We all know how these spaces can get: messy, dirty and dusty at best — flea or rodent-ridden at worst. Random ski equipment leaning against the wall next to the lawn mower, which is hidden behind a few bicycles and tricycles. These places are where all the other stuff that doesn’t have a place in your home goes, and if you’re anything like anybody else, they quickly become burial grounds for the dreaded S word: ‘STUFF”. Here’s the good news — places like garages, attics and storage spaces don’t have to look good. They don’t have to be any of the three ‘p’s: Pretty, Precise or Perfect. They only have to allow you to know where things are and how to get to them. (Remember our golden principle, ‘Retrieval’? This is where she shows up in a big way.) Let’s go over some cardinal and universal rules for how to organize these oft-forgotten places, and turn them into functional spaces!
A Few Essential Rules about Storage:
-A box that is opaque and closed offers no chance of retrieval.
-It’s called ‘deep storage’ for a reason: with the exception of luggage, anything used often belongs inside the living space.
-Retrieval is more important than aesthetics. Your main priority should be your living space and how you organize that, not these storage spaces.
-Measure the space thoroughly before getting shelving or bins so you know the dimensions you’re dealing with and plan where things will go based on how often you will need them. For example, after the fall, you can store the lawn mower in the back corner of the garage, because you won’t need it once the snow starts falling. But make sure that once summer comes, you can easily retrieve it.
-When you do buy a shelving system, make sure it’s sturdy, metal, etc.
Transparent, Labeled Bins Are Your Friends
Buy more than you think you need of these, in a variety of sizes, making sure they all match. When stacking them, be sure not to go crazy vertically, because any pile of bins higher than two or three will be harder to see, reach and retrieve. Buy bins for all shelves and floor spaces. Buy them even if you live alone — because, again, nothing stored in a brown cardboard box is going to be retrievable, no matter what your type is.
A Word on Shelving
Make it sturdy, but it doesn’t have to be metal, per se. Just make sure that storage and retrieval of what you’ll end up keeping will be easy. Get extra shelving if you can, as you’ll always need more. Different kinds of spaces require different kinds of shelving. For instance, basement and garage shelving works best if it’s an open, metal system. For attics and storage units, we like Elfa’s customizable and ventilated (those storage units and attics can get musty) shelving units. These kinds of shelves work really well in tight and otherwise awkward spaces.
If it’s been over two years and you haven’t touched it, or you’ve forgotten you even had it to begin with, it’s time to throw out, sell or donate. If it’s broken, moldy, or infested? THROW AWAY IMMEDIATELY. If it’s old technology, such as computers, computer cords, laptops, etc., consider the value of the item and either sell it or recycle it, depending. Anything technologically obsolete should definitely either be thrown out or recycled. Save important things onto hard drives and rid yourself of the things. Purging is actually not the main goal of these spaces, creating retrieval is. However, it is almost always a necessary step.
A Few More Thoughts:
-Delicate and otherwise sentimental items? Store in archival boxes away from direct sunlight and/or water. Beware of temperature and moisture when storing these valuables. Baptism gowns and those baby shoes? Store away. Baby socks? Throw away.
-Do not have yard sales if you can help it. They are generally a waste of time and energy and can be overwhelming to plan and execute, so that they almost don’t seem worth it in the end. Store the things you’d consider selling in the future.
-For help with the big purge, call 1-800-GOT-JUNK or Goodwill, or you can take it to the city dump.
A ‘Finished’ Basement/Garage/Storage Space
Imagine this: Symmetrical hooks to hang things like ladders and garden hoses on. Special bike racks to hang your cycles on the wall and not take up precious floor space. Horizontal strips to hold gardening tools and the like. Labeled bins stacked in low piles on that shelving we talked about. We know we said aesthetics didn’t matter, but there is something beautiful about a well-organized storage space, isn’t there? And you can achieve it, too! Just check out our book, Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies For Every Personality on Amazon. It’s chock-full of organizational solutions for every room in — and outside— of your home.