How Many Should I Keep?

One of the most common questions I get is how much is “enough?” For example, how many boxes should I keep for wrapping gifts? Or how many baseball caps are normal? The truth is, there is no single answer. Everyone needs to live within his/her space, which will vary from one individual to the next. Someone who has a giant closet may be able to keep 40 pairs of shoes, whereas someone who has a tiny one simply can’t.  Feeling in control of our belongings means being honest about the space we have, and keeping only what fits comfortably inside.

Here are a few tips for establishing healthy boundaries:

Use one to hold the rest. One of the great tricks is to designate a limited amount of space for a given type of belonging. For example, if you keep large shopping bags on hand, designate the largest as the “container” and fill it with the smaller bags. Once this bag is full, any additional bags that come into the house can be recycled. Or take a large cardboard box and use it as the container for all of the other boxes you save. Again, when this box is full, stop collecting.

Designate a physical “home” for items you keep in multiples. For instance, allocate a space (e.g. a shelf in the closet) to hold purses. Once that space is full, any new purse can only be added if a bag from that shelf is removed. Or, set aside space in a garage/basement to hold bulk purchase items, and then resist the urge to purchase items (no matter how great the bargain) until there is enough room in this space to hold them.

Limit back-ups. Having an extra can be helpful, but keeping too many multiples rapidly clogs up a space.  Only keep seconds of items you:

  • regularly use (e.g. sports bottles for the soccer player)
  • frequently lose (e.g. mittens, phone chargers) or
  • repeatedly break

While there is always a chance you may need something that you’ve given away, there is a certainty that keeping it will cost you. Always be sure to count the cost of keeping an item (cost of storing, moving, cleaning, maintaining, stepping over, etc.) and then weigh the cost against the benefit of having it “just in case.”

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Variety is the spice of life, but there is such a thing as too spicy.  By setting some limits, whether via physical space or a count, you can have what you need most of the time in a space that functions all of the time.

What techniques do you use to help keep the clutter under control?

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1 thought on “How Many Should I Keep?”

  1. These are great tips and should be easy to follow, although I still find myself with too many multiples sometimes. You should see how many water bottles we have, and still we find ourselves out on occasion!!

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