added bonus: unpacking your summer or winter clothes at the start of a new season will often help you re-discover garments that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, shoved in the back of the closet.

Keeping regular tabs on your wardrobe does a few great things. It helps you know what you are actually missing in your wardrobe vs. what you just forgot you own. Don’t buy a third pair of jeans just because you forgot that you already bought a second. It keeps your closet from overflowing with snow pants and puffy winter jackets when the weather is in the high nineties outside. It also keeps you from believing that your closet is too small, and therefore you need another closet—or better yet, a bigger house.

I know it might be a bit of a leap to think that anyone buys a new house just because they have too many clothes for their current closet, but it’s not just the clothes that stack up. It’s everything and when you have too much of that, it’s easy to justify needing more space. I’m glad I sidestepped the top of the slippery slope by getting rid of some books, instead of buying a new bookcase.


P.S. I called out to Target a lot in this post. It’s my favorite place to buy unnecessary stuff (and some necessary stuff, too). If that’s true for you, too, check out this Target Clearance Markdown schedule. Pretty handy.

P.P.S. Do any of you do the capsule wardrobe thing? I’ve haven’t experimented with that yet, but think it could be great for small-space living.

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