Do you have a catch-all area where you drop stuff 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 when you think about it? If your storage area is a jumbled mess, chances are that you have experienced the frustration of digging for things each time that you need them and buying replacements because the original was lost or ruined. Most importantly, the area may contribute to your feelings of anxiety, depression, or embarrassment.
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. This article will help you “stretch” your storage space into one that is fully functional and easier to maintain. What follows is a stepby- step explanation of how to complete the project of eliminating what you do not want or need, identifying everything you own, and properly storing the remainders.
Clear the Clutter: 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. Keep Eisenberg’s point 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.
Storage spaces have the largest amount of stuff and take a good amount of time to organize. Plan 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 visible improvement. You can also simplify the process by choosing a specific part of the room such as one table, shelf, corner or closet and completing one small section at a time until you finish. You may have to do some one day and continue at another time.If you are extra brave or have great helpers try to sort through all of the items at one time.
Categorize the items: 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 separate 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 laid out 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 are keeping. If possible, clean and disinfect the space. In the case of a garage or utility room, Kathleen Dore of www.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 go 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 and where to put things away. Labeling the shelves is also a great finishing touch.
Once you are done do your best to keep the system working. 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 be keeping it at all. Try adding an “inbox” where you place things that should be put away very 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 mess and stretching your storage space into one that adds value to your home. Remember that you can always hire a professional organizer to help you through the process.
TATIANA KNIGHT is a Miami-based Professional Organizer who helps clients regain control over their possessions. Knight works hand in hand with clients in their homes and offices to remove clutter, find the best use of each space and prepare for moves or yard sales. She currently serves as the Director of Marketing for the National Association of Professional Organizers in South Florida. Her articles will offer do-it-yourself tips for getting organized in various aspects of daily living. For more information visit www.neatwithknight.com or call (305) 502-6391.