Do You Really Need Those Plastic Storage Boxes?

I went to Walmart a couple of weeks ago and could barely make it down the center aisle for all the plastic storage boxes piled high on display. Near the end of the aisle, I spotted a friend. “Same old thing, just like this time every year, right?” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everybody’s resolved to get organized.”

She didn’t roll her eyes in agreement. Instead, she sighed. “These boxes are why I’m here,” she told me. “I need more places to store my fourteen manger scenes.”

“You have fourteen manger scenes?”

My friend nodded in a sad kind of way. “They’re like everything else in my house,” she said. Completely out of control. I’m hoping these boxes will fix that.”

I smiled and told her good luck. As I made my way through other parts of the store, I noticed more storage boxes for sale. Red-and-green boxes perfect for storing anything and everything Christmas. “Underbed” storage boxes, just shallow enough to slide between the floor and the bottom of the box springs. Boxes with lids that latch tight to keep rodents and insects out. Boxes the perfect size for 9×11-inch manila file folders. (Tax season is upon us, you know.)

I get it. I really do. Plastic boxes make perfect sense when you need to squirrel stuff away. Good ones keep out not only moths and mice (squirrels, too) but also moisture and dust. They can be stacked neatly beside and on top of one another. If you use clear rather than opaque boxes, you don’t even have to open them to know what’s inside.

What you can store in these boxes is practically limitless, too. Off-season clothes. Clothes that are too big. Clothes that are too small but that you’re sure to fit into once your plan for healthy eating kicks in. Clothes that still fit but that are worn or faded or missing buttons or that you never really liked in the first place. Shoes and boots, too, for many of the same reasons. You can fill boxes with wallets and purses and tote bags you don’t use any more.

Supplies for hobbies you might take up again someday fit nicely in plastic storage boxes. Some sports equipment does, too. You can fill boxes with books you never really wanted to read or books you almost certainly don’t ever want to read again. Ditto for magazines. Someday you might have the time and energy to tear out and file all those useful gardening tips or recipes you really want to try, right?

Let’s not forget to box up bud vases and Tupperware with no lids and tacky knick-knacks and toys no one plays with and dishes no one eats off of and DVDs and CDs that no one watches or listens to and junk jewelry that no one wears and photographs of unidentifiable people in unidentifiable places and old bills, long since paid or ignored, and take-out restaurant menus and expired coupons. Also every picture your kids or grandkids ever drew or painted.

You know where I’m going with this.

By the time this column appears in the newspaper, we’ll already be at the tail end of the first month of 2023. But the year is still shiny with promise. Before you head out to buy more plastic storage boxes, think about this. How much of the stuff that “needs” organizing and boxing could simply be removed from your home? If you don’t use it or love it, why in the world are you keeping it? Go ahead and sell it. Donate it. Recycle it. Trash it. It’s okay to have empty space on shelves and in drawers and cabinets and closets. It’s okay to have a garage or carport so unstuffed that you can actually park in it.

In fact, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate an almost-new year.

(January 28, 2023)