BY LAURIE CORNELL
The Situation: 25 percent of people with two car
garages don’t have room to park cars inside
them and 32 percent only have room for one vehicle,
according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The United States has upward of 50,000 storage
facilities, more than five times the number
of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet
of self-storage space for every man, woman and
child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible
that every American could stand–all at the same
time–under the total canopy of self-storage
Further statistics regarding unnecessary
accumulation and the resulting cluttered disorganization
are probably not necessary. Most folks
just need to look around their own spaces to bear
Perhaps the surfaces are tidy…
but you know, it’s on your mind… the closet in the
basement, the filing cabinets in the storage unit,
the boxes in the back of the closet, the attic or
shed, maybe even the “guest room” that is really
just a dumping ground.
Perhaps you don’t even have the energy to
worry about your own space because you’re
focused on the horror story you heard from a
co-worker who spent all their vacation time and
every weekend for the last six months helping
their parents downsize and get ready to move into
a smaller more efficient space.
The situation pure and simple is: just about
everyone has more stuff than they need or want
and for one reason or another would love for a
good portion of it to vanish or at least go away painlessly.
Reasons to Downsize: Practical and Emotional
Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend
a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for
misplaced items. The research found we lose up
to nine items every day–or 198,743 in a lifetime.
Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the
list (The Daily Mail).
The Wall Street Journal reported that the
average U.S. executive wastes six weeks per year
searching for missing information in messy desks
“Crisis” purchases related to disorganization
could cost as much as 15 to 20 percent of your
I think Joshua Becker, author of www.becomingminimalist.com, explains the advantages
most clearly: “We began donating, recycling, and
removing our unnecessary personal possessions.
We embarked on an intentional journey to own
less stuff. As a result, we discovered more money,
more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress,
and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions:
faith, family, friends.”
It’s a rite of passage as we all grow older and the
number of people living at home grows smaller.
We don’t need the big house and we’d rather not
spend our free time maintaining the homestead.
It’s a privilege of getting older to choose a smaller
more manageable space or maybe two–one here
are one down south for winter time.
Whether it’s you, your parents, friends or
relatives most people would love to be free of
the burden of a large home with space that’s not
used and stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day in
decades. So why not get started?
What to do about it?
The $8 billion home organization industry has
more than doubled in size since the early 2000s,
growing at a staggering rate of 10 percent each
As a seasoned member of the “organizational
industry,” I recommend starting now, get a date
on the calendar. What you own is only likely to
increase over time not decrease. Hire a professional.
I help people downsize, that’s what I do.
All of my clients, without exception, no longer
subscribe to the theory that bigger is better or
the more the merrier. Smaller is saner, it’s not
a quantity conversation, it’s about quality of life
and peace of mind.
There’s no magic number or special formula
that dictates the amount of stuff that’s right for
you or for anyone. Like so many other things it’s
about finding the balance, setting some boundaries
and most of all conquering fear. Fear you say?
Yes, getting rid of stuff takes courage and getting
rid of things that you really don’t like can be emotional and overwhelming. Yes, read that again. It
does sound odd. It seems counter-intuitive that
getting rid of things you don’t really want anyway
and experiencing some peace of mind should be
so hard – to start with anyway. You do build sorting
stamina over time.
To put it another way: you only have to keep
things that give you joy or serve some specific
designated purpose (like a stapler or tax documents).
It’s natural to need a little help in getting
started and well worth the short term investment
whether at home, at work, the family camp or
the storage unit get a move on. Sooner is better
What’s in the Way?
If you know it will feel great, what’s stopping
you? We weren’t taught in school how to regulate
the stuff in our lives to maintain peace of mind.
You can try reading the books. “The Life-Changing
Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo is one of my
personal favorites. Apparently, for most of us,
hands on, one-on-one is the key. Someone objective
helping you with your stuff–asking questions,
getting clarity, being bold and honest and
compassionate–and apparently asking for help
is tough for many of us.
You know you’ll have to do it someday. For
those who are worried about a family member and
thinking that they are really the ones that could
use the help, here’s a little reality check. You can’t
force someone to sort, organize, downsize or discard.
You can’t talk them into it. The best and only
way to motivate someone is to be a good example.
Chances are your relative is just as scared
as you are. Or overwhelmed or short on time or
energy. But if they hear that you can do it, then
they may think they can too. When they hear the
sense of relief in your voice and understand that
the process really won’t kill them and may even
be fun–that sooner really is better than later.
Why not feel great now and make space in your
life for more passion and fun instead of the same
old stuff and worries?
Cornell is a professional organizer, senior
move manager and founder of Onward &
Photo Courtesy Onward and Upward