A common misconception in the organizing world is that the solution for too much stuff is simply to buy more bins, put up more shelves, move to a bigger house, build another garage, finish off the basement, or rent a storage unit.
After all, won’t “more storage space” magically solve all our stuff problems?
Not so fast!
In my experience, lack of space is rarely the main issue.
Yes, there are many homes, apartments, and offices with poorly designed storage spaces. However, most disorganized overly-cluttered spaces are a result of TOO MUCH STUFF, not too little space.
If this situation sounds a little too familiar to you, let me introduce you to the concept of SPACE BUDGETS!
What are Space Budgets?
Space Budgets are simply boundaries for your space.
The concept is similar to setting a timer and not using more time than you’ve allotted for a specific task. Or not spending more money than you’ve allocated in one area of your budget.
Space budgets, however, deal with space, not time or money.
Your “Space Budget” = not using more space than you currently have.
Here are a few examples of our space budgets.
Dave and I each have 30 hangers in our tiny shared bedroom closet (the kids also get 30, even though they have significantly more space than we do!)
In the past, when we had a larger closet that could easily hold many more hangers, 30 was still plenty for us, so it became our closet “space budget”
We know that whenever we run out of hangers, it’s time to get rid of something. The concept of a space budget is so simple that even our children know the drill!
Our closets never get overcrowded or totally out of control, and it only takes a minute to purge a few items when/if we run out of hangers.
NOTE: This is especially handy when we are gifted with hand-me-downs from friends. Instead of just keeping them all, we are intentional about which items we keep because we know we need to purge other items to make more space.
We keep 100% of our shoes, boots, cleats, and footwear in the mudroom, and although it feels like a lot of shoes in one space, we really don’t have that many pairs per person.
Each child has one shelf for shoes, and then seasonal footwear rotates on the top shelf (cleats, rain boots, snow boots, etc.)
Dave has giant feet, so he gets 8 cubbies in one of our mudroom benches, and I get a pull-out shoe caddy that fits roughly 9 pairs of shoes.
We have a few extra work boots and seasonal footwear on the top shelf. And any shoes that are too big are stored in the long storage bench.
Fun fact: Nora and I can share shoes!
Another idea would be to designate one basket or bin for each person — or have a designated shelf/space in bedroom closets for their shoes.
Dave and I limit our toiletries to 1 drawer (shared between the 2 of us) and a few larger items under our sinks.
Neither of us has many toiletries, so 1 drawer is plenty.
Our kids also each have one (very) small drawer in their bathroom upstairs.
We even limit our medical and first aid supplies by what fits in the shoe boxes in our medicine cabinet.
By giving ourselves a space budget (even in the bathroom), we know that if our drawer feels overloaded, it’s time to clean out and purge. And since it’s just one small drawer, we can easily clean it out in 5 minutes.
I use space budgets in our kitchen to designate certain shelves and drawers for various kitchen items.
If our food storage containers no longer fit in one drawer, I know it’s time to purge before we get anything new.
And if all my lovely kitchen gadgets don’t fit in my favorite gadget drawer I declutter.
TOYS + BOOKS:
When our toy storage areas and bookshelves are full, we purge — simple as that.
The kids are honestly really great about this and often initiate the process on their own now as they realize that it’s actually a lot more fun to play when they can find their toys and easily access them.
And yes, space budgets work for our outside toys too!
Without space budgets in place, it’s just too easy to continue adding MORE to our closet, our mudroom, our kitchen, our playroom, and our basement without giving it a second thought.
After all, we technically have plenty of space left to squeeze and shove more boxes, more bins, more toys, and more clothes… right!?!?
The point for me isn’t that we have extra space, it’s that we simply don’t need so much stuff.
And if you DON’T have extra space, a space budget is even more important to help you keep things neat, organized, decluttered, and simplified!
Just as we budget our money and our time, we must also budget our space.
It might sound silly, but it works! Plus, it doesn’t require you to buy bins, put up shelves, build an addition, or pay monthly storage fees!
The next time you feel like you need more space, consider instead implementing a space budget and simply storing LESS stuff!