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It’s Better to Consume Less than to Organize More

By Tara McKenna

I distinctly remember a moment when my husband and I moved into our first house. It was a century home, and the closets were tiny! Of course, that’s measured by today’s standards, in which walk-in closets are considered normal and desirable.

Unpacking my bags and boxes, I quickly realized that I had way more clothes, shoes and accessories than would ever fit into my closet and drawers, no matter what folding technique I used (KonMari method, anyone?).

I know I’m not alone in having this experience; it’s become the norm to have more clothes than we need. Yet with our bursting closets we only wear about 50% of our wardrobes! Part of the reason we do this is that we buy clothes for our fantasy selves, not our real lives. Plus, a lot of us shop for fun or to relieve stress.

In that moment I had to decide the fate of my clothes. Was it going to be a big trip to The Container Store? While I knew I’d be donating at least a few pieces, my initial gut reaction was to organize better with various storage solutions.

The issue was starting to keep me up at night. So, I had a late night with Google to solve my “problem” of too much stuff.

That’s when I came across a game changer, a quote from Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist: “owning less is better than organizing more.”

Mind. Blown.

It’s a simple enough idea, right? So simple that I was like, why didn’t I think of this? Why didn’t it occur to me that I simply needed less stuff, rather than more storage?

If my closet was big enough for people 100 years ago, then it could be big enough for me today, too. I decided to ruthlessly remove the clothes I no longer used. I took most of them to consignment and donated the rest.

Finally, everything fit into my closet and drawers! Admittedly, I did use one storage bin for off-season clothes – I live in Canada, so I need clothes for 4 seasons – that fit under the bed. Still, what a relief!

I want to add to Joshua’s fantastic quote: owning less is great but consuming less is better.

Someone could be a minimalist, but still consume a lot – perhaps they simply discard more often. The one in, one out rule is a great example of this. That rule will keep the clutter at bay, but also keep the consumption going.

The problem with continued consumption is that it’s such a drain! Here’s the thing about shopping:

  • It’s a time-consuming activity

  • We spend our hard-earned dollars on stuff

  • When new stuff comes into our homes, we have to find a place for it to live

  • We have to deal with, and toss, the packaging

  • Most things require some level of maintenance and cleaning

  • Stuff takes up space in our home and in our lives

  • We eventually have to discard the stuff we buy

  • Stuff has an environmental cost (and often, a social cost, too)

Conversely, when we consume less, we gain these benefits:

  • More time and energy for other activities

  • More money in our bank accounts that can go to better uses

  • Less clutter and need for storage and organizing solutions

  • Less effort to clean and maintain stuff

  • Less trash to toss

  • Less environmental and social impacts on the planet

I’m not saying that storage and organizing solutions aren’t important and helpful, they are, and I love them! But storage bins alone to deal with a stuff problem isn’t a solution to our issues of consumption.

Consuming less overall is one of the best ways we can reduce our environmental footprint. And we get to experience all the other benefits that come with it are life changing! Don’t you want in on that? I sure do.

For more tips on going zero waste, get The Declutter Workbook, read the book and head to zero waste 101!


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