At the end of 2018, my wife Maša and I made the tough decision to move in with her parents so we could save money for our next big adventure.
We rented a two-bedroom townhouse in a central location for three years. We were in a relatively new area, with the property itself being about six years old.
The property’s layout was reasonably straightforward, sitting at two stories with lots of open space, natural light, large bedrooms and a carport.
Being suckers for a minimalist aesthetic, our colour palette included white, birch and grey. We had minimal things in the townhouse, as friends would often visit and see that we didn’t have much.
At least on the surface.
Then we started moving. We thought we could knock out our move in a couple of carloads, easy.
We ended up making multiple trips to the tip, and we needed quite a bit more than a few carloads to clear our things. What’s worse is that we sold most of our furniture and appliances as we were planning at the time to move overseas.
I was devastated to see all of the things we had accumulated. Where the heck did all of this stuff come from? We had a tidy minimalist home, but somehow we had way more than we thought.
When I reflect on this experience, I start to see the cracks in our system. And I can attribute all of this to one thing. Storage.
Between our closets, tall-boy, the under-stair attic, and shed, we had buried away a whole bunch of things that we no longer needed.
Then it got me thinking. What if we didn’t have storage? Would our approach to managing our possessions be different?
I’ve seen people who live in tiny apartments in large cities that don’t have space for any storage. Clothes are out on racks, and everything is out in the open. As a minimalist, there’s nowhere to go.
But let’s pull it back for a moment here.
In a previous life, I sold properties for a living.
I constantly evaluated the price of homes and talked about features and benefits with potential buyers.
Time and time again, storage would come up in conversation.
“Oh, this bedroom doesn’t have a walk-in wardrobe.”
“I need a double car garage to build my man-cave.”
“I love the fact that there’s a basement.”
Looking back, it’s interesting to see how vital storage is for many of us. But the thought behind wanting more storage implies a couple of things.
We want insurance
A driver excessive consumption is the what-ifs. What if I move into this property and don’t have enough space for my things? What if I move in and we need more space for our future kid’s things? Or what am I going to do with my clothes if they don’t fit in the closet?
Not having enough storage is a risk. Because if we run out of space, we start to create clutter, and things end up being in areas of the house that they shouldn’t be.
Ironically though, we rarely ask the question, do I need all of the things that I currently possess? If I was to pare down, could I make this work?
We’re influenced by design
Another reason why storage is so important to us is that that’s what we’re told.
Brands like Kikki.K have a business dedicated to providing creative and pretty storage solutions for your stationery.
We’re told that good architecture finds creative ways to create functional storage for our things.
We were influenced by this when we signed a lease at our previous property. We welcomed the idea of storage.
And it makes sense, though. Whenever we look at a new space, we’re constantly visualising where we would put our things. And every bit of extra storage helps!
The problem with storage
One part of minimalism is about creating more space.
Space = freedom, peace and intentionality.
Seeing clear benchtops, tables, dressers, vanities, beds, and every type of surface is liberating and, frankly, beautiful.
However, creating space on surfaces is somewhat easy to do if you have enough storage. You merely move clutter from an open space to a hidden space.
The other side of minimalism is owning less. This has a different kind of feeling to space. You physically and mentally feel lighter as you indeed have only what is essential to you and nothing more.
There’s a level of conviction to the way you live and how you approach bringing new things into your life. You become ruthless. But in a good way.
More space and fewer things are magical. That’s why I fell in love with minimalism.
But to achieve — no, to feel, minimalism, you need to implement both sides of the equation. It’s one thing to appear like you have fewer things and another to actually have fewer things.
That’s the trap we fell into with storage. We appeared to have only what we needed, but storage revealed that we were full of shit.
And yes, it hurt. But that’s okay. We’re super aware of the trap of storage, and we will be more mindful of it when we look for our next property.
Heck, we might even experiment living somewhere with limited storage. And if we do end up with storage, we’ll be sure to review it at least quarterly to ensure it’s not becoming a graveyard of things we don’t need.
Quick note, we ran an online store for two years, and we held inventory in our little townhouse. This is where storage was handy because we had foldable tables and marquees for market stalls, shelves of products and closets to store our packaging.
But honestly, running a warehouse from home, while cost-effective, was a burden for us. No matter how tidy you try to keep your home, there’s product and order papers and packaging lying around, creating clutter.
If we were to do it again, we’d run the warehouse in a separate location to our home.
You know what I’m about to say
So hopefully, by now, you’re open to the idea that storage can be a problem.
My question to you is, have you really done the work of living with less, or are you just meeting those standards on the surface (both figuratively and literally)?
You need to do what Maša and I should have done years ago. Pull everything out of your closets, attics, garages, sheds, basements, roofs, stationery boxes, kitchen cupboards; you name it.
Pull your stuff out of storage and audit the value of those things.
Reflect on this exercise.
Did you find that you had to get rid of a whole bunch of things, or are your storage spaces treated with the same intentionality as your surfaces?
This activity is easily overlooked. After all, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
Please, please, please, challenge yourself to overcome your resistance to do the work of minimalism. The things you can’t see are just as important as the things you can see.
What are your thoughts on storage?
Have you fallen for the trap of storage in your minimalism journey? What will you do moving forward to address storage?
I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
PS – Special shoutout to my friend Christian who gave me this idea in a casual conversation at work.