Category Archives: Storage

The Allure of Free Stuff

The allure of FREE

Every week the SF Chronicle runs a classic column from years past. This week there was a gem from 1988 titled, “1,000 paper clips? If they’re free, customers love it.”

It seems an office supply store ran a promotion giving away 1,000 paperclips per customer hoping those folks who turned up would shop for additional supplies. Thousands showed up, few bought office supplies, and probably even less needed the paper clips in the first place!

Here’s a perfect quote from the article:

First in line was an elderly gent named Mr. Jeffries, who said he did not know what he was going to do with his 1,000 free paper clips, but they would surely be nice to have around.

When I asked him, when was the last time he used a paper clip?

“I can’t remember,” he said. “Couple of weeks ago, I think. Mailed in a bill.”

At a rate of one clip every two weeks, Mr. Jeffries’ free clips will last 38 years.

“How about that?” said Mr. Jeffries.

One could argue that a few boxes of paper clips isn’t going to take up much space but we often see this same pattern on a larger scale:

  • Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruples of tools and utility items picked up at garage sales cluttering up drawers and shelves
  • Chairs taken from the someone else’s curb that seem so full of potential, if only you could get them recovered and figure out where they go in the house. Meanwhile they crowd a guest room. For years.
  • Books – recently a young couple that lives in tiny 1 bedroom home wanted to keep a free set of hardbound Harry Potter books – for their not-yet-conceived child to read one day.

For us humans, FREE is an inexplainable siren’s call that triggers our sense of need and desire regardless of the actual value of the item to our life. It’s useful to recognize this powerful pull and practice taking a step back and thinking about how the item will add VALUE to your life.

  • Do you actually need it?
  • How often will you use it?
  • How does this add value to your life TODAY?
  • Where will you keep it? Is that space better used by something else?

Define value based on need and relevance, not cost and availability.  So, next time you get caught going after something that’s “FREE,” or “cheap,” pause and think, “who am I going to hire to sort, catalog or store it?” “Is this really WORTH it??”

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies, Time Management

5 Tips To Create An Organized Kitchen

Who doesn’t need a banana saver?

Kitchens are one of the hardest-working rooms in a home. They get used multiple times a day, often by multiple people. They have to house super high-use items such as cookware, dishes and silverware, and often very low-use items such as the ice cream maker or pizza stone.

If you’re lucky, when you moved into your home your kitchen was filled perfectly, where items you use the most were put in the ideal location, your bins and drawers were divided and labeled so everyone could find (and put away) what they needed.   Over time, even the best order in cabinets gets challenged by changes in the family needs and new additions to the stuff we own. Kids grow up, Tupperware lids get lost, cooking styles change, new equipment is brought in.

When it’s time to hit the reset button, follow these tips!

Tip 1:

Clear the counters or kitchen table so you have space to go through items. It can be helpful to have a few medium sized cardboard boxes on hand to group like items together until you find them all and have decided where they’re going to live.

Tip 2:

Work on one area at a time. Completely empty the shelves or drawers and give them a good wipe down. Refresh shelf liner if needed.

Tip 3:

PURGE! Toss out broken or chipped dishes.  Remove out of date food.  Take the time to match up all the food storage containers with their lids and toss the orphans. This is your time to re-acquaint yourself with your stuff – be realistic about what you use and create space to keep it by releasing things you don’t.

Tip 4:

Put things back in locations that makes sense and match the need to access them. The most accessible areas should house frequently used items. It makes sense to store dishes within reach of the dishwasher and large bowls near the prep area, for example.

Tip 5:

Use Organizing products to create more usable space.

Tiered Riser

Shelf risers maximize the prime real estate. And don’t forget that most shelves are adjustable; place the shelves where they make sense for YOUR stuff instead of just using their default position.

drawer dividers - 1

Drawer dividers help keep items sorted by size and use. In deep cabinets use drawers and pull-outs as much as possible. Bed Bath and Beyond and Container Store both sell pull-out shelves you can add to existing shelves. Custom pull-outs fully maximize the space.

Pull outs and drawers

Pantry storage containers and deep storage bins can be very useful to group types of foods.

