Prepare: The Space, the Items, and the System
After you have assessed the storage space, it is time to remedy any issues found. Creating access, resolving moisture or pest infestation, heating or cooling issues, and cleaning an area can ensure that items stored there will retain their value and usefulness.
Storage space that is climate controlled (not too hot or too cold), dry and easily accessible is the most valuable storage on your property. Renovations that add additional storage of this sort may increase your home’s value. Any time that you consider removing storage, eliminating closets or shelving, consider the consequences carefully and determine if that storage will be available elsewhere.
Storing items in containers that are strong, helps keep them in good repair. While storage containers might be expensive, storing your valuables poorly can result in loss or damage, which might be equally costly. Cardboard boxes are subject to moisture and are often difficult to move, and can result in content which is difficult to see and access.
Shelving can provide an alternative to stacking boxes on the floor and make them easier to access. Moving one box to get to another is acceptable, but stacking too many boxes on top of each other can make retrieving items from lower boxes a daunting task. If you cannot get to your stored items, they can become a burden rather than a help.
Using boxes or containers that are sized to the contents will ensure that each box does not get too heavy. Fragile items that are stored in large boxes can be broken more easily, and items with many pieces should be stored together. Ensure that shelving and containers work together, and that items of like kinds are stored near each other, in a place that makes sense. Labels are a wonderful way to cut down on searching for things, but be sure to update them when the contents shift.
Achieve and Maintain: Principles of Storing
Now that you understand what you have in the way of stuff and storage space, and you have prepared the items and the spaces and created a system, placing things is much easier. By this time, you probably understand what you have and whether it will be actively used.
Generally there are levels of storage – long-term, seasonal, and active-use. Understand the nature of what you are storing.
Items being held for future generations, which might not be accessed for years, belong in long-tem storage. If they are well-stored and secure, putting them in a far corner that is not very accessible might be fine. This is the time to consider attic and basement space, but only if the items are well-stored and the space is properly prepared.
Similarly, decorations and house wares that are seasonal will get in the way if they are taking up prime space in the wrong place. Consider dedicating “seasonal storage” that can be rotated so that the next season’s items are in the front, ready to be taken out when needed. Packing seasonal storage too tightly and not rotating it may render it useless, so this is one area where establishing a system can really pay off.
Active storage is important to keep organized and not over-filled. Items should be easy to locate, retrieve and replace, and what you want should be where you want it; kitchen and food items in their proper spots, health and beauty items in a hygienic location, and cleaning and maintenance tools where they are likely to be used and serviceable. Items that are out of place breed clutter and chaos, so well ordered active storage is a key to a well-functioning home.
Kitchen cabinets are typically sorted and items stored close to the stations where they will be used. Cabinets that are deeper might store items that are used rarely toward the back, and frequently used tools up front. Everyday plates and utensils should be easy to access and put away, while holiday dishes and party platters are better out of the way.
Garage and sheds and even bathrooms and bedrooms follow similar rules. Enabling access to tools and materials while ensuring clear areas is a key to successfully living and working in a space. Items that you use a lot need a “home” – either in storage or in plain sight. Having items you love and places to keep them will ensure that cleanup is easy and your rooms look tidy.
If you are storing something that you don’t use or love, it is taking up valuable space. Every so often, go into the back of your cabinets and drawers to find items you no longer use or love – this is one of the quickest ways to gain storage space without spending money on shelves or storage systems. Similarly, if you are storing something to give to future generations, ask yourself if they will really want it or if they might be ready to receive the item now – then it doesn’t spend years in storage and you gain space.