Question: How do you know when it is time to go grocery shopping?
Answer: When you’ve run out of things to eat.
Space exchange is a very simple concept, and most people use it on a daily basis in some parts of their lives without even thinking about it. Nobody goes grocery shopping when their refrigerator is packed to the brim, their pantry is stacked to the ceiling, and their cupboards are bursting at the seams. With food, we know when we have enough on-hand, and don’t add more until at least some of the old is used up. It is simple common sense.
Why is this so difficult with the rest of our lives? One of the most common requirements people have when house/apartment shopping is closet space. We seem unable to have enough closet space. But, when people look at what is actually in those closets, a large number of those items are things that unused or unusable. Clothes that are too big or too small or that will never be worn again under any circumstances; shoes worn for one occasion, then tossed to the back; boxes of half-finished projects, stalled at a lack of interest, talent, or time; boxes that haven’t been opened in a decade. And that’s just the worst of it!
People are not going to stop shopping. That is a given. But, maybe, people can start shopping smarter if they set themselves a discipline of space exchange. Here’s how it works:
1: Determine the magnitude of your closet overflow. How much remaining space do you actually have, and how much do you need? This will help you set up your personal golden ratio.
2: When you have figured out how bad the problem is, decide what your exchange rate is going to be. Someone with plenty of space can handle a 1:1 exchange, or even a 2 in/1 out exchange rate. Those with major space problems, I strongly recommend a 1 in/2 out or even a 1:3 exchange rate. If you can stick to your discipline, you are still able to shop, but you have to remove things before you can add anything.
3: STICK WITH IT! Do whatever you have to do to stay on task: Take photos of your worst closet, leave notes in your wallet, whatever it takes to remind you that anything brought home is going to kick out something that is already there.
This will do two things. First, ideally, people will become more conscious of their shopping habits. They will think longer before they fill their shopping cart. They might even start choosing quality over quantity. And, second, it will create space.
I can foresee a danger to this, if someone only goes halfway. For this to fully work, every item removed must be taken OUT of the home, permanently. No storing it in the basement. No packing it up and shoving it to the side. It has to be out of the house ASAP! Make a trip to Goodwill the start of any shopping trip.
I’ve spoken mostly of clothes, but this can be applied to ALL things. You want to bring home those West African wooden tribal masks from the flea market? Decide what is coming off the walls before you shell out. Found a new set of Fiestaware that you can’t live without? Time to get rid of the lime-green chipped plates Aunt Jenny gave you for your first apartment.
We seem to have a fear of getting rid of things. We’ve spent money on them. We own them. But if they aren’t being used, or enjoyed, or doing anything but collecting dust in the back of your closet, are they really valuable?
Next: Sentimentality of Objects