I was over on Pinterest looking at storage solutions to get some ideas for this post. Based on that, I’ve decided the following:
- These people have a lot of time on their hands and not really all that much stuff.
- They are much more creative and possibly OCD than I am.
- 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. Storage needs to be practical and functional as well as pretty.
This is a post of REAL storage ideas for people who actually LIVE in their houses and are more interested in having their storage work for them properly rather than just 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!
There are Two Types of Storage Solutions
Let’s start with two basic concepts about storage. There are two types of storage – active storage and passive storage. They are quite different and if you’re smart, you’ll use them wisely. Managing your storage properly can make your storage areas seem larger and more spacious. Otherwise, you’ll always been feeling like you just DON’T.HAVE.ENOUGH.ROOM!
There are two types of storage – active storage and passive storage
These areas are the “prime real estate” of your house. Usually these areas are from your shoulders to your knees. Think about 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.
This is everywhere else – these are all those awkward spots in your house. Think very high cupboards, under-the-bed drawers that you have to get on your knees to reach, or basement storage shelves. This is for holiday decorations, out-of-season 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 an easily accessible spot and you’re likely to eat more of them. Read here for my post on mindless eating.
How to Get Started Identifying Your Best Storage Solutions
So, let’s get started sorting out your storage areas and determining what items should logically be stored where. So many times, we just end up putting things in a certain place because it’s convenient or because “we’ve always put it there”. We’re going to change that to putting things in the places that actually make sense!
Step 1: Take a pad of Post-it Notes and go around your house. Identify all your storage locations to determine if they are active or passive.
PS: While you’ve got your Post-it Notes handy check out my post on decluttering your stuff using Post-it Notes.
Step 2: Pick an active storage area and start going through it. Look at each item and think about whether it belongs in an active or passive area. I’d grab a box or two to transport the passive items to their new homes.
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.
Pro tip: Allow a little room for expansion – I try to allow 10%-20% for growth.
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. Definitely label, label, and label as part of your strategy to keep the area organized.
Pro tip: Macro sorting is more helpful than micro sorting. Put similar items together, but don’t get hung up trying to find a home for each paperclip and lightbulb or it will take you days. General categories are easier to manage going forward.
This makes your most helpful items easier to find, makes your storage areas look nicer, and helps you to keep your home more organized over time.
You’ll also want to have a number of large boxes or bags handy to give away any duplicate or unloved items. Lather, rinse, repeat…
Don’t overwhelm yourself! I suggest you give yourself a set schedule – say two drawers or one cupboard per day.
By the end of your first week of sorting, 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, I promise. And you will feel even MORE in control of your life in general.
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 solutions.
- Does it make sense for the glasses to be over here if your dishwasher is over there?
- If too much stuff isn’t making you happy, might LESS STUFF be a better choice? We all keep old purses, and worn out towels or utility bills that we probably aren’t going to use again. Sometimes it’s just habit. Really think about it.
- I have a brilliant solution for unfinished craft projects or things you are going to do “someday”. I call it a TIME CAPSULE. You put a Post-it Note (those things are brilliant – how did we ever live before they were invented?) on it that says “This project must be completed by DATE. If not, it must be donated.”
- What would speed up your daily routine, or make things easier for your family? Maybe you need a new bookcase or a better place to keep the mail. Set up snack kits in the fridge for your kids to make their own snacks and lunches. There are endless solutions available.
- What would solve some of your most frustrating clutter problems?
- What is and isn’t working for you?
Don’t be shy about making major changes in your storage strategies. Sometimes a few quick tweaks can make all the difference.
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.
PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to get rid of stuff as long as it’s yours. Throwing away other people’s stuff – BAD IDEA!
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!
Here are some other posts you may enjoy:
11 Tips for Organizing Your Drawers
Got Clutter? I’ve got the Answers You NEED
Closet Organizing Tips from a Professional Stylist