Easy Storage Guidelines

Develop rules and go step by step so storage decisions don't seem overwhelming.

A storage plan is only the starting point; putting it into effect can seem daunting. Take the process step-by-step, and try these tips to make the changeover easier:

  • Keep your assessment list in view. Know exactly what items are assigned to the top-most shelf in your daughter's closet: boxes containing out-of-season clothing. With your plan in the forefront of your mind (and eyes), you won't be tempted to redistribute extra toys or bed linens to that space.
  • Work one shelf at a time. Never tear apart way more storage than can be reassembled in a single sorting session. Keep the effort small and sustained, and you'll win the storage battle. Spread your energies too thin and you'll merely muddle the battlefield.
  • Box it, box it, box it — unless you banish it. Say you're sorting out the top shelf in a utility room closet. You've decided that party supplies should live there, but right now, the shelf is a jumble of old floral vases, rejected knickknacks, extra cleaning supplies and board games. Drag the garbage can, a box marked "Donate" or "Yard Sale" and two or three extra boxes to the utility room. Item by item, pick it up and assign it to a box (or execute the sentence of Banishment). Cleaning supplies go in a box destined for the kitchen. Toss the vases into the "yard sale" box. Hubby insists on keeping his Mom's old china shepherdess, so wrap and place her into a box marked "U" for Ugly and Unwanted. Board games go into another box. Repeat until the shelf is empty.
  • Shift boxes to their new storage site. After you've cleared your shelf and wiped it down, deliver the contents of each surviving box to the new site according to your assessment list. Board games go to the family room shelves. Tuck the "U" box inside the attic, where you'll add to it when you clear the next shelf. Yard sale boxes live along a garage wall waiting for spring and your yard sale.
  • Plan your put-away. Like STOP clutter sessions, clearing storage is best done in little 20-minute bites. Clear storage into boxes until the timer rings, and then spend the remaining time moving boxed items to their proper place. You'll never get caught with a clean shelf and a trashed house if you make put-away part of the process.
  • Divide or conquer? Only you can determine whether delegation and family involvement are appropriate as you put your storage plan into place. Struggling with a packrat spouse? It may be best to work alone and spare him the stress of boxing his treasures. Is a clean-freak husband cheering you on? Harness that energy with a family garage cleanout day. Weigh the benefits of family participation against the potential stress or distraction it may bring.
  • Slow and steady wins the storage race. Keep at it! When motivation flags, return to the spaces you've cleared and sorted. Admire them. Pat yourself on the back. Take the day off, but return to that hall closet the next day. Remember, your home didn't get into this state overnight, so you can't expect to undo it overnight, either.
  • Consider outsourcing household storage. Life changes can bring storage issues in their wake. An empty nest isn't quite so empty when the nestlings leave their childhood possessions behind. A parent's estate can bring a whole new generation of possessions to declutter and store. When sudden storage problems arise, consider outsourcing. Small storage lockers or units can be rented quickly to handle the overflow while you sort out a parent's belongings. To clear adult kid-clutter, next holiday season give the grown children notice that their stuff must be collected before the unit's lease expires.

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