Tag: storage

The Possibilities of Inner Space

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

~ Lao Tzu 

We can become so focussed on objects that we forget about the space. Houses, rooms, furniture, storage solutions – these are all ways of defining spaces in which activities can take place or things can be kept. The walls we construct provide the limits, but its the space that allows movement and creates possibilities. Once we fill our containers with objects their potential is used up, until we chose to empty them and use them in another way.

Our materialist culture encourages us to focus on the form of our containers and our objects, but often forgets about the possibilities of emptiness. Can we appreciate an empty shelf, a gap in the bookcase, or a clear flat surface? Can we tolerate not filling things up to capacity? In a similar way western culture encourages us to fill our minds with thoughts and ideas, allowing ourselves very little space to just be.

Even two and a half thousand years ago, Lao Tsu used simple objects such as a wheel, a pot and a house to point out the fundamental truth that without space, nothing is possible. He uses physical objects to turn our attention to the power of the ” non-being” aspect – the hole in the wheel, the emptiness of the pot, and the inner space of the house.

Quote taken from Chapter 11 of The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

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Keeping Storage Within Reach

Advice on decluttering suggests that the things that are used least often are stored in less accessible areas, such as garages, basements, attics, the tops of wardrobes and the bottom of cupboards. We are talking about things that are used rarely for special activities (camping gear); seasonal (Christmas decorations); stored long-term for legal reasons (old tax records); or kept for sentimental value (wedding dress).

This approach makes sense as its works best to have the things you love the most and use the most in easy reach. One pitfall with this system is that some of these long-term storage areas can be difficult to access. They can involve using step ladders, climbing up or down rickety stairs, or bending or reaching for heavy objects.

This came to my attention a few years ago when I found myself standing on a step ladder lifting a heavy suitcase of clothes down to do my change of season wardrobe switch over. It occurred to me that maybe it was not wise to be lifting and twisting with a heavy object over my head while standing on a step ladder. The suitcase was awkward and heavy, and I could have injured my back while twisting and heaving it onto the bed. I was alone in the house so if I had fallen and hit my head, no-one would have know. After this I started storing spare clothes in laundry bags at ground level, and eventually decluttered enough that I can keep all my clothes in the wardrobe.

We need to keep safety and accessibility in mind when storing less frequently used items. This is particularly the case as we get older, or if we have health issues or mobility problems. A storage solution that works when you are fit and well might become a liability if health and mobility problems become an issue later. Its a sad thing when you reach a point that you can’t have a Christmas tree because you can’t get it down!

One way to address this problem is to be thinking long term and gradually decluttering so that you aren’t overwhelmed by belongings when you are no longer in a position to manage them. Keep safety and accessibility in mind when deciding whether something is worth keeping, given the storage options available. If inaccessible storage needs to be made use of, it might be necessary to enlist the help of visiting friends and family every now and then to access things that are out of reach. Its not worth risking a broken hip for a Christmas tree.