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

By Bill Primavera

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.

As a real estate agent, I advise my seller clients that homes on the market that show best are those where all the traditional storage spaces – the attic, basement, garage and large closets – are bare. Granted, I know that can cause apoplexy just thinking about it.

In my last home, an 18th century colonial with a huge attic within a high-pitched roof, the space looked like a commercial storage facility, but not as neat. When we decided to sell that home more than five years ago, we cleaned out the attic but 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 tools and 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, instead of totally, 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 prior to the move, she was asked by a worker what he should save. She responded, “Just keep the cars.”

My propensity to hang on to stuff started young. Maybe I had 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 my wife and 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 downloading audio files, never thinning them out and always saving them. (Anybody want a rare collection of impressive 33 rpms from the ‘60s?) 

By the time I married, I went to work for Polaroid when it was big in photography, well before the days of digital images. I documented every move my family and I made, starting with our honeymoon, and still have boxes and boxes of pictures.

Then my wife and I started collecting things together, and by the time 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 our storage of the things we didn’t have room to display. 

As homes get downsized, efficient storage is more important, and today, there are many resources for creative solutions for tucking things away.

The internet and big-box retailers are rich with the tools needed to store things properly. Home Depot boasts a wide assortment of containers for the garage or outdoor shed. 

For those who need industrial strength help with storage, there is always the great PODS concept (www.pods.com), which has a slogan of “The Best Moving & Storage Idea Ever.” 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, it would be as simplistic as to suggest that we should all better manage what we collect in the first place. Now, if only I were able to accept that advice years ago.

Bill Primavera, while a writer and public relations practitioner, is also a licensed realtor (PrimaveraHomes.com) affiliated with William Raveis and a marketing practitioner (PrimaveraPR.com). Anyone considering selling or buying a home and seeking expert advice can reach Bill directly at 914-522-2076.

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