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A room-by-room guide to home storage

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Once you have the basics of storage, we can go through your home and office spaces and start applying those basics room-by-room--or if you live in a tiny apartment like me, space-by-space or zone-by-zone. Frequent readers of this site know that I like to attack a topic from several different angles, and home storage is no different. You can use this storage guide like this:

  • By object or item with How to Store Everything. This guide will go through common objects or collections in your home and teach you how to store each one (think: shoes, accessories, files, gym equipment, sweaters, etc.).
  • By the basics; in other words, you could use the Storage 101 Guide to learn the basics of storing things and then apply them to different rooms or belongings.
  • Or, you could use this guide (the one you’re reading right now!) to learn how to go through your home room-by-room to store your stuff.

Of course I recommend reading all three and applying the techniques you learn depending on your individual situation.

Attic & Basement Storage

Wood Plank Storage Bench
Photo / Ballard Designs
What to think about when planning attic and basement storage:
  1. Consider the elements. These can get humid and musty (and wet) in the summer and cold in the winter. Don’t store anything that can be affected by the elements like priceless works of art, food or wood that may be warped.
  2. Make sure you use the right tools. Use boxes and containers that can stand up to the elements. I like clear, labeled, plastic storage containers.
  3. Keep everything accessible. I like to stores containers in rows like a grocery store so that each container is accessible and I don’t have to move 8-9 boxes or bins to get to the one I want.

Bathroom Storage

Silver Mesh Vanity Organizer by Design Ideas
Photo / Design Ideas
There are three main things to think about when planning bathroom storage:
  1. Declutter regularly. Bathrooms can get really cluttered because there are so many one-offs items that are carried into this room. Having a plan to regularly declutter the space will go along way.
  2. Even big bathrooms often offer little storage. You may have to create space by really maximize those nooks and crannies above the toilet, and if you’re lucky enough to have them, the insides of cabinet doors.
  3. Make sure your storage solutions are user-friendly. By “user-friendly” I mean they must be large enough to hold what you need, but small enough to easy fit back under the sink or in the linen closet.

Bedroom Storage

[Photo © Bloomingdales]
Goal: to keep it as calm and serene as possible:
  1. Keep the stuff that’s supposed to live in your closet inside your closet. Closet spillover is a common occurrence in most bedrooms. Make sure you have the correct closet storage solutions in place so you’re not tempted to let your clothes take over your bedroom.
  2. Use the space under your bed (read: How to Use Under Bed Storage) wisely.
  3. Consider moving your shoes out of your bedroom as they tend to get strewn all over the place.

Closet Storage

Elfa Closet with Adjustable Drawers
Photo / Container Store
Closet storage involves the following three keys:
  1. Choose storage solutions that fit your clothing and shoes. This seems obvious, so let me expand: oftentimes you will see a really cool shoe rack. Even thought you like the shoe rack, if it only fits 5 pairs of shoes, and you own 20, that is not the right shoe rack for you. If you have a large collection of an item, think bigger.
  2. Choose storage that fits your closet space. If the shelf dividers or closet rod doesn't fit in your closet, it's not going to work. Measure three times and write the measurements down. Everyone think they will remember when shopping, but they don't. I like to carry an index card in my wallet when shopping.
  3. Consider moving things out of the closet. I moved my shoes out of the closet and divider them up into different groups: frequently-used, moderately used, and rarely used. The frequently used is now stored by my front door, the moderately used stayed in my closet and the rarely used are in a plastic storage container in the basement. Consider doing the same for a large collection of one items, especially accessories like scarves, hats, or hosiery. You can find attractive and practical storage solutions that don't take up closet space for these items.
Closet Storage:

Foyer & Entry Way Storage

It's important to keep this area organized so that it's welcoming when you walk in the door, and items like book bags, handbags and shoes and boots are easy to retrieve.
  1. Keep everything accessible, so you’re not rooting around for your rain boots and umbrella on rainy days.
  2. Having just the right amount of stuff in the area, so it looks welcoming and organized when you walk through the door after a long day of work.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use the very top of your hall closet for storage – this will make it easier to retrieve stored items when the seasons change.

Garage Storage

Mini Step Stool by Polde
Photo by Polde
Three keys to garage storage:
  1. Choose products that can stand up to the elements like heavier plastic. Not that it’s going to actually rain or snow in your garage, but it will be colder and moister than the inside of your home (hopefully).
  2. Use the walls as much as possible. Hang tools like rakes and gardening supplies; hang bikes and helmets; even hang your beach and lawn chair. Just make sure that you can still easily walk around your car with these items hung on the walls. And of course, make sure they are sturdy.
  3. If you decide to install storage containers on the ceiling above your car, triple check that it’s secure. This seems like a no-brainer, but can you image your holiday decorations tumbling down and scratching your 10k, 20k, or 30k car? Its not worth it. Check it again, and then check it again each season.

Holiday & Decor Storage

Container Store elfa Mesh Gift Wrap Cart White
Elfa Mesh Gift Wrap Cart White from Container Store
What to keep in mind when planning holiday storage:
  1. There are a lot of really attractive storage options for decorations and gift wrap on the market. Choose containers that fit your decorations, don’t try to jam yours into a cute container that’s the wrong size.
  2. Take the time to untangle wires and strings of lights when storing. Drink a cup of tea, take some deep breaths and spend the time on this task now rather than when you’ in a huge rush next year to get everything ready before company arrives.
  3. I use the same gift tags, ribbon, and even some of the previous year’s gift wrap and cards until they run out (hey, I’m a girl on a budget), so I store holiday-theme gift wrap separately in a long plastic storage container under a bed in the guest room. This keeps it out of the way, but easy to retrieve during the run-out to the holidays.

Kitchen Storage

Pan Dividers
Photo /The Container Store
What to think about when planning kitchen storage:
  1. The key to kitchen storage is to keep the items you use all the time very, very easy to reach. You don’t want to be hunting around for your spatula when the pancake or burger are ready to be flipped.
  2. In order to do this you need to move the things you use least often into the backs of your cabinets and to the top of your pantry. So the waffle maker that only gets used on snow days, New Years Eve and those 2-3 times a year you can’t face another bowl of whole grain cereal should be as far back as possible to make room for the items you use daily.
  3. So kitchen storage isn’t just about buying just the right storage solutions, it’s about re-arranging your pantry, cabinets and under the sink.

Kitchens 101

Workspaces & Office Storage

SuperTab Expanding File by Smead
Photo / Smead
The most important things to keep in mind when planning workspace storage:
  1. Keep the tools and items you use most often easy to reach (this is becoming a theme, no?). Make sure you don't have to go dig up your stapler if you staple everyday.
  2. Keep a running supply list so you can easily inventory the space (for my home workspace it's: pencils, sharpie, legal notepads, tea, etc.)
  3. Make sure your filing system works the way you work. If not, review and adjust.

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