Putting away your holiday decor, dishware and gift wrap? Before you shove a bunch of cardboard boxes into dark closets, attic crawl space or the garage, consider how and where to store your items so they’ll be in good condition and easy to find.
• Excess and access: First, take a few minutes to determine whether the items you’re storing are things you definitely need and want. Don’t put off making a tough decision; you’ll regret it later. Next, figure out how frequently you’ll use the items. Reserve easy-access areas for those things you will need occasionally, not keepsakes that you can’t part with but rarely use.
• Think vertically: If there’s room, use shelving to maximize and organize the space. Shelving in storage rooms does not need to be beautiful, but it does need to be sturdy. There are many good shelving options out there, but I recommend using something adjustable so you’re able to move things around as necessary without wasting space. The Container Store’s InterMetro shelving is a popular choice. Neatly organized shelves will also make it easier to see things and group like items together.
• Protection from the elements: Using shelves for garage storage keeps valuables off the floor, safeguarding them against possible water damage if rain seeps — or is blown — in. Attic crawl spaces are obviously less vulnerable to water damage, assuming your roof is in good shape and can stand up to strong winds in hurricanes and tropical storms, but things stored up there need to be resistant to extreme temperature changes. Artwork, photographs and records from the ‘80s will be damaged if they get too hot.
• Clear containers: Clear plastic containers with secure tops are ideal for storing Halloween costumes, Christmas decorations, paperwork and more. People frequently gravitate to very large bins, but beware the 32-gallon bin filled with collectibles; it will be very heavy. It is better to go with a manageable size that won’t break your back as you lug it up and down the stairs or lift it to a high shelf.
• You shouldn’t need a flashlight: If you felt like you were heading into a cave when you went searching for your favorite holiday decorations or the hammer you needed to hang them, you probably were not happy. So make sure that your storage spaces are well lighted. You don’t need pretty or expensive fixtures, but you do need adequate lighting to make the space feel at least a little welcoming and, more important, functional.
• Labeling is crucial: Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember where you put your favorite holiday serving platter or rolls of gift wrap. Take a few minutes to list the contents of each bin on the outside with a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker. You can also go beyond that and create an electronic map or list of the contents of your storage space. It’s a good way to remind you and your family where things are kept, but it can also be important for insurance purposes.
• Keep the cobwebs away: Take a look around your storage areas once or twice a year to take inventory and clear out anything you haven’t used or no longer want. Continually adding items to your storage spaces without also purging or sorting regularly will make a manageable task much more overwhelming later.
Extra storage space is a necessity for many of us. When used wisely, it can create more space and efficiency in our main living areas, but if it becomes an excuse to buy more or never discard anything, it can eventually cause a lot of stress and work. Store things smartly now, so you can enjoy them later.