We Save Stuff and More Stuff, But Where To Put It?

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

Our homes are where we eat, sleep, play, sometimes work, and store things we’ve finished using but somehow can’t bear to throw away. There are many reasons we may want to hold on to stuff we no longer need, but where do we put it all?

Granted, some homeowners achieve living on the light side where nothing is hidden and what you see is what you get. Or, they’ve gotten religion just before the sale of a home. The homes on the market which show best are those where all the traditional storage spaces – the attic, basement, garage and large closets — are bare.

In my own home, my attic looks like a commercial storage facility, but not as neat.  A few years ago when my wife and I went through one of our phases of wanting to sell our home, we hired a crew to clean out our basement which had been packed with stuff from cement floor to beams overhead. There was clear evidence there of many different careers and lifetimes, including those of our parents and grandparents, along with leftover materials from house renovation.

One helper took me aside and told me how dangerous it was to have saved enamel paint and paint thinner so close to the boiler. Fortunately it was before I started writing as The Home Guru, so I was only half embarrassed.  At first, it was a visceral experience to instruct the workers what to throw out for bulk pick up. But as the project wore on and I wore out, memories were discarded wholesale.  It felt liberating.

Actually, my wife is the more practical one between us. When she took charge for having our garage cleaned out just recently and a helper asked her what should be saved, she replied, “Just keep the cars.”

My propensity to hang on to stuff started at a young age. Maybe I thought that someday I would be so famous that future generations would want some piece of who I was and what I did in life. But since I turned out to be just an ordinary guy, I have no excuse.

It all started when I was an adolescent and my mother gave me a white envelope on which was written, “My Son William’s First Haircut, Aged 2.”  Inside were Titian red curls that bear little resemblance to my hair today. It was a real curiosity for me.

That was the first item I tucked away in a sturdy cardboard box that originally housed Florida oranges we would receive each Christmas from my Aunt Helen. Through the years, that box accommodated all my other official documents from my birth certificate to a special blessing from the Pope (my wife had connections) when I married.  Since then, that one box has multiplied like loaves and fishes.

By the time I was a teenager, I was collecting books and phonograph records before the time of Kindle and downloading audio files. (Anybody want a rare collection of impressive 33 rpms from the 60s?)  By the time I married, I went on to photography well before the days of digital images and have boxes and boxes of every picture ever taken.

Then my wife and I started collecting things together and, when we got into the antiques business part-time, the floodgates opened.  We never got to the point of hoarding, and our house was always tidy, but we never really organized storage of the things we didn’t have room to display. 

Perhaps as homes get downsized, efficient storage will be more important, and today, there are many resources for creative solutions to tucking things away.

The Internet and large box retailers such as The Container Store are rich with the tools needed to store things properly.  Home Depot boasts Martha Stewart’s cubbies and closet kits, as well as a full assortment of containers for the garage or outdoor shed.  The ones I like best are called “totes” which feature clear plastic bottoms where you can actually see what’s stored in them. Who remembers what’s contained in a big cardboard box stored 30 years ago without opening it as a reminder?

And for those who need industrial strength help with storage, there is always the great PODS concept (www.pods.com), whose slogan is “The Best Moving & Storage Idea Ever,” and I’m inclined to agree. While the company will deliver a POD to a private home for “temporary” storage during house renovation, or preparing for a move, I have seen them stay on properties seemingly indefinitely, and there may be some local ordinances discouraging that.

If I were to dispense any advice about storage at home, it would be only to suggest that we might better manage what we collect in the first place.  Now if only I were able to accept that advice myself, years ago.

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (www.PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (www.PrimaveraPR.com). For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.