While visiting with a friend recently, she commented on how clutter free my house had become. She was struggling with energy and a general sense of dread, not knowing where to begin in her decluttering journey. As we talked, she mentioned their DVD stand that was overflowing, much of it with movies they never watch. She lamented that there are a lot of movies that could probably go now that they use Netflix for the majority of viewing, but there are a few movies she’d like to keep for her son for the future. As a solution to her problem, I suggested that she declutter with the container principle.
In his book The More of Less, Joshua Becker discusses the idea of reducing items through the use of boundaries. If you have too much of something, consider getting a storage container or limiting the items to a specific space. Set this space as a limit. Give yourself the ability to keep any of the items you want, as long as they fit in the space. By limiting the physical space the items can take, it forces you to apply discretion to your collection. It helps you separate the best from the rest.
I have chosen to declutter with the container principle several times in my minimalism journey. I have paired down hobby items, high school memorabilia, and clothing using this strategy. For example, I limited my t-shirts and workout clothes to one drawer. I parted with items that had taken residence in that space but weren’t really loved. As a result, any t-shirt I grab is soft, comfortable, and fits.
Declutter with the Container Principle:
As my hubby and I were decluttering the basement, I decided to tackle my collection of gift wrap. As a frugal gal at heart, I tend to keep gift boxes and bags in good condition to reuse them for future gifts. This practice always felt thrifty and environmentally friendly. However, after amassing four containers stuffed with wrapping paper, boxes, bows, and bags, I decided to change my tune. All this wrapping was convenient, but I often still ended up buying a bag because I didn’t have one that fit the gift I purchased. Or, I wasn’t sure I had an option at home, so I bought gift wrapping at the store when I purchased the gift. You know, because I procrastinated on my shopping and didn’t want to make another trip out if I didn’t have the right wrap (this happens ALL. THE. TIME.).
So, I decided to curate my collection. I emptied all four containers and began tackling the tower. I decided to keep some Christmas wrapping, a few baby shower bags (since I had 4 of those coming up!), and some multipurpose bags. After going through everything, I had a construction bag full or wrap to discard! My mom was helping me declutter the basement, so she took three of the now empty containers home with her. #Winning!
Keep Only the Best
Last Christmas, my husband gave me a record player and a record from my favorite artist, Jack Johnson. My parents heard of my gift and brought over their vintage record collection for me to peruse. Likewise, two of my uncles gave me some of their old records. These lovely gestures quickly resulted in a collection of records far surpassing what I could have imagined. I found myself overwhelmed by the volume of records I had amassed and the lack of room I had for them.
In an effort to reduce the collection, I decided to keep only the amount of records that would fit in the vintage record case my uncle had given me. It was a perfect storage container for them, and it forced me to apply a lot of discretion (probably more than I honestly wanted!). It could hold about 20 records. I had well over 100! I placed them out on my living room floor and began separating the wheat from the chaff.
Obviously, Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas was going in the box. Also getting the green light were The Carpenters, Gordon Lightfoot, the Beach Boys, and The Four Seasons. I parted with a lot of records that I thought I’d like, even though I had only heard one or two songs on them. Goodbye, Billy Joel. I listened to many, appreciated them, and then passed them on. I invited one of my best friends over to go through those that didn’t make the cut. She gladly took home a handful of records. My parents accepted their collection back. They could always come over to listen to them when they were feeling nostalgic.
Declutter with the Container Principle to Contain Your Collections
One of the best reasons to declutter with the container principle is that it helps you keep only the best of what you have. Collections are more enjoyable when you truly love what you have in them. They do not bring joy when they are overflowing. Too much excess creates stress. If you want to really enjoy your collection, try paring it down. I bet you’ll love having 20 of your most loved movies on display a lot more than 200 movies you never watch. The best part? You can apply the container principle to pretty much anything. Give it a try on toys, clothing, or hobby related gear.
After explaining how to declutter with the container principle, my friend decided it was a great strategy to apply to her overflowing DVD collection. She and her husband tackled their collection that very weekend. She happily reported that the strategy was a big success and really helped her make the tough decluttering decisions that were paralyzing her progress. I was excited to share a bit of knowledge to help relieve some of her stress. I’m confident if you give it a try, it will help you, too!
What collection or area in your home could you declutter with the container principle?