If you’re going to tackle the entire kitchen in one session, plan for a full day. Otherwise set aside an hour per cabinet (2 to 3 hours for a pantry). Investing the time and energy into one of the most important rooms in the house will pay off every time you cook, put away groceries or go to set the table!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Storage

Beyond the Junk Drawer But Before the Garage

tools-864983_640

Ever gone to find a battery or screwdriver from the junk drawer and the drawer is completely overstuffed? Do you find that handy household bits are routinely left around the house? Stuff left out on surfaces is an indicator that either there isn’t a dedicated home for it or the space they are supposedto live in isn’t sufficient.

What do you do?

Sometimes the proverbial “junk drawer” isn’t big enough to accommodate all the handy items you like to keep nearby. It does make sense to keep a certain amount of what we call “light utility” items close by in the house rather than having to schlep out to the garage every time you need a piece of string.

The usual light utility suspects include:

  • String and light rope
  • Packing tape painters tape, masking tape
  • Adhesives/Glues/Glue Gun
  • Batteries
  • Bike repair
  • Electronics cables/parts/Chargers
  • Furniture sliders and floor protectors
  • Locks and keys
  • Picture hanging supplies
  • Light work gloves
  • Rags
  • Lightbulbs

If you find you’re dedicating multiple kitchen drawers; too much valuable real estate with this kind of stuff, it can be worth an investment in a system beyond the drawer.

Good options are:

  • Tall rolling drawer unit. It can be stored in a laundry room, a closet or a pantry.
  • Stackable drawers that sit on shelves
  • Clear lidded boxes on shelves or in cabinets
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Labeling makes all the difference!

If you can, it’s always better to subdivide drawers and label. We have a “Miscellaneous Household” drawer where we keep both floor protection and picture hanging supplies (fishing line, crown moulding hooks, rubber chair leg tips and felt pads). Sometimes “Miscellaneous” works just fine; there will always be a certain amount of leftover items that aren’t enough to make a full category grouping in a bin or drawer.

This is an IRIS brand rolling cart – sold at Target and online

This wood-composite cabinet can also be found at Target or Michaels

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These clear stackable shoe and sweater drawers from the Container Store also work well for household items

The most important principle here is to consciously create a home for the things you store that fits the reality of what you own.  Be realistic. If you have more stuff than fits in a drawer, redefine the storage.  It doesn’t work to make a tiny kitchen drawer do the work of a large tool chest.

Go ahead and try it!  Set aside an hour, gather the tools and household bits, categorize and redefine your storage.  Take charge and make it work for you!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Laundry, organizing, Products, Storage, Strategies

Take Its Picture and Let It Go!

trophy - 1 (1)

We all know we hang onto more things than we really use, like, and need. According to a Nielsen survey, we have an average of at least 50 unused items in our homes, including clothing, electronic devices and toys.

But letting go of items with sentimental value can be the hardest! Guilt, memories, all kinds of emotional attachments often get in the way of clearing out the excess. Experience and research shows that one of the most effective ways of helping folks feel more willing to let go is taking a photo of an item.

One of the reason we keep things is that they trigger good memories.  What we really are afraid of losing by letting go of a precious item is the memories or feelings it generates. A photograph can be just as an effective trigger of that good memory as the object. It’s may not be as rich an experience as holding an object but often can be good enough.

A study done with college students moving out showed that when they took pictures of items, they were 35% more likely to let go them for donation than if they didn’t. That’s a big shift!

Here are examples of items to consider photographing instead of keeping:

  • 3D art and school projects from your kids – think dioramas, science fair projects, ceramic objects
  • Sport trophies
  • Thank-you plaques and certificates of achievement or participation
  • Baby clothes and objects
  • Family china or furniture

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work so well for things we hang onto for reasons other than sentimentality. Keeping things out of a sense of frugality or necessity is a different issue altogether!

So, take a picture of that object that is taking up precious space and let it go!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Storage, Strategies

Linen Closet Rescue

LInen Closet Towels Folded

Opening the door to a neatly organized linen closet is truly a pleasure. Being able to easily put away sheets and towels, quickly find first aid or toiletry supplies…aaahh. Here’s how to go about it.

