Despite all of the talk about downsizing, most of us don’t want to throw away or give away things that are important to us. This may be memorabilia, photos and other items that remind us of the past. It may be holiday decor that is treasured, but used for only a few weeks of the year. It may be your children’s toys and treasures that you want to save for them.
The key is to have good storage habits and to maximize the space you have. Once you’ve done that, you’ll feel in control of your living space.
Assess Your Home
The first thing to do is to assess the spaces in your home that could be available for storage. This includes guest rooms, closets, basements, garages, attics, and so forth. You need to think creatively. Perhaps there is barely used space such as the top shelf in the linen closet. The goal is to identify every square inch that could be used for storage before beginning.
As you make assessments of different spaces, consider how your climate affects your home. Closets on exterior walls may experience big fluctuations in heat or cold. The attic may be roasting if your summer temperatures are consistently 95 and 100 degrees. Likewise, an uninsulated basement or garage may experience freezing temperatures in a colder climate.
Make More Space
What space is underused? Why? You may want to make improvements to claim it. In the attic, for instance, this would include insulation, radiant barriers, and an automatic fan to help manage heat, cold, and moisture. You may also need to add a plywood floor since many modern attics don’t have one.
Another idea is to add a floor and walls to a crawl space. While it might not be the place for your photo collection, it may be the perfect place to put away your seasonal sports equipment. It will be out of the way, but still handy when it’s time to go snow skiing again.
Obviously a basement can be updated and improved to become a good storage area. You will need to guard against moisture and the problems that would cause. You can add shelving to your basement or garage that will allow you to put away boxes.
One great time to think about storage is when you are planning a renovation. You should add as much storage to the extension as you can. This was something Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, was passionate about. He realized that cabinets could be tucked into many otherwise useless spaces. If you are renovating, make sure your contractors put down access mats to protect the lawn.
Make a Plan
Although the plan could change, try to decide in advance where each type of item will go. This will help you think through what may need to be done to protect it. For example, you wouldn’t store your photos in the attic where it gets very hot or on the top shelf of a linen closet where shower steam could ruin them. On the other hand, sports gear, luggage and similar sturdy items could be in the heat of the attic or garage.
As you plan, consider which items should be grouped together. You will want to think about what needs to be easy to access and what can be further back in the closet or attic. This will reduce how much stress you feel when trying to find something you need.
Many times there is furniture that isn’t being used for any specific purpose. If you have a spare chest that isn’t being used by anyone specifically, you should clean it out and use it. Furniture tends to be in a climate-controlled environment, making it a good place for delicate items, photos, and memorabilia.
The goal is to expand how you use your space without creating a crowded situation. When you are finished, you want to feel like everything has a place. If you can’t accomplish that, it’s just as well to get self storage and put extra items there.
Just as if you were moving, put labels on every box. This will reduce how often you find yourself opening boxes to find something. A good label will have enough notes about the box’s contents that you could even feel safe moving it from one storage spot to another without unpacking it.
On the label, you should put the date it was packed. Perhaps use a color-coding system to help you know from a distance what you are looking at. It’s very common, for instance, to use red and green to designate Christmas boxes, orange to designate Halloween boxes, and so forth.
You can reduce the chances that someone will harm the contents just by marking it in large letters: ‘handle with care’, fragile, crushable, and/or ‘this side up’. Furthermore, you may want to put directions such as “keep out of the heat” or “keep away from moisture”.
Now it’s time to put your plan into action. It should be a matter of moving boxes to their newly assigned place. If everyone in the family helps out, this will also mean that they have an idea of what you are trying to do. They will know more about where things are stored and be less likely to make a mess when looking for something in the future.
As the dust settles, your storage organization should last you for years. That should leave you more free time for the fun things in life. Yet you’ll still have your momentos, special collections, and other items right where you can find them.
Laura Bell contributes regularly to websites on a variety of subjects. Her interests include modern trends, technology, health care, and anything else that affects the quality of life of her readers.