The Power of Limits

Just because you have space in your home doesn’t mean you have to fill it.  Space is a resource that ought to be preserved.  Having a feeling of spaciousness in various areas throughout your home can make you feel good and improve your mood.  Human beings don’t do well in crowded spaces.

Clothes don’t do well in crowded spaces, either, and whether it’s your closet or a chest of drawers, having too much stuff in a confined space just doesn’t work.  The more hangers we try to cram on the rod, the more purses, bags, and sweaters we try to pile on the shelves, the more shoes, boots and slippers we throw on the floor and back in the corners of our walk-in closets (that aren’t), the more t-shirts and socks we try to stuff in our drawers, the more frustrated and tense we feel.  “Crowded” and “Space” just simply don’t belong together.

So what’s to be done?  How can you go from “crowded” to “spacious”? How can you create a situation where closets and drawers bring a sense of calm, where you can actually enjoy walking into your closet or opening up a drawer?

Use the Power of Limits.

The Power of Limits is a principle that says, “Just because you have a space doesn’t mean you have to fill it up” and asks the question, “How much is enough?”

Let me illustrate this point with a story…

I once had a wonderful client with a crowded home, full of a bunch of stuff, most of it clothes, unfinished projects, and paper.  Like many others in this same situation, she also had a kitchen table piled high and running over.  There was absolutely no way to use the table for the purpose for which it was intended.  Every time she and her young daughter may have wanted to sit down at the table to eat…they couldn’t.  It was simply too full of too many other things that had nothing to do with the act of having a pleasant meal together as a little family.

One of the items taking up this precious table surface was a basket full of socks.  When I asked this lovely woman to tell me about the basket, she replied it was full of socks that needed to be matched, but she just hadn’t had the time to do so.  She sometimes worked long hours and between her job, traveling to get her daughter from child care before and after work, and doing any other tasks that might need doing…she was right.  Her most precious resource was time.  So I looked at her and asked her a Power of Limits question:

“How many socks are enough?”

“What do you mean?”

“How many pairs of socks do you think you need in a week? 

…One pair a day?”

“Well, yes,” she hesitantly replied.

“And what kind of socks do you mostly wear? Casual or business? If you and your daughter had, say, seven pairs of casual socks and four pairs of business or dress socks each, would that be enough?”

“Well, yes.”

“And how much would it cost for a bag of 6-8 pairs of new socks from K-mart? [This was a few years ago.] About six to eight dollars?”


I waved my hand at the basket of unmatched socks.

“You know as well as I do that most of those sock either are worn out or are missing their mates.  You don’t have time to go through all these socks.  Throw them away and go buy new ones.  And have a limit on how many pairs of socks you will have at a time.”

The poor woman looked stunned—as if I’d clunked her right in the middle of her forehead.  Her eyes opened wide, she looked at the basket of socks (I could just see her visualizing herself dumping the entire contents of it into the trash can and how that would feel), then she turned and looked at me and asked:

“You can do that???”

Yes.  You can do that.

If the resource you are the shortest on and need to save is time, and if the amount of money you would have to spend to save the time is minimal, then, yes, you can do that.  And for the sake of having space and peace and calm in your life, you most definitely should do that!

Get over the idea that limits are bad.

When it comes to managing resources, limits are good!  By setting boundaries, they help you make decisions about what items you should keep and what you should get rid of much faster. Do you have 12 pairs of jeans contributing to the crowded condition of your closet?

The Power of Limits asks, “How much is enough?” and “Why that particular amount?” 

If you have 12 pairs of jeans and you determine that six pairs of jeans is enough, then the Power of Limits says you have to get rid of 6 pairs of jeans.  You go for Quality instead of Quantity.  Find the two very best pairs of jeans (meaning they fit just right and look the best), then find the next two best pairs and the next.  That’s it.  You’re done.  Toss, sell, or give the rest away.

For example, when I was younger and wore jeans almost every day, my rule or “limit” for how many jeans I could have at a time was six—3 black and 3 blue.  I always kept two pair that were new for nicer dress, two pair that were comfortably worn for casual dress, and two pair that were almost worn out for grubby work.  That was it.  When the nice jeans were worn enough to be downgraded to casual, then I knew it was time to buy two new pairs of jeans and rotate the two old pairs of grubby jeans out.

Try the Power of Limits for yourself

Set the boundaries of your spaces and tell yourself that is it.  Clothes belong in closets and in drawers and nowhere else.  Period. They don’t belong on the floor in piles, stuffed in the back of your car, or all over your kitchen table. Establish limits outside of which all those clothes can’t go and then—before you even start sorting—ask yourself: “How much is enough?”

Really.  Write it down on paper (knowing you can adjust a little here and there) and be realistic.


  • How many pairs of socks are enough?
  • How many pants—slacks or jeans?
  • How many dresses?  Skirts? Dress shirts?  Suits?

Write it all down first before you even walk into the closet (if you can).  Then begin to sort.  Stick to your limits and watch the spaciousness and calm in your home grow.



[Image “Socks Pattern” courtesy of:   lyolya_profitrolya / Freepik ]

About The Homemakers Coach

Beverly Pogue believes that homemaking is a profession just like any other profession. As The Homemaker's Coach™, she provides coaching, classes, and products to help homemakers succeed.

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