What do your storage spaces look like? Do you know exactly where to go when you are looking for something? Is your system logical? Designing a meaningful storage space requires a bit of thought -- there's more to it than simply moving a pile "stuff" off of a chair and into a closet or drawer. You need structure -- some proven guidelines to follow while setting up your storage spaces. Let's begin with these basic organizing principles:
Plan Before You Organize
Before you can create an organizing "grand plan," you need to take stock of your belongings -- it's time for an inventory! Do you have sporting goods stashed in different areas throughout the house, clothes in three different closets, no set home for all those extra electrical cords, and miscellaneous "homeless" items scattered here and there? Let's go on a room-by-room tour and start gathering like items together into piles. Be sure to collect up everything you want to store in a particular storage space before you begin organizing -- leave no stone unturned, open every cabinet, sift through all the piles. There is nothing more frustrating than designing the perfect closet, then realizing that you forgot 15 pairs of shoes that were hidden away under the bed!
You also can't concoct a truly useful organizing solution unless you have an end result in mind. Start by asking yourself what you want from your storage. Are you concerned about maximizing space? Being able to see everything you own? Protecting your treasures? Cutting down on time spent dusting? Creating a focal point for the room? Displaying or concealing your belongings? Keep these objectives in mind as you work -- your choice of supplies and storage location will depend on what you hope to accomplish with your organizing efforts. Everything you do -- whether it's cleaning out or buying a container or expanding a closet -- should take you one step closer to these goals.
Birds Of A Feather
Look around your house -- do you see anything that is clearly out of place? Any bowling balls stored in the kitchen or power tools thrown in with the toys? Don't laugh -- I've actually seen both of these situations! You might think that you're "organizing" your home when you put an item away in the first available cabinet or closet -- but your storage will serve you better if you think in terms of logical categories. Begin by sorting your belongings according to purpose -- sports, travel, grooming, etc. Then group similar items together -- travel accessories with your luggage, rags in the same place as other cleaning equipment, office supplies in one spot. Don't forget accessories and related items -- keep the knife sharpener with your cutlery and the extra bits with the drill.
Location, Location, Location
A large part of being organized is having a set spot for everything you own. As you sort through your stuff, create a pile of "homeless items" that need to be incorporated into your storage. Then do your best to find a logical place for each -- no halfway spots allowed! Each time you assign an item to a space, ask yourself why you are putting it there. Because it's close to where you will use it? Because it will be easy to see or reach? Because that's the first place you would think to look for it? If you don't have a good reason for storing an item in a certain place, please rethink your decision. The worst mistake you can make is to randomly stash your belongings around your home or office -- how will you ever find them again? You shouldn't have to guess!
Strive to choose a storage space that is appropriate for it's contents. There are many factors to consider -- such as an object's size, shape, "breakability," and weight. Are you storing heavy boxes on a high shelf? Sounds like a concussion waiting to happen! And you should always try to match form with function as you evaluate your storage spaces -- how can you best use shallow shelves, a tall thin cabinet, or a deep desk drawer? Organizing requires a balance between creativity and common sense.
Getting at your belongings shouldn't require a lot of strain or effort. Take a quick look at your existing storage -- do you have to bend and stretch and squat in order to reach items you use all the time? You can make your life great deal easier by keeping motion in mind as you organize.
Every space in your home or office can be categorized according to ease of accessibility -- your job is to think about how (and how often) you use each of your belongings, and assign that item to the correct type of storage. You really have three to choose from. Those spaces that fall at or near eye-level are considered primary storage and should be reserved for items you access on a daily basis. If your primary storage is cluttered with objects you rarely touch, consider moving these items a bit further away -- to a secondary storage area between knee and shoulder height. And what do you do with those incredibly inaccessible spaces -- such as the garage, high cabinets, or the back of the closet? This tertiary storage is meant for items that you use only a few times a year -- like holiday decorations, memorabilia, and archived records.
You can't just throw any old box of stuff in a storage space and call it "organized." Even those items that you wouldn't normally consider to be "fragile" can be damaged if they are improperly packed away. Attics, garages, and basements are usually the worst offenders -- thanks to the extremes of temperature and moisture. Are your storage spaces climate-controlled? Do they get really hot in the summer? Cold in the winter? Damp when it rains or is humid? Do you have problems with insects or other rodents? You may need to wrap or seal an item, toss in some cedar chips, or purchase a special container to keep your treasures safe. And if you think there is any chance of damage in this location, pick a different storage space.
Now, let me ask whether your storage paraphernalia is helping or hindering your organizing efforts. Have you ever had to open 6 different boxes to find what you were looking for? Organizing supplies should make your life easier, not more difficult! Use see-through clear plastic containers and label everything -- shelves included. You should immediately recognize the contents simply by looking at the container. Accessories such as drawer trays, shelf dividers, lazy susans, pull-out baskets, and stackable shelves can also help you make the most of your storage by subdividing larger spaces.
Remember that organization is an ever-changing and dynamic part of your life. You can't just set up a storage system and think that you are "finished." As you acquire new possessions, as your lifestyle and interests change, your storage needs will evolve. Be willing to adjust your system as necessary -- what seemed like a good idea at one point may require some improvement down the road!
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