Store It! Create A Household Storage Plan

Yes, this process takes some time and effort, but there are ways to make the change-over easier.

Here are the best tips for sorting existing storage areas and putting your plan into place:

  • 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. Biggest mistake most home managers make? They go into "nest mode" and 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 knick-knacks, 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.
  • Set a timer and plan your put-away. It's not enough to clear the space! You have to deal with the cleared items, too, so plan for it. You have 40 minutes until the children are home from school? Set a timer for half of that time, or 20 minutes. Clear storage into boxes until the timer rings, then spend the remaining time moving boxed items to their proper place. You'll never get caught with a clean shelf and 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 cleanie husband cheering you on? Harness that energy with a family garage clean-out day. Weigh the benefits of family participation against the potential stress or distraction.
  • 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.

"C" is for Corral and Control

Whew! It took a few weeks, but you've turn out your household storage and you feel great! Light. Organized. Efficient. What a wonderful feeling . . . but there are a few loose ends left to tie down.

Perhaps your plan worked fine except for the clothing storage--not enough space on the shelf, too many clothes in the pile. Maybe you assigned a sewing magazine collection to a cabinet, but the issues topple each time the door is closed. Most of all, you want to make sure that all this work doesn't go to waste: that you and your family know where to find and replace stored items.

What's next? The final steps to a household storage plan: Corral and Control. Now that your storage plan is largely in place, you're going to do what is necessary to keep it that way. Now you will buy, scrounge or make storage containers necessary to Corral what's left.

To keep Control, you'll make a final Inventory Control list--your guide for the future.

Wait until after you've assessed, boxed and banished your storage before trying to corral it into containers. Only after you've sorted the keepers will you have a true idea of what storage helpers you need. Now you may shop for storage containers. Here are a few Corral pointers:

  • Plastic storage containers with lids are the best thing for general storage since the first cavewoman wove a basket. Look for specialty containers for holiday decorations, containers equipped for hanging file folders for children's artwork and file archives. Color-coding helps keep things sorted out: use red for holiday, green for sentimental, beige for garden equipment. Multi-gallon containers can be purchased fairly inexpensively at discount and warehouse stores; they're perfect for attic or garage, areas where contents may meet dust or dirt. Plan on purchasing a few at a time as your budget permits.
  • Cardboard records boxes with removable lids are inexpensive and easy to use. Store children's clothing inside, and mark each box with size and season information. Handles make them easy to move, and they stack easily. Buy them cheaply at office supply stores or warehouse stores.
  • Use a portable hanging rack to store out-of-season clothing and formal clothes. Hang garments on the rack and cover the rack with an old sheet to prevent dust. A double-duty bonus: the rack can be pressed into service for guest coats during large parties or committee meetings!
  • If you must keep a spouse's old college textbooks, LPs, or childhood library, nothing beats small moving cartons intended for books. Small boxes keep books neater and are easier to lift than larger boxes. Buy these from the local moving company and save the extra pennies for a few more plastic storage containers.
  • Under bed containers are a good idea for adult bedrooms or older children's rooms. Store seasonal linens, table linens or blanket conveniently under the bed.

Last step? Take a brief inventory of your completed, corralled storage areas. This exercise should make you feel good--and provide your family a road map to stored items.

As with your assessment list, your Inventory Control list comes from a top-to-bottom walk through your home. Note storage areas and what they contain.

Input the list into a computer and print a copy for reference. Come July 4th, check the list to remind yourself where you stored the beach towels, BBQ tools and air mattresses. At summer's end, Inventory Control reminds you where to return those items.

Winning the storage shuffle! It takes work, but nothing beats a storage plan for ease, convenience, and just plain efficiency in running an organized home.