Start with a blank slate

Empty everything out into a laundry basket or nearby area and wipe down the shelves. Lining the shelves with contact paper is an added bonus. Follow the usual steps of SORT, GATHER LIKE ITEMS TOGETHER and PURGE really gets the amount down to what you want to keep. Toss out ratty towels or sheets and expired toiletries.

Towels

Separate hand towels and washcloths from bath towels. A basket or container can be useful to store these next to larger towels or they can just be folded on the shelf. Play with the folding of your towels to maximize how shelves are used. Folding in thirds often takes up less width of the shelf. Storing the towels with the folded edge facing out creates a very neat look.

If you know you or your family would never maintain a particular way of folding, don’t worry about it! Just make sure you limit your towel collection to what will comfortably fit on the shelf – no cramming and shoving to get them in there.

Sheets

There are different organizing options to choose from when it comes to sheets:

  • Rolled or folded together
    • Why bother folding at all? Space!  Wadded sheets that can’t stack or fit together tightly take up a lot more space.
  • OPTION: group each set into one of its pillow cases (fitted, flat, pillow case)
  • OPTION: group separate parts & sizes – all twin fitted together, all queen flat together, etc.
  • Consider keeping sheet sets in the rooms they go in to create more space in the linen closet
  • Low use sheets – such as for the guest bed or off-season, keep lower shelves or in the back.

Have you always wondered how to fold that pesky fitted sheet into a square?? Learn how here! (Thanks YouTube)

Toiletries

  • Open baskets or containers for often used or tall items.
  • Clear lidded (and labeled, of course) containers to separate by category – first aid, medicines, toiletries, travel size & accessories. The reason to use lids? Stackability! Use all that vertical space between each shelf.

Bath Mats, Beach Towels, Blankets and Pillows, Oh My!

  • Where possible use lower and upper shelves for these lower use items.
  • Zippered SKUBB containers have a bit more structure than the typical clear storage bags. These work well for pillows and blankets; you could even group together a guest’s favorite pillow and sheet set for their next visit
  • If your linen closet is crammed with your high-use items you may need to find homes for these things in other rooms or closets

Labeling

Label the shelf, the container with a tag. Painter’s tape or masking works well if you don’t have a label maker. Even if you aren’t channeling your inner Marth Stewart, labeling is especially useful to guide other people (spouses, kids, housekeepers) to help in putting away laundry and not making a new disaster out of the closet.

Try it for yourself!  Treat yourself to the luxury of an orderly and beautiful linen closet.

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Filed under Bathroom, Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Storage

Tools For Emptying Your Storage Unit

Storage Unit Tools (1)

Storage units have their place and can be a great solution for the right situation. Too often they get filled with the intention of being temporary, but end up languishing for years. Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions is quoted in the New York Times:

“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” … “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage.”


Also, according to the Self Storage Association, only 30% of renters say they will rent for more than 2 years
.

Here are some practical approaches to finally clearing out that unit and recovering that monthly rent back into your budget.

Come Prepared

Don’t make the mistake of setting aside time to deal with the unit and show up empty handed or with just a garbage bag. These basic tools will enable you to effectively sort, purge and pack both items you’re keeping and those for donation. Be prepared to keep the kit in your unit for use across multiple days.

  • Small folding table
  • Step stool and/or folding chair
  • Marking pens and tape for labeling containers
  • Small and medium moving boxes for containing loose items
  • Packing tape, box cutter or scissors
  • Notepad for listing items in boxes or making notes of to-do’s
  • Smartphone camera
  • Garbage bag
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves/dust mask
  • A friend or helper for motivation and company!

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Just like organizing within your home, one of the first steps is to decide what you’re keeping and separate it from things you are not.

  • Borrow a rolling cart from the facility and load it with things to just make enough working space in the unit to set up a table. Or use the hallway outside the unit if that’s allowed.
  • If possible, start to physically create zones in the space to separate keepers from things going out. If it isn’t possible to literally remove items and take them with you that day, you’ll want to save yourself time in the future by staying organized throughout the process.
  • If you’re holding things for other people, use your phone to snap a picture and text it immediately asking the person what they want to do with the item.
  • LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Once you’ve made a decision or opened a box to determine what’s in it, LABEL the outside so you can know at a glance the status of that box.

