How Storage Bins Made Me Face My Shopping Problem — and What I Do Now to Overcome It

published Jun 21, 2022
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The wardrobe, closet in which everything put in order. All things are folded neatly. Many boxes. Everything is in its place.
Credit: AlesiaKan/Shutterstock

I love organizing, and I love bins, but that’s not because I’m a naturally tidy person with Marie Kondo-like instincts. Quite the opposite: I’m a messy whirlwind who thrives on chaos, from scattered bobby pins everywhere to piles of clothes on the floor. So, in order to keep my life on track, I contain my persistent sloppiness is with, well, containers. Once something has a home, I will always put it back there. If it doesn’t, there is a 110 percent chance that it will end up on the floor or heaped into a corner.

But as I was slowly stocking my apartment with various bins, baskets, and containers, I had an interesting (and unexpected) discovery: I realized my tendency to over-purchase. I’d allocate one bin toward a specific item, say tumblers, and then I’d have to struggle to wedge 12 tumblers into one box. Once I quickly realized that was impossible, I just as quickly became frustrated with myself for buying so many in the first place. Why didn’t I just own one?! This made me aware that I have a certain weakness for aesthetic kitchen items because I like the scene they create on my coffee table or desk. This means I’m buying them because they’re pretty, not because I need them. 

The same thing happened when I started organizing my closet, and my Mount Everest pile of sweaters struggled to fit between their shelf separators. I only wore a fraction of those knits each season, so why did I have the compulsive need to buy yet another cardigan or turtleneck if it couldn’t fit in my closet? 

Allowing myself to be completely honest, I admitted it was probably because I went shopping when I was bored, and buying a pretty knit broke that feeling of monotony. As I tossed an embarrassing amount of clothes into my donation bag, I promised myself that next time, I’d ask a simple question when considering something at the store: “Is this sweater much different from the ones I already own, or does it give me the same look as the other pieces?”

And don’t even get me started on my knick-knacks. I bought four big bins for my living room sideboard with the idea of stockpiling my “overflow” decor items in there. That way, when I got bored of a certain vignette or decided a side table needed a new bric-à-brac, I can “shop” my own supply and swap it out. This idea became laughable when I realized I would need at least eight bins minimum to hold all the extra thrift store treasures I’ve accumulated over the years. This made me realize I shop with too much abandon, and I probably treat it as more of a hobby than anything else.

Before sorting my stuff into organizing bins, everything was crammed to capacity into closets, shelves, and drawers, letting me fit as many things as those spaces allowed. But now that I’m trying to organize and display things in a tidy manner, I have come to the startling conclusion that I buy way too many things. I probably shop because I love the chase of finding something new, and not because I actually need it. This made me conclude that what I really need is a hobby. I need something I do for myself during the week that makes me happy and fulfilled. That way, I won’t get the urge to go to Goodwill to find that high.  

Bins not only helped me cut back on clutter and donate many items, but it made me much more aware when shopping. If it’s not a true treasure, I force myself to move on. And if that doesn’t work and the impulse is still pushing me, I ask myself, “How am I going to fit this into its bin?” The answer is usually, “I won’t,” making it easy to put it back on the shelf and keep walking.