Closet space, the final frontier

I am beginning to sense that a change of season is almost upon us. By sometime in October, it will be time for the semi-annual laundryswitching of the clothing. This task is made necessary because we cannot fit all our clothes into our bedroom closet and drawers. We need to switch the long-sleeves for short-sleeves and vice versa. It used to be fun. I would forget what I owned from one year to the next and would enjoy getting to wear my other-season favorites again. Now, it makes me feel overloaded.

The days that I do this switch-over are the days I envy my clients with walk-in closets. It would be a great joy to walk into the closet, turn around, and find the other season’s clothing right there. But, my bedroom is the size of some walk-in closets that I see at work.

Not only are closets for clothes, our closets also house all manner of crafts, games, gifts (received and to be given), unhung art, and more. Every four years or so, we’ll purge this stuff. Out go craft materials that I haven’t played with in six — maybe even ten — years. Out go the extra editions of the Scrabble dictionary and the travel Scrabble set with the broken latch. Out go the three vases that came with flowers. (I love Freecycle.  Most of this stuff will get claimed and, hopefully, is some use to the new owner.)

If your closets are too full, things go into the “black hole” and are never seen again. If you can’t find them when you want them, then you don’t really have them, do you? If you don’t know what you have, chances are you have too much. Or is it that my closets are too small?

Enter, Barry Schwartz. He’s a professor at Swarthmore. He wrote The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less. The crux of Professor Schwartz’s thesis is that the quest for the right or perfect things is making us unhappy, not happy. That having too many choices makes the act of choosing more stressful. That’s an endorsement for my little closets, right?

There are two places that this intersects with real estate:

First do we have too much stuff? Is that what drives us to “need” bigger and bigger houses?

Second, is the pressure to buy real estate socially created? Do we “need” real estate for a reason other than a place to put our stuff and shelter our family? Would we be living well if we had smaller houses, less stuff and more free time?