Living Without: An Attic, Basement, Garage, or Large Storage Area

published May 1, 2014
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(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Recently, for the first time in my life, I moved to a space with a basement. After spending so many years without one, I’ll admit that at first I was hard-pressed to figure out what should go there. Thanks to having more tools, holiday decorations, and some extra kitchen supplies, I now have that covered, but it definitely got me thinking about what I did before I had all the extra storage space.

I’d wager that most of our small-space readers don’t have access to an attic, basement, garage, or large storage area (unless you rent one), and while I’m grateful to have some extra space, I would say that there are some elements of living without it that, in retrospect, I was equally grateful for.

For one, not having that extra space means that you have to thoughtfully prune your belongings. You can’t just hold on to every unused chip-and-dip platter, gag gift, and scrap of fabric that (if we’re being honest) you’ll probably never get around to using. It’s usually the stuff that gets relegated to the basement that tends to get the least play, and sure, there are times when you could really use that twelve-piece punch set, but let’s be honest — how often are those times? Having to get rid of unnecessary items means that they can potentially go to someone who would enjoy them more, and it also frees up mental and physical space for you.

For those with tools or DIY hobbies, sometimes the lack of a basement can be a bit of an issue. In my last apartment, we had one whole closet stuffed with sawhorses, saws, tool boxes, a sewing machine, and various other implements. My partner, who is the true handyperson around the house, downsized when we moved in together, and many of his plumbing tools and other less-used items went to live with his brother. But all told, this isn’t a terrible situation. Again, having the bare basics means that you will have the key items that you need, and more fruitfully, you’ll have a secure grasp on what you do have. (I can’t tell you how many times we went to Home Depot for certain items, only to have extras of them turn up in his basement later.) Sure, when it comes to a special project, you may have to be prepared to rent or borrow some equipment, but quite often, special projects require extra purchases or equipment anyhow. And if you’re living in a rental, the chances of needing all the tools you’d need for home maintenance is slim anyhow.

Living without extra storage space also requires you to keep holiday decor minimal, since you can’t store three-foot animatronic skeletons or 12-foot artificial trees. But if you plan right, this puts no cramp on your holiday plans. A small box of decorations, coupled with fresh seasonal decor (like pumpkins, trees, flowers, etc.) can ensure that your home is just as festive without the trouble of organizing, storing, and managing all the holiday bric-a-brac that can accumulate over the years.

I tend to think that your space needs expand in accordance with your space. If you size up from a 500-square foot studio to a 2500-square foot house, then chances are, your belongings will soon expand to the scope of the house. If there’s space, then you’ll use it. Having some space constraints can actually help you figure out what the key items in your life are, giving you a sense of priorities. It can also toss in a dash of creativity, since you have to be clever to figure out how you can most effectively accommodate the things that do matter.