Does Your Storage Make Sense?

What do your storage spaces look like? Do you know exactly where to go when you are looking for something? Is your system logical? Designing a meaningful storage space requires a lot more than just putting stuff in a closet, drawer, or cabinet. You need STRUCTURE -- some proven guidelines to follow while setting up your storage spaces. Let's begin with these basic organizing principles:

PLAN BEFORE YOU ORGANIZE

You can't create a truly useful space unless you have an END RESULT in mind. Start by asking yourself what you want from your storage. Are you concerned about maximizing space? Being able to see everything you own? Protecting your treasures? Cutting down on time spent dusting? Creating a focal point for the room? Displaying or concealing your belongings?

Then remember these objectives as you organize. Your choice of supplies and storage location should be determined according to what you hope to accomplish with your organizing efforts. Everything you do -- whether it's cleaning out or buying a container or expanding a closet -- should be an effort to accomplish these goals.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Look around your house -- do you see anything that is clearly out of place? Any bowling balls stored in the kitchen or power tools thrown in with the toys? Don't laugh -- I've actually seen both of these situations! Your storage will serve you better if you think in terms of logical categories. Think back to those exercises when you were in kindergarten -- "which of these things go together."

Begin by sorting your belongings according to purpose -- sports, travel, grooming. Then group similar items together travel accessories with your luggage, rags in the same place as other cleaning equipment, office supplies in one spot. Don't forget accessories and related items -- keep the knife sharpener with your cutlery and the extra bits with the drill.

GET IT TOGETHER

Before you can create an organizing "grand plan," you need to take stock of your belongings. Do you have sporting goods scattered all over the house, clothes in three different closets, and miscellaneous "homeless" items here and there? Make a room-by-room tour -- be sure to collect up everything you want to store in a particular storage space BEFORE you begin organizing. There is nothing more frustrating than designing the perfect closet, then realizing that you forgot 15 pairs of shoes!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

A large part of being organized is having a set spot for everything you own. As you sort through your stuff, create a pile of "homeless items" that need to be incorporated into your storage spaces. Then do your best to find a logical place for each -- no halfway spots allowed! You shouldn't have to guess where to put something.

Each time you assign an item to a storage space, ask yourself why you are stashing it there. Because it's close to where you will use it? Because it will be easy to see or reach? Because that's the first place you would think to look for it? If you don't have a GOOD REASON for storing an item in a certain place, please rethink your decision. The worst mistake you can make is to randomly stash your belongings around your home or office -- how will you ever find them again?!

MOVEMENT MATTERS

Getting at your belongings shouldn't require a lot of strain or effort. Take a quick look at your existing storage -- do you bend and stretch to reach items you use all the time? You can make your life great deal easier by keeping motion in mind as you organize. Throughout your home or office, you will find a variety of places in which to stash your stuff.

Storage spaces that fall at or near eye-level are considered PRIMARY storage -- these areas are easily accessible, and should really be reserved for items you use on a daily basis. Look around -- is your primary storage cluttered with objects you rarely touch? Could these be moved a bit further away -- to a SECONDARY storage area between knee and shoulder height? And what do you do with those incredibly inaccessible spaces -- such as the garage, high cabinets, or the back of the closet? This TERTIARY storage is meant for items that you use only a few times a year -- like holiday decorations, memorabilia, and archived records.

MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR SPACE

You should strive to choose a storage space that is APPROPRIATE for it's contents. There are so many factors to take into account -- an object's size, shape, "breakability," and weight. Are you storing heavy boxes on a high shelf? Sounds like a concussion waiting to happen! And you should always try to match form with function as you evaluate your storage spaces -- how can you best use shallow shelves, a tall thin cabinet, or a deep desk drawer? Organizing requires a balance between creativity and common sense.

PROTECT YOUR TREASURES

You can't just throw any old box of stuff in a storage space and call it "organized." Some of your belongings are going to require a little more special treatment. Even those items that you wouldn't normally consider to be "fragile" can be damaged by the climate. Attics, garages, and basements are usually the most at-risk. Are your storage spaces climate-controlled? Do they get really hot in the summer? Cold in the winter? Damp when it rains or is humid? Do you have problems with insects or other rodents? You may need to wrap an item, toss in some cedar chips, or purchase a special container before you stash your belongings away. If you think there is any chance of damage, pick a different storage space.

STORAGE "PARAPHERNALIA"

Have you ever had to open 6 different boxes to find what you were looking for? Organizing supplies should make your life easier, not hide your belongings away from the light of day! Use see-through clear plastic containers and label everything -- shelves included! You should immediately recognize the contents simply by looking at the container. Accessories such as drawer / shelf dividers, lazy susans, pull-out baskets, and stackable shelves can also help you make the most of your storage by subdividing larger spaces.

PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE

Remember that your storage is an ever-changing and dynamic part of your life. You can't just set up a storage system and think that you are "finished." As you acquire new possessions -- as your lifestyle and interests change -- your storage needs will evolve. The first rule is don't fill your cabinets, closets, and drawers to capacity. Leave approximately 15% of your storage space free for all those great future purchases. Also be willing to adjust your system as your needs change -- what seemed like a good idea at one point may require some improvement down the road.

Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit http://www.onlineorganizing.com for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau -- and even get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you. And if you are interested in becoming a Professional Organizer, we have all the tools you need to succeed. If you would like to reprint this article, please send in an e-mail request to [email protected]

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