Do you have a catch-all area where you drop stuff anywhere and look the other way? Maybe it is in your garage, utility area, laundry room, shed, storage unit, spare room or closet, or all of the above. If so, how quickly and easily can you find what you need? How well protected are the items you are saving? How does that space make you feel?
If your storage area is a jumbled mess that is off limits to company, chances are that you have experienced the frustration of digging for things each time that you need them and buying replacements because your original was lost or ruined in the turmoil. Most importantly, the area may contribute to your feelings of anxiety, depression, embarrassment, or any other negative feelings about yourself or your space.
Regardless of where your eyesore is located, that fact that it is usually separated from the immediate living space means that it is easy to ignore and can last for a long time without receiving proper attention. As a Professional Organizer, I would submit that your storage space can greatly benefit from being well organized because at the end of the process you will have eliminated what you do not want or need, identified everything you own and safely stored the things that matter. Your newly arranged storage space should also cut down on the time it takes to find things or clean up, and ensure that you are not forced to live in a constant state of chaos. Now that the holidays and the new year are nearing, this article will help you “stretch” your storage space into one that is fully functional and easier to maintain. What follows is a step-by-step explanation of how to complete the project.
Clear it out: Start by collecting the necessary supplies such as trash bags, markers, and large containers to hold similar items. Plan to work just before trash day, hire a junk hauler, or schedule a donation pick-up.
The first and most important step in organizing your storage space is to look at each item and remove the things that you are willing to donate, give away, sell or trash. Only save the most important things that you will actually use in the future or that are extremely important to you. In her book, “Organize your Life,” Ronnie Eisenberg reminds readers that the more stuff you have, the longer it takes to clean around it and to find a place to store it. For maximum results, keep Eisenberg’s idea in mind every time you decide that you want to save something and make sure that you are doing your best to purge unnecessary items from your space and your life.
Try to dedicate several hours to the project and enlist helpers. Although the task may seem daunting, it may not take as long as you think to make a big improvement. Many organizing professionals suggest starting small with one section at a time. If you use this “baby steps” strategy, choose a specific part of the room such as one table, shelf, corner or closet. Sort through each small area over a span of time until you finish. If you are brave, sort through all of the items at one time.
Categorize: Once you are left with the “keep” items, separate everything into broad categories. There are numerous ways to make distinctions, so just choose one that makes sense to you and the others using the space. Some common categories are: car items, electronics, entertaining supplies, gardening/hobby tools, holiday decor, home furnishings, kitchenware, linens & towels, luggage, memorabilia, sporting goods, seasonal clothing, and toys & games.
You can pile items in different areas of the room or use boxes, bags, bins or baskets as receptacles for similar items that can be moved with less effort. After everything is together look again to make sure there are no unwanted duplicates. Consider whether the amount of items you are storing for a particular reason fits into your space and your plans for the future. Eliminate anything you can.
Assign a “home” for everything: Now it is time to design an organizational system for storing what you have kept. I have found that the most effective way to organize a space is to empty the area and start from scratch. Clean and disinfect the space. In the case of a garage or utility room, Kathleen Dore of styleathome.com suggests painting it white to brighten it, since you might be less likely to neglect a room that feels like a finished part of your home.
It is important to maximize storage space by using the walls and vertical space for shelves (either built-in or free standing), bookcases, racks, tables, hooks, to hold your items. You can also try overhead storage to hang things out of the way. Plastic boxes, bags and drawer carts are good for separating categories of like items and they also protect from water, dust and other damage. Make sure to label everything or keep a master list.
When you put items away, refrain from placing them “where they always were” and instead choose the most sensible place for everything to go from now on. Some ideas are placing things that you rarely need up high, creating distinct areas for each activity or for each person of the family, and separating categories alphabetically or by the time of year in which they are needed. No matter what you decide, the goal is to have one place where each category is stored so that you always know where to look. Labeling the shelves will also make it easier for tidying up because it will be clear where each item is meant to go back.
Keep it up: Do your best to keep the system working while updating and tidying up as often as possible. If you put things on the floor it is an invitation to place everything else there and before you know it the mess is back. When something does not have a home, either make one or consider whether you should keep it at all. Consider adding an “inbox” where you place things that need to be put away soon, as well as a “giveaway/sell” box for items that you decide to eliminate.
I hope that this advice can help you tackle the project of conquering the biggest mess you have and stretch your storage space into one that adds value to your space. Remember that you can always hire a professional organizer like me to help you through the process of clearing clutter.
Please feel free to share your organizing stories & article feedback: email@example.com.