One Thing I Regret Decluttering—Because it Would Have Saved Time, Money, and Some Messes

published Aug 19, 2020
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I was cleaning out the garage several months ago—before we locked down in quarantine—when I came across a giant bin of containers that I’d been hanging on to. They included garishly colored plastic totes from a dollar store, tiny drawer dividers, plastic boxes with lids in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and quite a few baskets.

I was in get-rid-of-everything mode that day and, thinking that colorful and mismatched containers were too busy on the eye (and that I could easily pick up a better-looking basket or two during an errand run whenever I needed it), I chucked that whole neatly nested bin of organizing treasures.

But here’s the thing: I regret it. I mean, even Marie Kondo herself, who advocates shopping your home for containers as you’re tidying up, would probably have condoned keeping it. In retrospect, I view the decision as a flippant and cavalier one. I got rid of a whole lot of something that could have come in handy, not only during our stay-at-home days, but in life in general.

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Why I’ll Never Declutter Empty Containers Again

When I found myself suddenly at home, I also found myself shuffling through messes that weren’t an issue beforehand. For instance, I wasn’t going to have my kids put their arts and crafts supplies in the closet when they were using them multiple times a day. But I also didn’t want the baby reaching up on their desks, grabbing markers, and creating her special brand of art on the walls.

Those plastic totes would have corralled markers and works-in-progress and it wouldn’t have mattered what color they were. I couldn’t go out and shop for the containers I needed, and it felt wasteful to order some online for a solution to a temporary problem. If I hadn’t gotten rid of the bin in the garage, I could have pulled what I needed from my stash and put it back when the need subsided, all without having to go out or spend money.

As I kicked myself, I realized that the bin of baskets and containers would have been useful beyond just our period of pandemic isolation. I could have pulled out a basket to put some toys in our guest room for overnight guests with young children. I could have reached for the drawer dividers to help my daughter keep her earrings in order in her bathroom drawer. And those small containers with lids would have come in handy to stash the LEGO pieces we find strewn throughout the house until we could put them in their color-coded bins.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

No doubt the perspective I’ve acquired about so many things through this time has touched things far more important than possessions I wish I’d kept. But it’s a lesson that for sure will inform my decluttering crazes in the future: Think twice before getting rid of generic items that are easy to store and that serve a useful purpose through various stages of life.

More specifically, life evolves continually and containers can always help keep things orderly, lending some subtle calm and comfort even as things shift and change.

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