Living Without Containers

I was driving by the Container Store and saw a sign out front that said, "Happy Organized Home Sale." There's an idea out there that you can be happy by putting your stuff in containers. It's presented as a solution for peace of mind. "You'll be happy if you just organize your things by putting them in bins."

People have the experience of living with all their stuff in piles and stacks throughout their home and they feel overwhelmed. When they see this particular organizing solution, it seems like a good idea. "I can put my stuff in things and I won't have to see all this crap anymore. It's going to make me feel great!"

But I know from working with clients that many of them tried putting their things in containers and they didn't feel any better. They seem embarrassed that it wasn't working, as if it worked for everyone else, but not for them. I remember one client feeling very depressed about her clutter situation. She said, "Maybe I need to get more bins."

From experience I've seen that trying to manage the things we have, putting them in designated containers and places, often out of sight, doesn't help. As long as we are hanging onto stuff that is no longer of use to us, we are going to feel uncomfortable. It's the presence of clutter that makes us feel lousy. By it's nature, clutter creates the experience of chaos and confusion.

I remember one of my clients had two wall cubicle units. They had over 40 cubicles. Each cubicle had its own plastic bin that was stuffed with things. He spent a lot of money on this contraption and it was driving him nuts. He wanted me to help him organize it. I sensed that he wanted to control all his stuff because it was controlling him. I told him this system doesn't work for him. If it did, it would, but it wasn't. Trying to force and manipulate wouldn't bring him the relief he was looking for.

I suggested that instead we go through everything and get rid of whatever he's not actually using. I think that sounded so much easier to him that he went along with it. Once he stopped fighting the situation, he got rid of about 80% of the crap. He also let go of the cubicles.

Personally I like to see the things in my home. My guitars and harmonicas are out and ready to be used when I feel like playing them. My art supplies are on a shelf and are ready to go when I feel creative. My clothes are not in a chest of drawers or plastic bins but are on a few shelves in my closet and it's easier to see what I have and also to notice what I no longer wear anymore.

It's my nature to live simply, but I've also learned from working with many clients that putting things in bins and containers makes it hard to see what I own and keeps me from noticing when things have become clutter. I like to have a vibrant feeling where I live. I sense and see what's important to me.