Do empty containers create false hope?

marylizMarch 16, 2009

I was not sure what to call this thread, but I just wanted to comment, and perhaps find out your own experiences regarding new, empty containers.

I have one particular memory. I was standing in line at a national bed & bath chain store. There were two other ladies in line. There were practically vibrating with joy. They were buying a shopping cart full of empty containers. They were talking about what great storage stuff this store had. When they got home, there were going to put their stuff inside, and then they'd finally be organized.

Their excitement made me worried. I wanted to tell them that there is a lot more to organization than simply purchasing the "perfect" container. I wanted to tell them that it is only after you get rid of the useless stuff, and see what you have left, that you have any hope of organization. But I didn't say a word. Something made me think that they were not ready to learn that lesson. And so they bought their containers, and added them to their piles of stuff...

When I go container shopping, I am not giddy with hope. If anything makes me giddy, it is the decluttering.

After I eliminate the junk, I look through my available storage containers, to see if I already have something that will work. If I need to go out and buy something that is a very specific size or shape, I bring a tape measure. I go from store to store until I find the container that meets my requirements. I take notes. I make a decision. And then I go back and buy the container, knowing that it is going to work for the intended purpose.

Maybe that's not very thrilling. But that's the only way I can be sure that the container itself doesn't just add to the clutter.

Does the potential of an empty container truly have the power to make us dizzy with thoughts of what we might stuff inside? If "being organized" is one of the avenues to happiness, I can understand why so many try, but why do so many fail?

I guess it's not so important what you put into the container, but what you leave out.

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Funny, I was having this similar thought-process yesterday. I got a Better Homes & Gardens special interest mag called "Secrets of Getting Organized".

I am very organized already, and cleaning & organization just interests me.

In flipping through the mag, I thought to myself this mag is geared toward people who are already organized, and are interested in how to pretty-up the systems they've got. If someone has too much stuff, and they think buying all the pretty things will help them be organized, they will be frustrated & disappointed.

Organization and de-cluttering are 2 very different things.

So, I agree with you 100% that buying the pretty bins and thingys to organize will not help unless you already have a system in-place that works and that you commit time and effort just want to streamline or pretty up a system that already works.

I suggest if one wants to try a pile/file stacking system, one should collect cereal boxes, stack them...rig up things for FREE first. If the system works over time, then invest $$ into cute colored stacking trays.

Don't buy in hopes a new system works the same way your brain and habits work.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 6:23PM
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I only get giddy if the containers that I already own get empty. I agree with buying the containers after you purge.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:47PM
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One of the thrilling moments of my life was the day I took a car boot load of empty containers to the donation shop!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:41AM
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In my opinion, you declutter first, see what's left, then buy a container. The container must suit your needs, fit in whatever spot you wish, hold the stuff you are keeping, etc. .

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:56AM
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You are absolutely correct!
It's like a woman who buys a new dress thinking it'll turn her life around, ya know?

I used to drool when the Container Store mailings arrived, with all those great-colored storage helpers.
Now I don't even have much of the stuff that needed to be stored in the first place, so the storage helpers don't have that "pull" for me anymore.
I got giddy when I gave some of the baskets away, too!

(But, at least the women were helping support the economy, I guess!)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:57AM
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the thrilling moments of my life were when I could afford to buy the mos perfect organizing items to hold the things I had to have..and save..things that were important to me, after giving away about 80 % of my stuff..

I shopped until I found the most perfect 12' long wall unit to house my entertainment items and books, I totally love my books and wanted them around me to grab at a moments notice..these aren't novels, they are my reference books for gardens and interior design as well as others that i KEEP..the boring ones have already left..the unit had drawers for some throws and paperwork as well..and it has made life so perfect..i also got a coffee table with 2 cabints and 2 drawers, now the remote controls you have to have, and my note taking books and pens, etc..are neatly tucked away well as some art pencils and paints..that i can grab to be creative..

I feel that plastic containers shoved full of junk in a deep dark closet, is not the right place to store the things you love..sure, maybe a few things for crafts that you know you will work on, or some fabric for a sewing project or two..but who needs stuff they'll never use, hiding in those things all over the place..the best thing for shoeboxes ...even those plastic a few great pairs of shoes !

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 12:30PM
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I think empty containers do create false hope, but they're a stage of organizing that you have to go through before you start decluttering.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 12:38PM
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I have the problem of not wanting to let go of containers after I have either de-cluttered or decided to use a different container. It has to do with the fact that certain containers go in or out of style, or had fit exactly into a space or shelf that maybe I am now re-organizing, and I'm not sure (needing to be "sure" is part of the problem, of course) that I could find it again or that I might change my mind and go back to the new system.

So I would feel much "lighter" if I could toss both the stuff and the containers, but I go through a phase of keeping the containers awhile until I either use them or get over it.

Knowing this about myself, I realized that I had to be very cautious about buying containers prematurely or just for fun, because I appear to be a container-geek-freak and find it very hard to let them go once I have them.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 3:13PM
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Coco-- you've got this backwards.
The "empty containers" are NOT a stage you go through BEFORE decluttering.
This is the whole point of the OP's comments:
FIRST you go through your belongings and weed out what you no longer use or no longer like. And you get those things out of your house.
Then you see how you can organize things better, with the additional space you've reclaimed and with the baskets, boxes, whatever that you already have.
And if you still feel you need to go buy a new bin or bag, then you do it.

Because if we did it your way, we'd all figure "Well, I have the new Rubbermaid tote--I can just toss in these shoes that I haven't worn in 2 years but really don't know if I want to give away and put the covered tote in the basement."

That's not decluttering. That's just procrastinating.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 7:13PM
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Even though one ought to declutter before organizing, I think a lot of people don't even know about the decluttering step. That's why the containers are often part of the clutter.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 9:26AM
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If everyone went through the stages in proper order and without procrastinating, there would be no clutter and possibly not as much action on the Organizing Forum!

So perhaps cocontom should have said, it's a stage a lot of people DO go through, rather than have to go through, but some people do "have" to go through stages and then get to the right place after all.

It's also fine to discuss it as a stage that one might bypass and should bypass if one is tuned in enough and ready, and to discuss it as a form of indecision and non-commitment. 'Cause then sometimes we are ready to see that and can go, AHA!

So them as what can see that are going "AHA," and them as what cannot, yet, may be out buying containers. I have been in both places, sometimes at once! Psyches are funny things.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 10:57AM
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i'm finding that now I have gotten past the getting rid of all the stuff i dont need, etc..and i'm to the place to where i want to get rid of things i love, but just don't feel fit my lifestyle anymore..and that is really hard..

things i've hung onto from my house that burned, that have significant memories, but just aren't the style of this newer house at all..i'd say 95 % of it is gone it is that last little 5 % i'm dealing with now

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 12:31PM
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Maybe you really DON'T have to get rid of everything that has significant memories but don't fit the house style. If it's furniture, could you reupholster it or refinish it? Or maybe go a little "eclectic"--that term people use for throwing different styles together!

I'll play psychiatrist now: Why do you want to get rid of things you love? Perhaps "lifestyle" and "style of this newer house" aren't really inconsistent at all?

I just would hate to see you, and others, decide to get rid of things that hold memories just for the sake of "decluttering"-- I see this all the time on shows like "Clean House" and "Clean Sweep," where they take this too far. Yes, we are all allowed to keep things with sentimental value (but just not keeping it all stacked and in bins in the garage!)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 12:54PM
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