ABUNDANT = more space, money, time, freedom & focus
MINIMALISM = less clutter, no debt, fewer complications, obligations & distractions

Empty Packaging Just in Case

An empty, damp, cardboard box sitting on dark tile, with bits of debris scattered on the ground.
How many empty boxes does a minimalist keep “just in case”?
Image by Craig Sunter

Just in Case Reusable Packaging is Tempting to you too

Let me start off by admitting that I have a strong attraction to cool packaging (and I know I’m not alone). I might even be tempted to buy something that I don’t need (such as ten jars of chocolate covered almonds) so that I can keep the super cool reusable glass jars. I have used these jars in my kitchen to hold pasta, lentils, and baking supplies for about eight years and love them. I also bought some lovely dijon mustard jars for the same reason.

It’s not just jars either. I have several small boxes in various shapes that I thoroughly enjoy. One is made of carved wood and it contains a few pieces of special jewelry. I also store a variety of small items in neat little tins. One Altoids tin contains a mini sewing kit, and another holds a mini first aid kit. I also have a couple of little Cuban cigarillo tins that I use as travelling bathroom kits (floss, earplugs, hair elastics, Q-tips, etc.).

Cardboard Boxes, Plastic Packaging Pillows, Bubble wrap & Peanuts

However, most packaging is not very reusable and keeping it can take up a lot of space. I’m talking about the box that came with your TV or computer, or the packaging that came with other electronics. These boxes are normally made of cardboard paper and come with a variety of inserts like styrofoam. Sometimes we can be made to feel that we should hang on to these large boxes for years, when it simply is not necessary.

Those who live in huge spaces and wish to utilize their entire garage or basement for empty boxes, of course, it is entirely their decision. However, as minimalists, we are choosing to keep only what we truly need, use and love, so our empty boxes are generally better off in the recycling, rather than collecting dust in a storage area and becoming potential homes for stray spiders and mould.

So, today is a great time to get rid of any packaging from items that you purchased over 3 months ago. That’s long enough to know that yes, you are going to keep it, and yes it works. You can scan or file the receipt if you ever need to return it, get it repaired, or as an aid in reselling the item later.

If You Plan to Resell, How Much Would Storage Cost Per Meter or Foot?

Reselling the item later is one reason some people give for saving boxes. However, if you think of the box as renting your space for months or years, just in case you ever resell the item, chances are high that the extra bit of money will not equal the loss of space and inconvenience of keeping the box in pristine condition for that duration. How much more value will the original box add to most transactions? Maybe $5. If someone said they would pay you $5 to keep a big box that fills half of your closet for 5 years, would you do it? Extremely unlikely. Yet people do this all of the time without actually considering the tradeoff they have been making.

That tiny amount of money is certainly not worth the loss of space. Paying the rent or mortgage is generally the largest expense anyone has. So if you think of the amount of space the empty boxes take up and the percentage of rent that would be charged if they were a tenant, the choice would be perfectly clear. Goodbye boxes!

Stores Could Keep the Packaging

In many cases it is the employees of the stores who are causing a lot of unnecessary fear in their customers. I have been warned on many occasions that I better keep the box if I want to return the item. I tell them no, it is not my responsibility to be their warehouse. If an item is defective and I have the receipt, that is all I am willing to keep to exchange the item.

Many years ago, when the idea of recycling was just barely becoming a trend, I heard on the news that places in Europe were insisting that the stores keep all of their packaging at the time of purchase. The reporter said that due to the customers demanding that the shops take responsibility, the original packaging of many items had been redesigned and reduced dramatically. So I started doing the same thing. At the checkout I would unbox and give the packaging back to the stores. They did not like it, and made threatening noises about not  accepting returns, but I’ve never had an issue.

Do You Really Return Things that Often?

The reality is that I rarely ever return anything. On the very uncommon occasions that I do, all they require is the receipt to prove when and where I purchased the item. Sometimes I’ll keep the packaging for a month, depending on the item, especially if it was very expensive, in case it’s defective. Usually though, one day is too long to keep the packaging.

By doing diligent research about purchases ahead of time, there is less likelihood that a return will be necessary because it’s not the correct item for the job. So, the only reason it would need returning is for a warranty issue, in which case I could easily get another box for shipping.

It’s also perfectly fine to recycle most instruction manuals because they are almost all available online. Check first, then toss.

Just in Case Means You Don’t Trust Your Abundance

We all have a different threshold of where just in case fits in our homes and our lifestyles. The same goes with personal preferences with the level of clutter we can tolerate or are comfortable with. If it scares you too much to let go of your just in case items, then no one can make you release them until you are ready.

But think about it this way; do you want to live in fear that maybe things will go wrong so you better keep everything just in case?, or would you rather see the glass as half full and bravely envision that your life will continue to run smoothly because you are making it so?

It really does come down to that. Do you feel frightened about tomorrow and distrustful about things outside of your control? How do you see your ability to succeed in the future? Do you feel secure enough in your ability to create your abundance, or will you keep stuff you don’t need just in case?

I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know what you think.