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I was over on Pinterest looking in the storage category to get some ideas for this post. Based on that, I’ve decided the following:

    1. These people have a lot of time on their hands and not really all that much stuff.
    2. They are much more creative and possibly OCD than I am.
    3. They have a large supply of adorable little baskets and pretty mason jars – not a bad thing, but as they say, pretty is as pretty does.
Image courtesy of JamesBarker /

This is a post of REAL storage ideas for people who actually LIVE in their houses and are more interested in having their storage function properly rather than look pretty. I mean if it happens to look pretty too, I’m all for it, but I’m definitely a function over form type and I hope you are too!

Let’s start with two basic concepts about storage. There are two types of storage – active storage and passive storage.

[bctt tweet=”There are two types of storage – active storage and passive storage”]

Active storage is the “prime real estate” of your house. These are the eye-level kitchen cupboards, the top drawer of the bathroom vanity, the easily accessible shelves and areas of your closet. This territory should be reserved exclusively for items you use on a daily or at least weekly basis.

Passive storage is all those awkward spots in your house – very high cupboards, under the bed drawers that you have to get on your knees to reach, basement storage shelves. This is for seasonal items, mis-sized clothing, and anything that receives infrequent usage.

Hint: If you are trying to lose weight, you’ll want to store all the candy and other forbidden goodies in a passive storage location. Put the fruits and veggies in a good active spot and you’re likely to eat more of them. Read here for my post on mindless eating.

So, let’s get started:

Step 1:   Take a pad of Post-it Notes and go around your house. Identify all your storage areas and determine if they are active or passive.

Step 2:   Pick an active storage area and start going through it. Keep the items you use on a daily or weekly basis and move everything else to a less convenient spot.

Note that I suggested you start with just the Active storage areas. These are your bread ‘n butter items.  Save the passive areas for another time after you’ve gotten all the good stuff handled.

Step 3:   As you are going through the various areas, you will want to organize as you go. Sort similar items together and containerize and label things as appropriate. This makes items easy to find, makes your areas look nicer, and helps you to keep your storage more organized over time. You’ll also want to have a large box handy to give away any duplicate or unloved items. Lather, rinse, repeat…

You might want to give yourself a set schedule – say two drawers or one cupboard per day. By the end of a week, you will start noticing a huge difference. If you stick with the program and do even a few minutes faithfully every day, by the end of a month, you should have the majority of your storage spaces sorted out.

Here are some additional tips:

When you lose something – think of the first place you went to look for it. Say you started in the top desk drawer. That is it’s natural home. If you always keep this item in the top desk drawer, you will never lose it again – You’re welcome!

Before you start, give some real thought to how your house is set up and how you use things. Don’t be shy about making major changes in your storage strategies.

  • Does it make sense for the glasses to be over here if your dishwasher is over there?
  • Does it make sense to keep old purses or utility bills that you probably won’t use again?
  • What would speed up your daily routine, or make things easier for your family?
  • What would solve some of your clutter problems?
  • What is and isn’t working for you?

[bctt tweet=”Don’t be shy about making major changes in your storage strategies”]

One warning – you probably don’t want to tackle too much at one time. If you are ADD like me, it probably isn’t a good idea to dump your whole dresser out on the bed and then get distracted by something else and not get back to it. Do small areas and try to complete one task before you jump off to another.

Don’t be afraid to get rid of stuff as long as it’s yours. I have several related posts When Your Spouse is a Packrat and Dealing with Other People’s Stuff about dealing with the people you live with and their belongings. Even if you think it is just junk, dumping out a bunch of your husband or your child’s stuff can seriously damage your relationship.

Work with an eye towards respect and cooperation and try to negotiate a solution that will work for both of you. If nothing else works, carefully pack up the other person’s items and move them to a safe spot where they can go through them in their own time. They will still be unhappy, but at least it’s not an irrevocable step.

I hope this helps. It is a lot of work? Yes, and it isn’t going to get done in a day or even a week. But taking a little time to use your storage properly, along with reducing the amount of stuff you are hanging onto will make a huge difference in how smoothly your household runs and how enjoyable your home life can be. And that’s a good goal to reach!


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20 Comments on Storage Solutions for Dummies

  1. Great topic, Adrian! I’m always looking for more storage options. I recently put a couple metro shelving units up in my kitchen to help with the overwhelm of everything I couldn’t get rid of in my minimalist PURGE. Lack of storage space is the first evil step toward a disorganized home! Thanks for the help 🙂

    • Yes, I agree! Lack of storage or improper use of it, those are the things that get the clutter snowball rolling down the hill! Glad this helped you.

  2. Hi Adrian, thanks for the insightful post! I can definitely relate to the ADD and dumping the whole dresser on the bed comments….coming back hours later to sleep and mess is still on the bed! LOL! Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Yes Christine, I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve done that! I’d be rich. I was proud of myself though. Last night, I got the organizing bug and started digging through my closet shelves and my linen closet, but even though it was late, I stuck with it until I had gotten every single thing put away! That’s progress for me! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Thanks Claire – I’m so glad you found these tips helpful. I periodically go through all my spaces once or twice a year just to keep them in tip-top condition. At 10:00 last night, I got the bug to clean out my huge linen closet and I came away with a huge box of stuff to donate. And I won’t miss it a bit….

  3. Hi Adrian,
    You had me at Dummies! I’m afraid to go on Pinterest, very, very afraid!
    I’m not “one of them”, and I don’t want to get sucked into that picture perfect world. I for one, actually LIVE in my house! lol
    Thanks for the tips. I like the active vs passive delineation.

    • Good for you – stay strong! I spend waaay to much time on Pinterest. I have over 19,000 pins – too many, you think? Glad these ideas help you.

  4. This is wonderful information! I am in desperate need of organizing my apartment. We are going to be moving into a house soon so I want to get rid of all the clutter and junk before we move. I love the idea of setting a schedule. I think sometimes it all seems so overwhelming, but if I did a piece at a time, it wouldn’t be so bad.

    • You can do it, and it does feel SO good to get out from under the clutter. Just 15 minutes a day can make a lot more difference than you’d think.

  5. Your advice reminds me of what I read in Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. She says to set aside 15 minutes a day to tackle those big projects, and to only dump out your own stuff. 🙂 Thanks for the REAL storage advice… I’m definitely in your category. 🙂

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