Mother Earth Living

How to Organize Your Storage Spaces

Organize your storage spaces for a less-cluttered, more-efficient home where you can locate any item in a jiffy.
By Jennifer Ford Berry, Marilyn Bohn and Debbie Lillard
January/February 2014
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Use our tips to help you organize your storage spaces.
Photo By moodboard Photography/Veer
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It’s a fact: Clutter makes us stressed. That means that unsorted pile of junk shoved into a closet is more than an eyesore. It might actually be harming our health. Although clutter can seem overwhelming, you can conquer your stuff. Organizing your storage spaces makes keeping clutter at bay easier every day, plus it means you will be able to find what you need when you need it. Use our tips—pulled together from organizational experts—to overhaul your storage spaces, leaving your home more organized, your life easier and your sanity intact.

Organization Tips for Every Storage Space

Closet Organization Tips
Basement Organization Tips
Attic Organization Tips
Garage Organization Tips

How to Organize: Assess Your Storage Spaces

To organize your storage spaces, first determine what storage options you have, the functions of each area, what needs to be stored, and any additional storage options you need. Take a walk through your house. Is there a usable attic, basement or crawl space? How about a shed or garage? What about shelves or built-in cabinets? Maybe you have an armoire, an old trunk or a tall bookcase you aren’t using. All of these things are potential storage. Make a list of these areas.

Next, analyze the items you have to store. We typically use storage areas for items we don’t need every day or large items that can’t be kept in an average room in the house such as golf clubs, gardening tools, the vacuum, holiday decorations, out-of-season clothes and camping gear. You may also have specialized things to store such as inventory for your business or items you sell online. Write these items down on your list and then treat it like a matching test, drawing lines from the “What Needs to Be Stored” column to the “Storage Area” column, keeping in mind the environment of each storage area (for example, basements can be damp and attics can be very hot). This chart should address the big categories of things you have, as well as those odds and ends that don’t seem to fit into any category.

Excerpted from A Mom’s Guide to Home Organization by Debbie Lillard


8 Steps to Organize Any Storage Space

1. Sort through all of the items you keep in the area and make four piles:

• RECYCLE (anything broken, moldy or mildewed, and any old trash hidden in the corners)
• SELL or DONATE (items you never use or no longer want)
• BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE (e.g., grown children)
• KEEP

2. Get rid of the RECYCLE pile.

3. Sell or donate the designated items. Sell the items immediately—research shows we accumulate clutter with items we plan to sell but never get around to selling. Post the items on eBay or Craigslist. Set a deadline and if they don’t sell by that date, donate them to a thrift store or women’s shelter.

4. Contact the owner(s) of the BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE pile and schedule a pickup or delivery date to return the item.

5. Separate the KEEP pile into categories. Organize your storage area into zones. This will help you keep the area organized and maximize space. Some ideas for zones may include:
• Holiday decorations
• Sports equipment
• Toys/baby items
• Clothing
• Heirlooms/memorabilia
• Power tools/lawn equipment
• Seasonal items

6. Evaluate your KEEP piles. Are you storing these items in the best location? Clothes and toys can mildew in damp basements, and photos, papers and wood are damaged by moisture. Store these items in a closet or the attic. On the other hand, the attic is subject to extreme heat and cold. Move items that may be damaged by extreme temperatures to a basement or garage.

7. Evaluate your storage. Do you have enough
shelving? Do you have appropriate storage containers? Do you have a storage container for each category? Purchase anything you need.

8. Clearly label the front of each container and arrange them for easy access. Items that are rarely used can go on high shelves or at the bottom of a stack. Place more frequently used items in the most convenient areas.

Excerpted from Organize Now! A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life by Jennifer Ford Berry


Creative Storage Spaces

If you don’t have enough storage, get creative! You can create storage by selecting items that serve two purposes: their primary purpose (seating or table) and their secondary purpose, storage. Try these examples:

• Choose furniture with hidden storage. Coffee or end tables with shelves can hold storage baskets. Find an ottoman with storage space inside.

• If you have a wide hallway, a drop-leaf table with a shelf underneath can hold lidded storage baskets.

• In a wide hallway, add a tall bookcase. Place baskets or cloth bins on the shelves and use them to store items you would keep in a hall closet or linen closet.

• In addition to clothing storage, armoires can be modified for use as: linen storage; a mini-bar that stores wine glasses and drink accessories; a home office—computer, printer and stationery storage; cleaning, laundry and pet-supply storage; additional kitchen cabinet space; or a craft-supply cupboard.

• Repurpose any bench with a lid to store books, magazines, gloves, hats, or placemats and napkins.

• Stack several vintage suitcases on top of each other and use them as an end table. Store anything inside that fits: extra dishes, guest linens, ribbon, fabric and holiday decorations, to name a few.

• Designate one handy location for all garden tools, ideally in the garage or shed.

Excerpted from The Easy Organizer: 365 Tips for Conquering Clutter by Marilyn Bohn


Storing Garden Tools and Sports Equipment

• Install metal brackets on the walls to hang long-handled tools. 

• Install a Peg-Board to hold tools. Draw an outline around each tool with a marker to identify where to hang it after using it.

• Use free-standing containers with drawers for small items such as trowels, nozzles, twine and scissors.

• Install a wall hanger for your garden hose for winter storage.

• Keep tools sharp by removing dirt after each use. Use a three-in-one light-machine oil to wipe down the metal parts.

• Store fertilizer and potting soil in covered containers.

• Designate one handy location for all sporting equipment, ideally in the garage or a storage shed because equipment is often dirty.

• Galvanized metal garbage cans work well to store tall equipment such as ski poles, bats and hockey sticks.

• Corral balls in a small bin or mesh bag hanging on the wall.

• Install wall-mounted racks for equipment such as skis, snowboards or golf bags.

• Hang bikes from the ceiling using large “S” hooks. Hang a bike pump on the wall to inflate balls and tires.

• If your children take equipment to sports practices, stock separate take-and-run duffel bags for each sport, stocked with all equipment and labeled with name and sport.

Excerpted from The Easy Organizer: 365 Tips for Conquering Clutter by Marilyn Bohn


The content in this article was adapted with permission from three books by Betterway Home Books: The Easy Organizer by Marilyn Bohn; Organize Now! by Jennifer Ford Berry; and A Mom’s Guide to Home Organization by Debbie Lillard.


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