Storage Unit

What Next?

  • Arrange for a charity donation pickup
  • Load donations and take them yourself
  • Arrange for a hauler to help with donations and trash such as 1-800-Got-Junk, Eco-Haul, or Lugg.com
  • Deliver items to family and friends or arrange a pickup day when they come to you
  • Arrange for a mover or hauler to bring the keepers home (if they won’t just fit in your car)

Emptying a storage unit can be a laborious process but you get the ball rolling, it takes less time than you’ve been dreading. Don’t plan on getting it all done in one day or one weekend! Be realistic and you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

Once you manage to get it empty,  don’t forget to reward yourself! Take ½ the monthly rent you’ve been paying and go out for a nice meal or treat yourself to a fun experience — you’ve earned it!

 

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Filed under artwork, Closets, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Memorabilia, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Storage, Strategies

Tips for Maximizing Your Storage Space

Most of us have stuff in storage, whether it is in a commercial storage unit or a closet in your house, we have things to store. I figure even The Minimalists have items in storage of some sort.

How do you maximize the space you have to avoid paying monthly storage fees or to minimize the storage fees you pay by renting a smaller space?

Here are a few tips for making the most out of your storage.

First: Do a little purge

Figure out your have-to-haves as opposed to your nice-to-haves. Do you really need to keep that snowboard, if you haven’t been to the snow for 10 years? Would it be easier just to rent ski equipment if you decide to take a trip to the mountains?

Doing a purge doesn’t mean you have to go through everything you’ve been storing. Take a quick look around and see if there is anything easy to get rid of. Is there a carpet that is so stained you’ll never use it again? or are you holding onto art that you’ll never hang on your walls?

It’s not very methodical, but every item you remove makes space to see and evaluate what’s you really want to keep.

Once you have done a sweep of the items you know you won’t keep, you can go through boxes individually, but for the quick and dirty method, just rearrange the space to make full use of it.

Second: Use containers for storage

Boxes are easier to stack than small loose items. Whenever possible, box and label items that can be stacked or put on shelves. Clear plastic tubs are great because you can easily see what’s inside.

Third: Maximize the use of the space

Use vertical space, add shelves, use rollers or wheels under things to make things moveable. These rolling metal shelves come in different sizes.  The shelf heights can be customized. Find them at Home Depot, Costco, The Container Store and even on Amazon.

These plastic shelves are inexpensive and easy to move around.


Fourth: Arrange the room

Packing the room according to your access needs is essential. Group items toward the front that need to be accessible…even if they aren’t exactly in the same category. For example, you might need access to your summer equipment more often than your Aunt Gertrude’s ashes (yes, we find those in storage units.) Seasonal items take priority over memorabilia.

Consider whether you need walkways to get to things or can items be put on rolling shelves and stack the shelves right next to each other – knowing you can roll them out to get to the back.

Fifth: Label

In addition to labeling any boxes and tubs it can be useful to label whole shelving units or zones within the space.

Tip: Use shelving on wheels so you can roll things out and get access to items in the back…instead of having to unpack the whole unit to get to something at the back wall.

Tip: Use as much vertical space as possible. Shelving enables that but if what you’re storing doesn’t make sense to store on shelves such as rolled carpets, framed pictures or skis, see if you can hang things on the walls or from the ceiling using brackets or hooks.

Handy items to keep in your storage unit:

  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Labels and/or blue tape
  • Large magic markers/sharpies
  • Box cutters/scissors

What to bring with you when you go to visit your storage:

  • Storage unit keys and access code
  • Camera/phone for inventorying
  • Toolkit with battery operated drill
  • Brackets/hooks
  • Sturdy plastic bins or boxes with lids

Remember to balance the true value of your items against the ongoing cost of storage Most likely, you are paying $1200 a year to store these items in a commercial storage facility.  You might intend to have items in storage for a short time, but statistics show that we keep things in storage much longer than originally planned.

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Filed under Garage, General Organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies