How Tetris Helped Me Maximize My Small Storage Unit

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Having just gotten out of rehab for an addiction to old-school video games, you vowed to leave all those geometric shapes in the past. You’ve admitted your powerlessness over colorful falling pieces, gotten rid of your tetromino desk lamp, and landed a sponsor. You’re done with Tetris, once and for all.

Before taking steps to kick that nasty video game habit, your biggest regret was the year that your life fell — slowly at first, but faster as the months piled up — into a black hole. You wish you could remember more about that year. It might have been 1989. You may have been married. And you’re pretty sure you didn’t have any kids.

Instead of kids, you had Tetriminos. Five of them, to be exact: I, O, Z, T, and L. Like all youngsters, they moved fast, but they were no match for you. You controlled them effortlessly, moving them sideways, rotating them, and forming them into a horizontal line without gaps.

Over time, though, your brain got foggy from the strain of guiding their every move without so much as a break. You cursed the Soviet Union for coming up with this clever way to cripple an entire nation without launching a single nuclear attack. That’s when you went on one last bender before hitting bottom and seeking help.

And then your sponsor begged you to take on one last job for her: loading the contents of her apartment into a self storage unit. Apparently her landlord insisted on being paid every month. Your attempts to convince her that you’d gone straight fell on deaf ears, so it’s time to use what you’ve learned to help her out.

Think Tetriminos

A Tetris game piece, or “tetrimino” for those in the know, is a shape composed of four equal squares. As the different shapes (I, O, Z, T, L) fall down the screen more and more quickly, you try to stack them on top of each other perfectly, with no gaps. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes time, patience, and excellent hand-eye coordination, not to mention no life and a disinterest in eating.

When attempting to maximize your small storage unit, think of your stuff as tetriminos:

  • A couch is like an “I” piece — a line of four squares
  • Four small packing boxes or a square table is an “O”
  • Two armchairs are an “S” or “Z”
  • A loveseat with an ottoman makes a “T”

Obviously, some items don’t lend themselves to this rubric, like that ridiculous table-slash-art piece you bought when you thought you were a hipster. For stuff like that, you’ll need to rent a chipper.


Map Your Space

In Tetris, you don’t have much time to figure out where the shape will go. The beauty of filling a small storage unit like a Tetris field is that you can examine all the “game pieces” at once and formulate a master plan.

  • Look at each item destined for the storage unit and convert it into a tetrimino. In your mind, of course. What are you, a magician?
  • Make a rough sketch of how these “tetriminos” will fit together in the three-dimensional space of the unit.
  • Bring along a stack of quarters. Damn. You just relapsed.

A few gaps here or there are inevitable, of course, but if you can see your items as blocks of squares, you’re either on the right track or taking too much acid. Either way works.

Tried and True Methods

Although you might have lapsed into cursing, banging on the video console, or accusing onlookers of tainting your mojo in the arcade, those methods aren’t going to work in a storage unit. For practical packing, remember:

  • Start with the back wall of the unit. You’ll want to stack those items that you won’t need until you empty the unit again. Like your Gameboy.
  • Make sure to put the heavier pieces on the floor (preferably on a wooden pallet to prevent moisture from accumulating). You don’t want your granny’s armoire to fall on you when you start unloading, however funny your sponsor insists the video will be on Instagram.
  • Save a portion at the front of the unit for those things that don’t convert to square shapes and that you can’t bring yourself to shred. Like your clothing rack of stone washed jeans and collection of giant teddy bears.
  • Create an aisle down the middle of your storage unit. Otherwise, you’ll have to make like The Flying Wallendas to retrieve items from the back of the room.
  • Affix large labels on boxes’ forward-facing sides so you can find your mini fish coin purse (with your secret stash of arcade tokens) without having to open up each carton.
  • Use only two sizes of boxes. Ideally, four small boxes grouped together — in which you place heavy items, like all your self-help books — should be roughly the same size as a large box.

And there you have it. You’ve finally put this very specific and mostly useless talent of yours to good use. Just remember that Tetris is merely a model for using cubic space to its full advantage. There’s no need to pack the unit the way you play the game: fast and frantic.

Oh, and another thing. You might want to get a new sponsor.

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